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Much to the chagrin of many Starbucks customers, the coffee giant's newly revamped loyalty program launches today. Since announcing the changes to its Starbucks Rewards back in February, the company has faced criticism and complaints over the fact that the new program will make it harder for many customers to earn free beverages.

To recap: Starting today, instead of earning a Starbucks "star" for every purchase at a Starbucks store regardless of purchase amount, earning a free drink for every 12 stars. Now, customers will earn two stars per dollar spent, and it will take 125 stars to get that free drink. That means the minimum spend for a gratis beverage is now $62.50; and while that won't make a big difference for customers who typically spend $6 or more per visit by ordering fancier espresso drinks or adding food, it's a significant change for those who are used to getting a free drink after ordering a dozen tall coffees (or similarly inexpensive drinks).

TL;DR: It will now take more time and money for anyone who spends $5 or less per Starbucks visit to earn rewards.

Meanwhile, coffee competitor Dunkin' Donuts is doing its best to capitalize on that by launching a new promotion involving its own loyalty program: According to Nation's Restaurant News, starting Thursday, the Massachussetts-based company will offer users of its mobile app the opportunity to earn 125 extra points on each of their next three visits by using the code "star". (Dunkin' loyalty members usually earn five points per dollar spent, and get a free drink for every 200 points earned.) While Dunkin's coffee menu doesn't offer nearly the array of Starbucks — though it does have some specialty beverages like salted caramel hot chocolate and the Frappuccino-esque Coolattas — the chain has a loyal following for its simple brewed coffee.

Of course, for people who can't be bothered to futz around with loyalty cards and mobile apps before they've had their morning caffeine fix, the issue of loyalty programs is a moot point; but for frequent coffee shop visitors who want to ensure they're maximizing their monthly beverage budget, rewards can make all the difference.

Video: What does the future hold for Starbucks?

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