East Valley big spenders can earn their daily caffeine fix for free by signing up for a Starbucks Visa card.
The combo Starbucks gift card-credit card was announced Monday. Dubbed "Duetto," which means dual in Italian, it will turn 1 percent of the money charged on the Visa card into cash for coffee, said Kristine Jimenez- Ortiz, Starbucks spokeswoman.
The Visa card portion of Duetto works similarly to the airline-sponsored credit cards where customers earn frequent flier mileage when they charge purchases on the card. The Starbucks equivalent — Duetto dollars.
The coffee card portion of the Duetto works like existing Starbucks gift cards, Jimenez-Ortiz said. Similar to phone cards, customers can prepay for up to $500 worth of Starbucks credit and ensure that even if they are end-of-the-month cash poor they can still get a java jolt.
Starbucks will tote up the Duetto dollars earned monthly from the Visa purchases, dropping them into the coffee account. The company also will seed the coffee pot with $10 and contribute $5 to the Starbucks Foundation, which supports nonprofit causes, the first time the new Visa is used.
"Depending on your spending habits, you may never have to pay for a latte again," Jimenez-Ortiz said.
People who buy a lot of latte but not much else can get a 3 percent bonus by using the Visa to refill the coffee account when it runs low, she said.
Eric Brouhard, district manager for Scottsdale Starbucks stores, said the Starbucks gift card is already popular with his regulars, who like to sail through the shop in the morning, sip their start-me-up, swipe their card and go.
"It’s remarkable how they have taken to the card because it simplifies their lives," Brouhard said. "Around the country, 15 Starbucks cards are redeemed every second."
Brouhard expects his regulars to take to the Visa, because it gives them free coffee as well as speedy service. But he doesn’t think it will persuade aficionados of other gourmet coffee shops to switch to Starbucks.
"It’s just a way for our regular customers to reap rewards," he said.
Brouhard said coffee fans can fill out Visa applications at East Valley Starbucks, online at www.starbucksdue tto.com, or by phoning bank sponsor Bank One at (888) 894-0032.
With about 60 Starbucks around the Valley, Brouhard said the market is not saturated and he expects several more stores to pop up in the near future. "We’ve had enormous success here," he said. "And I don’t expect growth to be slowing within the next couple of years."