I consistently get at least 19 cents in value back for every dollar I spend at Starbucks. I do this by combining over three different loyalty programs and using the right credit card to maximize the money I was going to spend on my Starbucks addiction anyways.
Starbucks Rewards = 9.6 cents return per dollar.
Chase Ultimate Rewards = 1.5 cents return per dollar.
Ultimate Rewards transfer partner programs such as Hyatt or Singapore Airlines boosts the value received from each UR point by transferring to them from UR for luxury redemptions.
Office Depot Rewards = 2 cents return per dollar.
Chase Ink Plus = 5 x UR points at office supply stores = 7.5 cents return per dollar spent at Office Depot
First, I am a member of the Starbucks rewards program and have their easy-to-attain gold status, which earns 2 points (called stars in Starbucks parlance) for every dollar I spend there. After accumulating 125 stars I get a free menu item, which can be saved and used at any time I choose before the stars expire and the stars don’t expire for something like 6-months. When redeeming the free menu item the Starbucks point-of-sale system (cash register or app) automatically applies the discount to the most expensive item, which is nice and different than the way they used to do it a few years ago.
I almost always redeem the stars for items costing over $6 and frequently over $7. When I’m below that mark it’s usually $5.75 or $5.95 in value so my average redemption is easily $6, which means I get 4.8 cents of value from each of those 125 stars. FYI their sandwiches are all in the $6+ range after tax so you can always redeem for a free lunch and who doesn’t like a free lunch! 4.8 cents per star and 2 stars earned for each dollar spent is an easy 9.6 cents in value back for every dollar spent at Starbucks even if all you do is join their loyalty program, pay in cash, and remember to scan your loyalty card.
I get even more return on the money I spend because I almost never pay Starbucks directly. Instead, I buy Starbucks gift cards at my nearby office supply store where I use my wife’s Chase Ink Plus card, which earns 5 Ultimate Rewards points for every dollar spent at office supply stores and I value UR points at somewhere between 1 and 2+ cents per point so that means another 5 to 10 cents in value back for every dollar. Many blogs’ points valuations list UR points at over 2 cents per point but I try to be more conservative in determining the value I get so let’s say UR points are worth 1.5 cents, which gives me a value of 7.5 cents per dollar spent at the office supply store when buying Starbucks gift cards with the Chase Ink Plus card earning it’s 5 points per dollar at office supply stores.
When combining the 7.5 cents in per-dollar value from the gift card purchase with the 9.6 cents per-dollar value from the Starbucks loyalty program I get at least a total of 17.1% in value back for every dollar spent on Starbucks, which is pretty fantastic for an every day return on spend.
But I still do better. By joining the Office Depot/ Office Max Rewards Everything program I get 2% back in rewards on everything they sell, including gift cards. The program automatically loads the 2% back as a store credit at the end of each quarter and gives you the entire next quarter to redeem the rewards as a store credit at check-out. It can all be done via their handy smart phone app. Therefore, by joining the Office Depot Office Max Rewards Everything program and accounting for that 2% back I now effectively get a total of at least 19.1 cents back for every dollar I spend on Starbucks year round. That’s like a permanent 19% discount on Starbucks!
That’s just a baseline minimum as the value often increases, for example; if I redeem the rewards for something costing $7 or more instead of the $6 used for the above calculations (an extra 1.6 cents value); or if I buy something on one of their “Double Star Days,” which seems to happen a couple times a month (an extra 9.6 cents value); or if I get more value from the Ultimate Rewards points than 1.5 cent per point, (frequently an extra 0.5-3.5 cents value).
Now, one important note is that the Chase Ink Plus card is no longer available for new applicants so that 5 points per dollar at office supply stores is not available to most people via that card anymore. BUT the Chase Ink Cash business card is still available to new applicants offers 5% cash back at office supply stores, which on it’s own is a nice return but not the supercharged return of the UR points which are worth more than that but luckily, if you have another UR point earning personal card such as the highly recommended Chase Sapphire Preferred (the next card we plan to get) then you can transfer the cash back into UR points and end up with the same rate of return on spend at office supply stores as I do with the Ink Plus. OR you could get the Ink Plus’ replacement card the Chase Ink Preferred, which offers 3 points per dollar spent at office supply stores, which would reduce the rate of return on office supply spend by 3% from 7.5% with the 5 points per dollar earning cards (Ink Plus and Cash) to 4.5% return with the 3 points per dollar Chase Ink Preferred. Once adjusting the final calculations accordingly the total rate of return would drop from 19.1% to 16.1%, which is still impressive as a standard return for all money spent on Starbucks. That’s like a permanent 16% discount on Starbucks!
I know it may sound like a lot of work but it’s really not if there are Office Depot and Office Max locations near you. I simply stop by the store occasionally to buy a couple hundred dollars of Starbucks gift cards at once. I then add the value of those gift cards to our respective existing Starbucks Rewards Gold Card accounts via the Starbucks app on each of our phones. Boom, that easy. Having the app with a loaded card even allows us to order remotely and stop by to pick-up our orders, skipping the line in the process.
Chase Ink Cash:
To get in on this sweet deal consider getting the Chase Ink Cash small business card, especially if you already have a personal card that earns Ultimate Rewards. Get it before you are restricted by 5/24
Neither of us have this card but I’m considering it as part of our strategy as my wife bounces above and below 5/24. The advantages here are that it has a sign-up bonus of $300 after spending $3,000 in 3 months and it earns 5% cash back at office supply stores and on internet, cable, & phone services as well as 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants all with no annual fee. It’s also valuable as the cash back can be converted to Ultimate Rewards points at a rate of $1 to 100 UR points. Since UR points are widely regarded to be worth 1.8 – 2.2 cents and I’ve gotten as much as 5+ cents per point value out of them that $1 to 100 UR points can become worth as much as $1.80 to $2.20 or more. Obviously 5% cash back at those rotating categories can be so huge that it’s yuuuge.
We don’t have this card so we don’t have any personal referral links but here is a link to the publicly available offer from the Chase Bank website for the Chase Ink Small Business Cash Back Credit Card.
If you want a bigger sign-up bonus or don’t have & don’t want to wait to get a UR earning personal card or if you like the higher sign-up bonus then get this card before you are restricted by 5/24 so you can supercharge your return on spend at Starbucks.
This is an awesome card that we got as soon as we could. What drew us to this card was the 80,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $5,000 in the first three months, 3x points on travel, 3x points on social media advertising, 3x points on shipping, 3x points on internet/cable/phone services, cell phone insurance if you pay your monthly cell service bill with the card, primary rental car insurance, trip cancelation insurance, and more!
The sign-up bonus alone is worth at least $1,000 in value if redeemed through the Chase portal but I can get at least about $4,000 in value from those points if I use them for high value redemptions via the many Chase transfer partners such. That’s a crazy good deal for a $95 annual fee card but add in the $600 cell phone protection against theft or damage and it’s a no brainer to get this card if you can!
If you choose to apply for this card then we’d be super appreciative if you used our direct link to the offer. In the interest of full disclosure, like all current card holders, we’re eligible to earn 20,000 points for each (up to 5) of our referrals that get approved after using our link. Like I said, we’d certainly be appreciative if you click through using our link for the Chase Ink Preferred small business Credit Card.