Delta, Starbucks link loyalty programs in bid for repeat customers

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

Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

Delta Air Lines and Starbucks are linking their loyalty programs, marking the latest move by the companies to expand the appeal of their rewards programs and boost sales.

Starting Wednesday, members of Delta’s SkyMiles loyalty program can earn one mile for each $1 spent at Starbucks after connecting the accounts. Those who link the two programs will also be able to earn double “stars” on Starbucks Rewards when they make purchases at participating Starbucks stores on days when they have a Delta flight.

Delta already lets its SkyMiles members 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 accrue points beyond flying. Loyalty programs have become more important for airlines, particularly during the pandemic when travel slumped. Starbucks also has said that its loyalty program helps lift sales.

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

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

The number of miles required for a free ticket varies based on demand and other factors. But this week, a roundtrip ticket departing New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Nov. 4 for Los Angeles and returning 10 days later was going for 30,500 SkyMiles on Delta’s website.

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

The U.S. version of Starbucks Rewards had 27.4 million active members as of July 3. Those members account for more than half of the company’s orders, the coffee chain said last month. At its recent investor day, Starbucks said it planned to link its rewards program to other loyalty programs.

Alcohol, taxes and tips are excluded from earning miles.

— CNBC’s Amelia Lucas contributed to this report.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated how many points are needed to redeem a Starbucks coffee drink.