Restaurants & Bars | December 30, 2022 11:45 am

Starbucks Rewards Are Getting More Useless in 2023

It's going to cost members a lot more to earn "free" coffee

The Starbucks logo is displayed on a cup at a Starbucks store on October 29, 2021 in Marin City, California. Changes to Starbucks Rewards mean most customers will need to earn more stars to earn free coffee.
You'll need to buy more coffee to get free coffee at Starbucks
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

While some of us pine for the old days and simplicity of store loyalty punch cards (“Buy 10 get 1 free”), the digital era of rewards memberships does offer convenience. But it’s also easier for companies to change their rewards program requirements, as highlighted by a recent announcement from Starbucks that increases the requirements for their loyal customers to earn free drinks and food by up to 100%.

As noted by the travel site One Mile at a Time, the “stars” you earn for each purchase at Starbucks are going to be worth a lot less starting on February 13, 2023. The most egregious update? A mere 50 stars used to get you a brewed coffee, bakery item or tea; in two months, you’ll need to have 100. Meanwhile, 200 stars previously allowed you a choice of a free lunch sandwich, protein box or salad, but that’s soon getting a 50% bump to 300 stars.

Conversely, the number of stars necessary for iced coffee, iced tea, packaged coffee and some merchandise will actually decrease by up to 50%.

“We occasionally need to make changes to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Starbucks Rewards program and to meet the changing needs of our members,” as the company told Yahoo Finance.

Active Starbucks Rewards membership was up 16% in the U.S. in Q4 to 28.7 million members, so any grumbling by members will probably be offset by…well, more profits for Starbucks. It’s a shame that the company is devaluing its loyalty program, which saw the introduction of an actually interesting Web3 tie-in called Starbucks Odyssey earlier this fall, which allowed customers to earn and purchase digital assets that unlocked experiences and rewards already tied in to the existing Starbucks Rewards program.