13 Clever Starbucks Hacks That Can Save You Big Money

two starbucks iced coffee drinks on a table
Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

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 your hand.

“You know. You could save so much money if you 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 on coffee. It’s a place to meet friends, a place to be alone but not feel alone, a destination for a walk, a workplace, a place to not drink alcohol and a place to 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 lucky 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 three stars per $1 if you use the Starbucks Rewards Visa card, but The Penny Hoarder isn’t a fan of too many rewards credit cards.)

Along with getting free brewed coffee and tea refills, Starbucks Rewards members get a free custom drink when they earn 150 points.

That means spending $150 or $75 depending on how you pay. 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. You also get a free drink on your birthday.

Starbucks gift cards from all around the world are laid out on a light table.
Photo courtesy of Starbucks

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 this writing, you can save as much as 9% on a Starbucks gift card on CardCookie. A $50 card, for example, costs $45.50.

3. Split One Drink Into Two

Order a Venti and divide it into two Grande cups. You’re basically getting two Grande coffees for around $2.10 each instead of $3.65 each. Even if you have to pay 50 cents for the extra cup, as some stores might charge, you are coming out ahead. Or bring your own insulated cup for 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

And 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 whip cream, which is free.

Pro Tip

Starbucks reports that sales of cold brew coffee will continue to grow in 2021. Make cold brew at home, save money and love it more. 

6. Happy Hour Discounts

You get two drinks for the price of one during Starbucks happy hours, which are on Thursdays every few weeks from 2 to 7 p.m. Enable push notifications on the Starbucks app to get alerted to the times when you can save big by yourself or with a friend.

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.

starbucks hacks
Samantha Dunscombe/ The Penny Hoarder

8. Light on the Ice, Please

Ask for light ice with your iced coffee because often, the cup is so full of ice 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.

9. Assemble Your Own Drink

Slash the price of your iced latte in half by ordering just shots of espresso, then add as much free milk as you want from the condiment bar. You can even order two shots of that espresso over ice. It’s essentially the same drink as a Venti iced latte, but it will be $1 to $1.50 less.

Pro Tip

Six ways to get your pumpkin spice latte fix  without taking out a loan. And don't forget the free drink on your birthday.

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. Don’t pay $2.65 for that plastic bottle of H2O.

12. Order a Pot of French Press

If you’re in a group of four of (even two) order a pot of the French press coffee for $5.90. It has four cups. Don’t see it on the menu? Ask your barista.

13. A Treat That’s Always Free

This cup of whipped cream for your dog is a free canine concoction Starbucks calls a Puppaccino. Be sure to ask for one inside or even 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.