The refill policy at Starbucks: Refills are regardless of original beverage purchased.

by Melody on January 6, 2013

Just a short lesson on what a refill is at Starbucks:  I think this is valuable information for many people!

If you order a  Starbucks tall latte, and then want Pike Place Roast as a refill, the answer is “yes.”  I should clarify, the answer is “yes” only if you have stayed inside the store.  Once you leave the store, when you return, you will be paying full price for your beverage again.  The refill price is available only for same store visits.  The refill only becomes free if you are paying for your beverage with a registered Starbucks Card, at the green level of benefits.  And there is no refill price for any handcrafted beverages. Iced tea, iced coffee, and hot brewed coffee all have a refill price available to them.  In other words, if I drink a grande Frappuccino, stay in the store, and want grande iced passion tea as a refill, then I should be charged the refill price for the passion tea, not the the full price of the iced passion tea.  However, there is no way to order a Frappuccino as a refill.

I bring this up because I noticed (thanks to a comment in another blog article!) that Starbucks has finally updated their website to truly clarify the refill policy.  This had been in an area, where in the past, the website had had ambiguous language.  Thank you Starbucks for this!  Here’s the official Starbucks page on the refill benefit.



In previous articles, I have talked about the theories behind the refill policy.  As many people know, iced coffee, iced tea, and brewed coffee are beverages that are low cost to the business.  Furthermore, those who stay inside the store are more likely to linger and purchase food or other items as well.  Also, it makes no sense to tell customers, you must only purchase the lowest cost beverages to be able to receive the refill price.  In other words, there’s no logic to saying that a customer who spends a premium for a handcrafted drink may not receive a refill because he or she didn’t start out with a cheaper beverage.  And of course, there is never a refill price for drive-thru customers.

And you really do have to stay in the store to get a refill.  If you have left the store, and you return later in the day with your cup, the baristas should tell you there is no refill price available.

Hope that my readers find this helpful!

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{ 308 comments… read them below or add one }

sam July 24, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Hello, are we allowed to get a regular green tea as a refill if our original beverage was a frap..? I have been turned down now at a few locations. Most locations allow this with no problems.

Melody July 24, 2014 at 10:54 pm

@Sam – Yes, you can get an iced green tea after having a blended Frappuccino beverage. If a store says “no”, call Starbucks Customer Service and complain. Always hang on to your receipt – have the store address and number on it.

(I am assuming that you’ve stayed in the store, and so it’s a ‘same store visit’. That refill is free if you pay for it with a Starbucks Card registered, with your profile at the Green Level or higher level of rewards. If you don’t have a Starbucks card, then you pay 54 cents (or some amount close to that – don’t quote me exactly – there can be slight regional variation in that, and variation due to different regions’ sales taxes.)

lynn July 24, 2014 at 11:46 pm

Hi can i get a refill of my Americano even though i dont have a Starbucks card??

sam July 25, 2014 at 4:29 am

Thank you for the super quick reply. Thank you once again for all the great articles and fun discussions.

Valerie July 25, 2014 at 6:46 am

Unfortunately Americanos are not on the refill list. I wish because they are my favorites. If you purchase an Americano you are entitled to a refill of coffee, iced coffee, tea or iced tea having met all the other qualifiers (staying in the store, purchasing a refill of the same size).

Melody July 25, 2014 at 6:53 am

@Valerie, Sam and Lynn –

Lynn, even if you don’t use a Starbucks card, when you use the refill perk you’ll just pay the amount of money that it is for a refill – it won’t be free. I suggest you start using a Starbucks card. :) The refill perk kicks in at the green level of benefit.

@Valerie – This thread has over 300 comments and it’s now almost the number one viewed thread out of all my articles. The refill policy is almost always the top key words that lead people to my blog. I think Starbucks should take note of the confusion it creates! Thank you for being here and helping out!

@Sam – You’re welcome! Please come join in other threads. I just posted a fun article about concept drive thru stores! :)

Valerie July 25, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Melody-you are so right. The policy is clear but it’s when managers and DM’s and our Customer Service line people don’t back up their baristas who are trying to abide by the policy the confusion comes in. Is go with the Wegmans model. Bring your same day receipt back to any Wegmans any time for a free coffee/tea refill. That eliminates so much confusion and the customers who feel that it’s free coffee at every Starbucks they go to. I had one customer tell me point blank that he travels up and down I-85 for business and never pays for coffee.

Mike Bruschini July 26, 2014 at 12:18 pm

From my thinking about the policy, the cost of providing the iced coffee might be about $0.25, what you’re really paying for is the “contribution margin” that goes towards rent, labor, maintenance, electricity, etc. So when you go for a “refill”, they’ve already got at least $2.00 or more, so the chances of you staying in the store with the likelihood of buying something else might outweigh the risk of $0.25, because if you visit the store every day of the week, the risk returns itself if you buy just one baked or deli good.

This’d get a lot more interesting if they’d expand their stores that sell wine :)

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