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We all love a good cup of coffee, but if you love coffee more than most, then the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card might be just the best rewards credit card for you.
The rewards are a little on the complicated side, and they can only be redeemed at Starbucks®, though, so if your local baristas only see you a few times a week, it might be more trouble than it’s worth.
You will earn 3 Stars per $1 spent at all Starbucks® locations, 1 Star per $1 when loading a Starbucks® prepaid card, and 2 Stars per $1 when the Starbucks® preloaded card is used in-store.
You will also earn 1 Star per $2 spent on groceries, transit & commuting, internet, cable, and phone services or expenses paid for with the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card, and 1 Star per $4 spent everywhere else.
Additionally, you may earn Bonus Stars when you buy qualifying Starbucks® products from third-party retailers and subsequently submit a photo of your receipt to the Stars website.
The most powerful way to compound the number of Stars you earn is to combine your Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card with the standard store loyalty card, as long as you stick to loading it in the mobile app. This gets you 3 points per $1 spent, but you also accrue the benefits of the loyalty card.
To do this, you must use the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card to load your Starbucks® prepaid loyalty card with the mobile app or via the website.
This gives you elevated rewards as long as you don’t load it in-store, which will only give you the lowest accrual tier of 1 Star per $4 spent.
There is a notable caveat in the accrual system, however, and that is that Stars cannot be earned on purchases of alcohol or alcoholic beverages. This is due to the terms outlined in the official Terms and Conditions for the rewards program.
When it comes time to redeem your rewards, you can redeem your Stars based on reward tiers.
These tiers range in value from 25 to 400 Stars and are strictly limited to items available at a physical Starbucks® location.
25 Stars may be redeemed for a single serving of many popular beverage modifiers, like syrups, espresso shots, or dairy alternatives. Nothing in this tier may be obtained as a standalone beverage.
50 Stars will get you a small bakery item like a cake pop or a cookie or a regular beverage like hot brewed coffee, steeped tea, or iced coffee. Drinks such as Clover coffee and Reserve items are not available with this tier.
For 150 Stars, you can get any handcrafted beverage or hot breakfast item. This tier also includes prepackaged snacks but not protein boxes. Limited to standard-sized items.
A 200 Star redemption will get you a lunch sandwich or protein box.
Redeeming 400 Stars will allow you to obtain any packaged coffee item such as beans or select merchandise of up to a $20.00 retail value. The availability of redemption options for this tier depends on the store location inventory.
There are additional limitations as well that are imposed by the circumstance of location. Stores located inside airports will only permit you to redeem up to the 150 Star tier.
You also must create a new order for each redemption, as multiple redemptions cannot be done within the same transaction.
The welcome offer of 4,500 Bonus Stars for spending $500 in the first 3 months is simple for daily customers, even more so for those who may also pick up beverages for close co-workers.
Even if you only go once each weekday, that’s only a little more than $8 per day, or approximately a venti coffee and a snack, and after 3 months, you’ll have your Stars.
Many rewards programs limit the rewards that can be accrued in a year, but the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card allows the unlimited earning of Stars. This is another reason that it’s a great card for hardcore java-lovers and the office coffee runner.
For those that earn at a slower pace, don’t worry. There is no pressure to redeem your Stars within a calendar year or anything like that.
The Stars earned with the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card never expire, so you can feel free to earn them and redeem them at your leisure.
The cardholder will enjoy an annual free birthday drink or food item of their choice. Each month, there is also a monthly free handcrafted beverage perk that the cardholder gets, which can have a value of up to $10.
This alone is worth the annual fee, giving you a net benefit of $120 in free beverages even if you never use the card to buy a thing.
The Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card only provides coffee-related rewards, while the Citi® Double Cash Card can provide an actual monetary cash-back reward structure.
The Citi® Double Cash Card does have lower minimum and maximum interest rates in their variable rate, but only by about 2%.
The Citi® Double Cash Card gives 2% cash-back on nearly all purchases in all categories.
For those who eat out at restaurants frequently and want a far more versatile rewards system, the American Express® Gold Cardmay be a much better fit.
The American Express® Gold Card gives 4 points per $1 spent at restaurants, and the points can be transferred to other redemption programs as well.
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ has no annual fee and includes a $200 new member bonus when $500 is spent in the first 3 months.
It also provides a massive 5% cash-back rate at all grocery store purchases, 5% cash-back on all Chase Travel, and a low intro APR of 0% for the first year.
The Discover it® Cash Back Card gives up to 5% cash-back rewards but limits the potential rewards to 5% quarterly.
Once the limit is reached, you still accrue at 1% on everything. These rewards apply to all purchases, and the Discover it® Cash Back has no annual fee, either. It also has a cash-back match that can double your rewards.
The Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card has approval rates that span both the “good” and “excellent” credit designations. The lowest score accepted will be a 690, while the approval chances will improve significantly as the score increases.
If you spend a relatively significant amount of money at Starbucks® and want to focus your redemptions on things you buy there, then the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card is ideal. On the other hand, if you want some versatility, you may be better off with a general cash-back rewards card.
There is an introductory $0 annual fee for the first year, though this fee does revert to an ongoing $49 annual fee.
What it comes down to is that you really have to love Starbucks® coffee and buy a reasonable amount of it for the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card to hold a significant value for you.
While it does offer some robust earning potential when you combine it with the app-based loyalty card reload bonus, you need to use it consistently and diligently.
Also, when it comes time to redeem, the redemption is complex and doesn’t seem to have the deep value that other rewards cards have.