Starbucks’ Newest Promotion Is A Huge Yawn On Their Path To Destroy Starbucks Rewards

by joeheg

Starbucks Rewards hasn’t been on a roll as of late. In April 2019 they changed the redemption levels for awards from a flat 125 stars for any food or coffee item to a tiered system with rewards ranging from 25 stars for an extra shot in your coffee to a whole package of ground coffee for 400 stars. While it’s possible to hack the system for maximum value, that’s still working the program we have instead of being able to get rewards we want for a decent value.

I’ve noticed that while the number of points needed to get a coffee or bakery item have increased, the number of points Starbucks is offering for their Star Dash and other promotions have stayed the same or even decreased (or maybe just the offers I’ve been receiving have gone down).

I’m still loyal to my Starbs. It might be due to the staff at the location closest to one of my work sites gave me a gift bag and a note on my coffee when it was the last day I’d be visiting them on a regular basis.


I was interested to see what Starbucks’ newest large scale promotion would be, post-devaluation. As it turns out, this promo is worse than the last few they’ve offered.

Last year, Starbucks had the Summer Boardwalk game. It was essentially like “The Game Of Life” for those of us old enough to remember.


I’m talking about the 70s version of the Game of Life where every path wasn’t happy and it was possible to reach the end of a game and end up a huge loser.

The Boardwalk game had you work for weeks, earning extra dice rolls, trying to move down the board, and hopefully earning some bonus stars or prizes along the way, when you could eventually reach the end of the board and get…… nothing.

Apparently, that promotion didn’t go too well so they’ve revamped the summer promo and launched the Match Two promo.

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That doesn’t sound too bad.

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Each challenge gets 5 stars. FIVE STARS?? It takes 25 stars to get almond milk. An iced coffee costs 150 stars. And you’re giving a challenge award of 5 stars?

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Oh, so when I match two of a kind challenges, I’ll get a surprise bonus. Great. What will it be? An extra 5 stars? A trip to Hawaii? I’m supposed to work for these bonuses for what?

I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt. How hard are the challenges?

Here are my offers:

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While Starbucks says I can earn up to 380 stars with this promotion, there’s only one of the challenges where I have any chance of completing both of the tasks.

I get my coffee on my way to work at 7:30 AM and I generally work 12 hour shifts. No matter how much they want me to stop by in the afternoon for a refresher, I can’t close up work just to run to get a drink from the Starbucks around the corner.

I will probably hit one of the tasks, buying four iced beverages and six mobile orders, but that won’t require me to change my Starbucks habit at all. Right now, I only know that I’ll earn 10 stars for completing two challenges. I have no idea what the bonus for matching two of the tasks is.

That’s the big flaw of this promotion. The entry bonus is low and the kicker bonus is an unknown. If I knew that I’d get 250 stars for each set of tasks, I might try to get one or two of the easier to complete challenges.  But with an unknown reward, I’m not going to go out of my way to try and earn it.

I signed up for the promotion because five stars are five stars.

I’m sure whoever is running Starbucks Rewards has a grand plan that involves getting me to stop by twice a day and try their new Dragonfruit Refresher in the afternoon while buying drinks for the rest of the office. However, I’m the guest who likes to stop by every morning on the way to work and get a Venti Iced Coffee with Sugar-Free Vanilla Syrup and whole milk, no classic syrup and a Bacon, Egg and Gouda breakfast sandwich. I’m starting to feel like I’m not the customer that Starbucks values anymore and that’s not a good place for a business to position themselves if they want to retain their loyal customers.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary



lenin1991 May 30, 2019 - 1:57 pm

The tasks and possible earnings are targeted: I only go to Starbucks occasionally, my max possible is 300 stars, and my tasks are all the same as yours but only required 1-2 visits each instead of 4-6.

In terms of the “surprise” for each match, I expect it to be your max stars minus the 5 per task and maybe a board completion bonus… so in your case, maybe 50 stars per match?

joeheg May 30, 2019 - 9:48 pm

If that’s the case for the surprise, why not just say so? What if I complete one and I only get 5 bonus points and each subsequent one earns more but I only find that out later on. The whole “Secret” part of this promotion is making me care about it less and less.

joeheg June 8, 2019 - 12:13 pm

I wish they were giving a set amount per match. I just completed one (the only easy one which did not involve me changing my habits). Here’s my reward.

Starbucks Bonus Points

Shawnasi Spatola May 31, 2019 - 6:52 pm

I completely agree with the disappointment in the raising of stars to redeem for drinks and lack of ways to earn. My biggest complaint is that I had 13 free drinks when they changed from 125 to 150 for redemption and they should have taken into consideration stars that had been previously earned but no they lopped off 4 of my drinks which hugely disappointed me and I severely dropped my service to their establishment. However I can’t live without completely so I do go in occasionally but not daily anymore.

Patricia Katzman June 8, 2019 - 10:07 pm

Same thing happened to me. I had 16 free drinks & ended up with 13 by going from 125 to 150. Kind of a disapointment to not be able to use already earned credits.

ALinda June 2, 2019 - 1:44 pm

Disappointed also because none of my purchases registered. 🧐

Angie June 4, 2019 - 9:50 am

I had the issue of purchases not registering if I bought in store. A barista told me to order ahead and that worked. Still sucked because 2 of my purchases didn’t get me any bonus stars.

Bren Case July 1, 2019 - 5:36 pm

I had that problem with the “two for yum” challenge. I had to call them to correct it. Then I was told they could note it but couldn’t give me the Stars until after the challenge expired in 6/28.

The problem with waiting is they can’t see what you purchased and once the game expires your challenge board disappears so then you can’t see what challenges were marked complete and which ones weren’t. so you have to keep track on your end of what you purchased, date, time and which challenge it was for…
It’s a flawed system.

I drink coffee often throughout my days so it was kind of to my benefit to complete the challenges… For most it would be a waste of time and money.

joeheg July 1, 2019 - 11:58 pm

For a while, I looked to see if it made sense for me to stop by after work for something cheap. But I didn’t go every day and the counter reset so I just stopped.

Nick June 3, 2019 - 9:39 am

A Starbucks barista yesterday told me the “new” rewards program is an absolute disaster. Customers are confused and irritated by the changes. And employees are slowed down by having to give lengthy explanations.

Erin June 4, 2019 - 10:33 am

I hate how Starbucks is trying to force buying behaviors. I don’t stop by after 2(can’t have caffeine after 12) will never drink the sugar laden beverages, have food allergies so can’t buy their food and hate using the buy ahead app. Thus I will now never earn extra stars with any of their bonus dashes/games. Sick of being a loyal Starbucks customer and not rewarded.

Michelle June 5, 2019 - 10:07 am

My requirements are WAY lower than yours. The nearest Starbucks is more than 20 minutes away from home and in the opposite direction from work, so I really only make it there while running errands. It seems like the new rewards program is designed to be more enticing for infrequent customers, rather than for rewarding loyalty.

Bonnie Barnett June 10, 2019 - 9:28 pm

I’ve finished the whole board and only got 60 stars, what happened to getting the 380?

Ken Dearing June 12, 2019 - 4:11 pm

There is a box to click that says match two that will give you those bonus stars. You have to do it for each pair of matches.

Stacey Shannon June 26, 2019 - 5:01 pm

I’m so glad you wrote that this, because I flipping hate this game.

Alice Fredinham August 9, 2019 - 6:37 pm

I love the new Rewards program. I am saving a ton of money by buying less at Starbucks. I received an email saying I had earned a free coffee and by the time I went to a Starbucks a week later, my points were no longer enough for a free drink. Instead of a daily habit, I now only get a coffee or two a week. Thanks Starbucks.


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