Editorial Review

Starbucks Rewards Visa Review: For Hardcore Coffee Lovers Only

For an annual fee of $49, you get a high effective rewards rate and multiple freebies. And the sign-up bonus could be redeemed for plenty of free drinks and bakery items.

Claire TsosieMarch 13, 2020

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This page includes information about one or more products not currently available on NerdWallet:

  • Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

  • Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

  • Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

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Our Take

4.3

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: For loyalists who rarely let a day pass without a run to Starbucks, the card's perks are well worth the annual fee. But casual customers should probably pass.

Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card

Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card

Annual Fee

$49

Regular APR

15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Quick Facts

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Free food and drink offers

  • Potentially valuable rewards

Cons

  • Has annual fee

Alternate Pick: Choose your own 3% category

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

No annual fee

With this card, you can choose your own 3% category from a list of six options — one of which is dining, which includes Starbucks purchases — and change that selection up to once each calendar month. You'll also get 2% back on grocery stores and wholesale clubs. Bonus rewards apply to the first $2,500 of combined bonus category/ grocery store/ wholesale club spending per quarter; after hitting that threshold, you’ll earn 1% back on these purchases.

Read our review

Full Review

The Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card features bold, Venti-sized ongoing rewards with an extra shot of loyalty benefits — and an annual fee of $49.

For dedicated fans of the coffee chain who drop in on the daily, it could be well worth the relatively steep price. The card’s rewards, redeemable for free food and drink items at Starbucks, could potentially save you plenty. But for occasional customers, it’s not worth the cost; a card with more versatile rewards — cash back, points or miles — would probably be more valuable.

Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card: Key features

Card type: Rewards.

Annual fee: $49.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 6,500 Bonus Stars after you spend $500 anywhere in the first 3 months from account opening.

Extra bonus: Get 300 Stars when you use the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card to load a registered Starbucks Card in the Starbucks mobile app for the first time.

Ongoing rewards:

  • Up to 3 Stars per $1 spent at Starbucks. That includes:

    • 1 Star for every $1 digitally loaded to your registered Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card in the Starbucks mobile app using the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card.

    • 2 Stars per $1 spent that you earn when paying with that registered card.

  • 1 Star per $2 spent at grocery stores, on local transit and commuting, and on internet, cable, and phone services.

  • 1 Star per $4 spent on all other purchases.

Stars do not expire as long as your account is open and in good standing. If your account is closed, they will expire six months from the calendar month in which it was closed.

Interest rate: The ongoing APR is 15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR.

Other benefits:

  • Eight annual Barista Picks: These are free drink and food items selected for you.

How much is a Star worth?

You can redeem:

  • 25 Stars for a drink customization, such as an extra shot of espresso or a dairy substitute.

  • 50 Stars for a brewed hot coffee, bakery item or hot tea.

  • 150 Stars for a handcrafted drink, hot breakfast or parfait.

  • 200 Stars for a lunch sandwich, protein box or salad.

  • 400 Stars for a bag of coffee, a signature cup or select coffee accessories.

The value of Stars varies widely. If you redeemed 50 Stars for a bakery item that would otherwise cost $4, you'd be getting 8 cents out of each Star. And if you got a Frappuccino for 150 Stars that would otherwise cost $5, you'd be getting about 3 cents out of each Star. You'll get more value out of each Star by redeeming for expensive items, and less value for redeeming for cheaper items.

Assuming you can get 4 cents out of each Star, that translates to an effective rewards rate of 12% on Starbucks purchases (if the membership card used is loaded with the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card); 2% at grocery stores, on local transit and commuting, and on internet, cable, and phone services; and 1% everywhere else. That's a solid deal.

Benefits of the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card

frequent goodies and surprises

This card's rewards program offers virtually instant gratification: After earning just 25 points, you'll have enough for a drink customization. And after earning 50, you could redeem for a bakery item. Unlike with some cards, there's no need to stockpile rewards for months to access these core benefits.

The card also offers eight Barista Picks a year. Barista Picks are coupons for free pre-selected food and drink items that are loaded onto your account about every six weeks. They expire after 30 days. If they’re used in time, these alone could be worth enough to make up for much of the annual fee.

super-sweet Sign-up Bonus

The Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card comes with a rich sign-up bonus: Earn 6,500 Bonus Stars after you spend $500 anywhere in the first 3 months from account opening. That could be redeemed for 130 bakery items, or 43 handcrafted drinks. For Starbucks devotees, this bonus makes the card far more attractive. 

valuable Rewards

It's not that hard to get 4 cents out of each Star — especially if you tend to go for more expensive Starbucks items. That's an excellent value, if you can manage it. But if your favorite Starbucks item is drip coffee with room for cream, this card might not be as valuable.

Drawbacks and alternatives

Annual fee

Unlike most store credit cards, the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card charges an annual fee. To be sure, the free food and drinks you can earn with the card can make up for it — but not in all cases.

The Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a great $0-annual-fee alternative. It earns 3% cash back on dining — including Starbucks — and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. It also comes with a sweet 0% intro APR offer: 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 15.49% - 25.49% Variable APR. There's also a sign-up bonus: Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

Tied to starbucks program

For those who aren’t hardcore Starbucks fans, this card’s loyalty program has a bit of a "Hotel California" vibe: Once you get in, it’s hard to leave. Here's why:

  • You have to fill up a separate membership card to earn bonus rewards at Starbucks. To earn bonus rewards at Starbucks on this credit card, you need to use it to refill a Starbucks membership card — a separate registered card — through an app. That takes more effort on your part and could wind up being a waste of money if some of the funds go unused. For example, if you loaded $100 onto your membership card, and used only $20, you'd be out $80.

  • Redeeming may come with indirect costs. Say you're a big spender and earn several free food and drink items each billing cycle. Do you have time for all those free Frappuccinos? Will this card make you gain 20 pounds? Will it drive up your dental costs? If these sound like unusual questions to raise in a credit card review, well, it’s because this is an unusual credit card.

  • There’s probably never going to be a perfect time to quit. With other loyalty programs that no longer fit your spending habits, the best time to leave is after redeeming all or most of the rewards earned. With this card’s program, it’s more complicated. Ideally, to leave nothing on the table, you’d exit the program after redeeming all of the Stars you've earned, emptying your separate membership card balance, and redeeming all your Barista Picks for the year. Will those three things ever happen at the same time? Probably not.

If you’re not ready to commit to that many Starbucks-induced sugar highs, consider going with a simpler credit card — say, a flat-rate cash-back one. The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer might be a good fit. It pays 2% cash back on all purchases — 1% when you buy something and another 1% when you pay it off — and has an unbeatable annual fee of $0.

Should you get the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card?

The Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card isn't about dollars and cents — it's about coffee, pastries and emotional value. It's not the most lucrative credit card available for everyday spending, but it's a relatively affordable way to treat yourself on a regular basis, save some cash on your coffee runs and taste-test all the priciest items on the Starbucks menu. For enthusiastic Starbucks customers, its frequent freebies and surprises make it a steal, even with the $49 annual fee.

Information related to the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

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