Starbucks Aims to Create a Valuable New 'Currency' for Customers

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It may not be as sexy as bitcoin, but Starbucks ( SBUX) is trying to create a valuable new currency for its customers and potential customers.

The coffee giant has been giving a big push lately to its "My Starbucks Rewards" program in which customers earn "stars" for purchases that can be redeemed for drinks and food. It recently announced a deal with Spotify in which users of the popular music-streaming service can also earn stars.

"'Stars as Currency' came to life because we wanted to create a loyalty program that has real relevancy to customers," said Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz Wednesday at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference, referring to the initiative to open up the rewards program to other companies. "Over the next 12 to 18 months, I suspect we will be announcing a number of partnerships that will be emblematic of the deal struck with Spotify."

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Starbucks first introduced My Starbucks Rewards back in December 2009, but increased adoption of smartphones and usage of Starbucks' mobile app has made the program easier to use. Customers earn stars when they pay for items at a store with the company's mobile app or a registered Starbucks, Teavana or La Boulange card, or purchase specially marked products, such as bagged coffee, at grocery stores.

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