Delta and Starbucks combine loyalty programs to attract loyal customers

A Starbucks store is seen inside the Tom Bradley terminal at LAX airport in Los Angeles, California.

Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

Delta Airlines and Starbucks link their loyalty programs, marking the companies’ latest move to broaden the appeal of their rewards programs and boost sales.

Starting Wednesday, members of Delta’s SkyMiles loyalty program can earn one mile for every dollar spent at Starbucks after connecting accounts. Those who combine the two programs will also be able to earn double “stars” on Starbucks Rewards when they shop at participating Starbucks stores on days they fly Delta.

Delta is already allowing its SkyMiles members to earn miles with Airbnb, Lyft and Instacart, as well as through its co-branded cards with American Express as the airline and others have expanded the ways customers can earn points beyond the flight. Frequent flyer programs have become more important for airlines, especially during the pandemic when travel plummeted. Starbucks also said its loyalty program helps increase sales.

From Wednesday through the end of the year, SkyMiles and Starbucks Rewards members can earn 500 miles if they link their accounts. They earn an additional 150 stars once they make a qualifying purchase, such as food, drink, or other merchandise.

According to the Starbucks website, with 150 stars, members of the loyalty program can get a coffee drink, such as a cappuccino.

The number of miles required for a free ticket varies depending on demand and other factors. But this week, a round-trip ticket departing from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Nov. 4 to Los Angeles and returning 10 days later cost 30,500 SkyMiles on Delta’s website.

Customers can earn both SkyMiles and Starbucks stars with every purchase, a Starbucks spokeswoman said.

The US version of Starbucks Rewards had 27.4 million active members as of July 3. These members account for more than half of the company’s orders, the coffee chain said last month. On its recent Investor Day, Starbucks announced plans to link its rewards program with other loyalty programs.

Alcohol, taxes and tips are excluded from mileage earning.

—CNBC Amelie Lucas contributed to this report.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the number of points needed to redeem a drink at Starbucks coffee.

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