Starbucks’ China gift card policy found to be tougher than other countries’
Published: Jun 09, 2023 09:14 PM Updated: Jun 09, 2023 09:12 PM
Starbucks Photo: VCG

Starbucks Photo: VCG

Starbucks has been caught in a controversy over gift cards, which have been found to have different standards for fees and expiration dates between China and other countries, sparking discussions among Chinese netizens.
The controversy started when some cardholders in China complained that their gift cards incurred a fee for an extension of its validity period after the initial three-year validity. They said the fee is not clearly stated by the company at time of purchase.

According to the official website of Starbucks China, gift cards are a prepaid card product that can be used by cardholders at designated Starbucks stores across the Chinese mainland.

The prepaid card is valid for three years from the date of activation and should be used by the cardholder within the validity period. Upon expiration of the card, it will be automatically extended for 30 days, but the company will deduct an “extension management fee” for the extension, equal to 1 percent of the card balance.

However, some media outlets reported on Friday that Starbucks gift cards in some other countries have no expiration date at all, prompting heated discussions among Chinese netizens on Sina Weibo calling for equal treatment by the company.

In addition, some netizens posted that returning cards after purchase is also “extremely” difficult, and requires the person to be the original purchaser of the card and process the return at the original place of purchase.

After further investigation, the Global Times reporter learned that Starbucks’ rules on gift cards do differentiate between China and some other countries. In several countries including the US, Canada and Japan, there is no expiration date for Starbucks gift cards, and therefore no additional fee is levied. 
For instance, according to the company’s US website, the Starbucks Card has “no expiration date nor does the value on Starbucks Card ever expire.”
“We do not charge any activation, service, dormancy or inactivity fees in connection with your Starbucks Card,” the website stipulates.

In contrast, the Starbucks Card in Hong Kong and Macao regions has particularly tough rules.
“Starbucks Card balances will expire three years after the date of the last transaction. Any remaining balances on expired Starbucks Cards will be forfeited immediately and without further notice,” the Global Times learned from the Starbucks website in Hong Kong.

Starbucks has yet to respond after the Global Times contacted the coffee franchise on Friday.. 

Starbucks has more than 6,000 stores in the Chinese mainland, and in Shanghai alone, there are more than 1,000 Starbucks coffee shops, the most in any city in the world.
Global Times