Confusion with the Starbucks Gold Card

This is the last in a series of four articles analyzing MyStarbucksRewards.  Here’s everything that has appeared in this series:

  1. A close up look: My Starbucks Rewards at the Green Level – Free Syrups and Milk Changes (July 27, 2012)
  2. A close up look: My Starbucks Rewards at the Green Level – Free Tall Beverage with Whole Bean Purchase (August 3, 2012)
  3. A close up look: My Starbucks Rewards at the Green Level – Free Refills (August 10, 2012)
  4. A close up look: My Starbucks Rewards: Areas of confusion at the Gold Level (August 17, 2012)

The actual gold card can cause some confusion.  The root of that confusion is usually that people think they must have it to earn stars and/or think that the green level perks require the Gold card.    In no particular order, here are few ways that I’ve seen customers (and baristas) confused about the Gold card:

1. Do I have to use my Gold card?

No.  There is NEVER a requirement to actually switch to the gold card.  I have indeed watched this be a point of confusion many times.  Oddly, many people (both customers and partners) seem to think that it is the actual gold card that earns you stars.  This is not true.  All of the card benefits that the customers receive are associated with the customer’s profile at

This means that the customer may earn stars with a mobile app, a braille card, an old black card, an old Shareholder’s card, a mini card, a (RED) card, a Chicago city card or any other city card,  an Evolution Fresh card, the “Twilight” First and Battery card, or truly any another card the customer wants to use.

2. I just received my Gold card in the mail.  Is there money already transferred on it?

No.  The Gold card does not arrive with money already on it.  I don’t know why people assume that it is pre-loaded, but I have met customers who just got their Gold card and think that there balance is already on that Gold card.  The Gold card does not arrive pre-loaded with money.

3. Am I earning “stars” with my Gold card?

When your profile is at the Gold level of benefits, you earn a star each time your card is swiped for a qualifying purchase.  There are a limited number of swipes which do not earn any “stars.”  If you are transferring money from one card to another, those swipes do not count as a “star.”  If you are purchasing a refill and it is free under MyStarbucksRewards, there is no “star.”

So you are earning stars for being at the Gold level on your profile.  And you many have numerous cards registered to your profile – all of which will earn you stars when you use them to pay for your purchases at Starbucks.

4.  I have a Gold card.  I use only my Gold card.  Is it possible that I am NOT Gold, and NOT earning stars?

It is actually possible that a customer is holding a Gold card but NOT receiving any stars for a purchase but IS receiving all the Green level perks such as a free tall beverage when buying a pound of beans, and free syrups.  (There are more Green Level benefits – see above links.)

It takes 30 stars each year to re-qualify as a Gold card customer.  This means that for some customers, they will hold a Gold card in their hands that is only functioning to give him or her Green benefits (remember, all perks are associated with your profile, and every card is at the level that your profile is at – regardless of  whether it is a shiny gold card).

If the customer has not attained the 30 stars, he or she has not renewed Gold level, and thus is not earning stars towards free drinks.  So it’s possible that the customer HAS a Gold card (earned in a previous year) but is NOT Gold because he or she hasn’t re-qualified.  As I have already mentioned, that Gold card then just functions to reward only the Green level perks (assuming that is where the customer is at.)

Because the current version of MyStarbucksRewards was launched in January (2010), it is actually most likely that the above scenario will happen early in the year, but it could happen at any time.

As an aside, the issue of having re-qualify for Gold status has sparked some interesting ideas at  Here’s what I mean:

  • Forever Gold – A MyStarbucksIdea idea where a person suggests that after 5 years of qualifyng for Gold, that a customer should be permanently Gold level.
  • Permanent Gold – Here’s an idea where a person wants a permanent Gold card after a certain number of years of Gold, to include a letter from Howard Schultz when a customer reaches “permanent Gold”!
  • Stars over 30 should count towards next year’s Gold – One more idea about having to renew the gold card.

Edit on August 18, 2012:  There was some great discussion in the comments about how a customer earns gold.  It appears that a customer can carry forward one year of gold status.  In other words, if I earn gold status, and then earn 30 stars after that during that year, my gold status is carried forward one year.

5. My barista has told me things like, “You get free refills with a Gold card.”  Doesn’t that mean that I MUST have a Gold card to get free refills?

I think that MANY partners say things like, “You get free refills with a Gold card,” or “You get free syrups with a Gold card,” or “You can have a free tall beverage with your whole bean purchase with a Gold card,” because it’s simply easier to explain than saying, “Any card at the Green level gets free refills – That’s 5 swipes to get to Green.”

Invariably, that leaves the lasting impression that a customer must use his or her Gold card. And then there is a second step to try and re-educate the customer correctly at a later date.

All the Green level benefits happen at 5 stars.  No need to ever get to Gold card level to start enjoying things like free refills, free syrups, and free milk changes.

6.  Do my free drinks automatically appear on my Gold card?

No.  Well, mostly no.  Starbucks has repeatedly stated that they are working towards electronic rewards.  Free drinks electronically loaded onto  your Starbucks card is in the testing phase in Pittsburgh.  Unless you reside in the Pittsburgh, your free drinks arrive as a postcard via the mail.

7.  I thought there would be lots of freebie coupons with the Gold card?

After every 15 stars, a customer earns a coupon for a free beverage.  MyStarbucksRewards does periodically send out other freebie coupons.  I have written about free Evolution Fresh juice coupons, a coupon for $1 off perfect oatmeal, free petite treats, and more.  However, unless customers have opted into postal mailing on his or her profile, none of the free coupons will be sent.



Hope you enjoyed this series of articles!  And now that you’ve read them all,  what would you change?

Talk about anything related to MyStarbucksRewards.