Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Credit Card Review

A card made specially for Starbucks enthusiasts might fall flat (white) compared to more flexible rewards cards

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Snapshot

Bottom line

The Starbucks Rewards Visa seems like an ideal option for the avid Starbucks drinker, but it’s important to keep in mind that its perks aren’t nearly as wide-reaching as the popular chain’s beverage selection. An annual fee charge and low earning rates that can only be applied to Starbucks purchases means this card may be worth it for just a small minority of people.

Chase Image
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card

Rewards rate

1X–1X

Annual fee

$49

Intro offer

4,500 Bonus

Regular APR

15.99% to 22.99% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent  (740 - 850)

Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Credit Card Overview

The Starbucks Rewards Visa card is unique among rewards credit cards for a few reasons. First, the rewards you earn are called “stars,” which can only be redeemed at Starbucks. Second, the earning rate is 1 star per $4 spent on non-bonus purchases. This might be a disappointment for people who want to use this card for everyday spending. However, some benefits of the card, such as a sign-up bonus and consumer protection offers, might outweigh the costs for Starbucks lovers looking to get their hands on Starbucks-specific rewards.

What are the advantages and disadvantages?

Pros

  • Qualify for various consumer protections and insurance just by being a cardholder
  • Earn rewards toward Starbucks food and drink

Cons

  • The “stars” you earn are only good for Starbucks food, drinks and in-store merchandise, which makes them incredibly inflexible
  • This card has a $49 annual fee
  • Earning rates are meager—especially for non-bonus purchases

A deeper look at the current card offer

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: Earn up to 3 stars per $1 at Starbucks stores when you digitally load your Starbucks Card with your Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card, 1 star per $2 spent at grocery stores, on local transit and commuting and on internet, cable and phone services and 1 star per $4 you spend on other purchases
  • Welcome offer: 6,500 bonus stars when you spend $500 on your card within three months of account opening
  • Annual fee: $49
  • Regular APR: 15.99% to 22.99% variable APR

Current welcome offer

The Starbucks Rewards Visa card doesn’t include a welcome offer. Excluding a welcome offer from a card that already has subpar benefits significantly reduces its appeal, particularly for people who don’t drink Starbucks that often. Even for the company’s most ardent supporters, this makes paying the card’s $49 annual fee a lot harder to justify.

Rewards rate

To get the most value from the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Credit Card, you should mostly use it when you pay for food and beverages at Starbucks. These purchases will net you up to 3 stars per $1 when you pay digitally using your credit card and the app, which is a considerably higher rate than you’ll earn on purchases elsewhere.

Since you only earn 1 star for every $2 you spend on select “everyday purchases” and 1 star for every $4 you spend on non-bonus purchases, we don’t recommend using this card for all your transactions. Instead, a more flexible rewards credit card or cash back credit card that will let you earn 1 percent back at a minimum might make more sense for getting the most out of your purchases.

How you earn

Where you spend determines how many stars you earn. Preloading your Starbucks card with money from your Starbucks Rewards Visa card can earn you 1 star per $1 loaded onto your card. Paying with that Starbucks card means earning an additional 2 stars per $1 spent. Spending in categories such as grocery, transportation and internet, cable and phone services earns you 1 star per $2 spent. Lastly, spending everywhere else earns you 1 star per $4 spent.

If you purchase one tall cafe latte from Starbucks five days a week, you earn 14 stars. In two weeks, you can rack up enough stars to earn the Starbucks reward from the lowest tier, which is customizing your drink order. For frequent Starbucks customers, this might be a decent deal. However, 1 star per $4 on non-bonus purchases means not getting significant returns when spending on anything that isn’t from Starbucks.

How to redeem your rewards

Starbucks rewards from this program won’t expire as long as your credit card account remains open. If you decide to close your card, however, your stars will expire six months from the calendar month you closed your account.

In terms of redemption options, Starbucks offers five tiers of rewards:

  • 25 stars: Customize your drink with vanilla syrup, an espresso shot, or another “extra”
  • 50 stars: Brewed hot coffee, a bakery item or hot tea
  • 150 stars: Handcrafted drink, hot breakfast or parfait
  • 200 stars: Lunch sandwich, protein box or salad
  • 400 stars: bag of coffee, a signature cup, or select coffee accessories

How much are the rewards worth?

You don’t earn points with this card per se. Instead, you earn “stars” that are only good for Starbucks purchases. These rewards can vary in value based on how you redeem them, but you can get an idea of how much they might be worth based on the purchase price of various redemption options.

For example, a tall cafe latte might cost you $2.95 depending on where you live. This drink would set you back 150 stars, which means each star is worth around 1.9 cents.

Meanwhile, a lunch sandwich like a PB&J on Wheat Bistro Box would require 200 stars, according to Starbucks. This sandwich may cost you $5.25 depending on where you live, in which case each star would be worth approximately 2.6 cents each.

Just keep in mind that you have to spend considerable sums of money to earn these stars to begin with, due to the poor earning rates this card offers. For that reason, earning Starbucks “stars” isn’t as lucrative as earning cash back or flexible rewards points from a different card.

Other cardholder perks

The perks from the Starbucks Rewards Visa card aren’t bad, but they leave much to be desired when compared to other rewards or even the best cash back credit cards. They also technically come at a cost, considering the $49 annual fee. Regardless, some notable perks include travel, purchase and fraud protection, as well as a monthly coupon that comes with being a cardholder.

Consumer protection

Spending with the Starbucks Rewards Visa card means qualifying for a variety of insurance. Warranties for purchases and reimbursements for certain travel circumstances are part of the benefits that come with using it.

Monthly coupon

A unique aspect of this card is a coupon that offers a free drink (valued under $10) every month. This perk is worth noting because if you don’t manage to earn enough stars to purchase a custom drink, you’ll be able to use your coupon instead.

Rates and fees

The Starbucks Rewards Visa card annual fee is $49, which is steep compared to most cash back credit cards, which have no annual fees.. The variable APR is 15.99 percent to 22.99 percent depending on your creditworthiness, which is average given current credit card interest rates.

Overall, the annual fee might not be worth it if you’re not an active Starbucks consumer. If you are, then the rewards you earn will strictly go to funding your coffee habit, rather than toward other purchases.

How the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® compares to other rewards cards

Chase Image

Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card

See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply

Annual fee

$49

Intro offer

4,500 Bonus

Rewards rate

1X–1X

Recommended credit

Excellent(740 - 850)
Citi Image

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

$200

Rewards rate

1%–5%

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)
Chase Image

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

Earn an Additional 1.5% Cash Back

Rewards rate

1.5%–5%

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)

Starbucks Rewards Visa vs. Citi Custom Cash℠

The Starbucks Rewards Visa card only rewards cardholders with Starbucks items, while a cash back card like the Citi Custom Cash gives people the freedom to redeem their rewards with Starbucks items or anything else their hearts desire. There is also no annual fee, unlike with the Starbucks Rewards Visa.

One downside to picking the Citi Custom Cash is the welcome offer, which is $200 cash back for spending $1,500 within the first six months. Most cash back cards offer better deals, such as spending $500 within the first three months.

However, cash back on the Citi Custom Cash can apply to any purchase, whereas the stars from the Starbucks Rewards card only applies to select Starbucks items. If you want the flexibility to use your rewards on coffee and/or other purchases, the Citi Custom Cash may be the superior option.

Starbucks Rewards Visa vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Another alternative to the Starbucks Rewards Card is the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. This card comes with no annual fee. It features a welcome offer of an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) – worth up to $300 cash back. This money can go toward any of the Starbucks items the Starbucks Rewards Visa offers or other spending categories.

Much like the Starbucks Rewards Visa, this card provides consumer protection on travel and warranties. An additional benefit of the Citi Custom Cash that may appeal to Starbucks customers is the DoorDash subscription that comes with the card. The first three months are free, after which a reduced monthly fee is paid. With this perk, Starbucks fans can have coffee delivered right to their doors for free.

The Citi Custom Cash card is ideal for people who want more bang for their buck out of their credit card. They can use the Citi Custom Cash for Starbucks, as well as other restaurants or travel, drugstore and miscellaneous purchases. On top of that, the $0 annual fee and great welcome offer contributes to an all-around better alternative to the limited Starbucks Rewards Visa.

Best cards to pair with this card

A card to consider pairing with the Starbucks Rewards Visa is the Chase Freedom Flex℠ Card. It offers cash back on travel, dining, drugstores and bonus purchases. This card covers a variety of categories that the Starbucks Rewards card does not. The Chase Freedom Flex makes up for the Starbucks Rewards’s limitations by giving the cardholder a way to maximize earnings outside of the coffee shop. Even if you do choose to use the Chase Freedom Flex at your local Starbucks, you can earn 3 percent cash back on your purchase.

Bankrate’s Take: Is the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Credit Card worth it?

If you want to earn some free Starbucks food and drink in a short period of time, picking up the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Credit Card and spending $500 within three months of account opening would do the trick. You would have to pay a $49 annual fee, but you would earn a bonus of 6,500 stars right off the bat. Considering a handcrafted drink, hot breakfast or parfait requires 150 stars, this bonus alone is worth more than 43 handcrafted drinks or Impossible breakfast sandwiches.

Still, you should think long and hard before you use this card for too much of your regular spending. A handcrafted drink would set you back 150 stars as we mentioned already, so it would take a lot of spending at the 1 star/$4 rewards rate to earn a cappuccino or a flat white. How much? A latte for 150 stars would require $600 in non-bonus spending on your credit card.

Also consider whether you want all your rewards in a program that only lets you cash in for coffee, food and select in-store Starbucks merchandise. Many rewards credit cards let you use points for gift cards, merchandise or even cash back, so this card’s rewards program is rather limiting.

At the end of the day, the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Credit Card is likely best for Starbucks enthusiasts who stop in to buy a cup of coffee or food most days of the month. Anyone else should probably look for a more flexible rewards credit card. After all, you could utilize statement credits from a general cash-back credit card to cover Starbucks purchases if you wanted.