Since telling you to skip your Starbucks run probably won’t fly, I’ll tell you how to keep doing it — but spend less money.
Starbucks hacks can be an art form, and balancing kindness with a generous tip will help your baristas to be patient with your (sometimes) off-the-wall orders.
Here are our best Starbucks hacks — from saving money to cutting calories to trying out secret-menu Frappuccinos.
1. Pay with the Starbucks app to get free in-store drip coffee and tea refills.
With the new rewards system, you only have to pay with the app to get free drink refills. Just buy Starbucks gift cards and load them to the app to pay.
As long as you stay in the store, you can get a free refill. If you leave and come back, no dice. You’ll need to buy your drink all over again.
2. Get freebies galore with the new Starbucks Rewards.
The old Starbucks Rewards program offered two levels of status — Green and Gold — and you had to earn 300 “stars” before you could even think about cashing in for free drinks and food. In fact, once you earned 300 stars, you’d achieve Gold Status and then you had to earn an additional 125 stars to get a freebie!
Now, you’ll keep earning two stars per dollar you spend, but you can cash in once you earn only 25 stars. This means you can start getting freebies in as few as two to three visits — depending on how Starbucks-addicted you are.
Here’s what you can earn:
- 25 stars: Free extra shot of espresso, dairy substitute or extra splash of syrup
- 50 stars: Free brewed hot coffee, tea or bakery item
- 150 stars: Free handcrafted drink (latte, mocha, etc.), hot breakfast or parfait
- 200 stars: Free lunch sandwich, protein box or salad
- 400 stars: Select merchandise or at-home coffee
3. Mix and match venti-size tea bags.
Since a venti hot tea comes with two tea bags, you can definitely mix them up.
For example, get a mint tea bag and a lemon tea bag, or two different fruit tea bags to make your own tea concoction.
4. Bring in bags of Starbucks coffee you bought at Costco, and they’ll grind your beans for free.
There’s no limit to how many beans you can ask to have ground, but baristas will be more grumpy about large quantities when there are a lot of customers to serve during a rush.
Plus, they don’t have to be Costco bags! Bring in any bag of grocery-store bought Starbucks coffee beans.
5. Decode Starbucks apron colors to find out who is a coffee master.
The apron colors mean something! Check it out:
- Green: Basic go-to apron that most baristas wear
- Black: Worn by baristas who have successfully completed Starbucks’ “Coffee Master Program”
- Red: Holiday-wear — worn to celebrate new holiday drinks
- Blue: Worn during Happy Hour at Starbucks — an event where you can get half-priced drinks one day only from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
- Purple: Most rare — anyone wearing a purple apron has participated in and won the EMEA Barista Championship
6. Save $0.60 when you order a drip coffee with steamed milk instead of a caffe misto.
A caffe misto is a cafe au lait, or “coffee with milk.” It’s not a latte because it’s drip coffee instead of espresso, but most people don’t realize you can get up to 4 oz. of free steamed milk.
This means when you order a grande drip coffee with steamed milk ($2.25) instead of a Misto ($2.85), you’ll save $0.60.
7. Plan to explain Starbucks’ Secret Menu recipes to your barista.
Why? Because secret menu items aren’t an official Starbucks thing. It’s just a bunch of items people have figured out how to make.
Go ahead and ask for that Fruity Pebbles Frappuccino or the Butterbeer Frappuccino, but be prepared with the recipe or you’ll be out of luck. Your barista probably doesn’t have secret menu recipes memorized.
Also realize that Starbucks may no longer have certain ingredients required to make secret menu items.
Note: A Fruity Pebbles Frappuccino is a strawberry creme Frappuccino with vanilla and raspberry syrup added. A Butterbeer Frappuccino has a creme base as well, with caramel drizzle and toffee nut syrup.
8. If you want all the free food and drinks, work at Starbucks.
Do Starbucks baristas get free drinks? Heck yeah.
They get a drink within 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after each shift and during every break.
Baristas also get one free meal and 30% off food and drinks on their days off.
9. Starbucks employees have access to totally free tuition at Arizona State University online.
Plus, if you get a job at Starbucks and you’re enrolled at another university, you can transfer to ASU as soon as possible.
Any employee who is eligible for benefits is eligible for 100% reimbursed tuition through Starbucks’ partnership with ASU.
Once you’re a Starbucks employee, apply to ASU and submit your FAFSA. Upon acceptance, begin school and plan to get reimbursed by Starbucks at the end of every completed semester of school. Your reimbursement will show up on your regular paycheck.
Starbucks will reimburse you for whatever tuition costs aren’t covered by grants and scholarships, but they won’t cover books or technology fees.
10. Starbucks baristas also get one pound of coffee or box of tea per week for free.
Baristas are actually called “partners,” and while they may not get totally free drinks, they do get what’s called a “markout” — a pound of free coffee beans or a free box of tea.
11. Bring your own cup and save $0.10 on your drink.
Think of it as the equivalent to bringing your own reusable grocery bags when you go to Target.
You’ll get a $0.10 discount, which isn’t everything, but it’s something!
12. Split a venti latte between two people and save almost $2.00.
A venti latte (20 oz.) costs $4.51 and a tall latte (12 oz.) costs $3.25. When you buy a venti and split it between two tall cups, you’ll save $2.00 total.
13. Use mobile ordering if you don’t want to talk to anybody.
This is an introvert’s dream — order through the Starbucks app and then just show up and wait for them to call your name. Grab your drink and go.
If you use mobile ordering, feel free to customize your drink. It’s typically the easiest way to order that half-calf, soy, half-pump of vanilla with 3 packets of Equal latte.
But heads up — you’ll make your barista mad if you place a mobile order for two dozen uber-customized drinks during rush hour, so be a good human and avoid that.
14. Order a blended iced mocha and save $0.40 (and 60 calories) compared to a mocha Frappuccino.
Just ask the barista to blend your grande iced mocha ($4.35) and skip the mocha Frappuccino altogether ($4.75).
It’ll be slightly more icy, but just think of the money and calories you’re saving.
15. Order your drink with “light ice” to get more coffee bang for your buck.
Anytime you use less ice, you’re getting more drink. This goes for soda and iced coffee.
Use this trick when you want more iced mocha than watered-down coffee.
TIP: Or ask for a yellow scoop of ice if you’re getting a venti drink. Some Starbuck locations use different colors of scoops for different sizes of drinks — yellow is the smallest.
16. Load your Starbucks app with discounted gift cards from Raise and save 4.9%.
We’ve already established that paying with the app is a must if you want perks like free coffee or tea refills.
Linking gift cards is an easy way to pay with the app — why not link discounted Starbucks gift cards you buy from Raise and save a little more money?
Starbucks gift cards are currently almost 5% off on Raise.
17. Text “Rewards” to 811811 to earn stars for bags of coffee you purchase in a grocery store.
When you text “Rewards” to 811811, you’ll receive a reply asking you to submit a picture of your grocery receipt. Once it’s processed, Starbucks will add points to your Rewards account.
Make sure you do this within 60 days of your purchase!
18. Get three shots of espresso instead of two when you order a venti iced, not hot.
A venti hot latte only has two shots, same as a grande hot latte. This means you’re paying for more milk and syrup, but not more coffee.
To avoid paying for a third shot in your venti drink, order your drink iced instead — venti iced lattes come with three shots.
19. Ask for “no water” in your iced tea for maximum tea strength.
If it’s too strong, just add your own water to it.
20. On the Keto diet? Order your Frappuccino anyway!
There are a few variations for getting a Keto Frappuccino, but here’s the gist of what you should tell your barista — and be sure to leave a generous tip!
- Tall, unsweetened iced coffee with extra ice
- 2 pumps of sugar-free syrup of your choice
- 2 shots of heavy whipping cream
- Blend it Frappuccino style
- NO Frappuccino base
- NO Frappuccino syrups
21. Order your drink at “kids’ temperature” if you like it instantly drinkable.
I learned this through many years of ordering a “kids’ cocoa” for my toddlers.
Kid’s temperature is instantly drinkable — perfect for when you only have seconds to ingest your caffeine before your shift at work begins or because you’re going somewhere where your Starbucks isn’t allowed.
22. Use your lid as a coaster.
23. Save the planet by asking for a nitro lid for your iced drink and avoid straws.
Nitro cold brew lids are similar to hot lids because they have a spot to drink from so you don’t need any straws when you order cold drinks.
Straws are gaining a reputation as unfriendly for the environment, and many restaurants are trying to make them biodegradable or replace them altogether.
24. Tazo Zen Tea from the grocery store tastes just like Teavana Green Tea Lemonade in store.
Except you’ll get an entire box of tea bags for around the cost of one Teavana Green Tea Lemonade drink. Win.
25. Ask your barista to warm up that pastry for you.
Except for poundcakes, Starbucks will warm up any pastry if you ask them to.
26. Order a free Puppuccino for your dog.
It’s a small cup of whipped cream, and dogs really love it!