The Best Coffee Loyalty Programs, Ranked by What You Actually Get

Photo:  Love Solutions (Shutterstock)
Photo: Love Solutions (Shutterstock)

Do you know what I did today? I secured a toasted bagel, hash browns, and a medium iced coffee (with almond milk) for $3.03. Why? Because the coffee shop rewards program I use is the best. There are a lot of lists online of the best coffee rewards programs, but they are often incorrect. Here is the best ranking, with the place that secured me that $3 breakfast in the top spot.

#5: Pret

Pret offers a monthly coffee subscription, which is great for people who live or work near one. For $24.99 per month, you can get any organic coffee blend or tea you want, at any size, hot or iced, and with an added-on syrup flavor up to five times per day. You have to wait 30 minutes between refills, but that’s a great deal. For an extra $10 per month, the subscription includes espresso and barista-made drinks, like chai lattes or hot chocolate, as well as cold brew. Your add-on can also be an espresso shot instead of flavor. The price is a little steep, which is why it’s #5 on the list, but the company does point out that it costs the same as buying two drinks a week for the month.

Read more

#4: Panera

Panera Bread has two options for lovers of coffees and snacks: A MyPanera program that functions like a regular loyalty program, giving you points for purchases and free stuff on your birthday, and an Unlimited Sip Club. The latter is what we’re looking at here. The name basically tells you what this one is: It’s unlimited sips. For either $11.99 a month of $119.99 annually, you get unlimited drinks including charged lemonades, iced and hot teas, and yes, iced and hot coffees. You can get any size you want every two hours, but if you stay within the restaurant, you also get unlimited refills.

#3: Starbucks

Starbucks usually tops the rankings of coffee loyalty programs, but I believe this is just proof of their dominance of the public consciousness. The rewards program is really just average; most of its benefit lies in its ability to help you save on their notoriously pricy drinks. You earn one “star” per dollar you spend (or two stars if you pay with money preloaded into the company’s app) and then you redeem those stars for upgrades and free stuff. The good news is it’s free to join. The bad news is you have to spend $25 just to get a free dairy substitute or flavor syrup. To earn a salad or sandwich, you have to spend $200 (or $100 with preloaded money). There are “Bonus Star challenges” and “Double Star Days” that can help you get there faster, plus you get coffee and tea refills.

#2: Caribou Coffee

Caribou Coffee’s free-to-join Perks program awards you two points per dollar you spend, but those dollars can be spent in the store or in its online shop, meaning any mugs or gift sets you buy online also contribute to your point fund. It costs 25 points to upgrade your beverage size and just 50 to get any size brewed coffee or hot tea. For a crafted beverage or sandwich, you need 150 points. Plus, you can answer a trivia question every day in the app for the chance to get 10 cents off your order.

#1: Dunkin’

Dunkin’ revamped its loyalty program last year and people really hated it because it increased the points you needed to earn a coffee. Those people are wrong. They simply fear change. For one thing, spending $1 gets you 10 points and if you’re a “boosted” member, it gets you 12. To become boosted, you have to visit a Dunkin’ 12 times in a month. Easy. Right now, I am so boosted that my status is secure until March 31, but I’m also only five January visits away from extending that through April. I have 4,514 points which can contribute to a number of treats: It’s 150 points for an espresso shot, hash browns, or 3 Munchkins donut holes. A donut is 250. Coffee is 500, bagels or small breakfast items are 600, and crafted espresso drinks are 700. Those are relatively easy to achieve compared to the other loyalty programs, but even easier when you consider you get bonus points for doing things like ordering ahead on Mondays or ordering whatever that week’s special deal is.

Plus, you get a ton of coupons. Right now, I could get a free medium iced coffee with any purchase, a free bacon avocado tomato sandwich with a purchase, or a $2 medium latte—for no reason. The coupons are just there! Dunkin’ is the superior loyalty program.

More from Lifehacker

Sign up for Lifehacker's Newsletter. For the latest news, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.