Starbucks Sweetens Rewards As Coronavirus Takes Toll On Membership Program

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It’s official — you no longer have to use a Starbucks card in order to earn your stars and get free lattes, expressos and other drinks and treats.

The coffee giant on Tuesday (Sept. 15) laid out in detail the varied payment methods customers can now use to pay for their java and earn stars while they are at it.

In particular, customers (provided they are Starbucks Rewards members) can now use Starbucks app to pay for their coffee and snacks and earn stars without having to use a Starbucks card, the company said in an explainer posted to its website.

Customers can now pay using “cash, credit/debit cards, or select mobile wallets,” and still earn stars, the company noted.

In addition, customers can also “save credit/debit cards or a PayPal account directly in the Starbucks app to scan and pay and earn Stars seamlessly in one step,” the company stated.

The move comes as Starbucks scrambles to make the Starbucks Rewards program more enticing after a significant drop in the number of active, card-carrying members in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Starbucks reported a 5 percent drop in active Starbucks Rewards members when it reported its third quarter earnings on July 28, with the ranks dropping to 16.3 million.

The coffee giant blamed the drop on “reduced customer frequency” as it was forced to close stores after the initial coronavirus lockdown in March and April.

At the same time, Starbucks reported a “significant acceleration” in the number of customers downloading its app.

In its notice posted Tuesday, Starbucks said acceptable payment methods include Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal, as well as Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover credit cards and debit cards.

Still, if the goal is to accumulate as may stars as quickly as possible, paying with a Starbucks card may be the best alternative.

Customers who pay with a pre-loaded Starbucks card can earn two stars for every $1 they spend, as opposed to one star for every dollar charged using other payment methods, the company noted when it first announced the initiative in July.

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