Starbucks Rewards Perpetual Free Star Machine is only MOSTLY Dead…

Starbucks Rewards Perpetual Free Star Machine is only MOSTLY Dead…

FREE Stars at Starbucks isn’t dead yet!

As many of you know, Starbucks changed their loyalty program a couple weeks ago to go from a system where you got a star for each transaction to a system that gives you 2 stars per dollar spent.  Most people saw this as a devaluation as did I.  An example of the new program is below:

starbucks rewards

Recent Starbucks Rewards Changes

I touched more on what this will cost you in a post I did a few week ago on how I think Dunkin Donuts DD Rewards might actually be a better program!

One nice additional thing for the next week is that if you make a purchase with a registered card between now and May 5th you get automatic Gold Status or get it extended for a year if you already have it (although that hasn’t happened to me so not sure what the deal is).

starbucks rewards app free stars gift card

What you may also know is that I wrote a post over a year ago about the Starbucks Perpetual Star Machine to continually get free stars at Starbucks!  I have been doing this off and on for over 2 years and the long and short of if was that each gift card purchase counted as a star just like anything else and they could simply be reloaded back to the same original gift card or gold card.

So, with the coming changes I figured 1 of 2 things would happen.  Either they would fix this glitch and it wouldn’t work anymore or they wouldn’t and then it would be even easier because I could just use the same $63 or so over and over again on 1 gift card to get free drinks.

starbucks rewards app free stars gift card

Pay screen on the app with my Gold Card

Well, after a try at a local stand alone Starbucks I was pretty sure the Star Machine was DEAD…turns out it is only MOSTLY dead and as Miracle Max tells us in The Princess Bride, mostly dead is slightly alive!! (Great movie actually)

starbucks rewards app free stars gift card

No stars on my gift card purchase at stand alone Starbucks

I refused to give up after my first try of $20 gift card purchase so I tried again with a $5 gift card purchase combined with a bakery item, and still no stars for the gift card, only the bakery item.

starbucks rewards app free stars gift card

No stars for gift card again, only bakery at stand alone Starbucks

BUT, then something strange happened, I went to a local Starbucks in a hotel down the street (actually the closest to my apartment) and bought a $5 gift card and I got 10 stars.  I thought maybe it was a glitch so I tried it again, and again 10 stars.  Finally, still not believing it worked I bought another $5 gift card this morning and AGAIN 10 stars.


starbucks rewards app free stars gift card

SUCCESS at Hotel Starbucks, all 3 times!

With each of these cards I added them back to my Starbucks app and then back onto the Gold Card from which they originally came (you should buy that first gift card to start for the app at Staples if you can with your Ink card to get 5X points 😉 ).  Therefore I really used the same original $5 on each of these cards so I got 30 stars and still have the same $5 on my card.

starbucks rewards app free stars gift card

Screen after PAY at the top and then MANAGE


starbucks rewards app free stars gift card



starbucks rewards app free stars gift card

Then simply transfer it back to the original card

So, there you have it!  The Perpetual Free Star Machine is NOT dead…only MOSTLY dead!  It does not seem to work at stand alone Starbucks stores but does seem to work at Starbucks in hotels and perhaps other places like in Target.  It really can’t hurt to test it out if you are at one any way since you don’t lose any money and can just add it right back to your original card.  From now on I will actually get much higher denomination gift cards to get to my free drink much much faster!

Has anyone else tried this out?! Are there other non-stand alone Starbucks that people have had this work at??

starbucks rewards app free stars gift card

12 Comments on “Starbucks Rewards Perpetual Free Star Machine is only MOSTLY Dead…

  1. I was just at a Target Starbucks and wanted to purchase (4) $10 gift cards for Teacher’s Appreciation Day next week. I originally planned on putting $50 on my Starbucks App and then purchasing the gift cards, but was told by the barista that I wasn’t allowed to pay for gift cards using my app?? If I’m putting MY money onto my app, does it matter what method I’m paying for the gift cards? Is it because it’s going to earn me Stars and they are trying to deter that? Either way, it doesn’t seem fair :\

    • That’s not fair at all! It can’t be about the stars, I bet that location just doesn’t know what they are doing. I have bought gifts cards with my app at stand alones, Targets and in hotels.

  2. I tried this yesterday at a regular Starbucks with a bakery item and got points for both the baked item and the $5 gc. I tried this at a Safeway Starbucks and was told I couldn’t pay for a gift card with a gift card…. I’m going to try again at different locations. Thanks for your post! Did you try with higher gc denominations?

  3. I take that back – I just rechecked my transactions and I just got points for my bakery item at a regular starbucks. Sorry about the mixup! I had my hopes way up

  4. Just wanted to say a big thanks for your post; I missed the original so this was definitely an eye opener. My experience has been the same: standalone location = no stars, in-hotel = full stars, Target = “You can’t pay for a gift card with the app.” The gc purchase stacks nicely with the monthly double star day 🙂

    • Glad we could help! Also good to hear someone else has had the same experience. I’m not sure why it is the case that you can get stars with gift cards at hotels but I hope it lasts awhile! And yes, a great use of double star days HAHA

  5. This is very interesting. I used to buy gift cards regularly with the old program to earn drinks faster because we had a starbucks within walking distance of our first apartment. Since moving now our closest starbucks is 30 miles away 🙁 I had been thinking of trying it again since I HATE the new program so much (mainly points expiring after 6 months and only having 4 days to get your birthday drink!) Plus I used to earn a good amount of stars buying bags of beans from my store now I only get 10 lousy stars 🙁 That is equal to me spending $5 but on a very good day a bag in the store cost me $6.50 (if there are sales and coupons) and have not seen any extra star offers for store bought coffee with the new program like they used to do regularly. I would save my codes until one of those promos was e-mailed out and then get tons of extra stars! I just bought my first PSL today at target and I chat with the baristas there every time I go, I’ll try to buy a gift card with my registered card on the app next time I’m there and see what they say. The main reason I bought a drink was I had just loaded $10 because of an e-mail promotion I received that said if I used visa checkout to load $10 I would get a bonus $10 card e-mailed to me within 5 days. Two days to go and no card, hopefully I did it right.

    • Yeah, I don’t think anyone is very pleased with the changes to the rewards program. That was really smart to save the codes until there was a promo! I never really buy much bagged Starbucks coffee so that hadn’t even occurred to me.

      Let me know if the Target Starbucks lets you buy them. I tried a few weeks ago and they wouldn’t let me but it might be different at different locations. As of a couple weeks ago this still worked at a near by hotel so that aspect seems to still work. Hope you get your $10 card soon!

      Thanks for reading!

  6. It seems that the Starbucks system doesn’t know what you purchase at licensed locations only amounts. So as well as getting stars for buying gc’s, if you are trying to complete menu challenges for bonus stars, like buy a latte get 25 bonus stars, you won’t receive them for lattes purchased at these stores, only at corporate ones. That’s my experience so far anyway.

    • Yeah, I have had the same experience, they don’t seem to code things. The Star Dash bonus is useless if it is for a specific product, however, if it is on “visits” then you can complete it quickly by making separate purchases in the same visit. I will just get a coffee and then 4 gifts cards all separately and each will count towards your number of visits, done my 5 “visits”.

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