Finally, Starbucks creates simpler rewards card

Last Christmas, I got a Starbucks gift card for $50 from my boss (a nice gift but with a semi-intentional hint that caffeine may help me do a better job).

I used it up within a month but when a barista tried to lure me into getting the Starbucks Rewards Gold card, I wasn't even tempted. Paying a $25 annual fee upfront for the right to 10% discounts on coffees didn't seem like a deal when I didn't know if I'd have the money for the remaining 90% of the cost of my once-daily lattes.

Guess I'm not the only one who felt that way, and Starbucks got the hint. It recently announced it is consolidating its Starbucks Card and Gold Card reward programs into a free, easier-to-follow customer loyalty program called "My Starbucks Rewards" that launches Dec. 26.

Register and you'll immediately get a free drink on your birthday.

According to Reuters, expect to be bombarded with ads for the new program when you visit a Starbucks after Christmas. That's when stores see a mass of people who received Starbucks gift cards in their stockings coming in to use them, and Starbucks is intent on turning them into loyal caffeine addicts.

The program isn't yet mentioned on Starbucks' Web site but Melissa Allison, "Coffee City" blogger for The Seattle Times, has details. Looks like the program is following the AmEx-style of Gold and Platinum status levels.

At the Welcome level, a brand-new member gets a free drink on their birthday. Nice touch. After using the card five times, you'll move up to Green level and qualify for, among other things, free flavor syrups, refills on brewed coffee and two free hours of Wi-Fi a day. Perfect for freelancers, job-seekers and anyone else who needs to get out of the house.

After 30 uses comes Gold card status, which includes just-for-you coupons and a free drink for every 15 purchases. Meh. Buy 10, get one free would be a better deal in my opinion but hey, it's better than a $25 annual fee.

Speaking of which, Gold members who did pay the fee will still get their 10% discount until their membership date ends, and they'll automatically be enrolled in the new program at the Gold level. Standard card members will start at the Green level.
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