One of the great things about credit card rewards is that they allow you to indulge in things you normally would never buy yourself. For me, that guilty indulgence is Starbucks. I love their burnt-tasting overpriced cup of Joe.
However despite my love for it, I would never actually pay for it. A four-dollar drink x 365 days= $1,460 per year! Think about it… that equals around $2,500 pre-tax income for many people. Luckily thanks to my Discover, I get to enjoy Starbucks all the time without actually paying for it. Here’s how I do it…
- Some Discover It cards give 5% cash back on category spending (which sometimes includes eating out) that rotates each quarter and 1% on everything else. Those rewards add up fast if you max out your 5% spending.
- Then when you redeem your cash back, you can multiply the value even further by choosing partner gift cards in lieu of cash. For Starbucks, each $45 in accumulated Cashback Bonus will buy you a $50 gift card (that’s an 11.11% boost in value).
- But I don’t stop there. Rather than spending those gift cards directly, I transfer the balances to an existing Starbucks gift card that I’ve been using for years which has earned Gold status (any gift card will automatically be upgraded to gold after buying 30 drinks). With the Gold Card, you get free syrups and milk options.
- Even though I’m technically not paying, I still get creative with my drink options to minimize the price and maximize the value. For example, instead of getting a latte, I will get 3 shots of espresso ($2.30) in a grande cup, then fill the rest with steamed soy (normally 60 cents, free with Gold) plus a couple pumps of vanilla syrup (normally 50 cents, free with Gold). I’m proud to proclaim that my high-octane latte only costs $2.30, which is less than half the price of ordering a similar Grande Café Latte for $4.65. Between the 11.11% boost from Discover, plus the 50% or so discount from ordering creative versions of normally expensive drinks, Starbucks can be affordable!
Going back to the Gold Card, every 15 beverages you buy with it scores you a free drink certificate. Because I’m a value-oriented type of guy, I also use these certificates to their maximum potential by ordering the most extravagant beverages imaginable (not my ghetto lattes). What is the most expensive Starbucks drink ever? Well after searching all morning long, the most expensive real-life examples I could find were in the $13 to $14 range. That’s amateur work. I knew I could do better and after extensive research, I did…
My grand total: $20.65 for a single drink
I started my order with the venti white chocolate mocha, specifically because it was the most expensive drink at Starbucks. Once I started reading through my laundry list of modifiers (yes, I brought an actual list).
I got one pump of every single syrup available, extra caramel sauce, soy (which didn’t show up on my receipt), and 22 extra shots of espresso (that’s 24 total). During my order the cashier kept asking me “You are actually buying this, right?” to confirm I was for real. I assured her of my seriousness, though technically I wasn’t going to “pay” for it out of pocket. Can you imagine how many calories were involved?
It wasn’t until after she rung me up that I whipped out the certificate from my back pocket. “Management will definitely be auditing this order for sure” she replied. I was actually surprised how friendly and helpful she was throughout the entire process. I guess because it’s Hollywood, she must be used to some unusual stuff. No telling how fussy celebs (or more likely their assistants) must be when it comes to ordering their drinks.
I patiently stepped aside and watched them make my drink, which surprisingly, didn’t take nearly as long as I would have thought. Due to all the modifiers there was a tad bit of overflow, which actually had to be poured into a second cup.
According to the Starbucks website each shot of espresso is 75 mg of caffeine, which means my drink had a grand total of 1,800 mg. To put that in perspective, a single can of Red Bull contains 80 mg, so my beverage was the equivalent of 22.5 cans of Red Bulls! Seems kind of reckless for Starbucks to sell a drink like that without having the customer sign some sort waiver (before getting the shakes, of course). Would there be some legal exposure should I have gone into full cardiac arrest? You think?
While I would love to claim the title for most expensive reward redemption at Starbucks, my record no longer stands. A woman nearly tripled the value of my relatively puny, yet lucrative latte. The king is dead, long live the queen.
How did it taste?
I lifted the lid and it smelled like a burnt pine cone. As to how it tasted? Exactly how it smelled. Don’t worry, I tipped very generously to them for helping out. Now if only I could sleep.
Written or last updated February 15, 2016