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Pumpkin spice is back — and these are the best credit cards to use at Starbucks

Aug. 30, 2022
10 min read
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With over 30,000 locations and more than 26 million rewards members, Starbucks is, without question, a worldwide phenomenon. That's on a normal day — but today isn't a normal day.

Today is the first day of pumpkin spice season at Starbucks. So whether you want a pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin cream cold brew or even a pumpkin cream cheese muffin, here's how to get the most bang for your cup of caffeine by using the best credit card for Starbucks purchases and maximizing the Starbucks Stars program.

How to earn and use Starbucks Stars

No matter what credit card (or gift card) you use to pay for Starbucks, if you load that money into your Starbucks app or pay from within the app, you earn 2 Starbucks Stars per dollar when you pay for most Starbucks menu items.

Since that is a constant at participating Starbucks, we’re going to largely ignore those earnings here, but be sure and earn those Stars, as they are worth about 4-5 cents each, depending on how you use them. We’ll value them at 4 cents per point for our purposes to stay on the conservative side, but know you can sometimes get a bit more value than that.

PHOTO COURTESY OF STARBUCKS

Here are the redemption offers within the Starbucks Stars program:

  • 25 Stars: Drink modifications (such as an extra shot).
  • 50 Stars: Any-sized hot coffee or tea or a bakery item.
  • 150 Stars: Handcrafted beverages (including iced coffee), oatmeal or a breakfast sandwich.
  • 200 Stars: Lunch sandwiches, salads or protein boxes.
  • 400 Stars: Packaged coffee or a single merchandise item up to $20.

Starbucks Stars expire six months after they are earned, on the first day of the month, so they aren’t valuable at all if you don’t use them up.

How to earn credit card rewards at Starbucks

Your first thought when deciding which credit card to use at Starbucks might have been the one that gives you the best bonus on dining, and that’s not a bad approach. However, it is not the only path to maximizing value at Starbucks.

Since you can reload your Starbucks balance from the mobile app (or even use a mobile wallet payment option like Apple Pay or Chase Pay to pay in the store), credit cards that give a mobile wallet bonus can work out well, too. For example, the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card awards 3 points per dollar for mobile wallet purchases.

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The information for the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Starbucks gift cards are also sold everywhere from office supply stores, to grocery stores, gas stations, warehouse stores, drugstores, home improvement stores and more. This means that the options to earn a credit card category bonus on a Starbucks gift card are almost endless if you are willing to take that one extra step.

RICHARD LEVINE/CORBIS/GETTY IMAGES

For example, you could earn 5% cash back (or 5 points per dollar spent) by picking up a Starbucks gift card at an office supply store with your Ink Business Cash® Credit Card.

The Starbucks Visa card is no longer available

If you're thinking, "wait, isn't there a Starbucks Visa and shouldn't it be the best card for Starbucks?" Well, yes, there was a Starbucks Visa but it's no longer available to new applicants. And, it actually wasn't the most rewarded credit card for Starbucks purchases anyway.

Related: It's getting easier to earn free cups of coffee at Starbucks

The Best credit cards to use at Starbucks

Accurately narrowing down the best way to pay for your Starbucks latte is complicated since there are so many options, but we’ll highlight the best of the best to get you on the right track.

Category BonusValue of the PointsTotal Earned per Dollar Annual FeeWelcome BonusNotes
Starbucks Rewards Visa Card1 point when reloading Starbucks (marketing often says 3 points, but 2 of the Stars aren’t directly tied to using the card).4 cents.4 cents.$49.No longer available to new applicants.To earn 1 Star, must load amount to your Starbucks account, not use it to pay in-store.
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card5 points at office supply stores (you can purchase Starbucks gift cards there).2 cents (this assumes you also have a premium Ultimate Rewards product).10 cents.$0.$750 bonus cash back (75,000 points) after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.5 points per dollar spent on first $25k in combined purchases at office supply stores, cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account year.
Citi Prestige® Card5 points on dining.1.7 cents.8.5 cents.$495.No longer available to new applicants.
American Express® Gold Card4 points at restaurants.2 cents.8 cents.$250 (see rates and fees).60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first six months. Terms apply.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®3 points on dining (with an extra 1.5 points in first year, up to first $20,000).2 cents (this assumes you also have a premium Ultimate Rewards product).6-9 cents.$0.Earn an additional 1.5% on all purchases (up to $20,000 spent in the first year.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®3 points on dining.2 cents.6 cents.$550.60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card3 points on dining.2 cents.6 cents.$95.60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express6% back at U.S. supermarkets; up to $6,000; then 1% (you can purchase Starbucks gift cards there). Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.1 cent.6 cents.$95.Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first six months of card membership.6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets up to $6,000 per year; then 1%. Terms apply.
Bilt MastercardEarn 3 points per dollar on dining.1.8 cents.5.4 cents.$0.No welcome bonus.Earn points when you make 5 transactions that post each statement period.
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card3 points on mobile wallet.1.5 cents.4.5 cents.$400.50,000 after you spend $4,500 on purchases in the first 90 days.Must pay using mobile wallet option such as Apple Pay.
Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express7 points at U.S. restaurants.0.6 cents.4.2 cents.$450 (see rates and fees)150,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. Terms apply.At U.S. restaurants only.
Capital One Savor Rewards Credit Card4% cash back  on dining.1 cent.4 cents.$95.$300 cash bonus after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.

The information for the Hilton Aspire card, Starbucks Visa, Citi Prestige and the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

PHOTO COURTESY OF STARBUCKS

As you can see, the American Express Gold Card is great if you want to directly load up your Starbucks account in the app or pay in a Starbucks store. The 3 points per dollar awarded dining on the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards are also very solid options.

You may also want to factor in any relevant Amex Offers, Chase Offers, gas rewards at supermarkets and a whole host of other stacking opportunities that can lead to savings if you are truly a Starbucks regular.

The best card for Starbucks can change over time

If that wasn’t already information overload, let me offer a final wrinkle to this coffee foam.

The best card in your wallet for Starbucks purchases may rotate. Periodically, there are bonuses available from a variety of sources. For example, over the summer, there was a Chase promotion that awarded up to 10 points per dollar at Starbucks on a variety of credit cards.

Additionally, if you have a card such as the Chase Freedom (no longer open to new applicants) or Chase Freedom Flex℠ where the bonus categories rotate, that card may sometimes take the top slot as it rotates in a mobile wallet, Starbucks-specific or other relevant 5 points per dollar bonus category.

Bottom line

Are you on your second cup of coffee yet? We know this was a long answer to a simple question.

In short, there isn’t a quick answer to the best credit card to use at Starbucks, but that is because there are lots of opportunities to earn credit card rewards, save money and pick up Starbucks Stars at the same time.

Earning 4 points per dollar on the Amex Gold Card is a good, solid answer. Otherwise, try the 3 points on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred or Bilt Mastercard.

Or, get fancy with Starbucks gift cards and rotating bonus categories on other cards and enjoy the bonus rewards you're earning with your latte or cold brew.

For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred Card, click here.

Featured image by (Photo courtesy of Starbucks)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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