On April 16, 2019, the changes to the Starbucks Rewards program took effect. While the earning of stars is still the same at two stars per dollar, the ways to redeem your stars changed significantly. Previously, you could redeem 125 stars for most food or drink items for sale at a Starbucks store, regardless of price. I always saved stars for when I wanted to pick up a lunch to take to work and cashed in 125 stars for a Chicken Wrap box, which sells for $7.95.
Starbucks has now divided items into tiers, with a different number of Stars needed to get a free item in each category. Here’s a breakdown of the new rewards structure:
So if awards are now divided by categories, where’s the sweet spot for redemptions?
25 Point Rewards
If you like to customize your drinks, this category is for you. From what I can find, getting almond milk in your drink instead of regular milk costs an extra 60 cents. Adding an extra shot to your latte will set you back 90 cents.
Redeeming 25 stars for these add-ons will get you anywhere from 2.4 to 3.6 CPS (Cents Per Star). Since redemptions for the lowest level awards are hardly ever a great value, what about the new 50 point level…?
50 Point Rewards
This new level lets you redeem points for brewed coffee, hot tea or bakery items. Previously, these inexpensive items weren’t worth wasting a 125 point reward on, so what about now?
The least expensive item might be a cookie pop, which costs $2.25. My usual cold weather drink, for the month it gets cold enough in Florida to drink blazing hot coffee from Starbucks, is a Venti Blonde Roast with Half & Half and 2 Splenda.
The only more expensive item I could find on the menu was a Banana Nut Loaf, which runs $3.15.
That puts the redemption value for rewards at this level between 4.5 and 6.3 CPS
150 Point Rewards
This is point level that I’m sure most closely matches the redemptions many people were making with their stars – coffee drinks. This level now includes breakfast sandwiches and parfaits, “cause everyone loves parfait” (if anyone gets this reference, please reply and let me know).
Before looking at coffee drinks, let’s view what might be the worst redemption ever. Never should you ever use 150 stars to get a $2.25 KIND bar.
Maybe calories have no meaning to you and you order a Venti Triple Mocha Frappuccino. That’s a $6.25 drink for 150 stars.
While that may seem good, you caffeine fiends who like to add extra shots are in luck. You can add extra shots and still only pay 150 stars, like this Grande Caffe Latte with two extra shots for $6.45.
I’m sure there are ways to make more expensive drinks but the idea is also for them to be drinkable as well. Since breakfast sandwiches and parfaits fall in the middle of the price range, figure that you’ll get anywhere from 1.5 to 4.3 CPS for redemptions in this category.
200 Point Rewards
This category includes the lunch items I used to get with my rewards. Since redemptions for these items have gone up 60% from their previous level, are they still worth it?
A PB&J Protein box goes for $5.95 and a Chicken Wrap Protein Box (which still has peanut sauce but they no longer label it as Thai Chicken Wraps) goes for $7.95. Get anywhere from 2.975 to 3.975 CPS value for redemptions in the category. Not nearly as good as you received before.
400 Point Rewards
This new Mega level reward includes at-home coffee and select merchandise. Our coffee of choice at home, Veranda Blonde Roast, goes for $12.95.
Other bagged coffee, like Sumatra or some of the Passport series blends, can go for up to $14.95 per bag. That will give you a value of 3.23 to 3.73 CPS.
So Where’s the Sweet Spot?
I was surprised to find out the best category to redeem rewards under the new program is the 50 point level. Even the worst redemption at that level, a $2.25 cake pop, will be a better value than an expensive coffee drink at the 150 point level.
My Venti Blonde Roast or a Banana Nut Loaf for 50 Stars get a value of over 6 cents per star, by far the best redemption value of any category.
So while it used to make sense to redeem your stars for the most expensive items on the menu, the new Starbucks Rewards program gives you the best value if you redeem for the basic menu items like drip coffee or bakery items.
If you know of any hack to get a better value from any of the categories, I’d love to find out what you’ve discovered over the past week.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary