Top 4 affordable Starbucks drinks & a guide to getting the best value out of your free Starbucks

Nothing makes a long layover or wait for a flight better quite like Starbucks. It’s worth more to me than any plastic cup of Cran-Apple or free checked bag. I worked there a few years in high school and college, so I may be brainwashed, biased, and addicted, but few people can deny it’s a great product no matter where in the world you get it.

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Keep an eye on your email for offers for boosting your star count and getting closer to a free.

Here’s an offer I got this week:

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If you’re a Gold member, 40 stars is about 1/3 of the way to 125 stars and a free drink, and 30 stars is about 1/4 of the way. Since I value a free drink at about $7 (I’ll tell you why below), each of these bonus opportunities are worth about a couple bucks. If you go by how much you normally need to spend (50 cents/star) to earn this amount of stars, they are worth $20 and $15.

Unless you regularly spend at least $5 per visit, these promotions are essential if you want to get any frequent value out of their loyalty program now that Starbucks has moved to a revenue-based program. Their previous program gave you a free drink for every 12 purchases, no matter how much money you spent. The new system is great for big spenders, and terrible for people who like to get great drinks for cheap. (Update July 10: Check out why the new program may not be so bad after all.)

Here are my favorite great drinks for cheap:

  1. Starbucks Double Shot on Ice. Tall is under $3. This drink is the absolute best bang for your Starbucks dollar. A tall has two shots of espresso, shaken with ice, and topped off with milk. It’s a strong, frothy delight. Tips: Order light ice, whole milk, and the flavor of your choice instead of the default Classic flavor. It’s even better with half & half as your milk, but many baristas will charge you extra for that. I get it with whole milk and add a spot of half & half for free at the bar.
  2. Iced Coffee with Milk. Tall is around $2. Order one of these with whole milk and the flavor of your choice. Tip: Refills are free on coffee, iced coffee and tea for anyone registered in the rewards program. Just order a refill, and when you pay with your registered card, it won’t charge you anything.
  3. Passion tea lemonade with Raspberry. Tall is around $3. This drink is decaf and is pretty sweet, so I always ask for fewer pumps of the Raspberry syrup. Tall, grande, and venti drinks get 3, 4, and 5 pumps respectively, so I ask for just one pump in a tall.
  4. Americano. Tall is around $2. If you want a hot drink for cheap, but still want espresso, this may be your go-to. It’s just espresso with hot water, but you can add some half & half to the top, giving you the taste of a latte for almost half the price.

Finally got that free drink and want to get the best possible value from it?

Get a venti Frappuccino with a shot of espresso. Depending on what flavors you get, this drink can cost almost $7. Again, I ask for fewer pumps of the syrup on these because they are decadent. You can get any drink, any size for your reward.

If the baristas aren’t very busy, try asking for this recipe for a venti Bananas Foster Frappuccino: Coffee or milk base (your choice), 1 banana, 2 scoops vanilla bean, 1 pump Cinnamon Dolce, 1 pump Vanilla, 1 pump Caramel, topped with whipped cream and caramel drizzle. If you need a protein boost, this tastes great with protein powder added as well. This drink would likely cost more than $7 normally.

Disclaimer: Frappuccinos are not healthy drinks.

Also announced today, mini Frappuccinos have returned.

Comment with any thoughts, tips, or favorites of your own!

One thought on “Top 4 affordable Starbucks drinks & a guide to getting the best value out of your free Starbucks

  1. Pingback: Could new revenue-based Starbucks rewards actually be better? | easyjourneys

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