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. Use our calculator to grind the numbers and see whether this card makes sense for you.

Claire TsosieJune 4, 2019

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Our Take

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

18.24% - 25.24% Variable

Intro APR

N/A

recommended credit score

Quick Facts

Annual Fee
$49
Regular APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Intro APR
N/A

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • None

Cons
  • Has annual fee

  • No rewards

  • High APR

Alternate Pick: Simple rewards, no fee

Capital One® SavorOne℠ Cash Rewards Credit Card

3% cash back at the coffee shop

This card pays 3% cash back on restaurants and entertainment, including Starbucks and many other coffee shops. Plus, get 2% cash back at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. There's no annual fee and no complicated rewards program to navigate. Redeem cash back in any amount at any time.

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's 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

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 250 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 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.

Interest rate: The ongoing APR is 18.24% - 25.24% Variable.

Other benefits:

  • Instant Gold Status, which comes with added benefits.

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

How much is a Star worth?

  • As a Gold member, you can redeem 125 Stars for a free food or drink item.

  • Assuming a value of $5 per item, that makes each Star worth about 4 cents. You'll get more value out of each Star by redeeming for expensive items, and less value for redeeming for cheaper items.

  • That translates to an effective rewards rate of 12% on Starbucks purchases (assuming 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

For Starbucks aficionados, carrying the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card is like being part of a VIP club, with all manner of freebies.

You earn frequent goodies and surprises

This card's rewards program offers virtually instant gratification: After earning 125 Stars, you can redeem for a free food or drink 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. These alone could be worth enough to make up for much of the annual fee. The catch: They expire in 30 days, so they need to be redeemed quickly.

The sign-up bonus is super-sweet

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's worth 52 food and drink items. For Starbucks devotees, this bonus makes the card far more attractive. 

Stars can be quite valuable

If you redeem Stars for more expensive food and drink items — namely, the items that cost $5 or more — you'll get at least 4 cents out of each Star. That's an excellent value, if you can manage it.

To be sure, if your favorite Starbucks item is drip coffee with room for cream, this card won't be as valuable. But for those who want to venture into the more expensive parts of the Starbucks menu, it's a big money-saver.

Drawbacks of the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card

For people who go to Starbucks only infrequently, the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card is almost certainly not worth the cost. Other reasons why you might prefer a different card:

Stars can be redeemed only for food and drink

Stars aren't very flexible. If you want to get something other than a free food or drink item, you're out of luck.

For more flexible rewards, consider the Chase Freedom®. It pays 5% cash back in rotating categories that you activate, on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. It has an annual fee of $0 and comes with a solid sign-up bonus: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. In the past, the 5% categories have included spending specifically at Starbucks, as well as at restaurants in general (a category that typically includes Starbucks).

The $49 annual fee is relatively steep

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 loyalty program requires a big commitment

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. To earn bonus rewards 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.