It looks like Starbucks has tried to sneak in a change to its Birthday Rewards program under the radar, reducing the amount of time you have to redeem a Birthday Reward from 7 days down to a paltry four1. While this doesn’t appear to have been announced formally by Starbucks anywhere, a Reddit thread and a post on StarbucksMelody have highlighted the changes.

In fact, StarbucksMelody even goes so far as to include a quote from Laurel Harper of the Starbucks Media Relations department:

Yes, our birthday reward redemption time is 4 days now. Customers with a registered Starbucks card will receive their complimentary birthday reward email two days prior to their birthday and it expires the day after their birthday. […] The reason for the change is that these rewards are meant to be a true celebration of our customers’ birthdays. We absolutely want our customers to be aware of this and are updating our FAQs and Terms of Use.

Unfortunately, Starbucks hasn’t done enough to alleviate any confusion around this. While some of the company’s FAQs were quietly updated, a Google Search for “starbucks rewards” or “starbucks birthday rewards” brings up this out-of-date FAQ from the company’s website:

Note that this one still says thirty days, which is really out of date, and there’s no date on the FAQ itself to give you an idea of its currency. Starbucks needs to pull this page from its website, or in the very least add a heading that notes that it’s been superceded by newer information.

However, Starbucks hasn’t done what it should to inform its users of the policy change either, considering that it’s something new. A Birthday Rewards email simply includes the standard boilerplate text indicating that you’ve got a reward, and you can use it one time. Based on the fact that the rewards have shrunk from 30 days to 7 days, and then down to 4 days, I’d expect Starbucks to point this out. It doesn’t even have to be done in an explicit way — phrases such as “Come in on your birthday” or “Hurry up, this offer expires soon!” would at least give people a clue that they should perhaps look at it more closely2. Considering that every earned reward is still valid for a full 30 days, it’s reasonable for the company to ensure that they’re as clear as possible when it comes to offering birthday rewards. Anything else is just going to leave a bad taste in customer’s mouths.

To be clear, I’m not criticizing Starbucks for the policy change itself, merely the fact that when a company makes a significant change to a longstanding policy, they need to more effectively communicate it to their loyal customer base. It’s not the policy change that’s disappointing, but rather the fact that it’s something customers are being surprised by.

  1. There are those of us who remember when Birthday Rewards were as good for as long as any other reward — expiring after thirty days.

  2. Yes, the fine print at the bottom of the offer does say “Birthday reward expires one day after your birthday.”, but who reads the fine print? In the very least Starbucks should footnote it somewhere — they seem to have no problem footnoting the “Some exclusions apply” text on the 15% off Starbucks Store offer in the exact same email.