As previously reported, effective today, April 16, 2019, Starbucks has updated their Starbucks Rewards program.

Are Updates to Starbucks Rewards Really a “Devaluation”?

For those of us that are points and miles obsessed or that sign up for every loyalty program out there, Starbucks Rewards has long been a favorite program of many. It’s been almost three years since the program switched to revenue based earning, the last time there was a major update.

Just over a month ago there was news that there’d be “updates” to the Starbucks Rewards program. Unlike other loyalty programs that aren’t as open about changes, Starbucks has been up front about the latest changes. Immediately some of my peers in the travel and loyalty blogosphere began to cry out that this was a “devaluation”.

Updates to Starbucks Rewards Redemptions

As loyalty programs “update” their benefits, there have been changes beyond earning awards based on revenue, versus visits or trips. Yet, unlike recent news that United that will shift to “dynamic” redemption (meaning there’s no longer standardized pricing), Starbucks still has an awards “chart”. Before these updates redeeming your awards involved using 125 stars for any drink or food item. Said chart will now offer more options for redemption:

This is the biggest reason why, for me, the updates to Starbucks Rewards aren’t in my mind a “devaluation”. Honestly, the changes that have been made provide customers with more ways to redeem their stars. There also have not been any changes to how customers earn their stars. Users still earn 2 stars for every $1 spent. Bonus stars can be earned through promotions and games, Double Star Days and via the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card or Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Prepaid Card.

Why I’m Happy About Updates to Starbucks Rewards

Up until today, no matter what you wanted to get from Starbucks (drink or food) it would cost you 150 stars. So whether you wanted a drip coffee ($2-3 value) or a salad ($8+) or a super customized Frappuccino ($12+) they all cost the same amount of stars. As a former Starbucks partner (and Store Manager) I prefer a simple hot or iced coffee in the morning or an iced tea in the afternoon.

I certainly don’t need nor do I enjoy 1,000+ calorie beverages. That meant in order to maximize my star redemptions in the past, I’d only use them at airports (where prices are always higher) or I would use them for food when I was in need of a quick bite to eat.

Having a flat rate of 125 stars for any drink or food item couldn’t have lasted forever. Considering the range of prices of beverages, many would use their 125 stars to order crazy expensive drinks, just to “get their money’s worth”. I’ll admit there’s been a rare moment when I was happy to cash in for a rare afternoon treat by way of ordering a $12+ customized Frappuccino for “free”.

Ultimately, the only folks that should be sour are those who are always going to be grumps about changes to loyalty programs. Or those who either love their expensive hand crafted beverages or can’t get enough of Starbucks’ food. (It’s good, but is it THAT good?) They are the select few that seek to maximize every last drop of value. It’s a great skill to have, but often these examples of extreme redemption lead to companies updating their programs.

For 50 stars, I can now get a coffee or iced tea…meaning that for me, my redemption value is close to 3x what it was before. I’m more than happy to pay 150 stars for three coffees, rather than one. I can also get a bakery item for only 50 stars, rather than 125. If I feel like having a hand crafted beverage or a breakfast sandwich – guess what? It’s only 25 stars more than it was before. For any food that is not a bakery item or breakfast sandwich, redemption is now 200 stars. So, sure there is a bit of a pinch there.

Now, for those who just want a little boost, you can use 25 stars to cover the cost of adding an extra shot of espresso, syrup or milk alternative. If you are ordering food at Starbucks and still want to maximize the value, it’s still best to use these stars for food from an airport location. That said, the slight increase more than makes up for the overall value I see customers gaining.

And for those of you that love your mugs, tumblers and other Starbucks merchandise (including beans), you can use 400 stars for those redemptions. Prior to today, you were only able to use stars for food.

At the end of the day the impact these changes will have on your participation in the Starbucks Rewards program is based on what your preferred drink of choice is. Either way, both the Starbucks Rewards program and Starbucks Cards are large parts of the business. First introduced in 2009, there are now over 16 million rewards members, and in the last two years, membership has grown by more than 25%. Starbucks Rewards transactions accounted for 40% of purchases at US locations.

One Last Thing…

Last but not least. There’s a major upside for those of you out there headed to a Starbucks instead of a coworking space. (It’s ok – even I too work from a Starbucks cafe now and again.) Now, getting a drink so that you can camp out at a table to get work done costs you a minimum of 50 stars, rather than 125! Always look for the positive in any situation, right?

The post Why I’m Happy About the “Devaluation” Updates to Starbucks Rewards was first published on Coworkaholic.

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