15 Most Genius Ordering Hacks At Starbucks

Unless you're a serious financial stickler, you likely have an enjoyable yet pricey habit in your routine, whether it's going to the movies often or spending extra on a premium gym membership. However, few habits rack up expenses as discreetly as daily pick-me-ups at Starbucks. Those who rely on two or three cups of joe daily will especially feel the burning (yet sweet and satisfying) hole in their wallet. And given Starbucks' popularity, not to mention its overwhelming assortment of classic and customizable beverages, your coffee run at a busy location can turn into a time suck, too.


Luckily, you can take some of the bucks out of Starbucks by trying a few simple ordering hacks to save you time and money each time you order. Some of these tricks are as simple as taking advantage of sales and promotions, while others can help you order a drink you love and get it served sooner. After you familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of these resource-saving tricks, you'll be a Starbucks specialist.

1. Sign up to be a Starbucks Rewards member

The biggest way to save money when purchasing from Starbucks is provided by the corporation itself. Sign up in person, online through the website, or on the app to become a Starbucks Rewards member. It's free to join; all it takes is putting in some information to start reaping exclusive benefits.


These rewards can be earned by using the payment method of your choice. Whether cash or card, each order will earn you stars. You earn one star per dollar when paying at the register or paying ahead with your saved debit or credit card information on the app. Add a preloaded digital Starbucks card or a registered gift card to the app, and you'll earn two stars for every dollar spent. The app even has Double Star Days, where you earn twice the number of stars for a purchase.

These stars quickly accumulate, allowing you to trade them for fun freebies. 25 stars earn you a customized drink with your choice of milk and syrup, while 100 stars will get you coffee, tea, a bakery item, or a packaged snack. Finally, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is 400 stars, which gives you select Starbucks merchandise for up to $20.


2. Use the refill policy

Students, remote workers, and cafe-date lovers — rise. This next hack is perfect for those who use the coffee shop as a workspace or hangout spot. Participating Starbucks locations allow customers to get free refills of its most basic drinks, such as coffee, tea, and cold brew. On the other hand, specialty drinks like Refreshers, lattes, and espressos are not eligible. As long as you present your member barcode at the time of your initial purchase and again when requesting the appropriate refill, you're qualified for a second helping of your beverage.


The only caveat is your original drink must be consumed in the store to be eligible for a refill. This poses no problem for coffee enthusiasts who spend long periods at the cafe; sip on your beverage at your leisure and refill as needed. But those who want a refill without staying in one spot the whole time should go to a Starbucks located within a Target. Start your Target trip by purchasing your Starbucks drink, and by the time you've finished grabbing your groceries, end your trip with a refill.

3. Visit during Happy Hour

Happy hour isn't just for Moscow mules and rosé wines. It's also for Lavender Lemonades (the pink treat we didn't know we needed) and Mocha Cookie Crumbles. Every few weeks, typically falling on a Thursday, you can save big with Starbucks' BOGO deal. This is a coupon made available to members through the company's app, allowing them to buy one drink and receive another one free from the hours of 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.


The free drink's value is capped at a maximum of $10, which still allows plenty of options. Customers can stay within this limit while enjoying a variety of flavors, from a White Chocolate Mocha to a Matcha Tea Latte. Stay alert for when the app announces a happy hour rolling around; it's a great way to try out two of the 35 most popular Starbucks drinks at the same time. Just remember, this promotion can't be combined with other discounts, and it's limited to one offer per person.

4. Customize your drink

There's more than meets the eye regarding the Starbucks menu. The bulletin hanging behind the baristas in the store may seem fixed with its listed beverages and regularly rotating seasonal drinks. Still, Starbucks' varied assortment of syrups, toppings, fruits, concentrates, and other additives make mixing and matching ingredients easy. This opens the door (or rather the coffee counter) to countless more possibilities beyond what is already on the menu.


Starbucks lovers have created more than 60 do-it-yourself drinks, including anything from a raspberry caramel macchiato to a stardust frappuccino. So, save your Pink Drink and Pumpkin Spice Latte for next time, and don't be scared to experiment a little! Sometimes, all it takes is a lightly drizzled chocolate sauce, a few berries thrown in, or some switched-out milk to completely level up a fan-favorite beverage.

Start by picking an item already available on the official menu. When ordering, clearly how you'd like to tweak its recipe, right down to the number of syrup pumps to the sweetener substitute you want. To get a full view of the many ways in which to customize your order, try ordering through the app and exploring their additives. Experimenting with personalizations might lead you to discover your newest favorite drink.


5. Replace syrups with whipped cream

Customizing Starbucks drinks is so easy that once you get the hang of ordering, they're almost guaranteed to provide your taste buds with a personalized flavor explosion as unique as the drink you create. But that freedom comes with a price of anywhere from 50 to 80 cents. This automatic fee is charged to you for adding pumps of syrup to your refreshment. The cost might not seem high, but a few cents makes all the difference for avid Starbucks-goers.


Syrup is undoubtedly key to driving your beverage's flavor, but there are cheaper alternatives if all you want is extra sugar. Whipped cream will do just the trick. Baristas will usually top off your drink with a generous dollop free of charge if you ask. Use a straw to stir it into the rest of your drink, and taste how it acts as a delicious replacement sweetener.

6. Go light on the ice

To the slow-sippers out there, how tired are you of force-finishing a completely watered-down beverage? By the time you finally get back around to drinking your iced coffee, sometimes it tastes like your drink has just become water with a splash of mocha. These refreshments need to be cold for them to be, well, refreshing, but no one wants to feel like their drink has completely lost all flavor simply because they didn't gulp it down fast enough.


That's because sometimes those making your beverage can be a little heavy-handed when dumping those cubes in, leaving you with as much as half your cold drink filled with ice. To prevent this from thinning out your drink and depriving it of its initial, intended taste, ask for "light ice" when ordering. More of your cup's volume will be filled with the delicious ingredients needed to make the drink itself rather than melted ice.

7. Request less water in teas

Black teas and chai teas and green teas, oh my! Popular Starbucks tea drinks are no doubt essential in some people's day-to-day routine just as much as coffee is for the next person. With Iced Black Tea and Iced Passion Tango Tea as examples, this chain creates teas, keeping in mind that the drink will eventually become watered-down. They're brewed at double-strength using strong concentrates and then diluted to create an equal ratio between water and tea. The added water and ice used to achieve this lightens your beverage's flavor and will eventually become even more watery as the ice melts.


Depending on how potent you like your iced tea, you can ask for it to be made using less water, no water, or extra water. The less water requested, the stronger the brew. You can ask for light ice for an even more dominant taste and an extra caffeine boost.

8. Bring your own cup

Starbucks truly abided by "new year, new me" when they started 2024 by becoming the first national coffee retailer to allow customers to bring a personal cup for drive-thru and mobile orders in addition to in-store purchases. So wipe the dust off your collection of tumblers. This is their time to shine because those who bring a clean, reusable cup will receive a 10-cent discount on their drink as well as 25 stars on the Rewards app. Both incentives will easily add up to a free drink in your future. And more importantly, you're helping the planet by using this eco-friendly hack. All you have to do is let your barista know you'll be using your own cup ahead of time, whether at the time of your in-person purchase or specified through the app. This is an especially great time to bring out your Starbucks merchandise, too, from their mugs to their cold cups.


This all plays into Starbucks' initiative of becoming "resource positive." Their goal is to cut their carbon, water, and waste footprints in half by the year 2030. One of the main ways the corporation aims to achieve this is by encouraging reusable packaging. Customers who regularly bring a personal cup will help the company shift away from single-use plastic items.

9. Split a larger drink with friends

From deciphering the drink ID codes scribbled on cups to familiarizing yourself with countless cold foam flavors, it's no surprise for Starbucks jargon to fly over people's heads. But three words will surely be familiar to everyone, even first-time visitors: tall, grande, and venti. These terms describe the available sizes in which you can order your drink. A tall is the smallest listed option on the menu, coming in at 12 ounces. A grande, equating to a medium, is 16 ounces, while a venti is 20 ounces for hot drinks and 24 ounces for cold drinks.


For some, a grande and venti might not be difficult to finish, but for others, these amounts are more than enough to split with a friend. For example, if you ask your barista for a venti drink with two cups along with it, you and your coffee companion now have 10 to 12 ounces each, depending on whether your order is hot or cold. This is cheaper compared to both of you ordering a tall.

10. Order a secret menu size

Cake Batter Frappuccinos and Caramel Snickerdoodle Macchiatos aren't the only items on the secret menu. On top of the dozens of drinks you can customize for yourself at Starbucks, the coffee shop's posted menu also leaves out two of its "secret" sizes. Not all drinks are eligible for these unofficial sizes, but as long as your order is suitable, smaller and larger cups are available to customers.


The bigger option, known as a trenta, holds a whopping 31 ounces. It's the perfect shareable size; as many as three people can split this generous portion and still have their fill. The catch is that it can be used only for cold drinks, including iced coffees, iced teas, cold brews, and Refreshers. But hot-drink lovers shouldn't despair, the second unlisted size is reserved for you. This is the cafe's eight-ounce option, known as a short. Baristas will use this for kids' drinks like hot chocolate or vanilla steamers. For example, if you order a babyccino for your child, it will come in this size. Though not on the menu, other hot drinks, such as brewed coffee and espressos, can be served short as well.


11. Swap bottled water with a water cup

Starbucks has all the essentials, and we're not just talking about Chai Tea Lattes, Classic Dark Chocolate Cakes, or Crispy Grilled Cheeses on Sourdough. Like most retailers, the corporation cleverly capitalizes on people's need for water. Everyone requires a little H2O, which is why the multibillion-dollar company can afford to sell water bottles for more than $2. Save yourself from the nagging pain of purchasing pricey water bottles when you need your thirst quenched.


Instead of paying for one of Starbucks' ethos-branded bottles, ask your barista nicely for a filled water cup. Something about the icy tap water refreshes you like nothing else. Plus, you can usually buy it for under a dollar or completely free of charge, and at that price, the thirst-quenching tastes even better. There's no need to break the bank just for some plastic packaging when you can even bring your own environment-friendly cup.

12. Celebrate your birthday with a free item

Yet another reason to sign up to be a Rewards member is the wonderful perk of being allowed a complimentary birthday item on, well, your birthday! To claim your present, be sure to specify your date of birth in the app. You need to make at least one star-earning purchase within the year to qualify as well. From there, all that's required of you is to show up on your birthday, present your member barcode or registered Starbucks Card, and choose a gift!


Starbucks celebrates customers' special day by granting them a free hand-crafted beverage, food item, or ready-to-drink canned coffee or frappuccino. The only items not up for grabs are merchandise, packaged coffee, drinks containing alcohol, and multi-serve food and beverage items. Otherwise, everything else is free game! A birthday cake pop or secret Cake Batter Frappuccino sounds perfect for the occasion. 

13. Treat your pooch to a free pup cup

The dog days are never over at Starbucks. The corporation reminds us of that with its free year-round canine-friendly treat. So, even if pet parents have to get creative with ordering hacks to save money at the multinational chain, this isn't a problem when giving your dog a simple yet yummy concoction of their own. And it's all thanks to what the coffeehouse refers to as pup cups.


Also known as Puppuccinos (a punny play on cappuccinos), these are small containers of lightly flavored whipped cream that Starbucks offers pooches. Don't hesitate to request one of these desserts the next time you purchase a beverage. They come at no cost and can be ordered inside the store and in the drive-thru, so your built-in best friend doesn't even need to leave the back seat to get their paws on one. Now you don't have to worry about any sad puppy eyes on you as you sip on your java; you can both enjoy. Bone Appétit!

14. Hunt for online discounts

If being a Rewards member wasn't enough, there are always coupons floating around online that will get you Starbucks at a discounted price, whether that's your favorite beverage or a piece of merchandise. It might take a few tries to find a valid offer, but a simple google search will ping numerous results yielding deals from Groupon, CouponCabin.com, RetailMeNot, and several more. This might be anything from 20% off your order to up to 60% off drinkware like mugs and tumblers. Many of these websites require an email address to start sending promotions straight to your inbox.


Food delivery services like Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Grubhub will sometimes even bring Starbucks right to your front door for free first-time orders and again if you catch the right deals at the right time. They provide opportunities for you to input promo codes and discounts found throughout the app; it just takes some patience and time to dig around for them.

15. Befriend the baristas

This isn't guaranteed to help you skip the line or get a discounted drink, but there's no harm in making small talk with the baristas you often see if you're a regular. Building a positive rapport will help them to better remember your drink preferences and maybe even the time of day you tend to come around, making them more alert to when and exactly how you want your beverage. There are a few ways you can go about becoming more memorable than just any other customer.


For starters, try using the drink ordering code Starbucks baristas love to hear. Stating your customizations in a particular sequence gives the person taking down your order a simpler time, and it makes it easier for them to recall your special requests for the next time, and in conjunction, more willing to accommodate them. You can also ask your barista for any personal recommendations. Inquiring about their favorite drink might introduce you to a delicious refreshment you otherwise might not have known about. If you make a good enough impression by catching them pleasantly off guard with this question, they just might be open to regularly informing you on deals and other money-saving tricks in addition to what's on this list.