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In 2013, the average Starbucks consumer spent $1,440 at Starbucks Coffee. This coffee giant has done a great job with customer satisfaction and retention. However, spending $4.00 on coffee per day can really add up.
The reason these tasty drinks are so expensive is that Starbucks hand-makes almost everything. Some drinks can be found on the Starbucks menu for as high as $5, and there are people who go there two to three times a day.
If you’re a frugal person like myself, you probably don’t even go to Starbucks unless it’s a rare occasion. I personally go there once or twice a year, and that’s provided that someone offers to buy me a drink. However, for those of you who can’t live without Starbucks coffee, this guide is for you.
When you finish these seven steps below, I guarantee that you’ll have a way to save a minimum of 25% on every Starbucks transaction.
1. Sign-up For the Starbucks Rewards Program
Signing up for the Starbucks Card is an absolute must if you want to max your savings. The Starbucks Card works like a debit card without being connected to your bank account. You deposit cash into the card and when the balance is low, you simply load it again.
There’s a minimum deposit of $5 ($15 online) and a maximum of $500. Deposits can be made online or in the store.
After signing-up for the rewards program, you’ll automatically be entered into their three-tiered rewards programs. Each purchase you make gives you one star. The more stars you get, the higher your level and the more benefits you get.
There are currently three levels: Welcome, Green, and Gold. Each level provides different amounts of benefits, but here’s a quick summary of what you can get:
- At the Welcome Level, get a free drink and 15% off anything in the Starbucks store on your birthday
- After reaching 5 stars, you’ve reached the Green Level and can receive free refills on any brewed and iced coffee with Welcome level benefits
- After obtaining 30 stars in one calendar year, you’ve reached the Gold Level. Those who reach this level will receive special offers from Starbucks as well the benefits from the Welcome and Green Level.
- Every 12 stars at the Gold Level gives you one free drink
Rewards are automatically added once you make a transaction. Please take note that only one star is earned per transaction, no matter how big the purchase. If you’re going to by two cups, it might be wise to split it into two purchases.
There are three ways to sign up for the Starbucks Rewards Card.
- Register any Starbucks, Teavana®, Evolution Fresh™ or La Boulange Card.
- Enter a Star Code
- Download the free Starbucks app
Let’s look at some ways of how to save money when depositing funds into our Starbucks account.
2. Get a 24% Discount From Buying Gift Cards
Now that we have our Starbucks Rewards Account, we can begin to make our purchases and enjoy our fresh-brewed coffee. Instead of simply using a credit card or cash to deposit funds, we’re going to purchase a discounted gift card.
By going to Raise, you can buy Starbucks gift cards at a cheap discount. They’re currently on sale for 24% off. This is the highest that I’ve seen of any gift card site available.
We recommend Raise because they are one of the most reliable and fastest gift cards site available on the market. I have always gotten my cards within a respectable time frame (1-3 business days) without any problems.
If anything should arise, they have a friendly customer service to help you with your order.
Once you select “Add to Cart,” make sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page to click the big “Add to Cart” button to finalize your selection.
You will then be automatically transferred to the final page to process your request.
You used to be able to go through TopCashBack to get an extra 2% off of Raise, but unfortunately they have discontinued this. That doesn’t mean it won’t come back, so be on the lookout.
If at any time Raise does not have any more Starbucks cards available, check out Gift Card Granny for other companies that sell them.
3. Save 2% When You Use A Cash Back Credit Card
By getting a cash back credit card, you’ll be able to save an extra 1-2% on your Starbucks purchase.
The credit card I currently recommend is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® that gives you 2% back in points for every purchase made toward travel. Even if you don’t want to redeem for travel, you can still use the same amount of points to get half the amount back in cash, giving you a 1% discount.
What’s even more is that Barclay’s is currently offering a bonus of 40,000 travel points after spending $3000 within the first 3 months of opening an account. These points can be redeemed for up to $400 toward your next travel purchase, and 10% of points redeemed for travel go back into your account. The $89 annual fee is waived the first year.
Here’s a quick glance at the card:
- After spending $3,000 in the first 90 days of opening an account receive 40,000 miles in points
- Earn 2X miles on all purchases
- The card has an installed chip which makes it easier for purchases abroad and at home
- Points can be redeemed for anything related to travel – hotel, flights, rent-a-car, etc.
- Redeeming your miles for travel credit gives you an extra 10% on miles redeemed
- No foreign transaction fees
- Free online FICO® Credit Score
Other credit cards that I like to recommend are the Capital One Quicksilver Card that gives you 1.5% back on all purchases, or the Fidelity Rewards American Express Card which gives you 2% back on all purchases.
If we buy a $100 gift card, we’re only paying $76 thanks to giftcards.com. This means that we’re getting a 24% discount. Take off an additional 2% from our cash back credit card to get an additional 2% off of the $76 we spent = $1.52 in savings.
This means that our total savings = $24 + $1.52 = $25.52 per $100 spent at Starbucks.
4. Load Your Gift Cards to Your Starbucks Card
After making your purchase on giftcards.com, you will receive an email with the gift card electronic code inside within 1-2 days. From this point on, depositing money from your gift card is as easy as pie. Simply open up your Starbucks Reward App and enter in your gift card where prompted.
Once you enter the code, congratulations! You have successfully entered money into your Starbucks account. Now you can use your phone to pay at Starbucks by scanning it at the cash register and still being able to enjoy their reward’s program.
At this point, we’ve saved a minimum of roughly 25% off at Starbucks. After signing up for the credit card and the Rewards program, the process of buying a gift card and loading it to your account usually takes about 5 minutes each time. Now let’s look at some additional tricks to save us some money.
5. Use a Reusable Starbucks Cup To Save $.10
Since 2006, Starbucks has been selling reusable mugs and tumblers in order to reduce environmental footprints left on our planet. As of January 2013, there’s a new reusable cup that’s available in the U.S. and Canada for as low as $1.
Each time you use a cup or tumbler you receive an additional 10 cents off of your coffee purchase. That means in 10 uses the cup pays for itself and you’ve saved 10 paper cups.
Be careful not to lose your cup, as each time you’ll have to spend another dollar in order to get it back. Forbes claims that buying a Starbucks cup might be as good as remembering to bring our reusable grocery bags back to the store.
Cups last for about a month if you don’t run them through the dishwasher. If that’s the case, you can still bring in your own mug and get that 10 cents off.
6. Buy Packaged Coffee at the Grocery Store
A pound of coffee at Starbucks goes for roughly $5 where I live, and still gives you that great coffee taste straight from home. This can save you tons of cash if you’re willing to put a little bit of effort into brewing coffee at home.
And in case you didn’t know, Starbucks offers a free tall brewed coffee when you bring in an empty bag of Starbucks® coffee. All of this information can be found right on the back of the bag.
You can also check out couponing101 for frequent coupons to Starbucks purchases in the grocery store and at the coffee shop.
Here are some other miscellaneous tips to help you save money at Starbucks.
1. Instead of paying for ice cubes, make sure to tell the barista to cut back on the ice for any cold beverages that you order. The drink will be just as cold and it will be a cup full of coffee rather than cold cubes that you could normally get for free.
2. Ask the cashier to split a Venti into two tall cups for you and your friend. A Frappuccino at Venti size costs around $4 and two talls would be $6. Venti cups are 24 ounces and tall cups are 12 ounces, so you’re still getting the same amount of coffee.
3. A Venti size and a Grande size actually hold the same amount of caffeine: 2 espresso shots. If you’re in it only for the caffeine, go with the cheaper Grande option. The only thing your paying more for in the Venti is extra milk. If you want more milk, ask for a Grande in a Venti-sized cup and fill the remainder with milk at the condiment bar.
If you have any other tips on how to save at Starbucks, feel free to leave them in the comments below. Thanks again for reading.
My name is Jason Wuerch and I'm currently located in Madrid, Spain running a personal finance blog called Frugal For Less. My goal is to help everyone and anyone willing to make and save money through easy and simple ways that don't require much effort. Just because you're frugal doesn't mean you have to give up life's luxuries.