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Starbucks vs Tim Hortons Rewards Programs: Which is Better in 2024?

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Written by Baggio Ma

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For millions of Canadians, their day starts with a good cup of coffee. No matter where you are in the country, your morning decision likely comes down to Starbucks vs Tim Hortons. Both franchises are well represented, with nearly 1,500 Starbucks stores and 3,500 Tim Hortons locations across Canada. 

If you frequent Starbucks or Tim Hortons, you already know about their rewards systems. You can collect Starbucks Rewards stars or Tims Rewards on every dollar you spend in-store or online. Both systems offer the ability to redeem these reward points for food, beverages, and special deals. 

So which rewards program is better: Starbucks or Tim Hortons? This article explains everything you need to know about each program and which system provides the best bang for your buck in 2023. 

What is the Starbucks Rewards Program?

The Starbucks Rewards Program is a way for customers to earn stars for purchases made at participating locations. These stars can be collected and redeemed in-store or via the Starbucks mobile app for free snacks, beverages, and even Starbucks merchandise.

In February 2023, the Starbucks Rewards Program in Canada was changed so that stars were worth less than they were before. The rate at which stars are earned remained the same while the number of stars it cost to get free goods at stores rose. These changes affected the Starbucks Rewards Program in both Canada and the United States. 

Starbucks Rewards Features

Aside from being rewarded for visiting Starbucks locations and remaining loyal customers, there are some special features with the program as well. First, there are plenty of fun freebies handed out through the Starbucks mobile app to Rewards Program members. These include a free drink or treat on your birthday and free coffee and tea refills while in-store. 

One of the best features of the Starbucks Rewards Program is the convenience of ordering through the mobile app. Not only can you pay with your digital Starbucks Card but you can order ahead and skip the line at most locations in Canada. The app even tells you an estimated time for pickup, depending on how busy the store is. 

Finally, Starbucks also offers its Rewards members bonus star challenges, double star-earning days, and even exclusive in-app games to earn free products and merchandise. 

What is the Tim Hortons Rewards Program?

Not to be outdone, Tim Hortons also has a rewards program for its faithful customers. For those who prefer to get their coffee at Timmy’s every morning, the Tim Hortons Rewards Program pays out Tims Rewards points on every dollar spent on food and beverages. Like at Starbucks, you can collect Tims Rewards points through the Tim Hortons mobile app. 

Tim Hortons also changed its rewards program in February 2023, where the price of free coffees and snacks was significantly hiked. The change revolved around rewards now being earned on total money spent at Tim Hortons, rather than total times visited as it was previously. Needless to say, neither program change was very popular with loyal Canadian coffee lovers. 

Tim Hortons Rewards Features 

The Tims Rewards program offers very similar features to the Starbucks Rewards Program. Members get a free drink or snack on their birthday as well as the ability to earn bonus points on select days. Tims also provides special deals and offers in the mobile app and even provides special games and offers like the popular Roll Up the Rim to Win contest. 

In addition to this, there is always the convenience of using the Tim Hortons mobile app to pre-order and skip the line. If you’ve ever been to a Tim Hortons during the morning rush, you will understand exactly how valuable this feature is! 

How To Earn Starbucks Rewards

Every time you use your Starbucks Rewards membership at a location, you will earn stars on every dollar you spend. Simply scan your rewards membership through your mobile app and earn stars no matter which payment method you use. Here is a breakdown of earning stars with different payment methods at Starbucks: 

As you can see, you earn double the stars when you preload your digital Starbucks Card and use it to pay in-store or pay ahead via the Starbucks mobile app. You can even register a physical gift card directly into the Starbucks mobile app and earn double the stars that way as well. Note that you will need to load a minimum value of $10 to your digital Starbucks card. 

While there is no monetary value to Starbucks Rewards stars, they are worth between CAD $0.02 and $0.05 based on the conversion to rewards. 

How to Earn Tim Hortons Rewards

Similar to Starbucks, customers can earn Tims Rewards points on every dollar they spend at participating Tim Hortons locations. With the Tims Rewards Program, there is not as much emphasis on a digital gift card as at Starbucks. All you need to do is have your Tim Hortons mobile app ready to scan, and you will receive your points no matter how you pay. 

At Tim Hortons, you earn 10 reward points for every dollar you spend. The lowest level of rewards redemption is 300 reward points for a donut, which means that in most cases, you will have spent $30.00 to get that prize. 

How to Redeem Starbucks Rewards 

At Starbucks, reward redemptions begin at as low as 25 stars which buys you an extra shot of espresso, a pump of syrup, or a dairy substitute. Rewards stars can be redeemed directly in the Starbucks mobile app while making your order. Here is a list of rewards and how many stars you will need to redeem:

One note about Starbucks Rewards stars: they expire six months after you earn them, so make sure you are always redeeming your stars in a timely fashion. 

How to Redeem Tim Hortons Rewards

At Tim Hortons, the Tims Rewards system has a number of different levels you can assign to your rewards. Simply select a level in your Tim Hortons mobile app and you will automatically redeem your points when you purchase a product from that level. 

300 PointsA free classic or specialty donut, hashbrowns, or cookie
400 PointsBrewed coffee or tea, Dream Donuts, bagels, and baked goods
600 PointsHot chocolate, French Vanilla, iced coffee, or wedges 
800 PointsReal Fruit Quenchers, cold brew, classic Iced Capp, Box of 10 Timbits, yogurt, frozen beverages, or espresso drinks
1100 PointsBreakfast sandwiches and soups
1300 PointsFarmer’s Wrap, BELT, Lunch sandwiches, or chilli
1800 PointsLoaded wraps or bowls 

If you wish to save your points, you can also turn off the auto-redemption option in the app. Note that Tims Rewards points expire one year after you earn them. 

How To Maximize Starbucks Rewards 

To maximize Starbucks Rewards, always preload funds into your digital Starbucks card. This allows you to earn double the stars on every dollar you spend. You should also try to take advantage of every Double Star Day and complete bonus star challenges and games.

If you really want to get savvy, preload your digital Starbucks card with a reward credit card. This way, you earn on both the preload and when you spend those funds at a Starbucks location. 

How To Maximize Tim Hortons Rewards

To maximize Tims Rewards, we recommend turning off the auto-redemption levels and saving up for the big ticket items. Rather than just getting four free donuts, you can save those points for a hot lunch.

This is probably a little better for your health, too, which is a different kind of long-term investment. You should also take advantage of any bonus points days or additional games or contests to boost your rewards points balance. 

Tim Hortons Credit Card

For the true Timmy’s fans out there, Tim Hortons even offers the Tims Mastercard, which can supercharge earning rewards points. The card is offered by Tims Financial, which is a brand new financial services division of Tim Hortons.

It is powered by the Alberta-based Neo Financial and has no annual fees. This card allows you to earn up to five rewards points for every dollar you spend. 

Here is a breakdown of how you can earn Tims Rewards points with the Tims Mastercard:

image showing tim hortons credit card rewards

The Tims Credit Card also offers to double the term of an extended warranty on qualified purchases, purchase protection against loss, theft, or damage, and Mastercard Zero Liability. The purchase interest rate is 20.99% to 25.99% (20.99% to 24.99% for Quebec), and the cash advance interest rate is 22.99% to 27.99% (22.99% to 25.99% for Quebec). 

The Tims Credit Card currently has a waitlist to join directly in the mobile app. There is no official launch date, but by signing up within the app, you will be notified before anyone else. 

Pros and Cons of Starbucks Rewards

The obvious benefit of the Starbucks Rewards Program is that you get additional rewards for being a loyal Starbucks customer. Most of us need a coffee every day anyway, so earning rewards is an added bonus. 

By being a member of the Starbucks Rewards Program, you get access to special deals and bonuses that non-members do not receive. This can be a great way for extra savings and even to try new products. 

Unfortunately, since February 2023, the rewards system has been less valuable to members. It costs more to earn rewards now, which is likely due to rising inflation and costs for Starbucks.

Another downside is that Rewards Stars expire after just six months so it does limit how many you can accumulate.

Pros and Cons of Tim Hortons Rewards

As with Starbucks, loyal fans of Tim Hortons will love being rewarded for their business. But also, like Starbucks, since February, it has been more difficult to accumulate rewards. 

The tiered level system at Tim Hortons is interesting but if you do not turn off the auto-redemption, you will just keep redeeming your points for the same low-priced items. 

The Tims Rewards program could see a nice boost when the Tim Hortons Credit Card is launched. This would help maximize your rewards points, although the opportunity cost of earning other credit card rewards over Tims Rewards points might be a better use of your spending.

Starbucks vs Tim Hortons: Which Rewards Program Is Better?

Ultimately this will come down to your preference for coffee. The Starbucks Rewards Program offers the ability to earn stars faster right now by pre-loading your digital card.

Value-wise, the higher-tier rewards at Starbucks are much better. Bags of coffee and merchandise are a better return for stars than a wrap from Tim Hortons. Product-wise, you can definitely argue that Starbucks offers much better drinks as well. If you’re looking to sign up for one coffee rewards program, Starbucks gets my vote! 

FAQs

Is Starbucks or Tim Hortons more popular in Canada? 

In Canada, Tim Hortons is more popular due to its cultural connection and lower prices. There are also more than double the number of Tim Hortons stores in Canada than Starbucks. 

Is Tim Hortons rewards worth it? 

Tim Horton’s rewards are worth it if you are a loyal customer. If you are making frequent stops at Timmy’s anyways, you might as well earn some rewards for free food and drinks. 

What is the #1 coffee in Canada? 

In terms of coffee sales in Canada, nothing can compete with Tim Hortons. With more than 3,500 locations across the country and several at-home options for their coffee, it’s easy to see why Tim Hortons is the #1 coffee choice in Canada. 

How many people use Tims Rewards? 

Tims Rewards has over 11 million users across Canada, making it the top coffee rewards program in the country. This number should grow once the Tims Credit Card is launched. 

Is it smart to pay with rewards?

With rewards, things should always be in moderation. There is no need to ever overspend just to earn additional rewards. But when used in a controlled manner, reward points can be a great way to receive free products from your favourite brands. 

Related: Easy Ways To Get Free Starbucks Gift Cards

Author

Gravatar for Baggio Ma
Baggio Ma

Baggio Ma has written extensively on financial topics over the past several years. His work experience in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors has led to a special interest in personal finance-related topics. Baggio has written for several Canadian finance sites such as PiggyBank and Tech Daily. Baggio holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of British Columbia and a Master of Public Administration Degree from the University of Victoria.

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