How To Make The Most Of Starbucks' Free Drink Refills

Let's face it, coffee is expensive. Recent reports have shown that the prices of roasted coffee and grounds are rising, so it doesn't look like there will be relief for the wallets of coffee fanatics any time soon. It also doesn't help that there's a Starbucks located on virtually every corner, and with their seasonally rotating menu items, it's hard not to be lured in for a delicious hot or iced drink.

It is an unfortunate fact that the way you order your Starbucks may leave you with less coffee. But, if you happen to be a Starbucks account holder, you could be in luck. Indeed, you can actually use your membership to get free drink refills, and there are a number of ways to take full advantage of this benefit. According to Starbucks, at certain locations, if you use your app or Starbucks card to purchase a drink, you'll get free refills if you present the same card or app again. Sounds too good to be true? It kind of is — you're only eligible for the free refill during the same visit, so you can't leave the store. And, the chain's iconic specialty drinks don't qualify for the deal either; only cold brew, or hot or iced coffee or tea will work.

Starbucks baristas are spilling the beans on how to save even more money

Leave it to social media and generous baristas to give us even more ways to save money at Starbucks. The best part of this particular trick is that you can even order a specialty drink like a pumpkin spice latte, and then go back and get a free refill of drip hot coffee and add steamed milk and pumpkin syrup — giving you two drinks for the price of one. However, keep in mind that extra pumps of syrup or sauce cost sixty cents, so if you like flavor in your drink, it'll only run you less than a dollar. If you don't mind sitting around in the store for a while, Starbucks' free refills could ultimately save you a lot of money. 

Another hack to get more Starbucks bang for your buck? Then take advantage of the chain's sizing system to get two drinks for the price of one. If you order a Trenta-sized cup with no ice and a free Venti cup of ice, you can divide the ice and the drink between the two cups and leave with two drinks instead of one. You can also get a bonus hot tea if that's more your speed, and it doesn't even require asking for extra cups — Grande and Venti hot tea orders come with two bags, so ask for one in and one out to have an extra bag to enjoy later on. 

Do other chains have policies to rival Starbucks?

So there are lots of ways to save some cash at Starbucks, but do other popular chains have policies that match up? Sadly, it doesn't seem like a lot of other places offer refills like Starbucks does. McDonald's used to allow customers to get free refills of their coffee, but after replacing their filter machines with automatic coffee dispensers back in 2006, the chain claims they are no longer able to offer refills. Instead, they now have their McCafe loyalty program where you can redeem one free hot drink after purchasing six.

The refill policy for Dunkin', the other coffee chain heavyweight, seems to be a little murkier. The company doesn't specify on its website whether or not they do refills, but according to self-identified employees on one Reddit thread, Dunkin' may (depending on the location) fill up their own branded reusable cups if you bring one in. But these refills aren't free, they just have a discounted "refill price." Other chains like Caribou Coffee and Peet's may have also offered similar reusable cup-related discounts in the past. So in the end, it seems like Starbucks is the place to go if you want to take advantage of free refills.