If you’re like me, you love free stuff and you love earning rewards. And Starbucks is no exception. I spend so much time at Starbucks each week that I figured I should just download their app and start earnings rewards. And it was one of my best decisions as a consumer. I mean, if I’m going to go there regularly anyway, why not earn rewards for it? Through my experience I’ve learned a few ways to maximize my Starbucks rewards account so I can earn more Starbucks rewards faster. And for a lot cheaper. Here are a few ways to do it.

1. Buy gift cards on discount. If you don't already have a Starbucks card, I would first buy one on discount. While this one will not explicitly give you extra stars, it will give you basically "free money" to spend at Starbucks so you can earn more stars on your purchases. For example, you can buy a Starbucks gift card for 17% off. Just click "Buy Gift Cards" and search for Starbucks in the search bar. On top of that generous discount, you can use the promo code "Newuser5" to get an extra $5 off if you're a first-time buyer. So I basically got a $15 gift card for $7.45! Or you could even just buy a $10 gift card for $3.30 after both discounts. I'll take free money any day of the week, especially when that money leads to more stars, which further leads to free items at Starbucks. The great cycle of Starbucks freebies! Now that you have your Starbucks gift card, get the most bang for your buck with the following tips. 

2. Buy a tall instead of a grande. There are many human psyche studies that show that when humans are presented with three size options, they will generally pick the middle option. And I’m assuming that the majority of you reading this purchase the grande size, am I right? Well, what I recommend is instead buying the tall. Why? Because if you have green level (aka if you have 5 Starbucks stars) you get free refills on your hot coffee, iced coffee, hot tea, and iced tea. Let’s show an example.

A tall iced coffee costs $1.95 for 12oz, the grande costs $2.45 for 16oz, and the venti costs $2.95 for 24 oz. If you buy a tall and just get a free refill on your iced coffee, you get the same amount of liquid as a venti but for $.50 less than a grande, and $1 less than the cost of a venti. Nice! So make sure to just buy that tall and get free refills (assuming you have green level).

3. Go with a friend and split the cost. To add onto number 2, I would actually go with a friend or a significant other to Starbucks to study. Yes, it’s nice to have a study buddy. But what’s even nicer is when you buy a tall iced coffee and split the cost and split the coffee. So if the drink is a $1.95 for two, you each can each pay less than $1 and you each get a star! Less money per person, more stars for everyone. Booyah! You can even combine it with number one and get all the free refills you want!

In fact, I once really cheated the system. I split the cost of a tall iced coffee between my girlfriend and me, and then split the coffee itself between 5 people. We got a refill about every 10 minutes while we studied for a few hours. I don’t recommend going that far, but you get the idea! More stars for less money is always a good thing.

4. Order tea, then a coffee refill. If you’re like me, you really don’t want the tea. You want the coffee. But one advantage of first getting an iced tea is that it costs $1.75 for a tall iced tea, but costs $1.95 for a tall iced coffee. That’s a whole $.20 cent difference! Not a ton of money, but it is a marginal difference. So where am I going with this? Well, Starbucks’s customer service website states,

“Green and Gold levels are eligible for free refills on brewed or iced coffee or tea beverages of the same size (some restrictions apply), regardless of the original beverage purchased, while they are in a participating Starbucks ® or Teavana® stores”.

So, if you buy a tall iced tea, save $.20, and then just get an iced coffee or hot coffee right afterwards, you get the same number of stars and the same product for even LESS money! And if you split it with a friend, as in number 2, you each can have iced tea, then iced coffee, and a star for less than $.90 a person. Those are the cheapest cost for stars I’ve ever seen!

5. Bring your own cup. I haven’t done this in over a year, but I think I’m going to start. If you bring your own cup, you get $.10 off. And if you combine this with numbers 1, 2, and 3, you could be paying $.85 per star for Starbucks tea and coffee refills! Woohoo! Starbucks rewards here I come!

6. Sign up for the email list. I have a ton of friends who downloaded the Starbucks app but never opted into the “deals just for me” email option. And unfortunately they’re missing out on a ton of free star offers! One time, I got three bonus stars just for going to two different Starbucks in a one week period. Another time I was offered 3 bonus stars just for signing up for automatic reload. I didn’t even have to buy anything! Starbucks was practically handing me stars for free! And if you’re worried they’re going to spam your email, don’t be. They only send offers and coupons that are specifically for you. So go sign up right now on their email list and get those free bonus stars!

7. Pay for multiple items separately. If you plan on buying a drink and a pastry, or perhaps a drink for you and your significant other, I highly recommend doing two different transactions. If you pay for the items in one transaction, you only get one star. But if you pay for them separately, you get two stars! Or the sneakiest way to do it is to first order a tall iced tea, for reasons stated above and ask to split the cost between you and your friend. Then, if you want to buy a pastry as well, go back again after and split the cost again with your significant other. This way you EACH get two stars (for a grand total of four stars), whereas you would have only gotten one star if you paid for the two items together. Sharing is caring! Especially when you both get more stars!

8. Packaged Items. You can also get stars on all packaged items from Starbucks! This includes items like ground coffee, Starbucks Via, Keurig K-cups, and any other items that you buy at your local grocery store. In fact, if you buy a bag of coffee, like the picture displayed below, and bring the empty bag into a local Starbucks, you get a free tall coffee! "I hate getting a free tall coffee" said no one ever. And if you don't want to purchase something from the Starbucks brand, you can also earn stars by shopping at Teavana, La Boulange, and Evolution Fresh stores!

Starbucks VIA® Iced Coffee by Starbucks Coffee
Amazon Price: $6.95 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 8, 2016)
Starbucks Breakfast Blend Ground Coffee (Medium), 12 Oz
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of Jun 8, 2016)

9. Pay with your rewards credit card. While this is not a way to get cheap stars, if it is a wonderful trick everyone should use. If you have a credit card that gives you rewards for each purchase, I highly recommend you always load your Starbucks card with that rewards credit card. That way, you get cash back or rewards from your credit card, AND you get stars on your Starbucks rewards card! And if you think you’ll forget to pay with your rewards credit card, I recommend setting up auto payment on the Starbucks app. That way you ensure that get rewards on your credit card and stars for Starbucks rewards. DOUBLE BONUS! YEAH!

10. Buy a water cup for $.16 cents. This is my absolute FAVORITE and my claim to fame in this article, but unfortunately not everyone has this opportunity. But at the UC Davis campus, (and I assume any other colleges that have Starbucks on campus that are not actually owned by Starbucks), they charge you $.16 cents for a water cup. At first you might think, “Well that kind of sucks…” but if you think about it some more, it’s absolutely awesome! If you have gold status at Starbucks (which means you have at least 30 stars), you get a free item for every 12 stars you earn. So after 12 stars, I can get a free caramel macchiato or free pumpkin bread or free 1 oz tea from Teavana, etc. Normally these items would cost me $3-$5 dollars. In fact, a grande caramel macchiato costs $5.20! But if I just buy 12 water cups, each for $.16 cents, I can get a caramel macchiato for basically $1.92 (12 water cups times, which each give me a star) times $.16 cents each equals $1.92). So I’m basically getting over 60% off each caramel macchiato or specialty drink! And because the Starbucks at Davis is right next to the gym, I just stop by after my work out and grab a glass of water for $.16! Ingenious tactic? I think so!

And there you have it! 10 tips for earning more stars for less money at Starbucks. Utilize all 10 and you will be paying way less money for way more stars! Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading my post and start utilizing the tools in this article. If you have any other suggestions, comments, questions, or concerns, or even compliments, please post them in the comments box. Thanks for reading!