Ryan Um | 

How to Get Cheap or Free Starbucks Drinks Every Time You Order

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Cheap Starbucks drinks are not only possible but something you can expect to get every time you visit the mermaid.

We’ll show you how to get the best out of the Starbucks menu (and even get some free Starbucks) — even in the midst of the Starbucks price increase.

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 easy ways to order from the Starbucks keto menu to trying out the Starbucks secret menu items.

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.

A person holding their phone displaying the Starbucks app balance reload screen.

The hack that’ll consistently save you money is being a Starbucks Rewards user. All you have to do is download the Starbucks app.

Not only do you earn a free Starbucks birthday drink, but you’ll also get one Star for every dollar you spend, free brewed hot or iced coffee and tea refills, personalized offers, and you can order ahead for in-store pickup; after you make it to 25 Stars, you’re eligible for freebies.


2. Get a free Starbucks drink on your birthday every year.

person holding a large starbucks hot beverage outside starbucks

Cheap Starbucks drinks? How about a freebie?

When you’re a member of the Starbucks Rewards program, you’ll get a coupon for a free Starbucks drink with up to two customizations sent to your account seven days before your birthday. It’ll work with any drink, including handcrafted drinks, frappuccinos, and refreshers.

This is just one of more than 100 birthday freebies we’ve listed. But definitely one of the most popular.


3. Use the app every time you buy Starbucks to earn Starbucks Stars.

A person's hand holding up their iPhone displaying the stars they have earned on the Starbucks app with a Starbucks drink and food on a table in the background.

The Starbucks Rewards program has changed quite a bit over the years, and now finally, it’s pretty straightforward. 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 afterward 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
  • One Star for every $4 spent using the Starbucks Rewards Visa. That’s any purchase from anywhere.


4. Cash in your Starbucks Stars to get free drinks, food, customizations, and more.

Two cold Starbucks drinks sitting on a table inside Starbucks

Here’s what you can earn:

  • 25 Stars: Free extra shot of espresso, dairy substitute, or an 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

NOTE: Your Starbucks Rewards points 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.


5. To get the most value for your Stars, the 50-point tier is your best bet.

Someone picking up a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte from a counter with rewards sticker on it.

Each tier of freebies you can get with your Starbucks Rewards Stars has a limit — and you’re going to want to hit that limit. Since you probably had to spend $0.50 per Star earned, you’re gonna want to get the best value of freebies.

Here’s how each tier stacks up, considering that you’re getting 2 Stars per $1 spent:

  • 25 Stars: Spend $12.50, get up to an $0.80 maximum freebie (6.4% back)
  • 50 Stars: Spend $25, get up to a $4 maximum freebie (16.4% back)
  • 150 Stars: Spend $75, get up to an $8 maximum freebie (10.6% back)
  • 200 Stars: Spend $100, get up to a $10 maximum freebie (10% back)
  • 400 Stars: Spend $200, get up to a $20 maximum freebie (10% back)

Even if you get a $3 freebie in the 50-Star tier, you’re still getting 12% back — better than the best-case scenario in all the other tiers.


6. Venti Starbucks drink sizes are big enough to share — and you’ll save $1.

A venti Starbucks iced coffee split into two tall cups.

Here’s a quick and easy way to get cheap Starbucks drinks for you and a friend. A 20-ounce venti latte costs $4.95, and a tall 12-ounce latte costs $3.95. If you buy a venti and ask the barista to split it between two tall cups, making two 10-ounce lattes, you save $1 and only lose two ounces.

Most importantly, you’re paying $0.25/oz by sharing, as opposed to $0.33/oz for those two 12-ounce drinks.

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 to the store.


7. Order a free Pupuccino for your dog.

A dog licking whipped cream out of a small Starbucks cup.

We know you love taking advantage of all these cheap Starbucks drinks and deals. This one is the best kind of deal because it’s totally free!

The Starbucks Pupuccino is a small cup of whipped cream, and dogs love it as much as you love your Frappuccinos. Just ask for it by name at the drive-thru or in store.


8. Get free Stars when you play games and complete certain tasks — and even get Starbucks for Life.

The Starbucks for Life online game graphic for the 2021 holiday season

The Starbucks Rewards app has seasonal games, in-app challenges, and sweepstakes where you can earn Stars. Most of the sweepstakes will have you playing a game before you can enter in the raffle.

One of the most popular Starbucks games was the “Starbucks for Life” game they made for the holiday season.

Check your email, too. Sometimes Starbucks will send you surveys on how the staff performed at your local Starbucks, and they’ll reward you with free Stars.

TIP: Starbucks for Life has come back every year for seven years in a row. You can play the game any time of the year to help prepare to get the top score and get your free Starbucks.



9. Ask for the second tea bag to go with your hot tea — it’s free.

A Starbucks tea sitting on a table with the tea bags labels being held up.

When you get a hot tea, your barista will usually brew it with two tea bags. Ask for the second tea bag to go and get free tea for later.


10. Don’t order an au lait or misto — save 19% when you order with steamed milk instead.

A big part of getting cheap drinks at Starbucks is knowing how to order. And what not to order.

A Caffe Misto, or a cafe au lait, is a drip coffee with steamed milk. But when you order a drink at Starbucks, you can get 4 ounces of steamed milk for free. If you order a Caffe Misto, you’ll pay $3.65. But if you order a grande drip coffee with steamed milk (exact same thing!) you’ll pay $2.95, saving you $0.70.

And don’t let the cashier correct you! They might ask “Oh, you mean a Caffe Misto?” You just politely answer, “No thanks. I’d like a grande drip coffee, add steamed milk.” Boom! Unfortunately, you can’t order this online since you can’t specify steamed milk.

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.


11. Don’t miss cheap Starbucks drinks during Happy Hour; turn on app notifications.

A graphic advertising Starbucks Happy Hour.

You read that right. Starbucks Happy Hour exists, and it means you get BOGO free drinks every few weeks. It’s always on a Thursday from 2 – 7 p.m., and you’ll get one BOGO free coupon for all espresso-based drinks, frappuccinos, seasonal drinks, iced teas, cold coffee, and nitro cold brew.

The best part? You can order as many qualifying cheap Starbucks drinks in a single order as you’d like and they’ll get the BOGO offer.

NOTE: This offer doesn’t include brewed coffee, hot tea, ready-to-drink-beverages, and Starbucks Reserve drinks and alcohol.

12. Order a blended iced mocha instead of a mocha Frappuccino to save $0.50 (and 20 calories).

A woman holding a frozen blended Starbucks drink, drinking from the straw.

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 ($4.95) and skip the Mocha Frappuccino altogether ($5.45).

It’ll be slightly more icy, but just think of the money and calories you’re saving.

It’s also one of the best Starbucks keto drinks that’ll keep your diet on track.


13. Get the Starbucks Medicine Ball when you’re not feeling great.

A Starbucks tea on a counter near a box of cold medicine and tissues.

If you’re feeling a cold coming on, the Starbucks Medicine Ball drink is said to help you fight it. The drink is made with Jade Citrus Mint Green Tea, Peach Tranquility Herbal Tea, hot water, steamed lemonade, and just a hint of honey.

All you need to do to order this drink is ask for a Honey Citrus Mint Tea and you’ll get this former Starbucks secret menu item.

NOTE: Be kind to your baristas when it comes to secret menu items by planning your order ahead of time or ordering through the app.


14. Bring your own cup and save $0.10, and get 25 bonus Stars.

A person holding up a reusable Starbucks cup near a "welcome in" sign.

Think of it as the equivalent of bringing your own reusable grocery bags when you go to the grocery store.

You’ll get a $0.10 discount and 25 bonus Stars added to your account. Make sure it’s clean; they won’t take it if it has gunk or residue.

This is all a part of Starbucks environment-friendly initiatives to eliminate disposable cups, including their Starbucks Borrow-a-Cup campaign.


15. Load your Starbucks app with discounted gift cards from Raise and save.

A person's hand holding their phone that is displaying the Explore page of Raise, a discount gift card selling app.

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 tend to hover around 2% off on Raise, but I’ve seen them closer to 4 – 5% as well.

There are several ways for you to save using discount gift cards.


16. Use mobile ordering if you don’t want to talk to anybody.

A person holding a large Starbucks hot beverage near the Mobile Order Pick Up sign inside Starbucks

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. You can even customize your drinks to your preference.

Unfortunately, you’re unable to schedule your coffee pickup, but they’ll let you know when your estimated pickup time will be. If your local Starbucks has a drive-thru, you can even choose if you want to pick it up in store or in the drive-thru.



17. Order your drink with ‘light ice’ to get more coffee bang for your buck.

A person holding up a summer refresher drink from Starbucks and pointing to "Light Ice" printed on the label.

Any time you use less ice, you’re getting more drink — whether it’s a cup of water or the best Starbucks 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 Starbucks locations use different colors of scoops for different sizes of drinks — yellow is the smallest.


18. Want to order from the Starbucks Secret Menu? Be prepared to explain the recipes to your barista.

A young girl sitting at a table with a row of Starbucks secret menu drinks in front of her.

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.

We have a big list of Starbucks Secret Menu drinks, which includes: Butterbeer Frappuccino, Churro Frappuccino, and the Thin Mint Latte. Go ahead and order these, but be prepared to walk the barista through the recipe. And they’re not always cheap Starbucks drinks.

There are so many secret menu items available at fast-food restaurants.


19. Get three shots of espresso instead of two when you order a venti iced, not hot.

A person holding up a Starbucks iced coffee in front of a brick wall.

If you don’t care about iced vs. hot coffee, listen up. A venti hot latte only has two shots — the 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.


20. Ask for ‘no water’ in your iced tea for maximum tea strength.

A person's hand holding up a Starbucks iced tea in front of a Starbucks sign.

Starbucks premakes their teas and dilutes them with more water when you order them. If you ask for “no water,” you’ll get the original premade tea instead of the diluted tea.


21. On the Keto diet? Order your Frappuccino anyway!

A person holding a frappuccino inside a Starbucks.

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


22. Order your Starbucks drink at kids’ temperature if you want to drink it right away.

I learned this through many years of ordering Starbucks drinks for kids.

Kids’ temperature (130 degrees Fahrenheit) 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. Keep in mind that a regular hot drink will be between 150 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

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.


23. If you want all the free food and drinks, work at Starbucks.

A barista entering a customer's order into a computer at Starbucks.

One of the best Starbucks employee benefits? Free drinks.

Starbucks partner work hours come with 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 cheap Starbucks drinks and food on days off — a 30% discount.


24. Starbucks employees have access to totally free tuition.

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. Employees who are eligible for benefits can get 100% of their tuition reimbursed through the Starbucks’ partnership with ASU.

Just apply to ASU and submit your FAFSA. You’ll get reimbursed after every semester through your 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.

If you aren’t a Starbucks employee, you should check out our list of unclaimed college scholarships that’ll help you with your education expenses.



25. Starbucks baristas also get one pound of coffee or box of tea per week for free.

Bags of ground Starbucks coffee on a shelf inside a Starbucks cafe.

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.


26. Decode Starbucks apron colors to find out who is a ‘Coffee Master.’

A Starbucks barista wearing a black apron working behind the counter at Starbucks.

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


27. The Starbucks breakfast menu is available all day long.

A Starbucks Impossible breakfast sandwich sitting on its bag on a striped cushion.

Does Starbucks serve breakfast all day? Yes, you can get anything off the Starbucks breakfast menu — provided they don’t sell out. Each location tries to ration out enough for the day, but if they run out, you’ll have to wait till tomorrow to get your Starbucks breakfast sandwich.


28. Get $5 off your Starbucks delivery order from Uber Eats.

A Starbucks delivery bag on someone's front doorstep.

Ordering Starbucks delivery makes getting your caffeine fix in your morning easy. Currently, you can get your Starbucks delivered from Uber Eats and DoorDash. Here are the delivery fees that you can expect:

  • Uber Eats: $2.49 delivery fee
  • DoorDash: $4.99 delivery fee

You can get $5 off your delivery from Uber Eats when you use the code COFFEE4U on checkout.

We’ve got way more DoorDash delivery strategies and ways to get free Uber Eats food.


29. Starbucks is 27% more expensive than Dunkin’.

A graphic of Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts coffee cups.

When you’re comparing Starbucks vs. Dunkin’, you’ve got to think about the price. Starbucks is 27% more expensive when compared to Dunkin’ coffee. Here’s the breakdown:

A graphic outlining the differences in prices for Starbucks versus Dunkin Donuts coffee.




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