13 Clever Starbucks Hacks That Can Save You Big Money

A hand reaches for a frozen Starbucks drink from a Starbucks employee.
Customers pick up their drinks at a Starbucks retail location, Wednesday, June 28, 2023, in Seattle. Lindsey Wasson/AP Photo

Your mother, your financial advisor, your best friend and the lady you sit next to on your daily bus commute have all said pretty much the same thing every time they see you with a Starbucks cup in hand.

“You know, you could save so much money if you would just quit buying that expensive coffee.” And if they don’t say it? They imply it with that judgmental look.

Well, maybe you can have your coffee and save money, too. Besides, Starbucks isn’t only about the coffee — or a million other variations of coffee — It’s a place to meet friends, be alone but not feel alone, go for a walk, work, avoid drinking alcohol and celebrate or commiserate.

13 Ways to Save Money at Starbucks

Clearly, cutting Starbucks out of your life isn’t always as easy as just switching to home-brewed coffee. So, here are 13 clever ways to save money at Starbucks so you can keep it in your life.

1. Join Starbucks Rewards

Join Starbucks Rewards to start getting free drinks. You earn one star for every dollar you spend if you pay as you go with cash or a debit or credit card. Pay on a preloaded digital Starbucks Card on the app and get two stars per $1 spent.

(You get extra perks from partners, too, such as Delta SkyMiles when you link your accounts. However, here at Penny Hoarder, we’re not a fan of too many rewards credit cards.)

Along with getting free brewed coffee and tea refills, Starbucks Rewards members get a free handcrafted drink when they earn 200 points.

That means spending $100 to $200 depending on how you pay and if you use double-star days to your advantage. Yes, that’s a good chunk of change to spend to get a reward, so remember that it’s pretty easy to rack up a bill at Starbucks without even realizing it. Still, you do get to enjoy a free drink on your birthday.

2. Buy Discounted Starbucks Gift Cards

Use CardCookie, Raise and other discount gift card sites to stretch your coffee dollars further. Buy a gift card for less than its face value, and you’ll get more for your money at Starbucks.

As of the time of this article, CardCookie is out of Starbucks gift cards, but you can sign up for their email list and get notifications when they’re back in stock. Raise has them in stock now for a maximum of 2.6% off — that’ll save you $1.26 on a $50 gift card.

3. Split One Drink Into Two

Order a Venti latte and divide it into two Grande cups when grabbing a drink with a friend. You’re basically getting two Grande coffees for around $2.07 each instead of $4.15 each. Some stores will ask you to pay extra for the additional cup (25 or 50 cents), but you’ll still come out ahead. No one wants to go to Starbucks? Bring your own insulated cup for a second hot coffee later.

4. Scale Back Your Usual Order

Instead of the frappuccinos or mochas with all the fixings, you can achieve a similar taste with something that costs less. Try a drip coffee with syrup and add free milk and sweetener from the condiment bar.

5. Whipped Cream is Cheaper than Syrup

You can make your drink even cheaper by asking for whipped cream instead of syrup. Any drink is sweeter and more fun with a dollop of whipped cream, which is free.

Pro Tip

Starbucks reports that cold drinks make up 75% of its sales. Enjoy a cold brew? Make cold brew at home to save money, and you’ll love it even more.

6. Visit on National Coffee Day

Starbucks gives away free brewed coffee at all participating locations when you bring in your own reusable cup on National Coffee Day. The company gives away any hot or iced brewed coffee in all sizes up to 20 oz.

7. Supersize Your Cup

When ordering drip coffee, ask for a “tall drip in a Grande cup,” which will give you extra room to add milk while still only paying for the tall size. A little extra space also keeps the coffee from sloshing through the drink hole as you walk or drive. Bigger is more your style? Do the same for a Venti Cup.

8. Light on the Ice, Please

Ask for light ice with your iced coffee. If you don’t, your cup could be so full of ice that you don’t get as much coffee as you’d like. It’s not necessarily a cash saver, but this request will get you more caffeine and less water for your money. Want your drink to be cold without the ice? Bring a chilled tumbler with you as your own reusable cup.

9. Assemble Your Own Drink

Slash the price of your iced latte in half by ordering just one or two shots of espresso, then add as much free milk as you want from the condiment bar. You can even order two shots of espresso over ice. It’s essentially the same drink as any other iced latte, but it will be $1 to $1.50 less. Remember, this won’t work for hot drinks, since the milk at the condiment bar isn’t heated.

Pro Tip

Try these seven ways to get your pumpkin spice latte fix without taking out a loan.

10. Bring A Cup

In a nod to the environment, Starbucks takes 10 cents off the price of each drink you order if you bring in your own cup. Those dimes add up!

11. Don’t Buy Bottled Water

Here’s a tip that saves money at Starbucks and everywhere else, for that matter. Order a cup of water. The baristas will happily give it to you — and you won’t pay $2.65 for that plastic bottle of H2O.

12. Order a Coffee Traveler

If you’re in a group of two to 12, order your coffee in bulk with a coffee traveler of Pike Place Roast, Veranda Blend, Dark Roast, or Decaf Pike Place Roast.  At around $20 each, these travelers can be a great money saver — you’ll get the equivalent of 12 8-fl-oz cups of coffee (96 fl. oz) and cups to go. Since a normal short coffee is around $2.50 plus tax, paying $1.66 per serving is a great cost savings.

13. A Treat That’s Always Free

This cup of whipped cream for your dog is a free canine concoction Starbucks calls a Puppuccino. Be sure to ask for one inside or even in the drive-through. Usually, a human drink needs to be purchased to get the Puppuccino on the house.

Veteran journalist Katherine Snow Smith is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She covers ways to make money, save money and other topics. Her work has appeared in the Tampa Bay Times, Charlotte Business Journal and Greenville (S.C.) News. Former contributor Nick Loper contributed to this report.