Starbird? Will the Starbucks prepaid card be the next big thing?

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Starbucks has announced that they will introduce a prepaid card by the end of the year.  Will this be the next big thing?  For years, American Express prepaid products, Bluebird and Serve, made it easy to increase credit card spend to earn rewards.  And, for a while, REDbird (the Target Prepaid REDcard) was even better.  Then, Target stopped allowing credit or debit reloads, and then Amex began freezing Serve and Bluebird accounts.  And, we were left with… not much.

Starbird Starbucks prepaid card

Above is a design I made up. This is not a design created by or sanctioned by Starbucks

What we know now about the Starbucks prepaid card

Here’s what little we know about the Starbucks prepaid card:

  • Planned release date: “By the end of the year”
  • Issuer: Chase
  • Payment Network: Visa
  • Rewards: The card will let people earn stars in the new Starbucks Rewards program, which goes live on April 12th (details here).  The rewards earning rate will be higher for StarBucks purchases than for non-StarBucks purchases, but the exact earning rate is not yet known.
  • Very few fees:
    • Rush card replacement: $5
    • Foreign transaction fee: 3%
    • Legal processing fee (if bank is required to hold or pay out funds as a result of a legal action): $75
    • Reload fees: $0
    • Monthly service fee: $0

The big things we don’t yet know about Starbucks prepaid card

Whether or not Starbird turns out to be exciting for the miles & points crowd will hinge on the answers to a few of these questions:

  • Reload options?  It’s great to hear that there will be no reload fees, but we don’t yet know what forms of payment will be allowed.  If they allow credit card reloads, that will be fantastic (and probably short-lived due to credit card fraud).  Debit card loads would be less exciting but still potentially very useful.
  • Liquidation options?  Can we use the card to pay bills that can’t normally be paid by credit card?  Can we withdraw money from an ATM?  Can we withdraw money directly to a bank account?

Chances are that the answers to the above questions won’t be good.  But, you never know.  We can hope!

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