Why ‘Free’ Starbucks Drinks Cost More

(CNN) — Starbucks is changing its rewards program to require members to spend more to get some popular freebies.

Starting Feb. 13, members need to earn 100 stars (Starbucks’ point term) to get a cup of hot or iced coffee or tea, a baked good, a packaged snack or a to-go cup. Members need 200 stars to get a latte or Frappuccino or a hot breakfast, and 300 stars to get a salad, lunch sandwich, protein box, or packaged coffee (such as a bag of coffee beans).

Currently, members only need 50 stars to get hot tea, coffee or baked goods, 150 stars to get a latte, hot breakfast or parfait, and 200 stars to get a salad, lunch sandwich or egg white box.

Program members earn stars when they shop. If they use the Starbucks card, it can be exchanged for two stars for a dollar. For credit cards or other payment methods, members earn one star for every dollar spent.

Starbucks said it alerted rewards members in the U.S. and Canada to the changes via email and the Starbucks app on Wednesday. The new tiers are outlined on the Starbucks Rewards Terms of Use website. Insider first reported the system change on Tuesday after seeing an internal memo.

Rewards programs are an important way for companies to develop loyal customers, learn more about their preferences, and inspire repeat purchases.

“The incentive program … is generating significant revenue for Starbucks,” interim Chief Executive Howard Schultz said on a November conference call with analysts. The number of active Starbucks Rewards members jumped to 28.7 million in the three months ended Oct. 2, up 16% from a year earlier.

Starbucks has been experimenting with its rewards program in recent months.

In October, the coffee chain began partnering with Delta Air Lines to allow rewards members to earn airline miles. Earlier this month, it launched a beta version of Starbucks Odyssey — an extension of its rewards program that allows users to earn NFTs.

While rewards members may be enthusiastic about the perks, they’re also quick to criticize the company for making changes.

Fans of Dunkin’ Donuts were quick to lament the branding changes announced in October, while Starbucks customers have already complained online about the new grades.

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