Dec 28, 2022 - Economy

Starbucks changing rewards program in February 2023

Hand holding phone with green screen and Starbucks siren logo

Starbucks Rewards is changing in the U.S. and Canada on Feb. 13. Photo: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Starbucks announced that it is updating its popular loyalty program starting Feb. 13 to change how many stars are needed to redeem select items for free.

Why it matters: Starbucks Rewards members drove 55% of the Seattle-based company’s U.S. operating revenue for its last quarter that ended in October, officials said.

  • The program had 28.7 million members in the U.S., up 16% year-over-year, officials said Nov. 3.
  • The coffee giant entered the world of NFTs in early December with the beta launch of Starbucks Odyssey, the web3-enabled extension of the rewards program.

The big picture: With inflation continuing to drive prices up, customers have been flocking to reward and loyalty apps, which have also helped businesses grow digital sales.

What they’re saying: “We occasionally need to make changes to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Starbucks Rewards program and to meet the changing needs of our members,” the company told Axios in a statement.

Meanwhile, changes to rewards programs haven't always been popular. When Dunkin' updated its loyalty program in October, critics called the program less rewarding because it required more points to earn and redeem rewards.

  • Starbucks' upcoming change also requires more rewards points, which it calls stars, in order to redeem some of its rewards.

Starbucks changes to rewards program

Details: Starbucks said it is changing some of the tier levels for award redemptions and shifting some items between tiers, "making them easier to earn."

  • The tier levels that are changing:
    • 50 stars will be 100 stars.
    • 150 stars increases to 200 stars.
    • 200 stars will be 300 stars.

Yes, but: While a pastry goes from 50 to 100 stars and there is a 50-point difference for a handcrafted beverage, some stars shift down.

    • Iced coffee (not including cold brew beverages) and iced tea (not including iced tea lemonades) will be 100 stars, down from 150 stars.
    • Packaged coffee moves to 300 stars, down from 400 stars.
    • Select merchandise items will be 100 stars, down from 200 stars.

Earning stars with updated Starbucks Rewards

Between the lines: Starbucks said it is not changing how members earn rewards, which is two points per dollar when using a registered Starbucks card or one point per dollar with other payment options.

  • There are ways to earn bonus stars through Double Star Days, games and personalized offers.

State of play: Not counting any star bonus opportunities, starting in February, a rewards member using a Starbucks Card will need to spend $100 to earn the 200 points needed to get a Frappucino.

  • Members using another form of payment would need to spend $200 to earn 200 points to get a free Frappucino or latte.
  • Currently, members would spend between $75 and $100 to earn the 200 points.

Starbucks Rewards: Stars for free drinks, more

Here are the redemption tiers effective Feb. 13:

  • 25 stars: Customize a drink with an extra shot of espresso, dairy substitute, syrup or sauce up to $1.
  • 100 stars: Brewed hot or iced coffee or tea, a bakery item, packaged snacks and core reusable plastic to-go cups.
  • 200 stars: Handcrafted beverages and Cold Brew beverages or hot breakfast.
  • 300 stars: Lunch sandwich, protein box, salad and packaged coffee.
  • 400 stars: Signature mug, drink tumbler and coffee merchandise up to $20.
  • Other benefits: Not a part of a tier, but members also get a free Birthday Reward, a discount for using a reusable cup and free refills of hot or iced coffee or tea in-store.

Starbucks' loyalty program changes over time

Flashback: Starbucks has changed its rewards programs over the years and moved to a revenue-based program in 2016 instead of a one-star-per-transaction model.

  • In 2019, it added tiers with more ways to redeem rewards.
  • Then in 2020, Starbucks updated its rewards program to allow members the ability to earn stars with credit or debit cards, cash or mobile payments. Before the change, the only way to earn stars is when paying with a Starbucks Card.

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