Ready to get the best out of the Starbucks menu? Starbucks runs can quickly add up to the cost of a car payment if you let them. 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 deals 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.
And don’t forget to download the KCL app for more news, deals, and hacks.
1. Pay with the Starbucks app to get free in-store drip coffee and tea refills.
Simply put, you gotta download the Starbucks app. With the new rewards system, all you have to do is pay with the app to get free drink refills on certain drinks. Just buy Starbucks gift cards and load them to the app.
As long as you stay in the store, you can get a free refill on tea or brewed coffee. If you leave and come back, no dice. You’ll need to buy your drink all over again.
2. Earn three times the Starbucks Rewards “stars” with their visa.
The old Starbucks Rewards program has changed quite a bit over the years and now, finally, it’s pretty straightforward (and it pays off if you’re a Starbucks addict). Here’s how many rewards points or “stars” you’ll get for using different payment types:
- One star for each dollar you spend if you use your credit/debit card and scan the receipt with the app afterwards OR using a debit/credit card or PayPal account directly through the app
- Two stars for every dollar you spend if you preload money onto your Starbucks digital card and use the app to scan in store, order ahead, or register a gift card
- Three stars for every dollar if you pay with the Starbucks Rewards Visa. You’ll also get 4,500 extra stars if you spend $500 in your first three months.
PRO TIP: Planning on gifting some Starbucks gift cards around the office? Make sure to use Starbucks Rewards to get stars for all those cards. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!
3. Make sure you cash in on your Starbucks Rewards because they expire.
This is because your rewards, or stars, have a shelf life. Stars expire six months after the calendar month you earned them. So stars you get in mid-February will expire on the first day of September.
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
4. Order a free Puppuccino for your dog.
We know you love taking advantage of all these Starbucks deals. This one is the best kind of deal, because it’s completely free!
The Starbucks Puppuccino is a small cup of whipped cream, and dogs love it as much as you love your Frappuccinos.
5. Don’t order an au lait or misto; just ask for steamed milk.
You can get up to four ounces of free steamed milk with any drink. But you have to order this correctly. Let’s say you want a Caffè Misto, Starbucks’ brand name for a cafe au lait. If you order a Caffè Misto, you’ll pay $3.15. But, if you order a grande drip coffee with steamed milk (exact same thing!) you’ll pay $2.45, saving you $0.70.
And don’t let the cashier correct you! They might ask “Oh, you mean a Caffè Misto?” You just politely answer, “No thanks. I’d like a grande drip coffee, add steamed milk.” Boom!
You can do the same thing for tea au lait, or Tea Misto. Just order tea with steamed milk. By the way, you can’t do this with a latte, because lattes are made with espresso, not drip coffee.
6. Split a venti latte between two people and save $2.20.
A 20-ounce Venti latte costs $4.65 and a Tall 12-ounce latte costs $3.45. If you buy a venti and ask the barista to split it between two tall cups, making two ten-ounce lattes, you save $2.20 and only lose two ounces.
Just keep in mind you can’t do this through the mobile app, because it doesn’t have a place for you to request this split. You gotta go in store.
7. Order a blended iced mocha and save $0.30 (and 20 calories).
A Mocha Frappucino is an iced mocha, with finer ice. If the consistency doesn’t bother you, just ask the barista to blend your grande iced mocha ($4.65) and skip the Mocha Frappuccino altogether ($4.95).
It’ll be slightly more icy, but just think of the money and calories you’re saving.
8. If you want all the free food and drinks, work at Starbucks.
One of the best Starbucks employee benefits? Free drinks.
Employees get free drinks up to 30 minutes before and up to 30 minutes after each shift and during every break. At certain stores, there’s no limit at all!
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.
What is the Starbucks College Achievement Plan? Well, 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 also get what’s called a “markout” — a pound of free coffee beans or a free box of tea each week.
Or, they can also opt for K-Cup boxes or Tazo tea concentrate.
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 the grocery store.
You’ll get a $0.10 discount, which isn’t everything, but it’s something!
Due to the ongoing pandemic, the barista won’t actually take your cup and fill it, but they will give you the discount with a new cup. Weird, I know.
12. Load your Starbucks app with discounted gift cards from Raise and save.
We’ve already established that paying with the app is a must if you want perks like free coffee or tea refills. But you can save more with Raise Starbucks gift cards.
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 around 2% off on Raise, but I’ve seen them closer to 4-5% as well.
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 three packets of Equal latte.
But heads up — you’ll overwhelm your barista if you place a mobile order for two dozen uber-customized drinks during rush hour, so be a good human and avoid that if you can.
14. 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.
15. 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 and it varies from region to region.
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. (A Fruity Pebbles Frappuccino is a Strawberries and Creme Frappuccino with vanilla, classic, and raspberry syrup added. A Butterbeer Frappuccino has a creme base as well, with caramel syrup, caramel drizzle, and toffee nut syrup.)
Also realize that Starbucks may no longer have certain ingredients required to make secret menu items.
16. 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!
You can also email at email@example.com.
17. 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.
18. Ask for “no water” in your iced tea for maximum tea strength.
Just order your iced tea with “no water” to supercharge it. If it’s too strong, add your own water to it.
19. On the Keto diet? Order your Frappuccino anyway!
There are a few variations for getting a Keto Frappuccino at Starbucks, but here’s the basic recipe for your barista:
- 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
20. Order your Starbucks drink at “kids’ temperature” if you want to drink it right away.
I learned this through many years of ordering a “kids’ cocoa” for my toddlers.
Kids’ temperature is 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.
If you get a strange look when you order kids’ temperature, just ask for it “warm,” since that’s how they have it in the computer.
21. Use your lid as a coaster.
Don’t wanna leave an annoying ring on the new coffee table? This little trick will save you some anxiety.
22. Ask for your second venti-size tea bag to go.
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. But if you want a free tea, just ask for the second bag to go and use it later. You just got an extra tea for free!
23. Decode Starbucks apron colors to find out who is a “Coffee Master.”
The Starbucks 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