The Easy Way To Earn 5 Miles Per Dollar For All Your Starbucks Beverages

I’ve been playing the points and miles game for so long I sometimes take for granted what someone who wants to get started might think “easy” is.  I was sitting with a good friend enjoying some lunch last week going through various credit card permutations.  He willingly admitted that it was all a bit over his head.  He couldn’t begin to imagine how someone would track stacks of gift cards, let alone the credit cards you need to manage to buy all those gift cards.  I agree, it’s a lot to manage.

That’s why I’m always a fan of harvesting the low hanging fruit.  And, Starbucks gift cards are one of them if you happen to be a regular coffee drinker.  I’m not, but I do drink Chai lattes when I’m traveling for an extra bit of caffeine and Starbucks also serves as an easy meeting place when you’re on the road.  So, how do you earn 5 miles per dollar for all your Starbucks purchases?  It starts with a Chase Ink Bold or Ink Plus card.  The Ultimate Rewards points these cards earn can be used for a variety of rewards and are easily transferred to travel partners like United Airlines and Hyatt Hotels on a 1:1 ratio.  Both of those cards offer 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent at office supply stores.  And, your local office supply store carries Starbucks cards!

Those cards come in a variety of shapes and sizes and look something like this.

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But, you say, why the heck would I want to carry around a gift card?  That’s a pain in the butt.  You’re right.  That’s where your smartphone comes in.  If you have an iPhone or Android device it’s easy to load the card onto your phone and store the value there.  These instructions are specifically for iPhone but the Android app works in a similar fashion. First, you turn the card over to the back.

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You’ll need these two sets of numbers when you login to the Starbucks app on your phone.  Some cards have the second set of numbers covered with a scratch-off area or wrapped up in the packaging, but it’s always easy to identify which is which.  There’s a small plus sign in the top right of the screen in the “My Cards” section of the app that will take you to a screen where you enter the numbers.  As soon, as you enter the numbers and click “Add” the app will take you back to a screen that shows the value of your new card.

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Over time, though, it can get difficult to manage all the different entries in your app for these cards, especially if you use Passbook for the iPhone.  Passbook works with the Starbucks app to designate one of your gift cards as the one that appears in Passbook.  But, after a while things get cluttered.  It’s easy enough to transfer balances between cards and consolidate.  You’ll see a list of all the cards associated with your account when you click the “View All” tab in the top left-hand corner of the My Cards page.

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Select the card you want to transfer from and you’ll be taken back to the screen with the “Reload” and “Manage” buttons. Click Manage and a menu pops up with a number of choices.  Select “Transfer Balance” and you’ll be taken to a screen with a gold image of that card at the top with the words “Drag to Transfer”.

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Touch and hold the card you want to transfer and drag it to the card you want to add it to (in my example my Passbook card, which is marked by a green check mark).  Let go and you’ll get a message on the screen asking you to confirm the transfer.  Once you click “Transfer”, you’re all set.

It really is a pretty simple process.  Other than the trip to the office supply store, it won’t take more than a few minutes to load your card up.  Then, just use your phone each time you pay for Starbucks and earn 5 points per dollar!

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7 Comments

  1. Nice tip. I’ve got a Starbucks gift card lying around and hate to carry it but whenever I’m out and want to use it it’s not with me, and I have the Starbucks app on my iPhone. Doh.

    1. Scott, don’t feel bad. I had a Starbucks gift card for over a year before I put two and two together. Just sat gathering dust on my desk because I didn’t want to carry it around.

    1. cStyle, I’m not a big coffee drinker. But, they do make a reasonable meeting or work location on the road and I do use them for the occasional caffeine infusion (though I go the Chai route instead of coffee).

    1. Mark, my only problem with the app is that it doesn’t automatically load your free drinks for you. I think that’s a bit cheesy that you have to go hunt down the free drinks in the app instead of it prompting you to use them.

  2. Starbucks cards are my go-to purchase whenever one of the office supply stores happens to be offering a $N dollars of $K dollars purchase coupon that (despite this USUALLT not working) does ring up on gift cards. I can always make use of Starbucks currency — as you say, highly useful as a temporary office during business travel.

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