15 Hacks to Score Free or Cheap Starbucks Drinks
Our readers always come first
The content on DollarSprout includes links to our advertising partners. When you read our content and click on one of our partners’ links, and then decide to complete an offer — whether it’s downloading an app, opening an account, or some other action — we may earn a commission from that advertiser, at no extra cost to you.
Our ultimate goal is to educate and inform, not lure you into signing up for certain offers. Compensation from our partners may impact what products we cover and where they appear on the site, but does not have any impact on the objectivity of our reviews or advice.
Getting Starbucks on the cheap isn’t easy.
Still, that doesn’t make people any less hooked on it. If you’re a Starbucks addict, then you probably wouldn’t mind knowing how to get cheap (or free) Starbucks drinks.
After all, there’s a story on the news every week trying to make viewers feel guilty about how much money they spend on specialty coffees.
Little do these reporters know, there are actually lots of ways to save money at Starbucks.
How to Save Money at Starbucks
By adopting these 15 money-saving Starbucks habits, you can make your coffee habit an affordable luxury that doesn’t make a large dent in your budget.
1. Join the Starbucks Rewards Program
In a world where everyone has a Rewards or Loyalty Program, Starbucks has gone above and beyond to make the Starbucks Rewards program worth your while.
One of the best benefits is free coffee and tea refills during a single visit. You can start with coffee and switch to tea, or grab a mocha at regular price and get a free coffee refill, or three!
You also get free drinks and pastries by collecting stars. You can earn the stars on regular visits to your local Starbucks, online transactions, and even grocery store purchases! So that bag of coffee beans you stock in your kitchen or that cute mug you want to buy at Starbucks.com can actually earn you a free latte.
2. Check Groupon for deals
This doesn’t happen all the time, but keep an eye out if you want to save a lot of money on your Starbucks drinks.
Every once in a blue moon, there will be a Starbucks Groupon and you can get a $10 Starbucks card for just $5. That’s an easy 50% savings on your next trip to Starbucks. The best way to snag this deal is to sign up for Groupon and keep an eye on your email inbox.
3. Earn free Starbucks gift cards
Have you heard of Swagbucks? It’s a paid survey site for earning free gift cards. Get free gift cards to Starbucks (and other stores) just for taking short surveys. It’s a (nearly) mindless activity that you can do in your spare time.
Better yet, they’re doling out a $10 sign-up bonus to your favorite retailer (um, Starbucks) for in-app purchases within 30 days of registering.
4. Use credit card rewards
A lot of credit cards allow you to accumulate rewards on your everyday purchases. You can redeem the points for gift cards just about anywhere. For example, your weekly grocery bills can put a couple of free mochas in your hand each month.
Use a credit card that offers rewards and start earning points towards cheap(er) or even free Starbucks drinks.
5. Download the Starbucks app
The Starbucks Mobile app allows you to order your coffee online, skip the long lines, and ultimately save the most money on your order. Those eight-and-a-half minutes you would have normally spent waiting in line and then eyeballing the barista become yours again.
In addition to the valuable time you save, the mobile app will also notify you of Happy Hours featuring half-off and 2-for-1 drink specials as well as double Stars earning events. Finally, push notifications you actually want to receive!
This is my absolute favorite treat at Starbucks that I discovered purely by accident.
There is a doggy treat called the “Puppucino,” which is a generous portion of whipped cream in a cup. I started ordering it for my dog when we would go to Starbucks together, and I realized that I never got charged for it. Apparently, it’s free. Let’s hope this lasts!
Well, one time I went to Starbucks without my dog (he doesn’t know, so please don’t tell him) and I ordered the Puppucino out of habit. I realized my mistake when I went to pick up my drink order and told the barista. She winked at me and said that most of the people who order the Puppuccino don’t actually have dogs.
There is something about the whipped cream at Starbucks that is magical. It’s like this cold, heavenly sweet delight that I dream about. Is this what Frank Sinatra meant when he said that the best things in life are free?
7. DIY iced lattes
If you don’t mind concocting your own caffeinated creations, you can get cheap Starbucks drinks by saving a dollar or two and making your own latte…right at the condiment bar.
Here’s how it works:
- Order a double or triple shot of espresso on ice in either a Grande or Venti cup.
- Take your oversized espresso cup to the Starbucks condiment counter
- Doctor it up with their free milk, cream, sugar, cinnamon, and chocolate powder.
8. Get Short (a hidden size on the secret menu)
Another way to get cheap Starbucks drinks is to google “Starbucks secret menu”. Most people are familiar with the Starbucks size naming conventions of Tall, Grande, and Venti. But did you know they also have a Short size?
It’s only 8 ounces – as opposed to a 12 ounce Tall – but it’s just one of many Starbucks drinks under $2 that don’t show up on the typical store menu.
By ordering a Short, you’ll save about 15% on your drink but still get the same amount of caffeine. Another bonus: fewer calories but an equally caffeinated buzz.
9. Bring your own cup
You can help the environment and save money by bringing your own cup to Starbucks. They’ll give you $0.10 off your drink if you already have a cup with you.
10. Upgrade your cup size
When you order a coffee or Americano, you’re always asked, “Would you like room for cream?” If you say yes, you’re actually getting less coffee.
To overcome this, order a Tall coffee in a Grande cup (or a Grande coffee in a Venti cup). This automatically creates “room,” and you get a larger cup of coffee for a lower price.
11. Go light on the ice
When you order an iced drink, ask the barista to go light on the ice. This allows you to get more drink and less ice. This simple Starbucks hack won’t necessarily save you dollars, but you’ll get more bang for your buck.
12. Ask for no water
Similar to the “light ice” strategy, ask for no water when you order an iced tea. Starbucks has their iced tea formulas pre-made and in concentrated form. When you place an order for tea, the barista will dilute it with water. If you ask for no water, you get about twice the tea.
13. Skip the Venti drinks
Unless you’re getting plain brewed coffee, the Venti drinks have the same amount of caffeine as a Grande. They just pump up the Venti with more milk.
14. Order coffee in a French press
Not only is coffee in a French press tastier, but you can also save about 50% off your coffee bill when you order cheap Starbucks drinks this way to split with your friends. You end up with 32 ounces of delicious coffee that you can easily share with two other people.
15. Do a Venti split
Buying in bulk is almost always a foolproof way to save money, and Starbucks is no exception.
If you’re with a friend and you’re both savvy savers, order a Venti drink (this works great for Frappuccinos) and ask for two additional Tall cups. When your Venti is ready, you can fill up the Tall cups and end up with two drinks. Depending on what you ordered, this can save you up to $2.00.
Disclaimer: Make sure you do your own splitting and pouring. If a barista has to split the drinks for you, they’ll charge you for the two Tall drinks.
Getting completely free Starbucks drinks is kind of like chasing a mirage in a desert. They don’t really exist.
But by trying any of the money-saving tips on this list, you can bring the price of those sweet treats down to something you don’t have to feel guilty about.