13 Tricks To Save Some Money At Starbucks

Navigating the world of Starbucks may seem like a simple task at first glance. After you get over the initial confusion around the size names, you peruse the menu of lattes, cappuccinos, and Frappuccinos and place your order, customizing your drinks to your heart's content. However, there's more to making your selections and ordering your drinks than meets the eye, especially if you're looking to make the most of your Starbucks experience. From understanding the subtle differences between various drinks to finding ways to save money or maximize your caffeine intake, having some insider knowledge can enhance your relationship with this beloved coffee chain.

While there may be no real Starbucks secret menu, from the secret to scoring free drinkware to the best way to order for two people, there are plenty of lesser-known facts and hacks for Starbucks aficionados. We venture to say that unraveling the mysteries of Starbucks pricing, learning how to unlock birthday rewards, and even understanding how to order a discounted drink could make a significant difference in the amount of cash you shell out to this coffee siren. Whether you're a Starbucks regular or a casual visitor, knowing some tips will empower you to order like a pro, save money, and help savor the Starbucks experience.

Join the rewards program

One of the most effective ways to save money at Starbucks is by joining the rewards program. By enrolling in Starbucks Rewards, you accumulate stars with every purchase, regardless of whether it's at a stand-alone store, inside a Target, or even around Walt Disney World. To gain even more stars through the program, be sure to make your purchases on a gift card that you continuously reload on the app. This will earn you double the stars compared to other payment methods. These stars can then be exchanged for free food, drinks, and merch. Depending on the type of drink or food, you might need more or fewer stars.

The process to join the Starbucks rewards program is straightforward. Start by downloading the Starbucks app on your phone, followed by creating an account by filling in the required information, such as your name and email. You'll also need to set up a password, and your birthdate will be requested during the sign-up process.

Once your account is active, present your scannable barcode to the barista during each visit to ensure your purchases are credited to your account. The app also allows you to load money or gift cards, simplifying your coffee-purchasing process. The great thing about Starbucks Rewards is the flexibility it provides; you can use it for in-store purchases and for mobile orders, as well.

Use the free refill perk

In addition to accumulating stars, your Starbucks Rewards account provides the benefit of free refills, but only on specific types of drinks. Once you've finished your initial purchase of brewed coffee, iced tea, or iced coffee, simply return to the counter with your receipt displayed on your app for a complimentary refill. If you're in the mood for something different, you can also opt for a different drink. For instance, if your first drink was an iced coffee but you fancy something milder, an iced tea refill is an option.

Our favorite way to enjoy this perk as a rewards member is by using the refill feature while shopping at Target. To enjoy this feature to the fullest, begin your time at Target by stopping at the in-store Starbucks. Complete your shopping trip and drink, then head back to the in-store Starbucks location and present your app just as you would at a regular cafe. Since you are still technically on-premises, it'll work the same way it would if you were enjoying a drink from a standalone cafe rather than one inside Target.

Get more caffeine with an iced Americano

An iced Americano and iced coffee may seem similar: They are both customizable, available unflavored, and without creamer, at the same price. Yet, a significant difference lies in their caffeine content — the iced Americano packs a much bigger caffeine punch.

While a venti Starbucks Iced Coffee contains 235 milligrams of caffeine, a venti Iced Americano boasts 300 milligrams. This substantive difference makes the Iced Americano a stronger alternative to iced coffee. Despite the more robust flavor of the Americano, with a little creativity, you can adjust it to hit just the right taste notes.

However, it's essential to consider that the construction of an Iced Americano differs from an Iced Coffee. The Americano is a blend of espresso and cold water, chilled with ice cubes, providing a distinct flavor profile. So, when you customize your drink, remember that these two beverages, despite similarities, offer unique tastes due to their distinct ingredients. But you can't deny that the Iced Americano has much more bang for your buck.

Upgrade steamed apple juice for a delicious drink

For those looking to savor a delightful, caffeine-free drink, we recommend the Caramel Apple Spice. This scrumptious concoction of steamed apple juice, cinnamon dolce syrup, whipped cream, and caramel drizzle is not only flavorsome but also affordable.

To economize even further, order steamed apple juice, then add cinnamon dolce syrup and whipped cream. Finish it off with a caramel drizzle. All these adjustments, except for the caramel drizzle, can be made through the app. For that final touch, you'll need to order in person, but once you do, you'll have essentially the same drink.

The Caramel Apple Spice is a perfect choice for a late afternoon pick-me-up when you don't want an overload of caffeine, for folks seeking a comforting warm drink, or even for kids who enjoy apple juice. Despite its autumnal vibe, this beverage is available all year round, extending its cozy charm beyond just the Starbucks fall menu season. Even still, we love this as the fall compliment to the pumpkin spice latte. Plus, if you have a kiddo that wants to be exactly like their Starbucks-loving parents, ordering this kid-friendly fall drink just be the best compromise at Starbucks.

Ask for an ice water

For the ultimate economical choice at Starbucks, consider ordering a venti iced water. Surprisingly, despite it being processed through the register, this refreshment comes at no cost. This tip comes in handy as it eliminates the need to purchase bottled water at Starbucks, saving you a bit of money.

Interestingly, the water you receive from a Starbucks location, even the complimentary ones, is of high quality. It's the same water used in the preparation of iced beverages and for brewing both iced tea and coffee. Considering how critical the quality of water is to the taste of tea and coffee, you can be assured that Starbucks' water is top-notch.

Even if your local tap water doesn't quite hit the mark in terms of taste, the water from Starbucks stands out. Given the company's commitment to delivering delicious beverages, the company ensures the water used meets the same high standards, resulting in a refreshing, flavorful drink even in its simplest form. That said, on behalf of Starbucks baristas everywhere, please be sure to order your venti ice water at the counter with the rest of your coffee order. If you only remember to make this request at the end of the bar while you are picking up your drink, you run the risk of truly disrupting the flow and efficiency of baristas behind the counter.

Go green and bring your own cup

Starbucks is renowned not just for its delightful beverages but also for its stunning and fun drinkware. These cups aren't just for home use; they can also hold your favorite Starbucks cafe drink. In fact, if you bring your cup to a Starbucks outlet and request your beverage be served in it instead of a disposable one, you'll receive a small discount on your order.

While the $0.10 discount might seem trivial, it's a small saving that adds up over time. Furthermore, Starbucks occasionally runs promotions offering bonus stars for customers using their own cups. This incentive, combined with the modest discount and the environmental benefit of reducing paper cup waste, makes purchasing Starbucks' attractive drinkware a worthwhile investment. If you're yet to own a Starbucks cup for in-store use, a fabulous strategy is to let your stars accumulate to 400. Once you reach this point, you can redeem them for free or discounted drinkware, making your Starbucks experience more sustainable and rewarding.

Don't forget your birthday perk

Providing your birthday when signing up for your Starbucks Rewards account entitles you to a special birthday reward. This reward gives you a free drink or food item at any Starbucks location. The crucial point to note is that you need to register for the rewards account at least seven days prior to your birthday. On your special day, you'll find a reward waiting in your app. Simply show it to your barista after ordering, and one of your items will be complimentary. We suggest indulging a bit by adding customizations or extra shots of espresso to make your birthday treat even more special.

Why not extend the celebrations throughout the day by exploring other establishments offering birthday perks? Consider Cold Stone Creamery, where you can enjoy a buy-one-get-one-free coupon on your birthday to share some delicious ice cream with a friend. Or visit Krispy Kreme to cash in on some complimentary birthday treats. Celebrating your birthday with these rewards turns an ordinary day into an extraordinarily sweet journey.

Order a Tuxedo Hot Chocolate instead of a White Hot Chocolate

Starbucks offers two primary varieties of hot chocolate on its menu: traditional hot chocolate and the white hot chocolate. The difference lies in the chocolate used in each drink's preparation. For the standard hot chocolate, baristas utilize the same mocha sauce used in a mocha latte. Conversely, a white chocolate mocha sauce is used for the white hot chocolate.

Each variety offers a distinct taste experience. The regular hot chocolate leans toward a slight bitterness, akin to dark chocolate, while the white chocolate mocha offers a smoother, sweeter flavor. Interestingly, the price also varies between these two options, with the white hot chocolate being more expensive.

However, there's a clever trick to enjoy a sweeter drink without paying extra. We suggest using the app to order a regular hot chocolate and then customize it by making half the pumps white chocolate and the other half regular mocha. This modification results in a "tuxedo" hot chocolate at no additional cost. It blends the sugariness of the white chocolate with the slight bitterness of regular chocolate, creating a perfectly balanced hot chocolate delight.

Order espresso rather than a latte

Pricing for espresso shots can be somewhat unconventional at Starbucks. Adding extra shots to a drink costs an additional dollar per shot. Yet, when you order espresso on its own, the cost is significantly higher. Interestingly, it's only when you order a quad espresso, comprising four shots, that it becomes more cost-effective than ordering a latte. So, for those craving a highly caffeinated beverage like a venti latte, it's advisable to order it as a quad espresso instead. This way, you'll pay less for more espresso shots and still have the option to customize your drink.

Feel free to add a splash of your preferred milk, sweetener, or even a flavored syrup. These espresso shots can be customized just like any latte but at a more reasonable price. If you order enough espresso, it's a savvy way to enjoy an extra caffeine kick without the hefty price tag. Embrace this approach to extract maximum value and enjoyment from your Starbucks experience.

Pay attention to promotions on the app

Once you've downloaded the Starbucks app and joined the rewards program, don't limit its use to simply scanning your barcode and earning stars. Be sure to enable push notifications to stay informed about offers on discounted or free food and beverages. Every so often, you'll receive alerts about happy hour events or opportunities to earn extra stars. Remarkably, Starbucks often tailors these star-earning promotions to match the types of drinks you frequently order. As long as you activate these offers, it's akin to earning free money.

Starbucks also hosts contests and giveaways throughout the year, offering chances to win a lifetime supply of Starbucks products or to participate in activities rewarding you with more loyalty points. Moreover, the app features musical playlists inspired by the ambient tunes played in its cafes, adding another dimension to your Starbucks experience. So, it's not just about the prospects of getting a free drink or snack; it's about immersing yourself in the Starbucks culture and reaping the rewards that come with it.

Share with a buddy

When enjoying Starbucks with a friend, sometimes it's more economical to order an extra-large drink to share rather than ordering individually. This strategy won't work for every drink due to the particular preparation styles, but it's feasible for beverages like iced coffee, iced tea, refreshers, or any other drink that isn't layered or adorned with special toppings.

For instance, if you're both craving a refresher, order a trenta size at 30 ounces with two tall cups. At about $6.25 for a trenta refresher compared to $4.95 for a 12-ounce tall size, you'll get more for less when splitting the trenta. You'll each receive 15 ounces for just over $3, saving a few dollars in the process. So, if you and your friend can agree on a drink, this strategy can be quite beneficial.

However, keep in mind this approach won't be successful with Frappuccinos topped with whipped cream, cold brews with cold foam, or lattes with foam on top. The drink needs to be homogenous and not reliant on particular ingredients layered on top of others.

Order whip instead of cold foam

Cold foam's introduction to Starbucks' menu was a revolution for iced coffee enthusiasts, offering an appealing way to sweeten and cream their cold brew. But the enchantment with cold foam might wane once you realize the additional cost it incurs. Starbucks charges an extra $1.25 to add cold foam to a drink that doesn't originally come with it.

Although $1.25 might not seem like a significant amount, it can accumulate over time if you frequently add this feature to your drinks. As an alternative, consider adding Starbucks' renowned whipped cream, which is made from heavy whipping cream and vanilla syrup. Despite a different texture, it shares some similarities with cold foam. When added to hot drinks, it creates a layer of melted richness, while in cold beverages, it can be stirred in, closely mimicking the experience of cold foam. And the best part about whipped cream? Adding it to any drink is completely free, making it a cost-effective and delicious substitute.

Compare prices at your local stores

We've found out that Starbucks' pricing can differ by location, sometimes even within the same zip code. The reason for this is unclear, but it's an important factor to consider before heading out to order your favorite Starbucks drink.

To ensure you're fully aware of the costs, we recommend using the Starbucks app to compare the prices at different locations near you. Most of the time, the prices might be identical; but there's always a chance you may encounter higher costs at certain outlets. If so, you need to decide whether this price difference is significant enough to affect where you place your order.

If convenience is your top priority, you might not need to do this comparative check. Similarly, if you're in an area with limited Starbucks locations, your choices are understandably constrained. However, if you live in a suburban area or a bustling tourist destination with multiple Starbucks outlets, it's a good idea to take a few moments to check the prices at different stores before ordering your favorite cup of Joe. This way, you can enjoy your drink and potentially save some money at the same time.