10 best and worst deals at Starbucks

With annual global revenues surpassing $14.8 billion, Starbucks is the most lucrative coffee chain in the world. But depending on how strong your caffeine fix might be, daily visits to Starbucks could be one of those money habits that make you broke.

But there are some great money-saving deals to be found, too. Before ordering your next double-shot, no-whip venti latte, check out this list of the best and worst Starbucks deals.

10 Best Starbucks Deals

Despite Starbucks' reputation for being overpriced, these deals can save you an impressive amount of money without curbing your daily or weekly visits. From discount refills to drink hacks, get the most bang for your buck while getting your daily fix:

10 best Starbucks deals
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10 best Starbucks deals

1. Reduced-Price Refills

If you need another pick-me-up even after you've just finished a coffee, you can get another at Starbucks and avoid paying full price. Whether you ordered a standard coffee of the day or an espresso drink, you can get a second cup of coffee for just 50 cents by hanging on to your original cup — no receipt needed.

According to Kendal Perez, a savings expert for Coupon Sherpa, you can also receive 10 cents off your original coffee order by bringing your own mug or tumbler.

"You have to be in the store (not the drive through) and cannot leave and then come back to receive this perk," said Perez. "Starbucks Rewards members (green and gold levels) receive free refills on brewed coffee and tea purchases, too."

2. Rewards Program

If you frequent Starbucks, sign up for its rewards program to score free drinks, food and other Starbucks merchandise, said Perez.

Start by downloading the Starbucks app and preloading it with cash, or pick up a gift card. You can then pay with your app to earn stars with every purchase. Rewards members start at "green" level status, which earns them free in-store refills, plus member events and offers. Load $10 or more in the Starbucks app using Visa Checkout, and you'll get a $10 eGift.

3. Starbucks Email List

Joining Starbucks' email list can be a useful, money-saving deal in more than one way. First, when you sign up for the email, you get 10 percent off your next order. Second, you can utilize the email list to stack rewards, said savings expert Teri Gault.

“Sign up for emails," she said. "When they have a challenge or Dash, enter it for more star rewards."

4. Seasonal Offers

Starbucks promotes seasonal offers such as Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Sweet/Treat Receipts and buy-one-get-one holiday drinks, said Perez.

"Between April 5 and April 11 of this year, for example, Starbucks offered any bakery item for $1 to customers who purchased something prior to 2 p.m. and returned after 2 p.m. with their receipt. During the last weekend in May, they offered 'buy three, get one free' drinks after 2 p.m. And they typically offer BOGO free on holiday drinks between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. for three days in mid-November," she said.

5. Free Add-ons

It might seem trivial, but you can save money by skipping the flavor at the counter and opting for the free flavor add-ons thatStarbucks offers, said Kerry Sherin of Offers.com. There, you can score flavors like cinnamon, chocolate and vanilla.

“Starbucks offers free half-and-half, cream, sugar and several spices, making it easy to spice up an inexpensive brewed coffee into a cinnamon-cream coffee for free,” said Perez.

6. Birthday Freebie

Like other stores and restaurants, Starbucks will celebrate your birthday with a freebie. “Any drink of any size is free toStarbucks Rewards (green and gold level) members,” said Perez.

7. Splitting a Venti

A good way to save at Starbucks is to go big — then split. When visiting Starbucks with a friend, order a venti — the 20-ounce large size — and split it between both of you. Ask the barista for two small cups; with the two cups, split the large drink between the both of you and then modify your coffee as you see fit.

You can do this with any drink Starbucks has, so if you’re trying to save a few bucks with someone, this is a great way to do it, said Kyle James of Rather-Be-Shopping.com. "In the end, you’ll pay about $5 for the venti Frappuccino instead of $8 to $9 for two talls," he said.

8. Americano

James said ordering an Americano is one of the best ways to get your caffeine fix on the cheap.

“It's simply hot water poured over two freshly pulled espresso shots. If you want even more caffeine, don’t order an extra shot of espresso for your tall Americano,” he said. “Instead, order a ‘grande Americano in a tall cup,’ and get the extra shot cheaper by doing so. You’ll get three shots of espresso, instead of two, and pay less overall.”

9. Free Samples

Starbucks has a little known policy in which you can sample anything at Starbucks if you just ask, said Gault.

"They'll probably tell you to go ahead and take a seat, and they will bring it to you first, as they will make a tray of tasters for everyone in the store when they cut into that muffin. So, if you just want a coffee but want a little bite, it's free," she said.

"You can also ask to sample new Chile Mocha, or any other coffee drink. They have to make a whole one, so they'll do the same," Gault added.

10. Starbucks Online Deals

You don’t need to go into a brick-and-mortar Starbucks to score deals. The online Starbucks store is offering free shipping on any order of $75 or more, said Brenton Shelton of FatWallet. Also online, Starbucks is offering 5 percent off any order for existing customers when you use coupon code 5OFFSEPT16.


10 Worst Starbucks Deals

Starbucks might be your daily delight, but there are some deals you should skip out on. From Starbucks merchandise to Starbucks gift cards, here are some of the more notorious things you shouldn't buy at the coffee shop:

10 worst Starbucks deals
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10 worst Starbucks deals

1. Coffee Beans and Grounds

If you're looking to brew some Starbucks coffee on your own, skip out on heading to the brick-and-mortar store to buy it.

"Starbucks sells 16-ounce packages of whole bean and ground coffee for $11.95 to $14.95, depending on the blend," said Perez. "However, 12-ounce bags of the same blends can be fetched for as little as $7.95 at Target, while Albertson's has been known to offer a sale price of just $6.99. [The] bottom line: Do not buy your bagged Starbucks coffee from Starbucks."

Also, not only is the in-store coffee priced higher than you would find at other retailers, but if you shop on the Starbucks store online, you can often find coupons that can take off as much as 20 percent off your entire order, said Sherin.

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2. Starbucks K-Cups

Like Starbucks coffee beans and grounds, Starbucks K-Cups are generally not worth the purchase. K-Cups are the small plastic pods your Keurig might use to make a serving of coffee. And, although brewing coffee at home is usually an easy way to save money, it's not with K-Cups.

"Never buy these from an actual Starbucks location," said James. "You can always find them much cheaper at Costco."

3. Travel Mugs and Drinkware

Starbucks-brand drinkware is another "deal" that isn't a smart choice for your wallet. "Impressive displays of coffee mugs, tea kettles, French presses and other coffee and tea accessories are tempting for those waiting in line for drinks, but are best skipped," said Perez.

"Most coffee mugs start at $9.95 and cost upwards of $29.95," she added. "The Limited-Edition travel mugs are an especially bad deal — priced between $70 and $74.95, these mugs further Starbucks' obsession with Swarovski crystals and make absolutely no sense at all."

If you want to buy Starbucks drinkware, approach it like buying Starbucks coffee beans for home, said Sherin. "Shop other online retailers like Amazon, or find a coupon for the Starbucks store online to save even more," she said.

4. Starbucks Gift Cards

Starbucks gift cards stare you in the face every time you reach the cashier. Although they are a great gift to receive, you can save on them by purchasing elsewhere.

"Buying gift cards can be a big mistake if you purchase through a retailer," said Sherin. "Use sites like Raise.com or Cardpool.com and you can find discounts as much as 10 percent off."

5. Premium Gift Cards

Speaking of gift cards, Starbucks offers special ones around the holidays — but they're more a money trap than a deal, said Mark Mazza, co-founder of PromoCodeWatch.com.

For instance, Perez said, "Every holiday season, Starbucks comes out with a high-priced gift card which costs $200 but only has $50 preloaded. Trust me, no one on your shopping list wants you to pay $200 for a $50 value, even if the card is made of stainless steel or encrusted with Swarovski crystals.

6. Bottled Water

Bottled water is definitely not a Starbucks deal. There's no reason to spend up to $5 on Ethos or Fiji water when you can get triple-filtered water for free, said Perez.

7. Bistro Boxes

Another Starbucks item to be wary of are its lunch bistro boxes.

“Five dollars for a few crackers, cheese cubes, grapes and a hard-boiled egg is not a good deal, given how inexpensively these items are at your local grocery store,” said Perez. “Starbucks' latest offering of lunch, two snacks and a bottled water for $8, is a bit easier to swallow...still, you can pack all these things from home and save your money for a fancy latte."

8. Prewrapped Sandwiches

Along with Starbucks lunch boxes, the cafe's expensive pre-wrapped sandwiches are another deal to avoid.

“They display these nicely wrapped sandwiches that look nice and have quality ingredients as you wait in line to hook you,” said Mazza. “Coffee is relatively cheap, so selling you an overpriced sandwich that costs as much, or more, than your drink order is an obvious score for them."

9. Breakfast Sandwiches

Continuing on the sandwich theme, Starbucks breakfast sandwiches should probably not be on your list of things to buy. They look fresh in the display, but Starbucks breakfast sandwiches, as well as many other food items, are simply overpriced for the quality.

10. Blended Crème Frappuccino

Unless you’re a child or watching your caffeine intake, blended crème Frappuccinos don’t make sense for your money. "It's basically a $5 vanilla milkshake, and not a very good one at that. Way too much ice in this thing and not enough thickness," said James. Blended crème Frappuccinos will cost you in calories as well, considering a 16 oz. vanilla bean grande frappuccino packs 400 calories.


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