I Confirmed What May Be Starbucks Rewards’ Best Deal

At the very end of last year, news broke that Starbucks was devaluing its Rewards program. For example, redeeming Stars for a latte would now cost you 200 Stars instead of 150 while redeeming for a bakery item would double from 50 Stars to 100. Naturally, like most, I was immediately disappointed with this change as presented. However, diving deeper, I found a potential sweet spot: whole-bean coffee. Sure enough, with the new program in place, I followed up on this hunch and found some pretty awesome success.

Under the previous Starbucks Rewards terms, with 400 Stars, you could purchase pretty much any retail item priced up to $20. While my wife and I have used this option for things like mugs and tumblers before, we typically went with whole-bean coffee. That’s why I was excited to see that, in addition to keeping the 400 Star tier unchanged, Starbucks actually added whole-bean coffee to the 300 Stars tier.

Initially, I thought there had to be a catch here. After all, Starbucks does have some pretty pricey roasts at their stores. So, I selected an Ethiopian coffee that was in stock at my local store and decided to see if I could redeem my 300 Stars for it. Well, truth be told, I had already seen in the app that I could, so I was pretty confident when I strolled into the store. However, it wasn’t until after I had successfully redeemed my Stars that I saw the retail price for the bag: $19! This means that, instead of redeeming 200 Stars for a latte that might cost $7 with upgrades, I spent 50% more Stars for something valued at 2.7x more.

Even though this was a big win for me, there are a few things to note. First, should this bag of coffee really cost $19? Probably not — but that’s not really the point. Second, while Starbucks stores do have bags of coffee that are 1 pound, this Starbucks Reserve bag is only 8.8 ounces. Finally, while this trick worked at my local store, the terms do state that redemptions aren’t valid at Starbucks Roastery locations. I guess this means I won’t be using my 300 Stars for a $50 bag of coffee when I’m in Chicago next month. Darn.

To be clear, the recent changes to the Starbucks Rewards program are largely bad — and the pricing at Starbucks seems to be worse every time I visit (which isn’t nearly as often as it used to be). But, if you’re a fan of whole-bean coffee, I honestly think that this 300 Star redemption tier is a super sweet spot for the program. Plus, if you don’t have your own grinder, they’ll grind it up for you. Just something to think about for your next Starbucks Rewards redemption.


Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and the founder of Money@30.com.

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