All The Hacks And Things To Remember The Next Time You’re At Starbucks

starbucks hacks

It’s ok to admit it — we’re all a bit obsessed with Starbucks. And it’s not just a coffee shop. Starbucks is a lifestyle, thanks to the company’s spot-on marketing team. Think about it. Hundreds of people wait patiently for the infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte, get excited at the thought of the next “red cup” design, and scramble to get their fruity pink-and-purple drinks on Instagram before the inevitable summertime condensation hits the plastic. (If you claim you haven’t done at least one of these things, we’re calling your bluff.)

There’s a reason Howard Shultz, the founder of Starbucks, and his loyal followers describe walking into his stores as an “experience.” And who could blame him? Starbucks is eco-friendly. The employees really know their stuff. And there are more than 87,000 different drink combinations available for purchase. Plus, employees receive free tuition to Arizona State University.

Frequenting Starbucks comes with its hardships, though. For starters, you pay a pretty penny just to carry around that iconic siren. Seriously, $3-$7 per day adds up! Thankfully, there are more than a few ways to avoid Starbucks’ added costs.

Looking to get more bang for your (Star)buck? Here are a few need-to-know hacks that’ll save you time and money.

Look for the barista wearing black.

They’re your in-house coffee master.

The baristas wearing black aprons have been certified as coffee masters through an education program provided by Starbucks. This means they really know what they’re doing. If you see a barista wearing blue, however, it’s Happy Hour — which means half-priced drinks for everyone between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

The secret menu isn’t actually a thing.

So, if you’re dead set on ordering something special, make sure you have the recipe memorized.

Despite the ridiculous hype, secret menu items aren’t official Starbucks items. They’re just recipes random groups of people concocted to make baristas’ lives a living nightmare. That’s not to say you can’t order a Fruity Pebbles Frappuccino, but you should be prepared with the recipe. Otherwise, your barista will have no idea what you’re talking about. Rule of thumb: If you’re going to order something crazy, do it on mobile! This way you’ll get exactly what you want without holding up a line of angry customers.

Quick note: A Fruity Pebbles Frappuccino (grande sized) is just a Strawberry and Creme Frappuccino with two-and-a-half pumps vanilla syrup, one pump raspberry syrup, and a pump of classic syrup.

Craving something sweet?

Purchase oatmeal and a pack of Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups.

If you’re craving something extra sweet on your way to work or class, buy a cup of oatmeal and a pack of Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups. Break the cups into chunks (while they’re still in the packaging, so you don’t get chocolate all over your fingers) and then add them to your oatmeal. Voilà! You’ve got yourself a chocolate-filled breakfast oatmeal worth getting out of bed for.

If you’re more of a fruit person, save the fruit packet.

It makes for a delicious bagel topping.

The fruit packet from an oatmeal cup makes for a great bagel topping. Purchase a sprouted bagel with lite cream cheese and top it off with those tiny fruit pieces for a hearty and totally Instagram-worthy breakfast on-the-go. Not into cream cheese? Ditch the fruit and opt for Starbucks’ organic avocado spread instead. It goes great on a warm multigrain bagel.

Create a truly decadent breakfast on the cheap at the condiment station.

All you need is a warm croissant slathered with cream cheese.

The condiment station is stacked with a variety of syrups and powders. Use them! Order a warm croissant with cream cheese and top it off with vanilla powder, cinnamon, and honey for a tasty mid-day snack. Looking to save money on coffee, too? Order an espresso on ice (in a Venti cup) and then mosey on over to the condiment table to add your own milk and syrup.

Ordering vegan isn’t as difficult as it sounds.

Here are a few tips.

Basic drinks are vegan, so you can buy any hot or iced coffee with soy, almond, or coconut milk (and any flavored sweetener syrup) and still be in the clear. Hot or iced tea is vegan, too. If you want to order something that’s a bit more complicated, just remember to replace dairy milk with soy, almond, or coconut milk. Hold any non-vegan ingredients including java chips, whipped cream, protein powder, caramel drizzle, and cinnamon dolce topping. And avoid anything that contains honey including anything that has pumpkin spice, white mocha, or caramel brûlée in the title.

Skip buying bottled water and save.

Ask for ice water, instead.

Starbucks’ water is triple filtered, which means it’s just as clean (if not cleaner than) bottled water sans plastic waste. If you decide to buy bottled water anyway, just know this; you’re wasting money and harming the environment. In fact, if the quality is the same, does it really matter if you opt for tap water?

Standalone Starbucks locations offer the best deals on merch.

If you’re looking for a cute gift, shopping in a standalone Starbucks is your best option.

Apparently, shopping at Starbucks locations inside of grocery stores and markets will set you back a few bucks. Instead, save money by doing all of your gift getting at a standalone store. “Starbucks retailer stores are almost always more expensive,” Sydney, a Starbucks’ barista in Nashville told Business Insider. “This means your airport Starbucks and a Starbucks in a grocery store, etc.”

Bring your own tumbler.

You’ll save 10 cents (and potentially the planet).

Whenever you bring your own tumbler or mug, Starbucks will reward you with a $0.10 cup discount. For example, filling a 16 oz. tumbler should cost $2 or more. But by bringing your own cup, you’ll be able to keep your drink price just under that. What’s more? Your drink will likely stay warmer (or chilled) for longer because you can grab an insulated container.

Join the Starbucks reward program.

It’s totally free.

There are two ways to join the Starbucks reward program. Purchase a Starbucks gift card, either an e-gift card or a physical gift card. Or sign up with a star code. Don’t have a code? Go to to upload your receipt and collect your stars. Once you have your card, download the Starbucks mobile app and follow the on-screen prompts. Then, whenever you make a food or beverage purchase, you’ll earn stars that can be redeemed for rewards.

Going to Starbucks with a group of friends?

Order a French Press pot of coffee.

If you’re planning on hosting a get-together at Starbucks, opt for a French Press instead of individual cups. Choose from a 32 oz. to 45 oz. for just $4-$5 depending on your location. You’ll save money and be able to enjoy a fresh pot of coffee with your friends.

Order a Pour-Over.

This way, you’ll know your coffee is fresh.

Coffee that’s been sitting in the pot since the a.m. doesn’t sound very appetizing. Instead of sipping on whatever leftovers Starbucks has to offer, order Pour Over and get a freshly brewed cup. It may take a bit longer, but the taste is definitely worth the wait!

Get free refills on brewed coffee (hot, iced, or cold brew) and tea (hot or iced) when using the Starbucks app.

Sorry for the catch.

Starbucks offers customers who use the Starbucks app free refills on brewed coffee and tea. This means, if you order a Venti Java Chip Frap you’re entitled to a free refill (of brewed coffee or tea), as long as you haven’t left the store yet. However, if you walk out that door to take a phone call or whatever, the next time you enter is considered a new visit.

The PSL is available year-round.

You just have to hack the recipe a bit.

If you’re a Pumpkin Spice Latte fan, you’ll appreciate this hack. You can recreate the PSL flavor by ordering a triple shot over ice with a side of chai and a side of white chocolate mocha. You’ll save $1 and it’ll taste just as sweet. Don’t want it iced? Check out the “secret menu” (which, as we covered earlier doesn’t officially exist) for more versions of this seasonal treat.

There’s a secret cup size only Starbucks employees know about.

It’s called a Short.

Sure, we all know about the Tall, Grande, and Venti sizes at Starbucks. But did you know about the Short? It’s an 8 oz. serving for less. So, if you’re not feeling up to the whole 12 oz. opt for a Short! Starbucks also offers drinks in a “mini” size during special promotions, which will also save you some cash.

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