CONSUMER

Why that ‘free’ Starbucks drink is about to cost you more

Dec 28, 2022, 4:26 PM
Starbucks is making changes to its rewards program, requiring members to spend more to earn some po...
Starbucks is making changes to its rewards program, requiring members to spend more to earn some popular freebies. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images via CNN)
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images via CNN)

(CNN) — Starbucks is making changes to its rewards program, requiring members to spend more to earn some popular freebies.

Starting Feb. 13, members will need 100 stars — Starbucks’ term for points — to get one cup of hot or iced coffee or tea, a baked good, a packaged snack or a to-go cup. Members will need 200 stars to get a latte or Frappuccino or a hot breakfast item, and 300 for a salad, lunch sandwich, protein box or packaged coffee (like a bag of beans).

Currently, members need only 50 stars to get a hot tea, coffee or bakery item, 150 for a latte, hot breakfast item or parfait and 200 for a salad, lunch sandwich or protein box.

Program members earn stars when they make purchases. If they use a Starbucks Card, one dollar spent translates to two stars. For credit card or other payment methods, members earn one star per dollar.

Starbucks said it alerted rewards members in the U.S. and Canada to the changes on Wednesday, via email and through the Starbucks app. The new tiers are outlined on the Starbucks Rewards terms-of-use site. Insider first reported the changes to the system on Tuesday after seeing an internal memo.

Rewards programs are an important way for companies to create loyal customers, learn more about their preferences and inspire repeat purchases.

“The rewards program … is generating significant revenue for Starbucks,” said interim CEO Howard Schultz during a November analyst call. In the three months ending on Oct. 2, the number of active Starbucks rewards members jumped to 28.7 million, up 16% year-over-year.

Starbucks has been experimenting with its rewards program in recent months.

In October, the coffee chain started partnering with Delta to let rewards members earn airline miles. And earlier this month, it launched a beta version of Starbucks Odyssey — an extension of the rewards program that allows users to earn NFTs.

While rewards members may be enthusiastic about benefits, they’re also quick to criticize companies for making changes.

Dunkin’ fans swiftly bemoaned changes the brand announced in October, and Starbucks customers are already complaining online about the new tiers.


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Why that ‘free’ Starbucks drink is about to cost you more