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Is the Starbucks Gold Reward Card Worth It?

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I'm a college student in Massachusetts and love writing, Starbucks, shopping, and music!

Was It Worth It?

Nope. If you want fancy drinks, like frappes and blended drinks, it's not worth it. If you want plain coffee and tea, the rewards system might work for you. For me, however, getting Gold wasn't worth it after they changed the rewards system. Let me tell you why.

Starbucks Gold Rewards

We, as consumers, love to be rewarded for what we do best: consuming. Rewards are given everywhere, from our points cards at Sephora to our Bank of America Cash Points Cards. Wherever we go, we spend our money and expect to get some little bit in return, because this, in our opinion, makes splurging on that Prada clutch or that Channel lipstick so much more worth it. So of course, I was intrigued when I learned about Starbucks' reward card.

There Are Levels

Starbucks advertised this card as a kind of competition. You start out at the welcome level. Five drinks later, you’re at the Green level, and then in fifteen short purchases, you were now at the ever illustrious, ever gorgeous, ever-glamorous Gold level. Who wants to be at the Welcome or Green when clearly the only respectable position that a Starbucks lover could be was Gold, Gold, Gold.

I Needed Gold

Every time I walked past a Starbucks, all I could think was that I was so, so close to getting to the beautiful, shiny Gold Starbucks card. Only one more drink, only one more cake pop, one more five-dollar bill consumed by the ravenous Starbucks register and I would be getting a sparkling new 14-karat piece of plastic in the mail. I would get all the benefits that a Gold member would get, free soy milk, free syrups, Birthday drinks, free drinks every 15 beverages, and of course, exclusive emails about upcoming promotions and coupons. Plus, I would get my name, my very own name, printed on the gorgeous piece of plastic. Every time I went to Starbucks, I would get a look of admiration and respect from the green-clad barista behind the ever-hungry register, maybe, there was even a secret handshake or a discreet head nod that the baristas were secretly instructed to carry out once they saw one of their golden brothers and sisters picking up a latté.

And I Got Gold

And finally, it was here, my Gold Starbucks rewards card. Goodbye, crappy gift card; hello, a beautiful ticket to coffee bean heaven. I imagined this is what Charlie Bucket felt like when he found that golden ticket, except that he hadn’t paid eighty bucks for it.

What Do You Get as a Starbucks Gold Card Member?

You used to get:But now you get:

A personalized, shiny gold card

A personalized, shiny gold card

Free soy milk

A reward every 125 stars

Free syrups

Monthly double star days

A free birthday drink

 

Every 16th drink free

 

Exclusive emails about events and coupons

 

Starbucks Gold rewards program

Starbucks Gold rewards program

The Rewards Program Changed

No more free soy milk and no more free syrups, but to make up for it, a free drink every 12 drinks. These days, a Gold membership doesn't really outweigh a Green membership. The new Green level is similar to the old Gold level. You can see an up-to-date rundown of the reward system on Starbucks' website.

At first, the switch didn't stop me. I started going to Starbucks all the time and casually whipping out my gleaming treasure to pay for that frap.

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I got the free soy milk—yes, saved sixty cents a pop, go me! I got free syrups, thank you very much, a free extra 200 calories without the fifty-cent charge. And of course, I got the ground-breaking email coupons. This was the life, this was like an exclusive club, and I was a part of it.

Was Getting a Gold Rewards Card Worth It After the Switch? Nope.

  1. Free soy adds up: Well, first of all, let me start with the soy milk. I don’t drink real milk due to a vegan tendency that I have had for about ten years now. Therefore, not having to pay extra for every drink on the old Gold program was very useful! Unfortunately, this is no longer a feature, and I have to pay an extra 60 cents on every drink, which may not seem like much but really adds up.
  2. Not all that glitters is gold: The name on my card was one of the things I was looking forward to the most. My name was printed on a luxurious bed of gold that the card was plastered in. It was beautiful, it was glorious, it was an ego boost with every gleam and glint and sparkle, but it quickly lost its appeal. The card became quickly scratched and ratty looking, despite the fact that it had the first slot in my wallet, where I carefully placed it, just so that the hint of gold would peek out over the pink nylon of my wallet. I thought I had taken good care of the card, but it still looked old within the first week of my receiving it. Not only this, but the baristas still asked me for my name every time I went, even though it was printed right there, which kind of bothered me since I thought that was the whole point of the name on the card.
  3. I want my free syrup back: Free syrups also got taken away, so even if you just want to switch out one pump of a certain syrup for a pump of another, you have to pay an extra dollar. This is extremely annoying, especially if you are just switching out flavors instead of adding more. This was a cool feature of the old gold rewards program, but like the free soy milk has been taken away.
  4. Nobody wants a deluge of emails: The email list was, I thought, a sure way of getting exclusive deals. But boy, was I wrong. I got emails all the time about charity work Starbucks was doing, about flavors I should try, about logo changes, and so on, yet the only coupons and deals I got were the same ones that everyone who signed up for the FREE email list got. They were definitely not worth the few minutes it took to read them. Yes, I did get alerts of free drinks they were handing out, but those promotions were loudly advertised in Starbucks themselves.
  5. The one perk was every 12th drink free: One positive change for the new gold is that you now get a free drink every 12 drinks instead of every 15 drinks. This was supposedly supposed to make up for the taking away of free soy milk. Well, now instead of getting $5 for every $85 you spend, you get $5 for every $60. Having free soy milk for these 12 drinks would amount to a savings of $7.20. Instead, I get a free drink, every 12 which is $5.41. Clearly Starbucks knows that the people who benefited from the free soy milk and free syrups from their previous rewards program would save less money, i.e. make more money Starbucks with the free drink every 12 stars.
  6. You don't go to Starbucks for the plain coffee and tea: Free refills on coffee and tea are offered to gold members. Coffee and tea are around $2, and certainly, not popular drinks at Starbucks. Although the people that get plain coffee and tea at Starbucks can benefit from this, most people don't, so it doesn't really make a difference for a lot of people. Although one feature that I thought was a nice touch is that you can get a free "refill" i.e. coffee or tea regardless of what your original drink was. So you could have gotten a frappuccino and then gotten a tea "refill" later. That being said, if you like plain coffee or tea, this is a great perk!
  7. Free birthday drink: This perk is available to both Gold and Green members, so it's not exactly incentive to get Gold. But free drink on your birthday? Enough said.
  8. Keeping gold is expensive: Finally, the final catch for both rewards programs is the upkeep of the card. I did not realize this when I was on my mission to get the Gold status that I'd need to maintain my Gold status. And to do that, you needed to buy 30 drinks within the year or your “benefits” died out faster than you could say “tall chai, please.” The website aptly puts it that if you buy a drink a week, you would fulfill your requirement in a little over six months. However, it would actually take around seven and a half months, IF, and only if, you bought one every week. What if I decided to go on a break from Starbucks? What if I didn’t feel like going each week? Of course, I did go every week without fail. Most of the time I went more than three times in a week, but the fact that Starbucks was making me pay them to upkeep the card that literally showed my loyalty to them made the card seem like a gleaming golden cage, not a reward.
the Starbucks app

the Starbucks app

The Starbucks App

One part of the rewards program that is new is the Starbucks App that has made getting the rewards a lot easier. In the app, you can:

  • pay with your phone,
  • see how many stars you've earned,
  • find the nearest Starbucks to you,
  • view your purchase history,
  • see all your registered cards and their balances, and
  • receive free electronic downloads, such as apps, books, and songs, each week as part of the "Pick of the Week" feature.

I think this pap is a great addition to the rewards program and makes it much easier to keep track of your rewards. But again, the usage of the app is available to Green member and Gold members. It's not unique to the Gold status.

Overall Thoughts

So, clearly, my Gold experience wasn’t exactly all it was cracked up to be. I don’t know if it’s really worth it to spend all that money on such a minuscule rewards program. I don't even save on soy milk or syrups anymore, and the faster free drink policy is really a loss of money. The other perks aren't really perks, at least for me. They're just pretty little words that are meant to reel in the dough. This is a brilliant marketing strategy on the park of Starbucks Public Relations staff everywhere, but honestly, the gold experience clearly referred to the cheap gold spray paint that is used to make cheap things look even cheaper, not the gorgeous element that is present in Tiffany and Co.

Please leave a comment below with your opinions.

Do you think it's worth it to get the Starbucks Rewards Card or not? Do you have one? How was your experience at Starbucks?

How Do You Get the Most Out of Your Starbucks Reward Card?

  • Get plain coffees, such as Americanos, because they are around $2.
  • Separate purchases to get more stars.
  • Use your refills on plain coffee and tea.
  • Spend your free drink on an expensive drink like a frappuccino.

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