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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{ 330 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 :)

Doug Cipriani August 4, 2014 at 11:00 am

So if i order an Orange Valencia refresher can i get a refill of one of the teavanna ice teas for free with my card at the green level?

Shaif August 6, 2014 at 7:13 am

Hi – can I refill my Venti Cool Lime Refresher drink?

Valerie August 6, 2014 at 7:26 am

Unfortunately, Refreshers are not a refill product. I wish but they are not a tea, iced tea or coffee. I like the berry Refresher made with lemonade instead of water.

kathleen August 11, 2014 at 10:02 am

I had a representative from Starbucks tell me today that only base ? Tea and green tea are permitted for refill not passion or rooibos, etc. I love policies that are clear and easy to follow . Unfortunately different answers depending on who you speak to or interpret their online policy is causing me to want to stop going there altogether.

Melissa August 11, 2014 at 10:35 am

Can I get a free refill on iced Passion Teas ? I have a Gold card.

Julie August 11, 2014 at 12:35 pm

@Melissa, Yes you should be allowed to get a refill of an Iced Passion Tea.

Nick August 12, 2014 at 9:39 am

This is going to make me sound so cheap, but I’m extremely broke lol but I do have a free reward on my card, and I do plan on staying the whole day at my local Starbucks getting some work done before I move next week to college, so my question is are the free tefills available to people who get a drink using a free reward?

Valerie August 12, 2014 at 10:07 am

Technically, no. It’s supposed to be on a purchased beverage. But…if I was your barista and I knew your circumstances, I’d let it slide this time. Then again, they don’t call me “mom” for no reason.

Alissa August 12, 2014 at 10:27 am

Honestly, at a store as busy as the one I’m at…. I would have No Clue your first drink was free. We can’t keep track of that stuff. So I would say Yes. Free Reward drink and Free Refill.

Melody August 12, 2014 at 10:37 am

@Nick – I think there’s some ambiguity about what’s a “purchased” beverage. The policy doesn’t make any reference to the form of payment, such as a reward. I would be inclined to say “yes” you can get a refill in the store when your first drink was purchased with a reward. It would be an interesting question for you to ask Starbucks customer service.

Melissa August 12, 2014 at 10:38 am

For getting a Treat receipt, the Starbucks website says any purchase before 1:59 pm. @Kathleen, I went to the website & it says any full leaf tea. Passion is a full leaf tea.

Melissa August 12, 2014 at 10:47 am

I now have a Gold card, but at the time I had a Green card & was charged .50 for a coffee refill. It was the same cashier who rang up my original purchase. Shouldn’t the cashier ask if we have a Starbucks card? I knew there was a refill policy (some don’t). I didn’t question the .50 because I thought maybe it was only for one certain flavor.

Melissa August 12, 2014 at 10:54 am

Can you get free refills on iced Chai teas?

Valerie August 12, 2014 at 10:59 am

Iced chai is actually a chai latte so there is not a refill on that. But you can do a refill of the same size of a hot coffee, iced coffee, hot tea or iced tea.

Kassie Beckum August 13, 2014 at 9:31 am

I have a question. I go to starbucks at least once a day and get the same drink..venti caramel frappiccino with 7 pumps of caramel syrup. Today, for the first time, I was charged $.50 for the extra syrup but have never been charged previously. I have been a gold member for over 3 years. I understood that the policy was that as long as you are getting the same syrup the drink comes with (caramel for caramel frappiccino) then you are allowed as many pumps as you wish. When I told the cashier this she ignored me and charged me anyway.

Melissa August 13, 2014 at 9:59 am

We went to Starbucks yesterday. NO free refills on thd Oprah Iced Chai. Bummer!

Ben August 16, 2014 at 12:50 pm

If I buy a cold drink can I get a refill of hot brewed coffee? And would it be okay for them to put the hot coffee in my cold cup or should they give me a fresh paper cup?

Valerie August 16, 2014 at 1:10 pm

You can get a hot tea or coffee as a refill for a cold beverage. Unfortunately, our cold cups can’t handle 165-190degree water.

Katie August 20, 2014 at 9:38 pm

The biggest issue with the refill policy and the inconsistency of its implementation is that there is no training for it. At no point in my Starbucks training did anyone explain to me what the rules were, I had to look it up for myself. (Also note, I live in Canada, so things may be different here!)

@Melissa, I would make sure to mention that it is a refill you are looking for. As well, if you are at a licensed location, they do not follow the same refill policies as corporate locations.

@Kassie, you should not be charged for extra caramel syrup in a caramel frappucino. Bad Barista!!

@Ben, you can have as many refill beverages of any kind, hot or cold, within your visit regardless of you original beverage. And technically, Starbucks policy states that you should be receiving a fresh cup every time; only reusable cups should be used multiple times.

Justin August 21, 2014 at 12:18 am

Thanks so much for posting this! I’ve sent the link to my phone so hopefully the next time I’m in a Starbucks I can start with a latte and get a coffee refill on my way out.

I was always confused about whether or not this was the policy because at the Starbucks I usually go to in Sacramento, they always give me a refill after I’ve purchased another beverage. The ones where I actually live though always try to charge me. I’ve been suckered into paying for a while. Now that I have that link I doubt I’ll pay again since they can’t exactly go against their own policy once they’re show it…

Jamie Johnson August 24, 2014 at 3:34 pm

I have a gold card and get an iced coffee. I know the refills are free but can I get more than one refill for free?

Valerie August 24, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Sure can. We had a young man who would get 4 Trenta iced coffee refills after his first. We had to brew extra just for Jeffrey.

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