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Venti-sized disappointment: A review of the Starbucks Rewards Visa card

May 22, 2020
9 min read
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Starbucks Rewards Visa Card overview

If you’re a Venti latte-loving Starbucks fanatic and frequent the chain regularly, this Starbucks Rewards Visa card may be for you. However, with a $49 annual fee and complicated redemption structure, most everyone else would be better off with a cash back or rewards card that doesn’t just satiate your caffeine fix. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐½

*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG's editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

With over 24,000 stores around the world, Starbucks is a behemoth of a coffee chain. Whether you enjoy the brand’s coffee is another story, but there’s certainly a faithful Starbucks audience. In fact, Starbucks Rewards, the company’s loyalty program, has over 17 million U.S. members on last count.

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Starbucks unveiled its store credit card in 2018 but it’s seen notable changes over the past couple of years -- and they have not been for the better. Most of these changes align with a revamp of the Starbucks Rewards program, including tiered redemptions for menu items (read: more expensive).

With that said, there’s still a subset of Starbucks lovers that can benefit from this card. Before you sip that Frappuccino though, let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know about the Starbucks Rewards Visa card.

The information for the Starbucks Rewards Visa 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.

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Who is this card for?

If Starbucks is already part of your regular routine and you can maximize the menu-only redemptions of the Starbucks Rewards Visa, then it may be worth footing the bill for this card’s $49 annual fee.

The card supplements the existing Starbucks Rewards program. The free food and drink items you receive through Starbucks Rewards can save you a pretty penny – and the Starbucks Visa helps accelerate earning “Stars.” However, with these Stars, you are also limiting your redemption options to Starbucks.

(Photo courtesy of Starbucks)
(Photo courtesy of Starbucks)

Keep in mind this Starbucks credit card is issued by Chase, which means it is included in Chase’s 5/24 credit card rule. If you are strategizing on your new card applications, take this into account – the Starbucks Visa might make even less sense.

If Starbucks isn’t part of your go-to daily ritual, there are better long-term cash back and rewards card alternatives to get a bigger bang for your buck.

When it comes down to it though, this Starbucks Visa is a store card that offers value only to the most loyal. If that’s you, there are worse cards out there than this one.

Sign-up bonus: Worth $272

How does 43 lattes sound? With the Starbucks Rewards Visa, you’ll get 6,500 Bonus Stars when you spend $500 in the first three months from account opening. Those Stars can be redeemed through the Starbucks Rewards program and the various rewards tiers. (6,500 Stars is worth 43 lattes, 130 bakery items, or 32 lunch items.)

In addition, you’ll earn 300 Bonus Stars the first time you use your card to add money to your Starbucks account.

By my estimates, these 6,800 stars in total are worth approximately $272, as I’ll explain in the section below.

What is Starbucks Rewards? 

Earn free drinks with Starbucks Rewards. (Photo by Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Earn free drinks with Starbucks Rewards. (Photo by Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Before explaining the specific earnings, perks, and benefits of the Starbucks Visa card, you’ll need to be familiar with Starbucks Rewards, the loyalty program in which you earn and redeem Stars.

Starbucks Rewards isn’t the most straightforward loyalty program out there, to say the least. Get that caffeine ready, here’s an overview.

Starbucks Rewards is revenue based, meaning that you earn Stars for every dollar you spend. You get two Stars per $1 for all Starbucks purchases. That part is simple.

How to redeem Stars

You can only redeem Starbucks Stars that you earn for menu items. Note that Stars do not expire as long as your card account is open. However, your Stars will expire six months after closing your account.

Here is a full menu list of what you can get at each Star level:

  • Drink modifications (such as an extra shot) – 25 Stars
  • Brewed hot coffee, bakery item or hot tea – 50 Stars
  • Handcrafted drink, hot breakfast or parfait – 150 Stars
  • Lunch sandwich, protein box or salad – 200 Stars
  • Select merchandise or at-home coffee – 400 Stars

What is a Starbucks Star worth?

(Photo by Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg/Getty Images)
(Photo by Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

You can redeem Stars for a variety of items at each level, so in a way, the value of your Stars is dynamic and dependent on what you want to get from Starbucks.

However, let’s take a look at a few popular menu items to get a rough estimate of what a Starbucks Star is worth. I gathered the price from the Starbucks app for pickup from a store in New York City:

  • Venti Blonde Roast coffee -- $3.21 or 50 Stars (6.4 cents per Star)
  • Venti Mocha Frappuccino Blended Beverage -- $6.48 or 150 Stars (4.3 cents per Star)
  • Chicken and Quinoa Protein Bowl -- $9.20 or 200 Stars (4.6 cents per Star)
  • Organic Yukon Blend At-Home Coffee Blend -- $13.95 or 400 Stars (3.5 cents per Star)

Let’s say you get an average value of four cents per Starbucks Star, keeping in mind you may not redeem for the most expensive item within a certain tier. With 6,800 Bonus Stars from the card sign-up bonus and for loading funds the first time, your Stars would be worth $272.

Earning, perks and benefits

In a nutshell (or coffee bean), the earning, perks and benefits of the Starbucks Rewards Visa are not particularly lucrative on their own.

The card earns up to 3 Stars per $1 spent at Starbucks: 1 Star per $1 on digital Starbucks account reloads, plus 2 Stars per $1 when using that card in-store. However, that one Bonus Star only applies when digitally loading funds with the Starbucks Rewards Visa and specifically excludes money added at the register in-store.

Then, you’ll get 1 Star per $2 spent at grocery stores, on local transit and commuting, and on internet, cable and phone services.

Finally, you’ll get one Star per $4 spent anywhere else.

All-in-all, at a four-cent valuation per Star, you’re effectively getting a 4% return on Starbucks card reloads, 2% return for the bonus categories of groceries, transit, and internet, phone and cable. And a 1% return anywhere else.

Other benefits

As a Starbucks cardholder, you’ll also get eight “Barista Picks” sent to your account each year, which must be used within 30 days. According to Starbucks, these are “handpicked food and drinks shared with you as a thanks for being a cardmember.” Note that substitutions and customizations are not allowed unless specifically permitted by the Barista Pick coupon.

The card also offers several notable card protections:

Does the Starbucks credit card have a foreign transaction fee?

Yes, the Starbucks Rewards Visa has a foreign transaction fee of 3% so this is not a card we’d recommend using outside of the US.

Other cards to consider 

Rewards cards that give you bonus points at cafes and restaurants would be a great alternative to the Starbucks credit card. For instance, the American Express® Gold Card earns 4x back at restaurants and earns lucrative, transferable Membership Rewards points. For a no-annual-fee option, the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card gives you 3% cash back on dining.

Bottom line

Let’s get straight to the point. The Starbucks Rewards Visa Card isn’t a very rewarding card unless you’re a die-hard Starbucks customer. However, you can definitely come out ahead in the first year of card ownership, since the Bonus Stars are worth significantly more than the $49 annual fee.

For most people though, I’d recommend getting a more flexible rewards card that earns points or cash back at Starbucks -- but doesn’t force you to redeem for coffee beans.

Featured image by (Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
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.