Don't let that Secret Santa giftcard linger in your pocket—you could win Starbucks for life
EC: How to Make the Most of That Starbucks Gift Card You Didn't Really Want
Credit: Photo Courtesy of Starbucks

It's always hard to buy gifts for your coworkers, so can you really blame your boss for taking the easy route this holiday season and buying you a Starbucks gift card? It seems little generic, sure, and you know they probably picked it up that morning on the way to the office. But a gift's a gift, and all things considered, a Starbucks gift card isn't totally the worst, especially if you already have a bit of a Starbucks habit. It's even better if you know how to hack your Starbucks gift card so you can get the most bang for your buck, or, in this case, gift card—even if you don't really go to Starbucks ever.

So if you're ready to do something with those little pieces of plastic that are hogging space in your already crowded wallet, here's an easy three-step plan to make the most of your Starbucks gift cards from your boss or coworkers or employees.

Register Your Gift Card To Get Some Sweet Perks

The first step to hacking your Starbucks gift card is registering your Starbucks gift card. You need a gift card number to register for the Starbucks Rewards program. It's technically a customer loyalty program, meant to encourage you to buy all of the drinks so you can reach gold status, but you see perks immediately after registering, you'll start seeing perks immediately, like free in-store refills.

You'll also get a free drink on your birthday, even if your birthday isn't until July and you've long run out of credit on your gift card by that point. There are even stories of folks who registered 365 different gift cards with 365 different birthdays so that they could order a free drink every day of the year—and though you could go this route if you got enough gift cards, that, for the record, is generally considered by baristas to be a terrible thing to do.

EC: assets%2Fmessage-editor%2F1481558501646-indonesia_mobile_app_2
Credit: Photo Courtesy of Starbucks

Download the Starbucks App So You Don't Have To Carry the Card Around

Once you've registered your gift card, you should download the Starbucks app. (For what it's worth, you can also register your gift card on the Starbucks app because it's 2016, after all.) Registering the gift card in conjunction with the app means you don't have to hang onto the physical plastic card, which you know you're going to lose anyway. It's by far the easiest way to keep track of multiple gift card balances at once, and you can pull up an in-app payment system to pay with your phone when you order at drink at Starbucks instead of swiping a card.

Play the App Games to Win Free Stuff

Christmastime is kind of the best time to get into the Starbucks Rewards program, because that's when Starbucks runs its annual Starbucks for Life sweepstakes. Between December 6, 2016, and January 16, 2017, Starbucks Rewards members can "earn game plays when they make a purchase using either their registered Starbucks Card or the Starbucks Mobile App," according to a press release on the Starbucks website.

EC: assets%2Fmessage-editor%2F1481557414472-starbucks_for_life_2016_-_bernard
Credit: Illustration Courtesy of Starbucks

When you go to order a drink and pay with that registered Starbucks card or through the app, you have the chance to collect pieces shaped like cute animals and winter-y things. If you collect all the pieces in a row to fill up your digital game board, you win things like Starbucks for Life. Seriously. Seven customers will win free Starbucks for the rest of their lives (or, you know, 30 years, according to the rules, but that's a lot of free Starbucks, anyway you look at it).

Even if you don't win the grand prize, you still had an excuse to leave the office for a little bit, as well as a cup of coffee on your boss—and there's really no gift during the workday that's better than that.

By Maxine Builder and Maxine Builder