How to Save at Starbucks

June 27, 2011

Everyone always asks how I can afford to go to Starbucks so often. Truth be told, I probably shouldn’t go at all. But once or twice a week I will go in, request a somewhat annoying drink order, and pay just $2.91. Here’s how:

The next time you go to Starbucks, grab a Starbucks card and put any amount you can afford on it; seriously, $2 is fine. Then visit Starbucks’ website and register your card. I know, I know, the idea of registering for another online account is annoying! But if you don’t lose your card, you’ll never have to do this again.

On top of receiving free coffee refills and a free drink on your birthday, your registered card will offer you one of the most incredible benefits that any Starbucks lover (and personal finance blogger) could ask for: free add-ons. That’s right. Dairy, soy, syrup, etc. are all free, as long as you pay with your registered card. And you don’t have to have the total amount on your card; as long as there is a penny on it, you will get this benefit.

So, how can this save you money? One of the most common drink orders at Starbucks is a skinny vanilla latte, so I’ll use that as an example. Instead of ordering a skinny vanilla latte, order a skinny vanilla Americano misto. An Americano misto is just espresso shots + water filled up halfway + steamed milk on top. At the till, this order is punched in as an Americano + dairy + syrup. But when you pay with your registered card, guess what’s free? :)

In the end, you will only pay for the Americano. A grande Americano = $2.91, which is why that number shows up so often on my weekly spending reports. So just remember: Americano misto, Americano misto, Americano misto… and with a little less milk in your cup, you’ll save a few calories, too!

PS – I should add that an Americano will have more espresso shots than your latte would have. Short = 1 shot, Tall = 2, Grande = 3, Venti = 4.

Note: As of October 16, 2012, Starbucks is no longer offering free soy milk or syrup to drink orders, making this entire post basically obsolete. I’m sorry. :(

  • fabulouslyfrugirl June 27, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    What a great idea! I’ve got to keep chanting that Americano misto… Americano misto….

    • LC June 28, 2011 at 12:31 pm

      Do it, do it, do it… :)

  • the broke sensualist June 27, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Good tip! I’ll try to write ‘Americano misto’ on my hand before going out on my coffee breaks. :)

    • LC June 28, 2011 at 12:32 pm

      haha, please do! I’d love a pic of that ;)

  • centsofacountrygirl June 27, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Clever girl! I will pass this tip along to my Starbucks-loving office mate.

    • LC June 28, 2011 at 12:32 pm

      Ooo, you’ll be his/her new best friend ;)

  • Grad Student June 28, 2011 at 8:41 am

    I tried it today, and in Ontario a Grande came to $2.84! Yippee!

    • LC June 28, 2011 at 12:32 pm

      Jealous! :P

  • Pascale June 30, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    I tried this in Toronto for the vanilla rooibos latte on several occasions in different Starbucks and I was told that Starbucks does not allow this anymore.

    • LC June 30, 2011 at 7:15 pm

      Ahh yes, tea mistos. Once upon a time, because Starbucks refuses to use the name ‘English Fog,’ a vanilla tea misto was punched in as tea + dairy + syrup at the till. Eventually, Starbucks came up with ‘tea lattes’ and gave them a set price. So, you’re right, those don’t work.

      But for espresso drinks, like a latte, it’s cheaper to order an Americano misto. One day, if they decide to accept the term, ‘Africano,’ (or come up with a name of their own) this deal will disappear… until then, it works just fine. :)

  • Sharon September 18, 2012 at 8:53 am

    As of October 16th, they are no longer going to offer free syrup or dairy! I’m devastated!

  • Stephanie January 9, 2013 at 9:32 am

    That’s pretty clever! ididn’t know that a registered card got you free adds on. I used to work at a Starbucks a few years ago but in my remote corner of Quebec, we only got Tims!

  • Sharon J. Gilman March 6, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    oh my gosh, so apparently I’m way behind on seeing this post! hahaha…but as an AVID Starbucksaholic, this is an awesome tip! I’ve heard that registering your starbucks card gives you rewards, but I never knew any of them. Definitely know what I’m doing tomorrow morning! :D

  • Monica July 31, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Today I went to Starbucks in downtown Toronto to get an unsweetened vanilla rooibos tea latte with soy milk….
    The cashier was the one telling me that if I order a rooibos tea misto is cheaper so she only charged me $2.98!
    So came home to look about the term at the Starbucks website and ended up getting into this blog!
    So it’s true you can order a tea misto instead of a latte lol

  • Erma September 20, 2013 at 10:51 am

    It’s so sad that Starbucks discontinued the free add ons. I miss getting free flavor shots. BUT you can still get free refills on brewed and ice coffee and tea in-store!

  • Elle October 14, 2013 at 10:49 am

    I just found your blog through Retro Reporter and I love it! My favourite way to save money at Starbucks is to order a double Espresso on ice. I top it up with milk and there’s my Iced Latte for the price of an Espresso. Not exactly a winter-friendly suggestion, but I use it a lot during thr summer!

  • Erica December 9, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    First I would like to say that I found your blog 2 months ago and I LOVE it! You’re such an inspiration. I just started my debt free journey a few months ago.

    My tip on saving money at starbucks is to order iced coffees during the summer (it includes free classic syrup but I ask for vanilla instead).

    During the winder I order Americano’s with a splash of cold soy milk (which is free because it is not steamed and the soy milk is already vanilla flavored) plus then my drink is the perfect temperature and ready to drink!