Starbucks Opens Rewards Program Up to Cash and Credit Card Purchases

However, customers will still earn more Stars for using a preloaded Starbucks Card.

Starbucks customers keep a surprising amount of money tied up in the coffee chain's Starbucks cards and mobile app: A 2016 report pegged the number at $1.2 billion, more than some major banks. Part of the reason was that, for Starbucks Rewards customers, paying with money loaded onto a card or the app had become the only way to earn loyalty points—in this case, "Stars." But that's about to change. Starbucks has announced that the company will now accept other forms of payments as part of Starbucks Rewards — but you may not want to stop filling up your Starbucks account just yet.

Starbucks cup

Starbucks explained, "Beginning this fall in company-operated stores in the U.S. and Canada, Starbucks Rewards members will also be able to scan their app and then pay with cash, credit/debit cards, or select mobile wallets and earn Stars toward free items. Members will also be able to save these payment methods directly in the Starbucks app to earn Stars when paying." To put it another way, customers will no longer have to load up their Starbucks account with money to pay; they can simply pay through the app with a method of their choosing.

Starbucks new rewards payment policy

However, Starbucks is still incentivizing people to preload their Starbucks Card anyway: Whereas a preloaded account (including gift cards) will earn users two Stars for every $1 spent, using a third-party payment method like a credit card, debit card, or even cash will only result in one Star per $1 spent.

"Having a connection with our customers, whether in our stores or digitally, allows us to anticipate their needs and deliver the products and experiences they are looking for. Our customers have shared with us that they would like more options to pay and earn Stars in the app as a Starbucks Rewards member, in addition to the Starbucks Card," Brady Brewer, Starbucks chief marketing officer, said in the announcement. "We expect the expansion of payment options will appeal to an even wider customer audience and deepen engagement with our members."

Starbucks encouraging people to preload their Starbucks Card makes sense: It gets money into the company's hands before a purchase even happens. And according to Starbucks Customer Service, refunds can only be processed online in two states, California and Oregon; otherwise, customers need to call Starbucks for more information. So cashing out a card isn't that easy. But for Starbucks fans who have been wary of handing over their money so readily, now, they have another option to at least earn something for their (more skeptical) loyalty.

No official start date for the new policy was mentioned.

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