In its first major change to its rewards program in three years, Starbucks is making it more difficult to earn freebies like free coffee and merchandise.
While the rewards program once required 50 “stars” to redeem a free coffee, customers will have to accumulate double that amount in 2023. Of the five rewards tiers, three will see increases, though some items will also shift to lower tiers, making them easier to earn (find a list of changes below).
Given that rewards members earn one star for every dollar spent, consumers will have to spend at least $100 before they earn a free drink. For a packaged lunch item, the penultimate rewards tier, members will need to spend at least 300 stars, equivalent to $300.
"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," a Starbucks spokesperson told Cheapism via email.
Since Insider broke the news on Tuesday, Starbucks superfans have taken to the internet to complain about the changes.
Of course @Starbucks is changing their rewards program to require even more stars to get a free item. So we’ll be spending more to get less. On the left is the current program, and on the right, the upcoming changes. pic.twitter.com/5RIecyPO0V— Jen Psaki’s Head Tilt (@bidonkules) December 28, 2022
On Reddit, Starbucks customers attributed the changes to “inflation” and “corporate greed,” with many writing that they would stop buying their coffee at the Seattle-based coffee chain.
“It's greed. The ingredients aren't expensive enough to negate that. And they d*** sure aren't using the extra funds for pay raises for SB employees,” one top comment on Reddit reads.
Fans were equally critical on Twitter, especially on Wednesday after members received an official email about the changes.
Hi, we continually want to update the Starbucks Rewards program so that we’re meeting the changing needs of our members, while ensuring we’re still able to deliver some of the benefits members know and love. -Shay— Starbucks Care (@StarbucksCare) December 28, 2022
“Hey Starbucks! You’ve been slowly losing my business of late, and now your changes to your rewards program may have just sealed the deal. Bumping the price of a reward from 150 to 200 stars isn’t just a minor change. That’s like raising your prices 33%!” Dwight Myfelt tweeted.
The changes, which will start on Feb. 13, 2023, will affect 28.7 million active rewards members in the U.S. Customers who’ve already accumulated points can take advantage of the current exchange rates by spending their stars before the 2023 change.
2023 Starbucks Rewards Changes
- 25 Stars (unchanged): add an espresso shot, dairy substitute, or syrup to your drink
- 100 Stars: earn a hot or iced brewed coffee and tea, bakery item, packaged snack, or cold siren logo to-go cup
- 200 Stars: earn a hot breakfast item or "handcrafted" drink, such as a latte or frappuccino
- 300 Stars: earn a packaged salad, protein box, or coffee item
- 400 Stars (unchanged): earn select Starbucks merchandise
For a full list of changes, visit the Starbucks website.