Starbucks' New Prepaid Card Lets Customers Earn Awards Anywhere The prepaid card will be available later this year and usable at any retail locations that accept Visa.

By Phil Wahba

entrepreneur daily

This story originally appeared on Fortune Magazine

Monica Dipres

In the latest change to how it tries to cultivate customer loyalty, Starbucks will launch a new prepaid card by year-end that will let customers earn points on any purchase -- even if it's not at Starbucks.

The coffee giant announced its Starbucks Rewards Prepaid Card from Chase at its annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday in Seattle, just one of many new initiatives it unveiled in the hopes of building on the momentum that saw sales hit a record $19.2 billion last year.

The prepaid card will be available later this year and usable at any retail locations that accept Visa.

"We were sitting around thinking, wouldn't it be nice if we all had a payment card that would enable you to earn Starbucks stars for every dollar spent using that card?" Starbucks COO Kevin Johnson told investors. "Now if this card were accepted virtually anywhere, this could become your primary card for shopping, for travel, for online spending."

Starbucks last month announced a controversial overhaul of its loyalty program coming next month. Patrons are currently rewarded for the number of visits they make, but as of April 12, rewards, or "stars" in Starbucks parlance, will be earned as a function of how much is spent. The move upset customers who typically opt for basic items rather than Starbucks' fancier, and pricier, goods.

The company's upcoming prepaid card echoes the Plenti program, launched last year and led by stores such as Macy's and Rite Aid with American Express which is a multi-brand loyalty program.

Starbucks said yesterday that its new loyalty program has not cost it any customers: 500,000 people have signed up for the rewards program since the changes were announced, bringing total U.S. active members to more than 12 million, and one executive claimed the pace of signups has even picked up. More details on how customers will win points with the upcoming prepaid card will be announced later this year.

Other initiatives Starbucks announced at the meeting were the expansion of Teavana into China and a line of latte products for the single-serving K-cup pods, including its seasonal pumpkin spice drink.

Phil Wahba joined Reuters in 2008 and has covered the exchanges, equity capital markets (IPOs), corporate bankruptcies and now covers retailers such as department stores and booksellers

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