Liquid Barcodes


Starbucks Rewards Program

Paula Thomas, Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes


Note this article was written in 2018 based on the Starbucks loyalty programme at that time which was revised in 2022, so please check out this article for the latest Starbucks loyalty strategy insights.


This article is the first in a series intended to capture the key insights from the world’s best and most relevant loyalty programmes around the world. We review one programme each month, explaining how it is structured, budgeted and communicated, highlighting strategies we love and that we believe will be useful to you. Starbucks’ loyalty programme, Starbucks Rewards is the obvious place to start.


In its most recent quarterly financial results published, Starbucks achieved revenues of over $6 billion globally with a total store count of 28,039 across 76 markets. Over two-thirds of its stores are located in the US, with 73% of revenues coming from drinks as you’d probably expect. However, the most impressive update on the Starbucks story is the extraordinary success announced for its flagship store in China.

Described as their ‘crowning glory, the revolutionary interactive store in Shanghai is the company’s highest-grossing store despite only launching in December. Daily sales in this store are double what the average US store makes in one week! It’s almost worth flying to Shanghai, just for the retail experience. I wonder then, is this the most popular coffee shop in the world?


Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Shanghai

How Starbucks Rewards Program Works

From a loyalty perspective, the Starbucks Rewards programme was first launched a decade ago in 2008, and in 2017 it grew by over 1.4 million people, to achieve an active membership of over 14.2 million in the United States alone. Like most successful programmes, the mechanics of the Starbucks Rewards programme are fairly simple.

key structural change to the programme – awarding points (which they call ‘stars’) on spending rather than per transaction (as previously) was made about two years ago. This is a notable trend in the loyalty industry following concerns that customers were asking for each of their purchases to be charged separately in order to claim multiple stars – frustrating waiting customers in line behind them.

The current Starbucks Rewards US programme consists of two tiers – green and gold. The mechanics are detailed below – illustrated here with a lovely Starbucks infographic…

Benefits of starbucks rewards loyalty program


  1. Members earn Stars as their loyalty currency.
  2. Members earn 2 Stars for every dollar they spend.
  3. Tier status is governed by annual spending and stars earned – green members become gold when they reach over 300 stars in one year.
  4. Green members do not earn Stars towards rewards. They earn stars towards gold status – which then earn rewards.
  5. Gold members earn free rewards for every 125 stars earned (which requires an accumulated spend of $62.50).
  6. Members also earn any drink or food item of their choice on their birthday.
  7. There are no fees to join the programme.
  8. As part of its ‘Stars Outside Starbucks’ concept, the brand recently launched a Visa card with Chase bank (with a $49 fee) which earns Star Rewards on all cards spent, plus a higher earn rate of 3 stars/$ in Starbucks stores.

Service benefits:

Alongside the traditional earn-and-burn structure of the programme, Starbucks Rewards offers some real service benefits that reduce friction – an essential element to any successful loyalty strategy.

The key favourite with customers is Mobile Order and Pay – an option allowing members to pre-order and pre-pay their drink in key markets such as the US, Canada, UK and Ireland. Mobile pre-orders via the Rewards app now represent an incredible 11% of U.S. company-operated transactions, with mobile payment overall reaching 30%! The combination of customers’ willingness to pre-pay on gift cards, along with the outstanding ‘jump-the-line’ benefits have achieved unprecedented success and ‘mountains of cash’, according to this aptly named article – The Bank of Starbucks.

Starbucks Rewards Program in Brief:


  • Free birthday treat of a drink or food item (green or gold tier).
  • Free drink refills for all members (green or gold tier).
  • The amazing pre-order/queue-skipping service within the app (if you’re lucky enough to live in a country with that benefit and the necessary technology!)
  • When the Starbucks Rewards programme was re-launched in 2016, it offered instant gold cards for a number of weeks – an excellent and clever incentive to drive momentum for the new programme.
  • Some grocery product packaged coffee purchases also earn Starbucks Rewards which drives home consumption as well as driving core café loyalty behaviour.


  • Your free birthday treat of a drink or food item expires the day after your birthday.

Fun Facts:

  • Gold cards are highly aspirational but they are not real gold – as (apparently) some members expected!
  • Starbucks acquired the ‘Frappuccino’ brand in 1994, and by 2012 had sold over $2 billion of drinks just in that category.



In their most recent annual investor meeting, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson called out his innovation strategy and investments as key to how the company’s value doubled in the last five years.

Specifically detailed as one of his top three priorities for future growth, Johnson highlighted ‘increasing digital engagement’ with the 60 million daily customers who are NOT Rewards members. Among the decisions announced, mobile pre-order and pay functionality is being extended to all customers even without them joining the Rewards programme in full. Clearly, digital engagement is no longer just a tool and a platform for recognition and reward – it’s an essential strategy being driven by CEOs for direct connection with their customers on their mobile devices.

Starbucks Rewards Program App

If, like Starbucks, you are focused on truly engaging your customers and you want to build your loyalty program using innovative mechanics like those that make up the Starbucks Rewards program, please contact us.

Live loyalty offers the best ideas from programmes like Starbucks Rewards to create a compelling strategy that ensures you engage and connect with your customers.

About Us:

Liquid Barcodes is a leading global loyalty and digital marketing technology company specialising for the convenience store and food service industries. Our proprietary cloud-based technology platform allow retailers to create and manage their digital marketing campaigns with a proprietary process we call the “customer connection cycle’ to engage, promote and reward customers’ activities in real-time across digital and media channels.

How we do it:

We have developed the most advanced loyalty and digital marketing technology platform specifically for convenience store and foodservice retailers globally.

Retailers use our self-service dashboard to create and manage loyalty driven marketing campaigns that increase purchases with their existing customers, as well as effectively target and acquire new customers through partners or paid media channels.

One core component of live loyalty is gamification. We have gamified branding, loyalty and promotions. We believe this approach is essential in order to get customers’ attention and ultimately truly engage them with repeatable actions thereby winning their loyalty.

Check out some of our exciting/proven results here:

About Me:

Paula Thomas

Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes and Independent Loyalty Consultant

With over twenty-five years marketing experience, I specialise in loyalty marketing consulting, managing consumer loyalty propositions, strategy and operations. In addition to working with Liquid Barcodes, my clients have included Telefonica O2, Three Mobile, Electric Ireland, Allied Irish Bank and The Entertainer, as well as Avios – the global points currency for some of the world’s top airlines. I am also a judge for the Loyalty Magazine Awards. 


Blog post

Circle K Norway Wins NACS Convenience Retail Technology Award 

Circle K Norway wins the prestigious NACS award for technoloy innovations, including car wash subscription program powered by Liquid Barcodes. NACS awarded Circle K Norway’s leaders with the NACS Convenience Retail Technology Award at this week’s NACS Convenience Summit Europe in Dublin. Circle K’s pioneering car wash subscription program, powered by the Liquid Barcodes platform, […]

Blog post

Maxol Wins Customers and Awards With Loyalty App

Irish retailer Maxol celebrates a year of success with their award-winning loyalty app. Maxol’s loyalty app has been rewarded for excellence with the prestigious “2023 Loyalty Launch of the Year ” award at this year’s Irish Loyalty & CX Awards. The Irish Loyalty & CX Awards 2023 recognise excellence, innovation, and achievement in loyalty and […]

Blog post

Record-High Sales Coupled With Record-High Credit Card Swipe Fees Perplex Convenience Industry

NACS releases 2022 data for the convenience industry and retailers report record-high sales, fuel prices, and credit card swipe fees. In a year of record-high gas prices, retailers recorded record-high sales and credit card swipe fees, according to the 2022 NACS State of the Industry data that was recently released. The $906.1 billion dollar U.S. […]

Blog post

Sunshine Gasoline Leads Industry in Technology Adoption

Florida retailer Sunshine Gasoline leads the U.S. convenience industry with app solutions for customer convenience and loyalty.   Sunshine Gasoline Distributors, based in southern Florida and established in 1987, supplies fuel to 536 gas stations and operates nearly 400 of those sites, earning the twentieth place on CSP’s Top 202 Convenience Store Chains in 2022. […]

Blog post

Everyone Wins With App Games

Games reward customers for visiting an app and encourage them to visit the store. Customers love to feel appreciated, they love a good deal and they especially love winning.  Customers are excited when they get a good discount or coupon. And, they truly feel like winners after playing and winning a game. It is easy […]

Blog post

Liquid Barcodes Connects With Convenience Industry Leaders in Texas

The Liquid Barcodes team networks and learns at 2023 NAG Conference in Austin, Texas. Last week, Liquid Barcodes attended and exhibited at the US convenience industry conference held by the National Advisory Group (NAG). Among those present from the Liquid Barcodes team were Saurabh Swarup, General Manager of North America and Jose Santiago, Head of […]

Blog post

5 Cs of Summer: Cold Coffee, Clean Cars & Convenience

Subscription programs are a great way to secure long-term customer loyalty and revenue. Whether you are providing a subscription for beverages or car washes, securing recurring monthly revenue is imperative to stay competitive.   Summer is around the corner and retail marketers are crafting sunny campaigns to increase customer traffic to the store. Help those […]

Blog post

Circle K Makes a Splash With Car Wash Subscription Program in Europe

Circle K has extended its highly successful car wash subscription program to Norway after successful implementations in the United States, Canada, Denmark, Sweden and Estonia. Circle K’s vast global network of car washes has digitally transformed operations with its revolutionary car wash subscription program. First launched in Denmark and the U.S. in 2020, the program […]

Blog post

Newly Redesigned Brezelkönig App Accepts Payments and Rewards Loyalty

Swiss foodservice chain Brezelkönig releases app update which offers customers the convenience of earning rewards and paying for products with the app in stores.  The recently-updated Brezelkönig app allows pretzel-loving customers to enjoy recognition and rewards for their loyalty. Additionally, the Brezelkönig app accepts payments to make the customer experience even more convenient.  Brezelkönig is […]

Blog post

What Is C-StorePay?

Liquid Barcodes’ proprietary C-StorePay makes paying for fuel, in-store merchandise, and subscription programs convenient for customers, reduces credit card fees for retailers, and integrates easily into existing loyalty programs Announced in October 2022, the revolutionary Liquid Barcodes C-StorePay product rose to the top of retailers’ 2022 wish lists at the NACS Show, even achieving a […]

Blog post

Polish Retail Leader Żabka Launches Coffee Subscription Program

Polish retail giant, Żabka introduces a monthly coffee subscription program across its vast store network. With its new coffee subscription program, Żabka Polska will certainly dominate the beverage category in Poland’s unique convenience market. In July 2022, Dr. Adam Manikowski, Managing Director of Żabka Polska, was featured on the popular Global Convenience Store Focus video […]

Blog post

Loyalty Apps Engage Customers

98% of loyalty app users love using a loyalty app and want more features from it. In September 2022, NACS published a report examining customer engagement with convenience loyalty programs. Unsurprisingly, customers feel most engaged, appreciated and valued by the stores to which they belong in a loyalty or membership program – nearly ¾ of […]

Blog post

Save Thousands in Credit Card Fees With ACH

Visa and Mastercard announced an increase in interchange fees earlier in the year and retailers are taking action and sending a message by migrating their customers to new solutions, including mobile app-based ACH payments, and in the process increasing profits by not only reducing credit card fees but also boosting loyalty via innovative app-based incentive […]

Blog post

Maxol Launches First-of-Its-Kind Loyalty App

Maxol, Ireland’s largest family-owned forecourt and convenience retailer, announced it has launched a new customer loyalty app with never-before-seen features in the Irish market. After more than a century serving Irish customers, Maxol’s 240+ stores and service stations are located throughout Ireland and have enjoyed global recognition for their best-in-class operations, store design and offers. […]

Blog post

Delivering Personalized Content With Machine Learning and Image Recognition

Build personalized customer connections, improve efficiency, and make intelligent, data-driven decisions using machine learning and image recognition.   It’s 7:15 in the morning and a customer – Amy – is on her way to work. She is on the hunt for coffee and breakfast and stops at a convenience store. She opens her store app […]

Blog post

Circle K’s Use of Beacon Technology to Activate Car Wash Subscription Program

Beacon Technology and Car Wash Subscription Programs Beacon technology used in tandem with a customer-facing car wash subscription program revolutionizes the customer experience by providing a quick, convenient experience. Innovation is the key to continued growth and ensuring a frictionless customer experience should be top of mind for any retailer. Circle K’s vast global network […]

Liquid Barcodes

Put a rocket under your loyalty program

With our loyalty platform, we help design and operate world-class, tailor-made subscription and reward programs that make sure your customers always come back.

Book a Demo →

We are trusted by global brands.

Convenience retailers all over the world have engaged and rewarded consumers with our tailor-made loyalty programs.

To our case studies →

Liquid Barcodes
Liquid Barcodes
Liquid Barcodes
Liquid Barcodes

Convenience retailers all over the world have engaged and rewarded consumers with our tailor-made loyalty programs.

To our case studies →

Liquid Barcodes
Liquid Barcodes
Liquid Barcodes
Liquid Barcodes