Say Hello to Digital Rewards and More

Hi everyone.  One of the biggest ideas ever shared on My Starbucks Idea has been Electronic Rewards. Thank you for your passion about this issue, it’s made a difference.  This is something we deployed in Pittsburgh in April and now we are ready to launch it nationwide in the United States and Canada (PS: AlohaSue, we didn’t forget Canada!).

The process is a little bit different than the current paper postcard one, so take a look at these steps below.  Beginning October 16, members in the U.S. and Canada will now receive an email to announce that a Free Reward has been loaded directly onto their registered Starbucks Card account.

After that, it's a simple process:
1. Visit any participating Starbucks store. 
2. Tell the barista you have a Free Reward (that way you get to choose when you redeem your reward).
3. Present your registered Starbucks Card (or scan your registered Card on the Starbucks mobile app).

No more waiting by the mailbox, no more forgetting to tuck that postcard in your purse or stuff it in your pocket.    The Free Reward will be loaded instantly onto your registered Starbucks Card account.  You can view your account online or through the Starbucks App to view your earned Free Rewards. 

… And of course all existing paper postcards will be honored through their expiration date,  so if you have them, use ‘em up!  Just make sure you bring your Starbucks Card or mobile app when you do.

You might ask, "What’s that, Free Reward?"  Yes, that’s another enhancement to the program.  You can choose any handcrafted beverage or food item with your free beverage or food reward.  (another idea launched!)

Not only will rewards be a bit tastier, they will now be quicker too once you reach Gold level.    Instead of 15 visits, you’ll receive a free beverage or food reward every 12 visits.

With these changes unfortunately, we are saying goodbye to some other rewards.  Soy milk and syrups will no longer be free and the free tall drink with whole bean purchase has been removed from the program.  We thank you for your loyalty and look to you to share ideas to help continue to evolve the My Starbucks Rewards program. To learn more please click to for all the details. 


Inspired by your ideas:

Electronic Rewards
posted by hjohnson14

Free treat after 10 purchased
posted by teachrunning

9/19/2012 4:21 AM

I like the digital download, but really take away my syrups? and other peoples soy?. I would rather have a free drink every 15, than take away these things. You just made the price really go up now. Whats the point of the gold card? yo literally have paid for the "free" drink with all 12 upgrades with syrups or soy. Bad move Starbucks. You made having a Gold Card Pointless

9/19/2012 6:30 AM

Why is it that the Starbucks reps have only responded twice, and only to positive feedback?  Of course we're all happy to have a free drink after 12 purchases instead of 15 and to hear that Starbucks has caught up with technology and decided to stop wasting money and resources sending out postcards.  But I'm sure no one expected rewards that they enjoyed to be taken away.  Most coffee places give you a free cup of coffee when you're investing in buying a whole pound.  I feel Starbucks should continue with this practice as it gives customers a chance to try a different roast they normally don't purchase or just a nice treat for the ride home before they brew up their own pot.  I don't think Starbucks needed to offer "any tall drink" but a free cup of coffee or tea would be nice considering you've just bought a whole pound.

I'm upset that the free soy/syrup is being taken away as well.  I don't think you should be required to have a soy option for free for non-dairy drinkers, I just think it's rude to change your rewards program by eliminating rewards.   I wouldn't be surprised if many people chose your company for these specific rewards.  Starbucks is the only coffee place I know of who gives this soy/syrup reward.  Nearly every coffee shop has a punch card of 10-15 drinks, get one free.  Many have these rewards already loaded on cards or it's a simple punch card.   Starbucks was special in the free syrup/free soy reward.  Now, it seems to be like every other coffee shop, except much more expensive.  I wish someone from Starbucks would respond to me or others who are upset about these lost rewards, instead of just ignoring us.

9/19/2012 6:57 AM

Very disappointed that Starbucks will no longer be honoring the free soy and syrups. I am allergic to one of the proteins and milk and have gone out of my way to get more coffee than usual because of the free soy. It was a perk I came to appreciate as a loyal Starbucks customer for many years. Taking away those extras will definitely make my coffee trip more a once in blue moon luxury and not a regular habit. If I'm going to be paying for soy, I might as well go to my local coffee shop and get my coffee (and syrup) there. It will cost a lot less money.

9/19/2012 7:07 AM

I just have to say, thanks for taking suggestions in consideration for perks. I like the idea of maybe being able to get food as a perk. And I definitely like dropping the post cards. I never remembered to use those anyway.

However, I've got to toss in my displeasure at the loss of soy. I can see the syrups and the free coffee with coffee bean purchase. Those are merely a shift of perks. But given the dietary nature of the reasons behind drinking soy, it seems wrong to get rid of that one, and I really hope it's reconsidered.

9/19/2012 8:04 AM

I will continue to be a loyal customer....until October 16th.  Then I will take my business elsewhere until you resotre the free soy.  I, like others, have a diary intolerance as well as a gluten intolerance.  The PRIMARY benefit to the Gold Card was the $1.10 I saved every morning on my tall soy SF vanilla latte.  Hopefully, you will come to your senses and restore the benefits to those who use them most.  Otherwise, we'll see how your sales reports are for the 4th quarter. Please restore the true benefits of the gold card.

9/19/2012 8:47 AM

I agree with what everyone else said about no longer being able to get free soy milk. One of the main reasons I got the gold card was for the complimentary soy, so now you're taking it away? Not cool.

The other changes aren't going to benefit me much since I go to Starbucks for coffee, not food and if I do want a coffee, I'll be paying more - which means I'll be buying them less often - so changing from 15 to 12 for a free beverage won't really do me any good either.

9/19/2012 9:36 AM

No free syrup SUCKS.  That's plain wrong, you already charge too much for coffee compared to other places.  You really need to reconsider that decision.

9/19/2012 9:39 AM

Wow, very disappointing. Seems like you took away all the real benefit of having the gold card. Please reconsider the syrup and soy. I know I'll be visiting way less because of it, but it seems that what you guys want.

9/19/2012 10:17 AM

Try all you want to make it seem like a good deal to the consumer - but I would have my free drink at the end of the week with the $.50 x 5 that I would have saved with the FREE SYRUP! HUGE - I SAY HUGE MISTAKE on STARBUCKS part. Seriously need to reconsider because I sure will before I drive through tomorrow morning!

9/19/2012 11:05 AM


9/19/2012 3:48 PM

Absolutely love the electronic reward.  I hated waiting for my post card in the mail!  Also love the 12 instead of 15 drinks needed.  Great changes!!!

9/19/2012 9:02 PM

Starbucks, this is disappointing to say the least. My local mom and pop coffee shop charges $2 - $3 for their espresso items and they can still offer a rewards program that gives a free drink after 5 purchases...not 12 or 15!

If we are going to continue buying $4 - $6 drinks from Starbucks, you really need to start rewarding your loyal customers or you will lose us by the thousands.

9/20/2012 5:12 AM

I don't care about my FREE DRINK i care about my FREE SOY!  Now, no offense to syrup drinkers but that is not an allergy issue so I can see taking that away or maybe you should lower the price for card holders to 20 cents a shot BUT us with allergies can't help it & taking that free SOY away is awful!

If I go there 5 days a week & save 60 cents each time.  That comes out to $3 per week ....That is one day of a hot lunch for one of my 4 kids at school.  

Nice going Starbucks...horrible move!

9/20/2012 5:51 AM

It's so simple now:  just say no.  no no and no.  :((

9/20/2012 9:13 AM

Thank you for all this. However, removing the "free" soy option for gold card holders is discriminatory and bizarre. Vegans and people who are lactose intolerant now have to pay more? How can you possibly justify that?

9/20/2012 10:48 AM

disappointed to be joining other "loyal" customers turned off by the no soy "trade off."

it's disappointing that starbucks doesn't realize that soy is an everyday lifestyle by many - not a "trade off" or an option. those who are vegan and lactose-intolerant have few choices and, for as long as i've been a card holder, that was the perk i looked forward to the most.

now that there is no cost incentive, i can't say i'll be reloading my card any time soon.

9/20/2012 11:42 AM

I agree with all the others that this is a BAD business move. This reminds me of the Netflix price hike. I think the bean counters calculated the lost revenue with these freebies as though we would actually pay for them if they were not free. Not only will I now not pay for a tall coffee when I get a pound, I will be buying that pound somewhere else as well. I don't think they calculated the potential for lost business here. 1 pound per week at 13-15 dollars adds up pretty quickly.

9/20/2012 11:44 AM

You are driving away your most loyal customers who have promoted and defended you for years. Good luck with that!

9/20/2012 11:46 AM

I'm not freaking out here, but this is incredibly disappointing. This is not a "trade off" that is disappointing for just "some" of your customers. That comes of as condescending. You have a large amount of customers who frequent Starbucks because of the free soy. I am a college student who is allergic to dairy. I frequent my Starbucks almost every day and love my baristas, but will no longer be able to do this. I'm barely able to afford the coffee WITH the perks. I loved Starbucks for its community focus and ethics, but I'm sad to see that this is no longer true. It is not greedy for me to refuse to pay extra for soy when it costs you LESS than dairy.

Honestly, I would prefer to support locally owned coffee shops anyway. The only thing keeping me here was the free soy. Looks like I'll be getting less coffee somewhere else.

9/20/2012 11:48 AM


9/20/2012 12:06 PM

Starbucks don't make the marketing mistake of discouraging your best customers (those with Gold Cards) by reducing benefits behind the smoke screen of electronic notification of birthday rewards.  Your new program, when compared to the one it is replacing is truly a turnoff to your most important customers.  

9/20/2012 1:43 PM

WOW! Bad bad move starbucks!!! I really could care less about the free drink after however many stars you want to put it at. You kept me as a LOYAL customer for so many years because of the free benefits, such as free syrups, free soy and especially free tall drink when you buy a pound of coffee!! I love the idea of the electronic  notification but seems rather disappointing compared to all that we are LOSING. I am so very disappointed about all of this, especially the fact that you are blatantly ignoring all the outcries from this situation. This kind of decision is seriously making me reconsider the alternatives routes for me to grab coffee...elsewhere.

Thanks for the good run though.

9/20/2012 6:33 PM

very sad.  The free syrup was the reason I stopped multiple times per week.  I will be cutting back and have no problem mixing it up with other coffee shops starting Oct 16th.  I won't be buying star bucks beans either.  Peace Coffee and Dunn Bros both have great bean choices and roast locally.  No reason to be exclusive anymore.  

9/20/2012 6:58 PM

I had a fairly lengthy chat with a barista at of my favorite Starbucks store today. We discussed the changes to the My Starbucks Rewards program and how they affect me. I have always purchased multiple drinks and food items in a single transactions as to not hold up the line, which has reduced the amount of stars that I receive. She thanked me for being courteous of the baristas' time, but then we went through some of my past transactions and discovered that under the new program I'll receive the rewards much more quickly if I purchase each one separately -- and she's happy for me to do that. And since my office buddies actually give me money for their drinks, it will help offset some of the additional charges.

Then I started talking to some of the other baristas (it was a quiet time!) and they were extremely sympathetic about my dislike of the new system. They said they've spoken to some extremely angry customers about it. They got me thinking about my initial decision to stop going to Starbucks -- it is my short daily escape from work. Everyone there does know my name and the baristas really do feel like my "break buddies." I don't really want to lose that. The friendliness of the baristas  and the service I get is impecable.

The initial shock of the changes was really bad -- it seemed like too much at once -- but your baristas helped soften that blow.

So, I'm going to make some changes to what I normally order (no syups and a smaller size) and splurge like crazy on that free drink (bring on the banana and lots of extra shots!).

Starbucks, you have some absolutely incredibly baristas -- and they are the reason why I am going to keep coming back. They are your greatest ambassadors, and a group of them saved me as a customer today.

Now I regret already sending my card back, but luckily I never used it anyway :) I've still got my other cards!

I expect lots of down votes on this, but I figured since I was so publically vocal against the changes, I owed it to Starbucks to publically call the truce.

9/20/2012 9:29 PM

Thanks, Matthew and the Starbucks team for making changes for the overall improvement of the Rewards program.   Takes guts, knowing the avalanche of angry criticism was sure to follow.

I'll miss some of the perks, but people, this rewards program is FREE.  No other comparable chain that I know of offers anything close.  Peet's/Coffee Bean will offer a free beverage or maybe some filters with whole bean purchases, but that is it.  No one else is offering free soy or syrups.  

Feel free to boycott, return your Starbucks card, or whatever you wish, but hopefully people will return after things die down a bit.

9/20/2012 9:49 PM

Hey Starbucks,

I and my husband visit a Starbucks everyday and twice a day on the weekends.

We like the new rewards benefits...but please understand that we do not ask for syrup or use soy.

With that in mind we do support the syrup and soy drinkers in being upset about taking away syrup/soy from the rewards program.

We feel that Starbucks should take a different look at their offerings and listen to these people who are upset.We suggest Starbucks re-think their rewards program.

Comment made by a White Mocha coffee drinker and a Mocha coffee drinker. No soy or syrup.

9/20/2012 10:29 PM

I know I'm going to sound abnormal, but I'm excited for the new changes...I like the 12 star option!

9/21/2012 10:36 AM

No soy after Oct.16 changes my loyalty to Starbucks. The soy milk is a necessity for many people, not just a perk. I have been taking advantage of the free soy for my drink every time due to a lactose intolerance problem. I am disappointed Starbucks took away this reward. If they want me to be loyal to Starbucks, then be loyal back to me.My daily Starbucks coffee drink is a treat.

After Oct 16th, after YEARS of loyalty to Starbucks, I will be returning to my local (non-corporate) coffee shop. Starbucks will lose my $25 each week/ $1300 each year.

The Rewards Card is not better with this change, even with the 12 stars deal instead of 15. Reconsider removing the soy benefit.

Digital rewards is fine, just don't punish the lactose intolerant devotees.

9/21/2012 10:59 AM

By the time I pay for syrups in my 12 drinls I have paid for the free one where is the benefit of being a gold card member. You just had a price increase dont impose another one on you most loyal customers or you wont have any loyal customers. Rethink this one SBUX. I come to you for coffee not free food so I would never opt free food. For once stop the insanity before it starts. Be a good corporate citizen say you made a mistake and keep the Syrups/Soy on the house or your going to lose a lot of customers and dollars.

9/22/2012 1:45 PM

This only benefits the people who buy 12 Tall coffees because they spend under $20 to get a free drink  or food.

Compare that to my 12 soy chai tea lattes which  just went up 60 cents a drink, and I have to spend $54.60 for 12 drinks to get a free drink or food. I'm spending MORE and what is the benefit????

Other people's drinks are going up way more than 60 cents because they add flavors with their soy. Sure doesn't seem fair to me. The costs for the bigger spenders went up and we're losing more benefits than the coffee drinkers becasue we can't have free soy and syrups anymore.

There is no way a drink should cost this much. You are overcharging people way too much.

Not to mention you're NOT deducting the cost of milk from my drink when I buy a soy drink - which in my opinion can't cost that much more - especially from a large corporation when they use their own brand of soy.

Very unfair reward program to say the least.

9/24/2012 12:57 PM

Thank you for your comments.  We are sharing your feedback with the team.

9/24/2012 6:20 PM

What bothers me the most about the change is that my Starbucks is in a Target and will not be able to redeem the free drinks.  Because of that, there is not much incentive to have a gold card.  The next closest Starbucks is 90 miles away.

9/25/2012 2:25 PM

This is horrible! The only reason to go to Starbucks was for the free syrup and soy.

Free star for overpriced gasoline food? Whatever.

All the food at Starbucks is frozen and the sandwiches are in plastic and come out of a box. How bad is it that McDonalds outranks Starbucks in fresh food? At least they cook their eggs on a grill while Baristas aren't even allowed to freely assemble a sandwich.

I'm going to other coffee shops and tossing my Gold card in the garbage. They offer free drinks after "10" and not "12" and they make their own food. Plus, many of them off soy as a free creamer.

Goodbye Starbucks.

9/26/2012 11:16 AM

If you all are serious about Customer Satisfaction and it's obvious that you've already had an ear full of complaints, then you need to check out Amberthyme's idea. She brings a solution ~ or, at the very least, give's you a "way out" to think in a different direction and save face with this no syrup/soy debacle/fiasco.

9/27/2012 9:29 AM

I am happy to hear about the electronic reward system but very upset and disappointed about the take back for the free syrups.  I would rather have to wait for every 15 instead of 12 for a free reward if that would mean I could keep my free syrup!  I urge you to please reconsider.  It seems that a lot of other people are upset over this issue as much as myself!

9/28/2012 5:11 AM

It's nice to have a place to go to share my disappointments about this "new" rewards program. Why on earth would anyone be "excited" about losing free syrups and soy milk? So they lowered the free drink after 15 stars to 12. That is not what we were asking for. Us loyal people wanted the stars to be based on total amount spent and a digital reward. THAT IS ALL! A lot of people will threaten to become disloyal and go elsewhere due to this change, but I am certain that I will no longer be going there unless it's once a year for my "free" birthday reward. What a crock Starbucks, way to go on this one.  

9/29/2012 12:57 PM

Starbucks...please listen to your loyal customers who make your success possible!  The new rewards program STINKS!  If Starbucks was to reconsider this new program and add the benefits of soy and syrups, it would speak volumes to your loyal customers!

9/29/2012 3:01 PM

I will be BOYCOTTING Starbucks. The Rewards card made me feel special, made me feel valued. It was also how I justified the amount of money I spent at Starbucks and a way to get my husband to go there instead of the coffee shop down the street. Maybe it is for the best, local coffee shops here I come, farewell, this is the end of my relationship with Starbucks and what a bitter ending, more bitter than the coffee you sell

9/29/2012 3:08 PM

I appreciate quicker rewards and less mail/paper.

As to the removal of soy and syrup benefits...  I personally think soymilk is vile but appreciate that many people cannot drink dairy for health or even religious reasons; perhaps Starbucks could do something to accommodate this population without breaking the bank.

However, free SYRUP is totally different, and I don't have much sympathy for those who are crying about losing their sugar shots/flavor choices. You want a vanilla this or hazelnut that, fine. But why should that be free?

Remember, people, NOTHING is free: your "perks" are paid for by you and me, in the form of higher charges for the coffee itself, and all the other products you buy... I'd personally prefer to see my grande latte price remain stable and don't want to be subsidizing those who want to add calories and flavored sugar to their coffee drinks.

Rick Bailey
10/9/2012 9:53 AM

Most days, I have at least one latte, but this change is going to kill that.   I can justify spending $3.80 on a latte, but $4.98 isn't in the budget.  I just can't get my head around a $5.00 latte.  It's not gonna work for me.   Goodbye---Starbucks---hello Dunkin Donuts!!!

10/10/2012 10:45 AM

As a long-time patron of your rewards program, this is a disappointing integration of the "new to others" digital rewards program.

From the comments by your clients here and much speculation throughout the internet, the added bonus of free syrup and milk substitutes gave a "satisfaction" value to clients you otherwise would have missed or frequented the stores less.

This incentive really helped others like me return to your stores, even if you're tracking my every purchase through my phone. It is worth it! You're mining data on my preferences, frequencies, and hey....who I send my electronic gift cards to for Christmas and celebrations, but that's fine.  It is a give and take situation, and I support the data analytics approach to better serve your consumers.

We do hope you reconsider and continue the syrup and milk substitutes for those who are interested in your rewards program.  

Even if the minimum level of requirement to qualify for the syrup and milk change is upgraded to the gold level, I think it still satisfies some of the clients that spend at least $30 - $40 per month at your stores.


10/14/2012 5:37 PM

I recently became a Green level member in the last week. I'm the type that enjoys studying while at Starbucks for a few hours daily. What initially drew me to finally activate a membership and work towards this small status (and eventually Gold) was the offering of free refills on brewed or iced coffee or tea while in store.

Today while trying to attain my first refill (I'm at 8 stars), my barista informed me that the refill status will be phased out in order to make room for the new Gold member benefit (12 purchases allow 1 free drink/food item). After reading this blog post and what my barista informed me of, is the Green status completely irrelevant now?

10/15/2012 8:23 AM

I agree with the above poster. When I order a drink with soy, I don't get a credit for the reg milk I don't want. Being a gold member fixed this pricing issue.

With this new program the only customers that are paying more are the gold members.

I was a member since 2010....its was a good two years.

10/25/2012 11:19 AM

I read on some little blog somewhere that someone who had a huge, if not impossible number of comps on their account (yeah, as if they really had made over 300+ purchase in the validity period, to accrue those twenty free rewards they claim they had!) , couldn't get their TALL purchased beverage to be 'comped'.  As near as I can figure, the beverage that was requested was a CLOVER.  Is this the problem?  Are CLOVER beverages not covered as being able to be offered as a FREE reward?

If I remember correctly originally CLOVER beverages  weren't covered for a free refill. However, I kind of sort of thought that my choice of any beverage or food, within the limits of what is specified in the rewards program, included CLOVER.*

Someone at Starbucks really need to look at how they define beverages, drinks, and 'sips' (as in sip or nibble your way to gold)

"*Free Refills in the Store

We want you to feel at home when you’re at Starbucks. Paying with your registered Starbucks Card gets you brewed and iced coffee and tea refills at no charge during your vis it at a participating store.

See what qualifies. (when clicked the bottom message appears)

You must use a registered Starbucks Card to make your purchase and then present your Card for a refill during that same visit."



Collect 30 Stars within 12 months and you’re Gold.  Once you reach Gold, keep those benefits for another 12 months by earning another 30 Stars.  With Gold, you get all the Welcome and Green benefits plus:

Free Drink or Food Reward Every 12 Stars

Use your Starbucks Card 12 times and the next one’s on us.

Here’s what you can enjoy.

Use your free reward to redeem any handcrafted beverage or any food item of your choice.  All food items in participating stores are eligible for the free reward, with the exception of multipacks, trays, whole bakery loaves and food items specific to the Starbucks Evenings menu."

AGAIN, DOES ANYONE SEE CLOVER MENTIONED?  In fact, if you take a flat read ANY BREWED COFFEE is not included!  It specifically states " HANDCRAFTED BEVERAGE"!

10/25/2012 11:35 AM

wow, didn't even realize you charge for soy in coffee/iced coffee. really?! Really?! I just want a splash of it in my coffee! Does that really cost 60cents?! had it confirmed in an email from sbux:

"Thank you for your response. There is a charge for soy in an iced coffee with milk because the soy milk costs more than regular milk. Since the recipe calls for 2% milk there will be a charge for a substitution. I am sorry for the inconvenience this has caused for you."

I am no longer a customer! I want to grab and go with my coffee, not wait until I get to work to add my own soy.

10/31/2012 7:58 PM

Soy is not a luxury for many people.  The 12 drinks rather than 15 does not make up for taking away free soy milk.  Syrup I understand but some people cannot tolerate dairy.  Please bring back the free soy to loyal customers like myself.  

11/2/2012 11:55 PM

Dear Starbucks,

I too am disappointed and frankly appalled at your revoking of the free syrups/soy and tall beverage with purchase of a pound of coffee. I go to Starbucks as much as I can afford and even when I can't afford it. I certainly have been going there consistently since I first got my gold card because of the free soy shot I would get with my mocha. It has made Starbucks my choice spot for mochas even when your mochas aren't as good as your multiple competitors. I have a dairy allergy and I'm vegan. I can't eat anything you sell for dietary and ethical reasons. I get that the free syrups might have been pushing it, but I really can't see how you justify taking away from the lactose intolerant. I am joining my voice in with so many others when I say that there is no longer an incentive for me to go to Starbucks for my coffee needs. My loyalty has been worth nothing. I doubt I'll even buy a pound of coffee from you ever again. If I'm going to buy gourmet, expensive coffee that is worth the expense, I'm going to spend that money at Metropolis Coffee or Peets or even Caribou.

1/14/2013 8:54 AM

I kept wondering why I was suddenly still being charged the full amount (usually don't get receipts but decided to today and then checked the internet re: modifiers). Amazing. The only reason I started going back to Starbucks was the chance at free soy (needed for allergies) when using a Starbucks card.

I've got about $7 left on my card (which should cover one drink!), and will never again visit a Starbucks.  Another former gold carder gone. (Hope that $25-$40 a week each of us spent evens out with the millions they will save by charging 60 cents a cup for soy.)

Je veux mes rewards NOW ! Evolution des programmes de fid??lisation | Barbara HADDAD
7/25/2013 6:16 AM

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