Starbucks is Devaluing its Rewards Program, But There are Bright Spots

I may not go to Starbucks nearly as much as I used to, but that doesn’t mean I’ve removed my fingers from the pulse of the coffee chain. That’s why I’ve been diligently (yet fruitlessly) refreshing a tab with the Starbucks for Life game open for the past couple of weeks — and how I came across news that the Starbucks Rewards program is about to get an update. The headline of these changes is that the program is getting significantly devalued for most redemptions, although there are a few exceptions.

First, let’s run down the details. Effective February 13th, the redemption rates for Starbucks Reward Stars will be adjusted. Basically speaking, the previous 50 Star tier will move to 100 Stars, the 150 Star tier rises to 200 Stars, and the 200 Star category will climb to 300 Stars. Meanwhile, the 25 Star (addition espresso shot, syrup addition, or milk swap) and 400 Star (up to $20 in merchandise) tiers will remain unaffected.

As for what each of these tiers is, here’s a look at Starbucks’ terms:

Although these updates are mostly bad news, I did find a couple of potential upsides. First, as someone who usually ends up redeeming my Stars for whole bean coffee, it looks as though I’ll actually be able to save when doing so. Previously, even though the coffees I purchased fell short of the $20 cap of the 400 Star category, we’d still use that many to buy our bags. Now, it seems we’ll be able to do so for 300 Stars instead. Of course, I am a bit suspicious of this as I don’t exactly see why Starbucks would be offering a $7 sandwich and $15 bag of coffee at the same level. Thus, I expect there will be some exceptions here or perhaps a shrinking of the bag size — but we’ll have to see.

The other interesting change involves iced coffee. Something I never noticed as someone who doesn’t like cold coffee is that the previous 50 Star category only included hot coffee or tea. Now, although those are jumping to 100 Stars, the category does now include iced coffee and iced tea. Really, it’s weird that these were ever 150 Star redemptions and I hope that few people actually spent that. Still, if they did, then this is an improvement.

Overall, it’s easy to imagine that these updates will make for some very unhappy Starbucks fans. On that note, this devaluation comes as the prices of drinks at the coffee chain have been noticeably increasing (hence part of the reason we don’t go as often). Nevertheless, I do think it’s interesting to see the company seemingly throwing a couple of bones to customers in these updated tiers. So, while I may not be holding onto as many Stars as I used to, I think I’ll wait and see how this 300 Star packaged coffee deal works out for me. As for those who want to get the most bang for their Handcrafted Beverage buck, they’ll probably want to cash in as many stars as they can before the February 13th deadline.

Also published on Medium.


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 and the founder of

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