I feel like I am in danger of becoming Anna’s resident coffee expert, considering the number of posts I have written related to coffee. But I am an addict and have lots of tips for getting coffee at the lowest price! And, like many people, my habit also includes Starbucks. During the holidays it is so easy to get a Starbucks gift card for those we love who love the buzz of caffeine and I am almost guaranteed to find a gift card stuffed in my stocking this year. I hope you do, too! So I thought I would share some tips for how to get the most out of your Starbucks gift cards and stretch them as far as possible.
#1 Register to your card through the Starbucks Rewards program
Signing up for the Starbucks Rewards program is SO easy and often includes a FREE drink when you sign up. If you register your card, it protects it (in case it is lost or stolen) and pays off with rewards as you use your card. You also get a FREE drink on your birthday when you are part of the program! RESULT: 1-2 FREE drinks!
#2 NEVER make a purchase at Starbucks without using your registered card
If you have a smart phone, you can download the Starbucks app to insure you always have your card with you. Or you can swipe your card each time you make a purchase. Those purchases are turned into stars through the Starbucks Rewards program that add up to free drinks. Each time you make a purchase, you get one star. And when you have 12 stars, you get a FREE drink. That may sound like a lot of purchases to get something free, but there are lots of ways to earn stars. RESULT: FREE drinks throughout the year
#3 Swipe your gift card more than once per visit
A little known quirk of the Starbucks Rewards program means you only get one star per purchase. This means that no matter how many items are in your order, you only get one star per purchase. So, if your purchase includes more than one item, ask the barista to swipe the items separately. They are happy to do this for you and it only takes a couple of seconds more than if you swipe it all on one purchase. This way you earn a star for each item you purchase. RESULT: 1 star per item purchased
#4 Wait for promotions and then splurge
When you sign up for Starbucks Rewards, make sure you check the box to receive emails regarding special promotions. These emails arrive in your inbox about once a week and include LOTS of promotions to help you stretch your gift card. Buy one, get one free promotions and bonus stars make it possible to get your favorite treats at a discount and move you closer to meeting the star requirements to earn FREE drinks. RESULT: faster freebies
#5 Set a Starbucks budget and reload your card
I set up a Starbucks budget for myself from my play money to make sure I don’t go overboard. I put my budget allotment on my card once a month by asking my barista to reload my card when I make a purchase. When it is gone, I can’t go to Starbucks for the rest of the month. This insures that a treat is really a treat, not a habit! Since I have a set amount to spend, I am more choosey about when I go and what I buy.
By the way, the new Starbucks app allows you to tip your barista through your smart phone. I try to make sure I tip when I reload my card to make sure that those who serve me know they are appreciated. Including the tip amount in my budget is really important to me. I want those who work hard behind that counter to know I am thankful for the treats they make and the smiles they offer. I encourage you to account for tipping your baristas in your Starbucks budget.
#6 Buy small, reward BIG
Although I cringe to say this one, I do it; so I will share it! When you go to Starbucks and purchase your drinks with your gift card, buy a smaller or simpler drink than your splurge drink. A simple drip coffee or tea counts for a star; just as a triple shot Frappucino does. So, when I go, I typically purchase a grande sized drink. But when I have a reward, I purchase a special treat for myself. I get a Venti Frappucino made just the way I like it – and I get it for FREE. I don’t just do this for monetary reasons, I do it to save calories, too! I have a feeling Starbucks knows what we are up to and it will not surprise them to know we buy small and reward BIG.
By using all these tips, I am able to gain stars and rewards very quickly! In fact last month I was able to make 6 trips to Starbucks stretch into 30 stars! Seriously!
Still looking for more ways to stretch your Starbucks dollar? I have a post with 6 Strategies for using the Starbucks Rewards program to save money and still splurge over on my site – it is basically a tutorial for using the Starbucks Rewards program. But I am sure there are some tips I haven’t heard yet. Feel free to leave a comment with your best tips for saving at Starbucks.
Starbucks is also my occasional treat, and I had not known about your tip #3. Since I use my card for both my husband and me, I’d certainly want to get stars for both drinks! Thanks for sharing and may you get more Starbucks for Christmas. 😉
I had no idea about Tip #3 either. Thanks for sharing!!!
I recently learned from a barista that you can also use your Starbucks reward on a food item! Many of those are even more expensive than a Frappuccino.
Fortunately for myself I knew all of these tricks and I get a ton of free coffee all the time. I’d like to add one more trick. Albertsons Starbucks currently does not have a scanner but they do honor the free coffee earned on the app. If you show them you have a free one earned, they will give it to you without removing it. This means two free coffees. One at Albertsons and one in a Starbucks that has a scanner.