I love Starbucks. It is one of those small luxuries that enriches my life. Of course, as a money-conscious individual, I definitely love Starbucks “hacks” to get items I love for free. How do I accomplish that? Well, today I am sharing 20 ways you can get free drinks at Starbucks!
Note that I am not affiliated with Starbucks, so every piece of advice here is completely my own and based on my personal experience. However, they are surely useful for you to save some money on these luxurious Starbucks drinks!
1. Sign up for the Starbucks Rewards Program
I probably don’t need to say this further, but if you haven’t signed up for their rewards program, you should! With the rewards program, you can earn 2 stars for every $1 spent. The stars can then be used to redeem for free Starbucks drinks and food. For as low as 25 stars, you can get something for free!
What you can get for free:
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- 25 stars: An extra espresso shot, a dairy substitute, or an extra pump of your favourite syrup
- 50 stars: A cup (any size) of brewed coffee or tea, or a bakery item
- 150 stars: a handcrafted drink (think Frappuccino®), hot breakfast, or parfait
- 250 stars: a lunch sandwich or protein box
- 400 stars: a bag of coffee, a signature cup, or your choice of select coffee accessories
Signing up for the rewards program also makes your coffee runs that much easier. With the rewards app, you can order ahead and pay with your phone. How convenient is that!
Last but not least, did I mention that signing up for the program is COMPLETELY FREE?!
2. Take advantage of your free birthday drink!
Another huge advantage that you have by participating in the Starbucks rewards program is that you become eligible for a free item every year on your birthday. You can basically get anything you like on the menu, from a luxurious Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino, to a Spinach, Feta & Cage-Free Egg White Wrap (my personal favourite), to even a lunch-size Chicken & Quinoa Protein Bowl!
One caveat I must mention is that the policy states that you must redeem your free birthday item on your birthday.
But what if you are super busy that day and somehow miss the chance to drop by a Starbucks? You can try sending them an email and requesting an extension for your birthday free item.
What??! An extension on your Starbucks freebie? How is that possible? Well, if you give it a try, you may get lucky! Remember, the customer service representatives are there to provide a pleasant experience for you. For them, maintaining a healthy relationship with an existing customer is much easier than starting a new one.
3. Participate in Starbucks offers
Have you wondered why some people seem to be able to earn free drinks at Starbucks with their stars quickly without necessarily spending a ton of money on purchasing items? Well, let me tell you: they strategize.
How? By participating in Starbucks’ offers, of course! Below are the three most common types of Starbucks offers:
- Bonus Stars: Starbucks rewards bonus stars on specific actions, such as purchasing a specific item (or a combination of items), or making purchases for a number of consecutive days. In exchange, you get an instant 10 or 20 or sometimes even 100 bonus stars.
- Double-Star Days: these Days are held on specific days during the month. On these days, you get double the stars for everything you buy!
- Buy One Get One Free: this one is very straight-forward. You buy one drink, and you get one free! This is typically available during Happy Hours!
According to my observation as a Starbucks rewards veteran, at any given time, there’s at least one program running.
A nice side bonus is that you can have some fun with these offers, because they always come as a surprise. Let the offers decide for you what to get that day for some much needed self-love, and you can get some extra stars to make the experience even better! It’s like playing a game!
4. Participate in Starbucks’ free official games
Speaking of games, yes, you should participate in their official games! Not only are the games fun and free, they also have some pretty nice rewards. You also have a pretty decent chance of winning!
I personally have never won any big rewards, but I have won the following more than a few times over the years:
- Free Starbucks stars (5 or 10)
- Coupons for drinks (up to 50% off)
While the rewards may be small, keep in mind that you can play the typically month-long games every day. I am pretty confident that you can at least get yourself a free coffee at the end of it, if you play every day!
Here is probably the biggest secret of their games that you may not know of: You don’t need to actually make a purchase to play.
If you look closely at the disclaimer at the bottom of the screen, you will notice that, in small fonts, it say “NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.”
At the very bottom of the screen, there is a link from which you can enter the game for free.
Did I just change your world? I hope I did!
5. Get free refills if you are a Starbucks Rewards member
If I haven’t convinced you to become a free Starbucks Rewards member yet, here’s an even better bonus. You can get free refills for your hot or iced brewed coffee or tea! All you need to do is to pay with your registered Starbucks card, and ask for the refill with the same card during the same store visit.
If you plan to linger at a Starbucks for a while over a coffee or a tea, I recommend that you order a drink one size smaller than what you normally get. The free refill will definitely provide more than enough caffeine to get your heart pumping!
What’s nice about the refill is that you do not necessarily have to get the same drink. So if you are typically a Pike Place guy but decide to try a Verona on your refill, go ahead!
Would you still be eligible for a refill even if you didn’t originally order a coffee or a tea? The answer is YES, as long as you ordered a drink! However, keep in mind that your refill is typically only limited to the basic items such as the regular coffee or tea.
6. Ask for a larger cup
This may or may not be a well-known secret, but yes, you CAN ask for a larger-sized cup! It is such a prevalent practice that Starbucks now has included it as an option in their mobile app: AT NO EXTRA COST, you choose your desired “Cup Size” when making a purchase through your mobile app.
Because the barista estimates the coffee amount, more often than not, you will end up with a bit more coffee if you order a tall in a venti cup than than if you ordered a tall in a tall cup.
As a result, you end up getting a bit of extra free coffee! You can also use the extra room for some extra milk, or leave the space empty just so your coffee is less likely to spill.
7. Bring your own cup
We know that Starbucks has been pushing for becoming a more environmental-friendly company. They have introduced various initiatives, such as greener cups and packaging, and they have a goal of “doubling the recycled content, recyclability and compostability and reusability of our cups and packaging by 2022.”
But as a consumer and a resident of this lovely planet, we can be a part of the solution, too. Instead of using one paper cup a day, why not bring your own personal cup or tumbler?
What’s better: You will also receive a $0.10 discount every time you bring your own cup! $0.10 doesn’t seem to be a lot at first glance, but if you drink coffee every day, that adds up to more than $35 over the course of the year. That’s over half a month of daily free coffee!
8. Use Rakuten to earn cash back for your online purchases
Rakuten, formally known as Ebates, is a popular online cash-back shopping site in Canada and the U.S. Yes, this means that for every single purchase that you made through Rakuten, you ‘ll get some cash back! Rakuten has more than 2,500 stores from a wide array of categories listed, including many well-known brands like Dell, Walmart, Chapter-Indigo and even Amazon.
What can you do with the extra cash you now have? First of all, I suggest that you put 80% away into your savings. For the remaining 20%, let’s spend a luxurious afternoon with a free Starbucks drink!
9. Move your money into a high-yield savings account for extra interest
Do you have a $1,000 emergency fund sitting in your everyday savings account earning a dismal 0.01% interest? First of all, congratulations for having an emergency fund! However, you can go one step further, and let the money generate some extra interest for you by moving it to a high-yield savings account.
If you are a Canadian resident, you may be interested in opening an EQ Bank’s Savings Plus Account. It offers 1.70% everyday interest rate with zero Everyday Banking Fees (interest is calculated daily on the total closing balance and paid monthly. Rates are per annum and subject to change without notice).
Let’s do some simple calculation. With your $1,000 earning 2% interest, you now have an extra $20, vs. the abysmal $0.10 with 0.01% before!
Again, I recommend that you put away some of the extra earnings and let compounding do the magic for you. But you can definitely get one or two extra free drinks or food items from Starbucks with the remainder. All for simply moving money to an account with better features!
10. Ask for a Starbucks gift card for your special days
Instead of getting physical gifts from your family and close friends, why not ask for a Starbucks gift card?
If you think this one seems like piggybacking off your family and friends, think again! After all, they like to make you happy! Additionally, they may be secretly relieved that they don’t need to spend too much time figuring out what gifts to get for you!
Every time when you go get your free drink at Starbucks, remember to think of the family member or the friend that makes that free trip possible.
11. Get a discounted Starbucks gift card for yourself online
Speaking of gift cards, why not get one for yourself if you can get it at a discount? Check out places like Raise.com and CardCash. The discounts seem to differ, but they generally hover around 1-2% for popular gift cards like those from Starbucks.
If you have other unused gift cards that you want to sell, you can also do so on these platforms. You can then use the money earned for Starbucks gift cards and get your free drinks that way!
12. Join an exchange program like Freecycle or Bunz
Since we have started talking about online platforms, let’s talk about some other sites that facilitate online exchanges!
Freecycle is a wonderful network of people who are giving and getting things for free in their own cities and neighborhoods. The membership is entirely free. The network is all about reuse and keeping as many items out of landfills as possible. They sometimes have gift cards available for exchange!
Bunz is another wonderful site that serves a similar purpose. It was founded in 2013 with the goal of building stronger and more sustainable communities. Thousands people meet every day to trade everything from clothing to houseplants, and of course, that includes Starbucks gift cards.
One unique feature about Bunz is that it has its own digital currency, BTZ. You can earn BTZ through trades or answering daily survey. You can then use BTZ to “purchase” items whose owners accept BTZ!
BTZ can also be used to get free drinks and food items in many local businesses. Starbucks is not a participant, unfortunately, but if you are into indie coffee shops, this is a great incentive for you to try it out.
13. Earn free gift cards through SwagBucks
Looks like I am going down the gift card lane!
Another simple way to enjoy free Starbucks drinks is by earning Starbucks gift cards through Swagbucks! You can earn points, called SBs, by performing various online activities. They include shopping at your favorite stores, searching the web, answering surveys, watching videos, or playing games.
Depending on the difficulty, the payout of the tasks can be different.
While the payouts may not be as good as an actual job, these tasks are fantastic fillers in your day when you have a few minutes to spare. Not to mention that for 1,000 SB, you can get a $10 Starbucks gift card!
An interesting feature of the Swagbucks gift cards is that they go on sale too! They have days when they offer 20–25% off select gift cards. You may want to wait to redeem gift cards on one of these days and get a bigger bang for your buck! That is even more free drinks at Starbucks for you!
14. Redeem Starbucks gift cards through loyalty programs you are already a member of
Are you a member of any loyalty programs? Search through the merchandise portals and see if Starbucks is listed as one of the merchants! Here are some of the loyalty programs that offer free Starbucks gift cards as rewards:
- Asia Miles from Cathay Pacific
- TD Rewards Points
- Etc. etc.
These programs may also offer additional Starbucks discounts, such as buy-one-get-one-free and bonus points, on top of what I just covered. How nice is it to take a flight knowing that you will be able to redeem literally tens of cups of free Starbucks coffee by just clicking a few buttons at the end of the trip!
15. Enter your star code when purchasing Starbucks items at a grocery store
If you ever want to bring Starbucks home, don’t throw out the packaging, because it contains another secret to free drinks at Starbucks!
These products available at grocery stores are also eligible for stars. Specially marked packages of Starbucks products will have a sticker on the front of the package or an insert inside the box with a Star Code. If you have a Star Code, sign in through your Rewards Portal, and you can enter the Code for some stars!
You may also earn Stars on non-marked, qualifying Starbucks products, such as K-Cup® packs and ready-to-drink products, available in select grocery stores by saving your receipt and visiting www.Starbucks-Stars.com.
See, with a bit of work uploading some codes and receipts, you can accumulate stars in exchange for free drinks!
16. Use Drop to earn free gift cards
Drop is a free app that rewards you for shopping at your favorite brands and completing some simple activities. It is a well-established app with over 3 million members, who earn cash awards at stores like Amazon and Starbucks on a daily basis!
To earn FREE gift cards at Starbucks (and other places), simply follow steps one, two, and three!
- Link your credit and/or debit card(s) to the secure Drop app.
- Earn points for shopping, playing games and taking surveys directly in the Drop app.
- Redeem your points for gift cards at brands you love, including Starbucks!
17. Use Checkout 51 to earn cash back on your everyday grocery runs
Checkout 51 is an amazing app that gives you cash back on common everyday grocery items. All you have to do is check out the weekly offers, buy the items at any store and take a picture on your receipt to earn cash back. The items range from cereals to laundry detergents to shampoos to even beer and wine! You can funnel all the cash rewards that you otherwise wouldn’t have earned into a self-established small Starbucks free drinks fund. I promise you that it won’t take long before you can sip on your favourite Starbucks coffee, all for free!
18. Get a $5 meal plan instead of eating out
While some of us love planning meals and cooking, some of us don’t. And for members of the latter group, we end up resorting to take-outs, A LOT, which is quite costly. Don’t you wish for a better way to meal plan so we can curb our desire to eat out?
Here comes the $5 Meal Plan to make your meal planning as simple as possible! For just $5 a month, they will send you a delicious meal plan. Every meal costs about $2 per person, and in most cases less. In addition, the company offers a regular version and a gluten-free version of the meal plans, so if you are sensitive to gluten, just check that box!
With meal planning made simple, you will find yourself spending more time cooking at home and less time ordering take-outs. You will definitely find yourself spending less on food in general.
What to do with the money saved? As I always said, save most of it, but give yourself a treat with a Starbucks drink! It is technically free because you are spending the money you otherwise wouldn’t have any way!
19. Work at Starbucks
Of course, if you love Starbucks, you may consider working there as a barista. You will then become eligible for Partner beverages, once before the shift starts, once after and once per break. That is a lot of delicious free drinks right there! You will also be eligible to receive a free pound of coffee or box of tea every week.
Other than free drinks, there are many other benefits and perks as well as a Starbucks employee. What I love the most is the health coverage, which is really rare among companies nowadays for part-time employees or employees on contract. Kudos to Starbucks for taking care of its employees!
If interested, check out the official website to find out about all the perks!
20. Always be nice
Well, you really should always be nice to people, but at Starbucks, the kind attitude might give you a bit of extra unexpected free perks!
According to this article, “many baristas will ‘forget’ to charge some people for things like syrups or milk alternatives.”
See, if you’re nice, you might benefit from a little upgrade!
I love Starbucks, but I also love free Starbucks drinks. I hope you find the 20 tips above helpful to get the coffee beverages you love!
Love coffee? Check out our ultimate gift guide for coffee lovers.
Image Credit: EyeOfPaul / iStock