Starbucks may be peddling its most expensive coffee, and its most expensive gift card, ever – but hey, the coffee chain still wants to give you a deal. Soon you’ll be able to earn coupons for free coffee just by shopping at your local grocery store.

The company announced yesterday that it plans on expanding its “My Starbucks Rewards” loyalty program in the new year, allowing grocery store purchases of Starbucks products to count towards your rewards card balance. Building up points allows card holders to earn digital coupons redeemable for free products at Starbucks locations. Until now, you’ve only been able to earn points by shopping at Starbucks or at StarbucksStore.com.

The program has already undergone some changes this year – the number of points, or “stars”, needed to get a free product was reduced from 15 to 12. The coupon used to be good only for a free drink, but now it’s redeemable for any food or drink item. “And we went completely digital with the program,” said Starbucks’ Chief Digital Officer Adam Brotman. “No need for paper coupons, saving us a lot of money in the process, making it better for customers.”


Now comes the grocery store tie-in. “It’s taken us a while,” said Starbucks executive Jeffery Hansberry, “but we have figured out how to allow our customers to earn Starbucks stars when they buy packaged coffee in their local grocery stores.”

The initiative is part of a big push into grocery stores that Starbucks is planning in 2013. “We’ll be rolling out hundreds of Starbucks ‘signature aisle stores’ in select grocery stores in the U.S. in 2013,” Hansberry announced. Starbucks’ bagged and bottled coffees will be hard to miss in the supermarkets that will more prominently feature them. It’s a win-win for Starbucks – greater availability of Starbucks products in the grocery aisle “increases loyalty to our brand for our customers outside of our stores,” Hansberry explained. And the ability to earn stars for those purchases, that can be used for free Starbucks products “helps to drive trips back to our stores.”

Once you earn your 12 stars, you may want to see if Starbucks’ most expensive coffee is worth it. Last week, in select Pacific Northwest stores, Starbucks introduced the Finca Palmilera coffee, which costs up to $7 a cup. Or, you could just whip out your $450 Starbucks “Metal Card”. The stainless steel card comes preloaded with $400 and gives you automatic Gold Level status in Starbucks’ loyalty program. Only a limited number are available for sale on the luxury goods website Gilt.com. “This is a card for the 1%,” an analyst tells USA Today. “It’s all about status, and to tell you the truth, I don’t know if I’d want to be seen with one of these.”

The rest of us will have to settle for earning stars and getting the occasional free coffee. Or just brewing the cheap stuff at home instead.

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