Starbucks Is Changing Their Rewards — How Many Stars You’ll Now Need for a Latte

Epsom London UK, March21 2021, Starbucks Coffee Shop Branding Logo With No People.
martinrlee / Getty Images

With the new year comes a lot of changes. New laws, new tax guidelines, new behaviors and yes, even new policies at Starbucks.

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The coffee giant recently announced they are changing the structure of their rewards program, and it’s going to require more stars to get your favorite drinks in the near future.

On Dec. 28, Starbucks sent an email out to users of their mobile app (the rewards program platform) that notified recipients the “terms of use” would be updated in 2023. 

Beginning Feb. 13, these new tiers will go into effect:

  • 100 Stars for a hot drip coffee or tea, iced coffee or iced tea, bakery item (including a cake pop or cookie), or a packaged snack such as potato chips or popcorn.
  • 200 Stars for an espresso beverage such as a latte or macchiato, Frappuccino or a hot breakfast staple like a breakfast sandwich.
  • 300 Stars for a packaged food item such as a sandwich, protein box or salad — or a bag of whole bean coffee.
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These new redemption qualifications are a steep difference from what has long been in place for the Starbucks rewards program. Previous to the Feb. 13 changeover, 50 stars were required for drip coffee, tea or a bakery item; 150 stars for an espresso drink, Frappuccino or hot breakfast item; and 200 stars for a prepared, packaged food item.

Currently, customers can also customize their drinks with a choice of milk or a flavor enhancer for just 25 stars, and that seems to be staying in place. The only “better deal” out of the new update is the fact that claiming a bag of coffee beans now requires only 300 stars, versus 400 stars currently.

Disappointment With New Starbucks Stars Program Abounds

The announced changes have made many customers upset, according to Daily Hive, who screen captured a series of Twitter posts that share a collective wave of disappointment. 

“To earn one free cup of coffee using a prepaid card you have to buy 17 cups. Using cash or linked credit card you have to buy 34 cups. Are you kidding me?” asked one person. 

“Your coffees and food are already so expensive and now you want to make your rewards systems change to make us spend even more money to get a free drink?” wrote another.

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As Forbes declared: “Starbucks is rewarding customers less just when it should be rewarding them more.”

“More unhappy customers will result in more unhappy partners setting up a vicious downward circle that the company can ill afford,” stated the article — also noting that, in 2022, Starbucks dropped from No. 149 in their America’s Best Employers list to No. 272 (a result partially attributed to the brand’s resistance to associates forming unions).

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Forbes also suggested that Starbucks making their loyal customers pay more could be an ill omen for the coffee brand. “Starbucks is highly dependent on its roughly 27 million loyal U.S. members, who generated 55% of the company’s U.S. revenues in the fourth quarter — $3.4 billion out of $6.1 billion total.”

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About the Author

Selena Fragassi joined in 2022, adding to her 15 years in journalism with bylines in Spin, Paste, Nylon, Popmatters, The A.V. Club, Loudwire, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and others. She currently resides in Chicago with her rescue pets and is working on a debut historical fiction novel about WWII. She holds a degree in fiction writing from Columbia College Chicago.
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