Get the Most Out of Your Starbucks Gold Card

Image via WeHeartIt

There is not doubt that coffee is one of the best things on Earth… at least in my mind there is no doubt about it.

I’ve been drinking coffee since I was just 6-years old, thanks to my Great Gram, who would fix me a cup to share with her every morning.

Over the years, my taste in coffee choice matured with my age.

I graduated from Folgers Instant to fresh brewed coffee beans.

Then I moved into the world of “café coffee,” a world that has become a part of my daily routine.

Starbucks, a giant in the coffee business, has become on of my favorites.

Many of you, I am sure, can relate to the sensational aroma and taste of not only the beverages, but also the atmosphere that has become popular in today’s society of coffee enthusiasts.

Image via WeHeartIt

Through my years of sipping on my Grande Vanilla Soy Lattes and non-fat Cappuccinos, I have become quite resourceful with my Starbucks drinking habits; especially since the launch of the Starbucks Rewards Program.

It was by accident that I became aware of the benefits to registering Starbucks gift cards after losing one with a $50 balance.

You can only imagine my frustration trying to retrieve my beloved Starbucks funds.

Had my card been registered, I would have been refunded right away.

My advise to anyone who drinks Starbucks, even if it’s not on a regular basis… maybe you treat yourself to a handcrafted beverage every so often, but any Starbucks enthusiast should get themselves a gift card and register it online, pronto!

This membership is free!

After you’re all registered, use the following tips I’ve come up with to get the most out of the Rewards Program, and enjoy all of the perks!

Image via WeHeartIt

First, let me explain how the program is set up and how the rewards work.

There are three tier levels within the program.

I’ve outlined the benefits for each tier below.

When you first register your card, you will be in the Welcome Level.

Welcome Level:
• Start earning Stars (accumulating points)
• Enjoy a FREE handcrafted beverage on your birthday

After you collect 5 Stars, and by the way, you receive ONE Star for each transaction, so basically after 5 purchases, you’ve progressed into the GREEN Level… this is where the benefits really start to begin! You’re entitled to all the benefits of the Welcome Level (the free birthday beverage) and then some…

Green Level:
• Free flavor syrups (one of my favorite benefits; I always get vanilla in my drinks. Be aware, there are restrictions on this.)
• Free soymilk (also another one of my favorites)
• Free tall beverage with each pound of coffee beans purchased
• Free refills on iced/brewed coffee and tea (you MUST sit in the store for this, once you leave, there will sadly be no free refill)
• Free trial offers

Once you are in the Green Level and you earn yourself 30 Stars, you will officially be coronated as a Gold Card Holder.

It really is a beautiful thing. 🙂

Gold Level:

• All benefits mentioned above in both the Welcome and Green Levels
• Free drink every 15 Stars (a coupon card is mailed out for a free beverage… any kind, any size, any customizations)
• A personalized Gold Card that is reloaded and reused (IT’S SHINY!)
• Personalized offers and coupons (I often receive a free oatmeal with anything I want in it, etc.)

When you reach the Gold Level, you’ll receive a nice little package in the mail, containing your super shiny Gold Card and your first free beverage coupon.

I should note that once you reach the Gold Level, you must receive 30 Stars each year to maintain your VIP Status as a Gold Member.

Now that you have a better understanding of the Starbucks Rewards, let’s be smart about how we use them!

Tip #1:

  • Separate items into individual transactions.

If you’re buying more than one item, ask the cashier to separate them into different transactions.


Remember, you receive one Star for EACH transaction.

And no, this is not cheating!

I actually stumbled upon this idea through a Starbucks Customer Service Representative shortly after receiving my Gold Card a few years ago.

Tip #2:

  • Make it last.

I understand the deliciousness of the Lattes, Cappuccinos, and other espresso beverages, but supplementing these with freshly brewed coffee isn’t horrible either.

Instead of my Grande Iced Vanilla Soy Latte, I now order a Grande Iced Coffee with Vanilla and Soy. (The vanilla and soy are both free with your Green/Gold Card and the $2.51 for iced coffee is much, much, much less than the $5 or so for that iced latte… think about it… at least give it a try.)

This way you can accumulate more Stars while spending less money, and when that free beverage coupon comes in, you can go all out for the big yummy, adding in extra espresso and anything else your little coffee loving heart may desire.

Tip #3:

  • Try to avoid licensed stores.

Make sure you are going to a REAL Starbucks store, not a licensed store.

I learned this the hard way.

Licensed stores are not “set up” to honor Starbucks Rewards (you can use your free coupons there, but you cannot receive free customizations). Stores inside Targets or other company buildings are most likely a licensed store.

Real Starbucks are generally free standing.

If you happen to buy something from a licensed store and your free customizations were neglected, give the Starbucks Gold Card Customer Service number a call and complain; they’ll send you out some free beverage coupons.

Image via WeHeartIt

Tip #4:

  • Put it on your wish list.

Instead of reloading your Starbucks Card from your bank account, ask friends and family for Gift Cards as gifts for Birthdays and Holidays.

You can transfer the funds over to your Gold Card.

Tip #5:

  • Cash in rewards from other programs to reload.

If you have a credit card that gives you reward points, cash them in for a Starbucks Card!

Another interesting and fun way to reload your card without draining your bank account is through a mobile app called ShopKick.

Unfortunately, this is only an option for those of you with Android and iPhone devices. Basically, you download the app, set up your account and while you’re out and about (points can also be rewarded from home) you collect points through “checking in” to places… it’s not really a check in, just a click.

Some stores give you bonuses for walking through their doors and you also receive a nice amount of what is called Kick bucks for scanning products while in stores.

The app is similar to Foursquare, but when you get rewarded points. I cash in my Kick bucks for a $25 Target gift card where I then use to reload my Starbucks Gold Card.

If the Target has a Starbucks shop inside, you can ask them if they’re able to reload it for you.

If not, you can just buy a gift card and transfer the balance to your Gold Card via the Starbucks website.

If you actively use this app on a daily basis and utilize some of the other tips mentioned above, you’ll be Gold when it comes to your Starbucks Card.

Image via Tumblr

How many of you are already using a registered Starbucks Card?

Share some of your experiences and thoughts below!

Feel free to tweet me any questions about the program or anything I’ve mentioned!

Joe Leck holds an Associate in Science for Business Administration and is currently working towards his B.S. in Marketing at the Rutgers Business School. Before relocating to attend Rutgers, he lived in the Jersey Shore where he worked as an EMT and Realtor. He loves coffee, iProducts, and the beach. Come tweet with him (@joeleck).

Little Pink Blog & Little Pink Book PR are federally registered trademarks of Little Pink Book PR, LLC. © 2009-2011 Little Pink Blog & Little Pink Book PR. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Absolutely LOVE that someone has finally blogged about this!  I’m such a Starbucks Gold Card advocate.  I tell all of my family and friends I see on a daily basis they should invest time so that they may receive a Gold Card and in turn receive the many benefits it offers.  I’m happy to read a blog post that digitally does this!

  2. Thanks Jason! I’m glad that you enjoyed the article 🙂 now you can SHOW others how awesome having a Starbucks Gold Card truly is.  Happy drinking and keep earning those stars! 😉

  3. Thanks for the info! I finally got to the gold level. I’m wondering if I need to tell the cashier when I’m ordering or does the discount come off when they swipe your card?

  4. Great question! You receive the discounts automatically when your card is swiped. Therefore, there’s no need to tell the barista.

  5. Can I tell you?  I am OBSESSED with this gold card loyalty program…!  I just heard about the individual transaction idea from a fellow coffee drinker while standing in line.  This is likely a great promo for Starbucks – as I would have to personally say that it’s working!  Gotta go check my star balance now….

  6. Great stuff, Elissa! I was told by a Starbucks rep. about the idea of utilizing individual transactions to your advantage. I am forever grateful for that advice 🙂

  7. Are there other drinks where I can utilize the free Syrup/soy/milk option without paying too much for the fancy drinks??

  8. Thanks for the shopkick tip. I reached gold and am looking for ways to keep reloading without having to pay. I use Swagbucks points for gift cards too but since I was an avid foursquare user I think I get more benefits with ShopKick. 

  9. Beingbridge says

    I learned also to register my cards! I tell everyone and just posted for my family and friends to register their cards too. My question is how do we get the free flavors or soy, etc? Do we tell the Barista when we order or does the extra cost come off the total after the card is swiped? Thanks 😉

  10. No need to tell the barista. Your discounts come off automatically, as long as you are within the card level which discounts apply 🙂

  11. Hey Hey. I just reach my gold stars yesterday. I’m so stoked. Just wondering, how long does it takes to get the gold card by mail. And do I need to fill a form to get the card?

  12. I usually just order a coffee. But basically any drink they have, you can get the free customizations. 

  13. Yes, shopkick is similar to FourSquare, so it should be an easy transition for you 🙂 let me know how you like it. I will be sure to check out Swagbucks!

  14. Congrats! Welcome to the Stars! The card takes some time to get out to you. I believe it is something like 3-5 weeks. It is mailed out to you automatically… no need to submit any forms. The good news is that you can continue to use your current registered gift card AND with that you will be receiving your Gold Level benefits. You don’t need to wait for the Gold Card itself to enjoy the sweet treats. 😉

  15. Love the rewards program. Actually found a way to use all that spare change I had lying around and accumulated over the past months. Some coinstar machines let you cash in coins for gift cards. Had to find one that had starbucks gift cards and was a great way to get more stars for gold level. 🙂

  16. Love the rewards program. Actually found a way to use all that spare change I had lying around and accumulated over the past months. Some coinstar machines let you cash in coins for gift cards. Had to find one that had starbucks gift cards and was a great way to get more stars for gold level. 🙂

  17. Very resourceful yet creative way of earning stars 🙂 I love it! Let us know when you reach Gold.

  18. I often thought about what is the difference between my vanilla skim latter versus a coffee with vanilla and skim. 

  19. *Latte, I mean.

  20. The difference between the two are simply just the type of beverage. The lattes are steamed skim milk with espresso. Which is why, when you receive your free beverage coupon, you can add extra shots of espresso 😉 a coffee with vanilla and skim is just that; coffee with skim milk and a shot of vanilla syrup. 

  21. Thank you. Finally, a guide to how the Starbucks reward system really works. I would’ve loved it if this were the official FAQ of Starbucks. Gold Card, I am a couple transactions away from you.

  22. I’m glad you found the tips useful, Sameer 🙂 Starbucks does have the following webpage dedicated to lining up the Rewards Card Benefits: 

  23. Dennisflysfast says

    Someone who shares my love of great coffee. It took a while for the baristias at my favorite STBX to convert me to the giftcard app.  I’ve been scanning my phone for a couple months now and am delighted with what I’m getting. Better experience, better value, and fun with technology. Thanks for writing. And might I say, Realtor, EMT,and student? looks like you cant help but work seventy hour weeks either. (Me: Realtor, IOT tester, student. Bring on the caffiene)

  24. My Target honors all of my Gold Card perks.

  25. LOL the caffeine is the fuel that gets me through the week. Glad you’re enjoying the barcode app. I haven’t tried it yet. I like the experience of pulling my Gold Card out of my wallet and handing it to the Barista 😉

  26. Double up those stars!

  27. You’re very lucky! I think more and more “licensed stores” are hopping on the rewards card bandwagon. The Starbucks on my University campus just recently set up to honor card holders.

  28. One way to stretch your dollar is to order a misto instead of a latte – just brewed coffee with steamed milk. Gives you the same feeling as a latte but is about $1.50 less expensive.

  29. If the cashier forgot the swipe my rewards card can we redeem the point with the receipt?

  30. how do we tell the barista about individual transaction? like how would we say it

  31. Thank you for posting this, it’s great! I just downloaded shop kick!

    I got my gold card status yesterday 🙂 and I was wondering how long it takes/ how long it took to get your gold card in the mail