In 2000, Starbucks started work on what would one day be known as the "Starbucks Card." The concept was simple; a stored value debit card that would allow consumers to quickly pay for their Starbucks purchases without the hassle of fumbling for money or waiting for change.
In February of 2001, at the annual Starbucks employee conference, prototype cards were distributed to begin to build both knowledge and excitement about the concept. Neither the design nor the name of the card had been finalized at this time so the orange cards were produced with the word "Giftcard" printed on the bottom right-hand side. It is estimated that between 3000 and 4000 of these cards were produced for and distributed only at the conference. This prototype card does not actually work as a stored value card and was intended only to communicate the concept of the card to Starbucks employees.
Throughout 2001, select stores in Seattle, Washington; Boise, Idaho; Vancouver, Washington, and parts of Oregon participated in testing the Starbucks Card. The first transaction using a Starbucks card took place on April 20, 2001 in Seattle, Washington. Stores in Boise began accepting the Starbucks Card on June 4, 2001 while Oregon and Vancouver, Washington began accepting them on July 16, 2001.
In October of 2001, the Starbucks Card was almost ready for launch. To ensure that their computer system could handle anticipated transaction volumes, test cards were sent to about 3000 stores. Store Managers were asked to perform balance inquiries during the first two weeks of November 2001. Balance inquiries were the only transactions these cards could be used for; they could not be loaded or redeemed. To the future dismay of Starbucks Card collectors, Starbucks requested that Store Managers destroy these cards once testing was complete.
The Starbucks Card was launched nationwide in the United States of America on November 14, 2001 to coincide with the holiday season. The first card available to the general public was the "Snowflake" card that featured white snowflakes on a silver background. This card came with a red holiday sleeve although when first loaded, if the customer put $100 or more on the card, they were given a special tin case. Cards are sold with a minimum balance of $5.00 and a maximum balance of $500.00
Beginning in 2002, Starbucks shareholders were given a card with their annual report and proxy statement. In 2002, the "Core" card was included although in each subsequent year through 2006, a special card has been created exclusively for shareholders. (see Unique Page)
In the years since the Starbucks card was launched, hundreds of different cards have been issued in the United States, Canada, Germany, Greece, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, Ireland, Mexico, Spain and The United Kingdom. When the Starbucks Card was first introduced in Canada , the system could not differentiate between US and Canadian currency making it possible for people to load their card in Canada with Canadian Dollars and spend the balance in the United States as if they were US Dollars. This problem has been resolved and today many cards from various countries can be used across boarders.
New cards are currently being introduced every 6 to 8 weeks and we introduce them on our home page.