Six Steps to the Starbucks Reward Scheme…

I spend a lot of time writing in coffee shops which, apart from being the best way to waste money I don’t have, means that I have a selection of loyalty cards to choose from.

There are so many loyalty schemes that it’s actually hard to be loyal to any one retailer. My most favoured loyalty schemes are the most simple; using a flimsy piece of card and a stamp. Every time you buy a coffee, you get a stamp. 9 coffees = 9 stamps = 10th coffee free.

I’ll stretch to the slightly more complex points system, in which you earn a certain amount of points every time you buy coffee. These points are converted into a cash value. When you have lots of points, you can use them to buy coffee.

I rarely go to Starbucks, because I don’t want to be one of those pretentious people who goes to Starbucks to write (so I just go to other coffee shops instead). I wasn’t aware that they had a loyalty/reward scheme, until a recent meet with my SIL, who kindly gave me a Starbucks card (which I thought was a gift card until the first time I used it). When I presented the card at Starbucks, I was a tad thrown when the guy was all “Oh, let’s just see how many points you have on here” and I realised it wasn’t gift card and assumed it was a points reward card instead. I paid, using the card, thinking it had deducted a certain amount of points.

For my second visit to Starbucks, I decided to pay with cash and collect some more points. Sadly, this caused a surge of confusion.

Starbucks woman: So which are you paying with?

Me: Er, cash. I just want the points on my card.

Starbucks woman: [stare].


Starbucks woman: have you got cash on your card?

Me: I’m not sure, a friend gave it to me.

Starbucks woman: [Frowns] In what context did your ‘friend’ give you this card?

Me: She just gave it to me, she doesn’t drink coffee that much.

Starbucks woman: So how much is on the card?

Me: Er, I have no idea. I just want the points.

Starbucks woman: I’ll check it for you. [swipes it]. You have £2.50 left on your card.

Me: Okay. But I just want to pay with cash, I’ll save the points.

Starbucks woman: [sighs] We don’t do points. They’re stars, and you have to pay with your card to get a star. When you get 15 stars, you get a free drink.

Me: [Gives look of utter confusion]

Starbucks woman: Here’s a leaflet explaining how it works.

Then she sent me away, because I was causing a backlog in the queue of people who did understand how the reward scheme worked.

But, it turns out that the new reward scheme outraged thousands of Starbucks customers up and down the country. That’s right, even people who understand how the scheme works are pissed off.

I’ve spent some time going through the leaflet, to save myself further embarrassment. If you wish to avoid a Starbucks reward scheme faux pas, then please consult my handy six step guide:

6 steps

Step 1: Go to Starbucks, pick up a Starbucks card at the till, put money on it, then use the card to buy coffee.  For every coffee you buy with the card, you get a star.

Step 1 

Step 2: You then register the card online.


Step 3: On your next visit to Starbucks, buy more coffee using your Starbucks card. This puts you at Green Level. Green Level doesn’t really mean anything. At Green Level you get a free coffee for every 15 bought on your card. If you buy coffee with cash, you don’t get a star.


Step 4: Of course, if you use your 15 stars to get a free coffee, then you’ll forever stay at Green Level. Although, that doesn’t mean you lose out or anything, because the next level is GOLD LEVEL, which equates to the exact same thing as Green Level, except you need to buy coffee another 35 times (after the original 15).

When you reach GOLD LEVEL you get free shots of espresso (which almost no one wants) and free soy milk (which almost no one wants and only costs an extra 50p anyway).

Oh, and you still only get a free drink for every 15 you’ve already bought.


Step 5: You could keep saving until you reach 100 stars. This is PLATINUM LEVEL which still means you only get a free coffee after buying 15, but you also get half a free muffin for every 10 coffees*


Step 6: Keep saving until you reach 200 and you’ll reach DIAMOND STUDDED SIREN LEVEL to get… well… free coffee for every 15 coffees purchased, plus free napkins!

step 6

Okay, so I made up Steps 5 & 6, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this is where the reward scheme was headed. If you’re only ever going to get a free coffee for every 15 you buy, then what’s the point of having levels in the first place? Also, to reach Gold Level (i.e. free espresso and soy milk) you’d have to spend about £250 at Starbucks.

*sigh* I miss those days where you could just buy coffee with your iPhone

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Comments: 18

  1. Nick Bryan (@NickMB) February 5, 2012 at 5:02 pm Reply

    That is pretty mental. I mean, Tesco Clubcard rules and such are also pretty mental, but at least they have the excuse of selling more than one kind of item. I look forward to when they start using loyalty cards to account for sandwiches, chairs and trips to the toilet.

    • Jo and the Novelist February 6, 2012 at 9:25 am Reply

      Me too. Like, if you use the loo 50 times in a year, then you get a gold level toilet card – which means you get to use that soft quilty loo paper, and fancy soap. Actually, fancy soap would probably be the next level up.

      • Nick Bryan February 6, 2012 at 9:56 am Reply

        The more coffee you drink, the more you’re allowed to use the loo. And the the more coffee you drink, in fact, the more you’ll need it. It’s natural marketing.

        • Jo and the Novelist February 9, 2012 at 5:01 pm Reply

          You should work for Starbucks marketing team. You’d blow that reward scheme right out of the water.

  2. Rik February 5, 2012 at 6:35 pm Reply

    I don’t drink coffee, so on the rare occasions I go into one of those chain-coffee places I don’t get entangled in any of their loyalty card shinanigans.

    Apparently you can get a Nando’s loyalty card, which threw me off a bit the other day when I was in Nando’s and all proud of the fact that I knew how Nando’s worked and could confidently answer ‘yes’ when asked, ‘have you been to Nando’s before?’.

    Yes, I know to order at the counter and state how spicy I like my chicken, and that there are bottomless soft drinks which you refill at your leisure, as many times as you like, but I did not know that you could keep a tally of how many chickens you had recently eaten and ultimately use this to get an additional free portion of chicken.

    ‘How much chicken do you think I eat, lady?’ I barked at the person behind the till. Which is strange, because I’m not normally rude, or American.

    • Jo and the Novelist February 6, 2012 at 9:26 am Reply

      The answer is, it depends how close you live to Nando’s…

      I’ve gone through about three of those loyalty cards, so far.

  3. WilyGuy February 5, 2012 at 8:57 pm Reply

    Shhhh, I don’t even like Starbucks coffee.
    Dunkin has a pretty good deal, for now… Get a card and load it. Every time you load it online you get .50 coupon with minimum $25 load. If you auto load, you get $1… I eat donuts and drink their coffee so I do that one.


    • Jo and the Novelist February 6, 2012 at 9:31 am Reply

      We don’t have Dunkin over here. The British probably couldn’t couldn’t cope with a title that had a whole letter missing from it. Plus, we’ve only just got Krispy Kreme over here. Maybe in another ten years or so we’ll have a Dunkin too.

  4. Steven Chapman February 5, 2012 at 9:15 pm Reply

    So all I have to do is buy fifty coffees and I’ll get free whipped cream on my drinks?? Wait…isn’t the whipped cream free in Starbucks? But I digress, I don’t want the cream, or the shots, or the soy…I want the emails…I mean just think emails from Starbucks! I’d be the coolest kid in the playground – Starbucks has playgrounds, right?

    • Jo and the Novelist February 6, 2012 at 9:32 am Reply

      I don’t think you get free whipped cream. What I don’t understand is, if you were lactose intolerent, surely you wouldn’t drink enough milk-based coffees to facilitate a Gold Level loyalty card?

  5. alonewithcats February 5, 2012 at 10:58 pm Reply

    I’ve never felt better about not drinking coffee.

    P.S. I’ve been meaning to tell you that I’ve started drinking tea. Not because I like it — it’s still gross and tastes like lawn — but because I’ve become convinced (based on no actual facts or logic) that it will help me lose weight.

    • Jo and the Novelist February 6, 2012 at 9:34 am Reply

      It will help you to piss like a racehorse – does that help?

  6. The Suniverse (@TheSuniverse) February 6, 2012 at 3:45 pm Reply

    This may be why I don’t drink coffee.

    PS I am the WORST at ordering at coffee places or fast food places because I never go there and then I’m the person holding up the line asking stuff like, “Does that come with cheese?” and “I don’t drink pop, can I just get a water? But not bilge water. Like a bottle of water? At that reduced price? No? Whatever. I’m going home to have a sandwich.”

    • Jo and the Novelist February 9, 2012 at 5:06 pm Reply

      I’m the same, I stick to what I know. I no longer go to Subway because I couldn’t cope with instructing someone else to put my sandwich together for me – especially when I find myself barking MORE CHEESE at them (because they are totally scrimpy with that fake cheese that they have by the bucket load). It’s an awkward process for both the staff and the consumer, at the end of which you’re left with soft, soggy sandwich lacking in cheese.

      This is why I’m going to your house for my sandwiches, from now on.

  7. Bruce Barnes February 11, 2012 at 3:42 pm Reply

    Re Starbucks.
    Do high cafeine levels affect your ability to make reasoned judgements as to how many more cups to consume in order to trigger a reward.? Maybe your reward is in heaven, or more likely a ringsize seat on the porcelian listening to the strains of i.b.s

  8. Simone February 18, 2012 at 9:09 pm Reply

    not a coffee drinker. and now i see why – coffee just complicates things.

  9. Georgie July 11, 2012 at 11:33 pm Reply

    When you get 15 stars they send you a voucher in the post, when you use that voucher it doesn’t take away the stars you already have so you get a free drink every 15 transactions and then once you have made 50 transactions (which isn’t actually that many in the grand scheme of things) you hit gold level and get all the free benefits plus exclusive member benefits like trying out new drinks before everyone else. It is worth having a card because even if you are only buying a coffee once a week or less the stars still add up so you can save a bit of money and the card costs you nothing.

    • Jo and the Novelist July 12, 2012 at 5:14 pm Reply

      Well, consider me enlightened.

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