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

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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444 Comments

  • joe

    why are the prices for coffee going up?

  • Charlie Fernández

    If I buy the cinnamon Dolce Latte, do i get a free refill if I stay at the store?
    A fast response would be much appreciated :)

  • Melody

    Hi Charlie – If you bought a Cinnamon Dolce Latte, and stayed in the store, you can get the “refill” price if you order the same size iced tea, hot brewed coffee (the coffee of the day, not a Clover – brewed option), or iced coffee.
    There is never a refill price option for a latte.
    Your refill becomes free when you pay with a registered Starbucks card that is at the Green level of benefits, or higher. If you’re not paying with that green level (or higher) registered card, then you pay the refill price, often about 50 or 55 cents (can vary by location).

  • Charlie Fernández

    I use the app and the card I’m at Gold level. I will try next time I go.
    Molto grazie Melody 😉

  • Melody

    You’re welcome Charlie. When I say “card” I always mean either the physical card or the mobile app – though maybe I should be more clear: the percentage of transactions via the app is pretty significant.

  • MJP

    So if I physically leave the store to go to my car for something and come right back, is this considered ‘leaving the store’? Technically, I would guess so.

  • Valerie

    That raises an interesting point. If you smoke or vap, you need to be off premises. If you let me, your barista, know and return for a refill, I have no issue with that. If you run to your car for something and return within minutes, I have no issue with that. But if you do as some of our customers do and get a coffee in the am and want a refill in the pm, it’s not happening. So many people argue the “just say ‘yes'” policy. The refill policy states that we follow it so that customers are charged on a consistent basis from store to store. That is where the rub comes in.

  • Rebecca

    Hi (: Today I got a passion tea lemonade at Starbucks and wanted to get a refill for a Chai Tea Latte. But I couldnt because I could only get a refill for a cold drink because I ordered s cold drink to begin with. Arent I suppose to get any refill? Not just depending on whether I got a hot drink or a cold drink

  • Melody

    Hi Rebecca – The way I read your post, it doesn’t look like you would get any refill benefit. You really have to be getting a refill as only one of these items: Iced tea (not a tea lemonade), iced coffee, hot brewed coffee, and hot tea (meaning a tea sachet).

    There are no lattes that are ever a refill so a “chai latte” would always be a full price. Check out this article:
    http://starbucksmelody.com/2014/12/23/the-starbucks-refill-policy/

    Feel free to contact me via the contact page if you have more questions.

  • Ana

    I’ve tried to get a free green tea iced tea refill 3 times from 2 different Starbucks in Hawaii (originally purchased the Oprah Chai Tea Latte) and I was “corrected.” I usually do work at Starbucks for at least 3 hours at a time and buy other food & merchandise while I’m there. The first 2 times were faced with hesitation from the baristas and was told “ok for this time.” After finally checking the Starbucks policy online & this website, I was sure that I would not face this hesitation the 3rd time..I was wrong. They informed me that I would have had to have bought the tea/coffee from the beginning to get the refill. I asked if I should have just bought the cheaper drink from the beginning, instead of the more expensive latte. All 3 different baristas didn’t answer my question and informed me that it’s always been their policy (at least 2 years since they have been working there). I’m not sure if this is just in Hawaii, but is it possible for individual Starbucks shops to create their own policy or only implement parts of the policy (e.g. not allow latte buyers to get the free plain tea/coffee refill)? I didn’t think I would have to buy 2 separate drinks (my favorite latte & a plain tea) just to get the free tea refill. Was also hoping that I would get this perk as a Gold level benefit :/ Mahalo for your thoughts!

  • Melody

    @Ana – I’m sorry that happened to you. You should call Starbucks Customer Service or attempt to reach a district manager. One huge problem is that A LOT of Starbucks training is like oral tradition passed from one barista to another. The refill policy is often just taught wrong to new partners and then when challenged, the baristas don’t think they could have been taught wrong.

    So long as you are visiting company-operated Starbucks (and Hawaii has many many company-operated stores) the store CANNOT make up their own refill policy.
    Here is downtown Seattle, there are tons of baristas who ask “Is this your first drink of the day?” and if you challenge them on the refill policy they don’t get it – there is some weird oral tradition in downtown Seattle that if you bought one drink in the morning, you get free refills all day long! That isn’t right either. Certainly it’s not all baristas, but I see that happening here.

  • buder shapiro

    Can you clarify the term refill prices? What does that mean?

  • MEL

    So wait, just because i’m not some sort of “special member with a card” means I have to pay more for my refil? If this is correct, I am never returing to Starbucks. Please explain.

  • Melody

    @MEL – Lots and lots of businesses have some kind of loyalty program that has an added benefit to the members of the that loyalty rewards program. In fact, this is so commonly the norm in business that almost don’t understand your surprise. Those perks are there everywhere – cards where you earn a discount on gas, and so many more that this comment would look like a book.

  • Ginny

    I agree with Melody, it doesn’t cost you anything just register a gift card & purchase with it, if I remember correctly after three purchases you start getting free refills. In fact you can even count the first two paid refills as purchases. So if you buy a drink & buy two refills in that same visit you’re set to go.

    On a different note has anyone noticed a change in flavor in the white chocolate mocha latte? I feel like something was changed, the flavor is off and I had been ordering it for like two months straight. ;(

  • Alycia

    Thank you for this information one quick question. If I buy a tea with cash but I get the refill with my gold card (and I didn’t leave the store) can I get it for free or will is be the refill price?

  • JT

    @Ginny I noticed the same thing with the mocha a few months ago. when I asked I was told that the policy was recently changed to use skim milk as the default if not specified. Changed from 2% I believe. This caused the drink to taste watery. I have since made it a habit at any cafe to specify whole milk, to ensure i get a richer more chocolaty flavor.

    I would imagine the issue is the same with the white chocolate. Every Starbucks I have been to has had a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and at the slightest sign of dissatisfaction they insist on remaking my drink. Obviously this includes when i asked them why my latte tasted funny, but I have had them come up to me from across the cafe when i made a funny face because the brewed coffee was too strong or burnt.

  • Ginny

    I always ordered my white mocha with nonfat, so to me the taste wasn’t the milk. But recently a barista told me that Starbucks changed the shots from an Italian Roast to. Starbucks brand & that could be why I was tasting a difference. Then another Barista said that they only use espresso roast, who knows? Now I just order a vanilla latte with one pump of white mocha, not the same but I got tired of being dissatisfied. I pretty much have given up on my original white mocha.

  • cristen

    this whole refill thing has confused me a lot. i always use my starbucks card. say i get a Carmel mochiatto so then for a free refill i have to get a basic coffee or tea. so i can get any drink then a refill for coffee or tea. when will i ever pay a refill charge?

  • Morphius

    Hi Melody and followers,

    This has being a great place for commenting and learning about the free refill policy of Starbucks.

    Although this thread has being going on for years and even Starbucks clarifying the terms in their FAQ but still the confusion prevails.

    First off: I am a current gold member.

    Recently I purchased a Venti size Frapuccino and stayed in the store doing my work. Then as usual I went to the counter to get refill priced (free for green/gold members) brewed coffee and I was told the refill is for iced and hot beverages only. Frappucinos are not qualified to get free refills (iced/hot coffee/tea).. So I had to straight up pay full price of my brewed coffee.

    I know the refill policy exist irrespective of your prior beverage but this is stupid as hell. I didn’t want to go into an argument with the cashier on it. What pisses me more is, over the past year I’ve already complained with Starbucks CS over the refill policy for the same location and still things are not clear.
    Just to clarify and summarize the refill policy:
    Order any beverage (not bottled) from starbucks store (stay in the store) and get refill price (free for green and gold members) for your next (as many, as long as you stay in the store) iced/hot coffee or tea.

  • Bill

    If my original drink was free but used my card to order it, would I get a free refill?

  • sam choi

    Thank you so so much melody….

    Countless times this article and link has saved me..

    Today on my way to Disneyland to get the new Disneyland you are here mugs.

    Movieland Wax Museum – Buena Park

    7711 Beach Blvd.
    Buena Park, CA 906201934

    the manager trained the entire store wrong so I had to pull up your article and respectfully inform the store manager. BTW disneyland, California adventure, epcot, and Disney world just got all new starbucks you are here mugs and tumblers. Simply awesome.

    Thank you agin.

  • TORI

    Hi! So I have read through the comments and I understand that if I wanted to order a Black Tea Lemonade as a refill I wouldn’t be able to get it free with my green or gold status, but if I wanted a Black tea it would be? Is that correct? And if it is, would I be able to get the Black Tea Lemonade and just pay for the extra lemonade? Anyone know how much that costs? Thank you!

  • Valerie

    I don’t see why not. If you want a misto as a refill, it would be rung up as the free refill plus dairy. There used to be a button on the POS register that would charge for extra lemonade. I’m not sure if it still exists. If it doesn’t, then there isn’t a way to charge for it.

  • Kris

    @Melody I’m at Starbuck’s and I attempted to switch from my original purchase of a coffee on my gold card to a tea refill. The barista attempted to charge me full price for a tea. I told her, it is supposed to be charged as a refill. She told me no, since I had coffee, but would do it this time. I said it is policy you can switch regardless if it was coffee or tea. She said that she is the store manager and never heard of a such thing. However, an employee under her told her I was correct and that you can even switch to iced.

    Do you know where to find this policy in writing incase I encounter future problems? Thanks! I would think a store manager would be aware of this policy.

  • Kris

    @Marcus Thanks! I wish this “store manager” knew this.

  • Ginny

    Question as a registered starbucks card holder I am at gold level, should I be charged for pumps of white mocha sauce I add to my vanilla latte? Should I just ask for a white Mocha with less shots of mocha & add the vanilla?

  • Melody

    @Ginny – If you are adding White Mocha to a Latte, you’ve essentially ordered a White Mocha Latte, with vanilla. Yes, you will be charged whether you add one pump or 50 pumps. (and it’s always charged for unless you are adding it with a Mocha to have a Mocha with White Mocha, because then it’s two equivalent sauces, and since you could have many of each one, there is only one charge for two equivalent sauces).

    Because White Mocha is a sauce and vanilla is a syrup, each one is a separate charge. There’s no way around that. If you were getting a vanilla latte add raspberry syrup, it one be one charge because you are getting two equivalent items in your drink.

    The general rule is that you are charged one time per category. Order a sauce, you’ll always be charged whether getting one pump or 20. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 each of WM and M since you could get 20 of either.

    Order a syrup and you’ll always be charged whether getting one pump or 20. And you could have multiple syrups – like do 10 of vanilla and 10 of toffeenut.

  • Irena

    So if I order an iced coffee unsweetened with caramel drizzle in house, for refill will I be charged $0.60 again for the caramel drizzle?
    Thanks

  • Amy

    I always order decaf iced Americanos because they don’t have an unsweetened decaf iced coffee that is brewed. For the refills, will I be stuck with caffeinated iced coffee because an Americano doesn’t qualify under the free refill policy?

  • Amy

    To clarify: I would just want an unsweetened iced decaf coffee, but my store only offers unsweetened iced decaf Americanos. Thanks!

  • Valerie

    Amy-I wouldn’t charge you at my store but technically, yes, they wouldn’t qualify. What I did do for one of our customers was do a refill on a grande decaf hot coffee and then gave her a venti iced cup full of ice. She enjoyed it and would order her iced decaf coffee that way from then on. Try it.

  • Amy

    Thanks! That’s a good idea.

  • IzzyJ

    I have tried ordering a hot decaf with a cup of ice, but was told that I could not do that. Is this Starbucks policy?

  • Valerie

    No. Not at all. That’s ridiculous. If it’s not in black print on a white page, it’s not company policy. If they’re going to be that petty, you may need to bring your own cup with ice. I’m just blown away by that attitude. You’re a customer purchasing a coffee. A cup of ice request shouldn’t ever be denied.

  • Melody

    Valerie & IzzyJ, over the years, I’ve heard horror stories of power struggles over petty things. When a that barista says “no” where it should easily be a “yes”, it might make the barista feel good to say no but it’s damaging to the brand reputation & the customer experience. Sometimes I feel like there should be a little game to cover these many, many situations: What would Howard and Cliff do? 😉 That’s the right answer.

  • Valerie

    Hey, Mel. I agree. I just retired in October after 11 years of proudly serving. I loved our “Just Say Yes” policy (even if some customers abused it, they’re not the majority) because it not only made our stores a step above, it was also a great training tool for our young people going out into their first “real” jobs. They learned what it was to go the extra for someone and do it willingly. That’s why things like this make me cringe. A cup of ice is the difference between having your customer feel like you are really attentive to them and care about what they need or that they are the couple dollars in the till.

  • IzzyJ

    I had this experience again last weekend, where they would give me a cup of water, but not a cup of ice. Are there regional policies that are not nationwide?

  • Valerie

    Unless you’re going to a licensed store, all company owned stores have set operating guidelines. The manager may have put this in place but it is not a written Starbucks policy.

  • Hannah

    Now, suppose I ordered an caramel iced coffee with 2%milk to begin with, would I get the same exact drink? I am a green level card.

  • Valerie

    Yes. Here’s the tricky part. The standard iced coffee recipe calls for classic syrup to be added and half and half. Your customization of substituting caramel syrup for the classic should not cost you extra. If you had both classic and caramel , there would be an extra charge for the caramel syrup (if you are being charged for the substitution, you shouldn’t be). A lot of baristas are not aware of this. Even at Green Level, your iced coffee should be a free refill provided that you meet the other criteria such as staying in the store, etc.

  • Tatum

    Actually, Valerie, petty as it may be, the standard iced coffee recipe is sweetened with classic and served black. You may be confusing it with the iced coffee with milk recipe which is sweetened with classic and standard 2%

  • Valerie

    yep, Tatum, you’re right. I’m so used to people not wanting either black or 2%, I need to remember there are two different standards. Thanks for pointing that out. It’s never petty to correct what is wrong. Don’t want to get wrong info out there.

  • Ilian

    I have been having such a difficult time getting a refill in almost all starbucks I go to. I go pretty much everyday as I am studying for national and state board licensing exams and I am there between 3-5 hours. I typically order an americano and then attempt to get a hot tea refill or brewed coffee. I can’t tell you how many times I have to argue with the baristas and even wait for the managers to be called to get a refill. Are other’s experiencing this?

  • Melanie

    Thank you for posting this. What would be the limitations of the refill though? Can you get an iced coffee with caramel or mocha as a refill, for example? Or are refill drinks plain, sans flavor add-ins? Perhaps if there was just a charge for the add in and not the drink that wouldn’t be too bad.

  • Hania

    What if your Starbucks is in a target and you go to shop and you want a refill? Will they allow it?

  • Tatum

    Ilian– you should never have to argue to get your refill as long as you are within your rights to have one. You can sit there all day, but once an hour is up from your original beverage, policy is to charge. Some Starbucks are more lenient on this than others and same with some partners. I’ve even had to deny people in the drive thru because it is specifically mentioned that you have to be in the cafe/lobby area.

  • Valerie

    Tatum-I’ve not ever heard of the one hour you mentioned for people who stay in the cafe. I’ve always read the policy as if you stay in the cafe, you are entitled to refills.

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