In mid-April Starbucks launched their new star reward program. With the new system came more options for spending your stars. It got me wondering how to get the most value for my stars. What’s the best drink or food item I can spend those hard earned stars on?

Luckily I love a good spreadsheet so I sat down to figure it out. Now I’m sharing my findings with you!

new starbucks reward program

As a mom of two coffee is essential to life! I usually stop a few times a week either as a morning treat or as a destination for our afternoon walks.

They’re kind enough to give her a small cup of water, no ice, as well so that she can feel like she got a special treat too. Occasionally we even share a cake pop!

My husband loves coffee too so we regularly accrue points. With the old system you got a free drink at 125 stars. I always saved our reward for my husband as he drinks larger drinks and usually adds an extra shot or two. It was the best bang for our buck.

I’m happy to report that with the new system this is not always the case.

How the new Starbucks reward program works

With the new Starbucks reward program, there are 5 different reward levels. The levels are as follows and give you access to certain types of items.

25 – an extra shot

50 – bakery items or brewed coffee

150 – free drink or breakfast sandwich

200 – lunch items

400 – bagged coffee or some tumblers and other merchandise

With the new levels you don’t have to save up forever to get something free, especially if you don’t go multiple times a week. Is a free drink still the best use of your reward points?

starbucks drink rewards

What’s the best value for your Starbucks rewards

My calculations are based on prices in my location in San Diego, CA. Your prices and therefore your earning power per star may vary. However, the price difference in your area should be similar across the Starbucks menu making the items with the best value the same for you.

I didn’t do any fancy calculations to figure this out. And I didn’t play around to try to find the most expensive drink I could make. This post is created for the everyday Starbucks visitor who just wants to use their points wisely.

I simply used the mobile order feature on my Starbucks app to find the price of various menu items. Plugged them into a spreadsheet. And divided the price by the number of stars it takes to get that item. I was easily able to calculate what items give you the most spending value per star.

One item was the clear winner, the Ham & Cheese Croissant! It costs $3.75 where I live, the highest priced bakery item I came across. As it’s still considered a bakery item it only costs 50 stars. That gives you .08 cents spending power per star.

The average spending power per star was 4-5 cents.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the earning power was very close across most items. I figured the items that cost fewer stars would somehow be of less value. However, the prices are pretty similar.

Bakery items were the most value in general. Items costing $2.75 or $2.95 gave you .6 cents per star in spending power. This includes the following items:

  • Blueberry Scone
  • Banana Nut Bread
  • Cheese Danish
  • Classic Coffee Cake
  • Double Chocolate Chunk Brownie

The cheaper bakery items like your bagels and cake pops are only going to give you the .4 cents per star.

Other food items like breakfast sandwiches, oatmeals, and parfaits fall into the 150 star category and give you just .03 cents spending power.

What about those big drinks?!

The trick in the past was always to get the most value by getting the largest drink. My husband would get a Venti size beverage and add an extra shot of espresso. (I only calculated star power up to Venti size as you cannot order a larger size via the mobile app. I’m unsure if you can use the reward on the Trente size drink)

As of now you can still add things like an extra shot into your drink and get the entire drink for free with your 150 reward stars.

I calculated many different Venti sized drinks and they ranged in price from $5.45 for my favorite Iced Caramel Macchiato to $6.35 for my husband favorite Blonde Vanilla Bean Coconut Latte with an extra shot. All of these drinks came in at .04 cents spending power per star.

How about the higher reward levels?

It doesn’t look like there’s any reason to save your stars for the higher levels.

The 200 point level will get you lunch items which cost $8.45 each for most of them. Those gave just .04 cents spending power.

The top level is the 400 point level which will get you a bag of coffee or merchandise. The bag of coffee at $12.95 gives you only .03 cents spending power. No use in saving up for that.

I skipped calculating the merchandise as it’s a bit vague as to what it applies to, and most of us regulars already have enough coffee tumblers in our cupboard.

best value starbucks rewards

What should you spend your stars on?

To recap, here’s the order in which you should spend your stars.

  1. Ham & Cheese Croissant. If you like them they will give you the most spending power for your stars
  2. Bakery Items priced $2.75 or $2.95, or whatever the equivalent is where you are.
  3. Venti-sized drinks. If that’s too much for you order an iced beverage. Take it home and pour half of it into a different cup, without ice, and stick it in your fridge for the next day. You can also split it with a friend as it’s the equivalent of two tall beverages, if you can find someone with the same drink order!
  4. Lunch items and lower priced bakery items
  5. Don’t waste your stars on bagged coffee, extra shots, or food at the 150 star level which will give you the lowest spending value.

More tips for saving money at Starbucks!

  • Earn free gift cards through apps and online programs.
  • Participate in special challenges, often called a dash, on the app to earn bonus points
  • Take advantage of their happy hour specials which usually offer buy one get one free drinks or $3 espresso beverages

How do you plan to spend your rewards?!

3 thoughts on “New Starbucks Rewards Program {How to get the most value}”

  1. Thanks for the article! Good info. Just as a math lesson for everyone, it is not “.4 cents” or .03 cents” since those actually mean “four tenths of one penny” and “three one hundredths of one penny”. What you really mean to say is that a star is worth 4 cents or 3 cents.
    When the calculator says .03 it means three one hundredth of a dollar – which is 3 cents. Hope that makes sense.

  2. Perfect information! Thank you – it’s good to know there are other people asking the same questions as I am. Makes me feel a little less crazy

  3. I’m so very glad you covered this! I googled specifically for the answers to the newly updated stars program because everytime I’ve been to starbucks since the update, I’ve wondered to myself how to get the most bang for my stars, so to speak! You’ve done all the work for the rest of us, and now I can order smarter at the Bux. Thank you from another type A/plan-ahead gal!

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