Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card review: Worth it for coffee lovers?

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In a Nutshell

If you are loyal to the Starbucks brand, then the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card may be just what you need to save money. But if you’re not a Starbucks loyalist, there could be better credit cards for you.

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If you love Starbucks, this could be the card for you.

The new Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card helps you earn rewards and free drinks for your morning routine.

In addition to rewards for Starbucks purchases, this card earns you special cardholder perks at Starbucks, like eight complimentary Barista Picks (food or drinks just for cardholders) in each 12-month period, with one awarded every six weeks beginning 45 days after account opening.

But there are some drawbacks to the card. You only earn one Star for every $4 spent on eligible purchases, which is a very low rewards rate — and is also what you’ll earn if you load funds to your registered Starbucks card in the store. The Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card is more beneficial when you use it to load funds onto your registered Starbucks card via the app or online, which earns one Star per $1 spent.

If you’re not a bona fide latte-sipping Starbucks super fan, it might make sense to get another rewards credit card — perhaps one that offers extra rewards for restaurant purchases.

Below we cover some of the pros and cons of the card to help you decide if the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card is right for you.

What we like Heads up
  • Rewards can be redeemed for free drinks
  • Complimentary Barista Picks are offered exclusively to cardholders
  • Very low rewards rate for purchases outside Starbucks
  • Rewards expire quickly
  • Rewards are redeemable only at Starbucks
  • Annual fee of $49

  1. The rundown: Everything we like about the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card
  2. Heads up: What you should consider before applying for the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card
  3. Do the math: How to get the most out of the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card
  4. The competition: How the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card stacks up against similar cards
  5. Bottom line: Is the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card right for you?

The rundown: Everything we like about the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card

The Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card could help you tackle your coffee cravings while earning rewards. Here are some of the perks of the card.

Free rewards drinks

The Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card features a sign-up bonus of 6,500 Stars after you spend $500 or more on eligible purchases during the first three months from account opening.

You could earn another 300 Stars the first time you use your credit card to add money to the Starbucks Rewards app on your phone. And paying for those lattes at participating Starbucks locations with your registered Starbucks card — loaded via your Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card through the app or online — can earn you a total of three Stars for every $1 spent. That’s two Stars for being a Starbucks Rewards member and one extra Star for every $1 you load onto your registered Starbucks card through the app or online with your Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card.

Once you’ve earned 150 Stars, you can redeem them for a free drink or food item at participating Starbucks locations.

More coffee on the house

The Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card includes coupons for eight complimentary Barista Picks each year, beginning 45 days after account opening. These specialty food items or drinks will come your way about once every six weeks, as coupons loaded to your Rewards account, and they’re available only to cardholders.

The Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card will automatically qualify you for Starbucks Rewards Gold Level status, which features free refills on brewed coffee and tea that you order during the same visit, along with a birthday reward each year and other special offers.

Heads up: What you should consider before applying for the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card

Don’t get caught up in the Starbucks brand hype.

We wouldn’t be surprised if coffee aficionados flock to the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card simply to prove their brand loyalty, but make sure you read the fine print before deciding whether the card is a good fit for you. Here are a few things to consider.

Low rewards rate for purchases

The Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card may offer value on Starbucks purchases, but if you use the card anywhere else, you must spend $4 to accumulate one measly Star.

So don’t bother pulling this card out of your wallet unless you’re loading funds to your registered Starbucks card using the app or online, and then using your registered card to make a purchase in a Starbucks store, which is the combo that gets you those extra Stars. But wait — let’s take a look at those rewards to see if it’s actually a good deal.

Remember that you can earn three Stars for Starbucks purchases … but two of those points are from being a Starbucks® Rewards member, and you don’t need the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card to become a member. This means that if you’re already a member of the rewards program, using the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card really only allows you to earn one extra Star, and only if you’ve used it to load funds through the app or online onto your registered membership card.

Limited options for earning rewards

If it sounds as if it’s a lot of trouble to earn the maximum rewards with the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card, then it may not be the card for you.

Earning those three Stars per $1 requires using the credit card to load funds onto your registered Starbucks card, which you can then use to make your in-store purchase — and the catch is you must load those funds using the mobile app or online. Loading funds in-store, rather than digitally, earns you one Star per $4 spent.

Limited options for redeeming rewards

Stars can only be redeemed at participating Starbucks locations.

That may not be a problem for devout coffee-loving Starbucks loyalists. But if you like travel rewards or cash back, you’re out of luck, because you’re not allowed to transfer Stars to another rewards program or redeem rewards in other ways.

To make matters worse, not every Starbucks participates in the company’s rewards program.

Points expire quickly

Your Stars expire six months after you earn them, which can make it difficult to save up a bunch of Stars and cash them in later.

Barista Picks expire 30 days after you receive them, and your birthday reward expires the day after your birthday.

Annual fee

The Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card comes with a $49 annual fee. So the card might only be worth it if you visit Starbucks frequently.

Do the math: How to get the most out of the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card

Starbucks loyalists will get the most value out of this card.

Only shop at Starbucks

You can redeem 150 Stars for one cup of coffee … or tea or juice or a bagel.

Let’s assume you normally spend about $5 on a cup of coffee. Then, your points are worth about 4 cents for each cup.

That means you could earn one free drink for every $41.67 you spend at Starbucks, assuming you’re earning the maximum three Stars for every $1 spent. So if you visit Starbucks once a week, it could take about two months to earn a free coffee. More-frequent Starbucks customers, say those who visit every morning, could earn a free coffee every week or two.

Remember, you don’t get as many Stars if you shop elsewhere or if you’re not using the optimal rewards combo of digital load + registered membership card. It could cost you $500 in purchases from other stores, or in Starbucks purchases made without using that optimal rewards combo, to earn a free drink.

Don’t save Stars

Don’t let your rewards go to waste.

Keep in mind that Stars expire every six months. So redeem them for free food and drinks while you still can — the same thing goes for barista picks and birthday rewards. 

Ask for a refill

Don’t be afraid to go back for seconds.

With the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card, you’re automatically a Gold Level member of the Starbucks Rewards loyalty program, and a benefit of that program is free same-visit refills. Feel free to take advantage of this benefit every time you visit Starbucks to get more bang for your buck.

The competition: How the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card stacks up against similar cards

Starbucks is paving a new path with its restaurant-branded credit card. If you want a more versatile credit card that offers more than just restaurant-specific rewards and comes without an annual fee, take a look at these other cards.

Best restaurant rewards Chase Freedom®
Consistent restaurant rewards Capital One® SavorOne℠ Cash Rewards Credit Card
All-around rewards with great food-related perks Uber Visa Card

Bottom line: Is the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card right for you?

The Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card is geared toward customers who frequently stop by Starbucks to get their coffee fix.

But if you’re more of a casual Starbucks customer, you may find better value from another rewards credit card.