A clever and fairly inexpensive way to show your social media followers that you love them (and increase your reach at the same time), is to share a Starbucks Card on social media.

You may have seen churches like North Point and Newspring do this, or pastors like Carey Nieuwhof, and wondered how they pull it off. We’ve done it before in Facebook groups to show appreciation for our community and conference ticket holders, and a few of you have asked how it’s done. So here’s some simple instructions on how to share a Starbucks card with your followers.

First, download the Starbucks app from the Apple Appstore or whatever marketplace you weirdos use on Android phones. For our example I’ll be showing screenshots from the iPhone app.

Open up the app and once you’re signed into your Starbucks account (create a free one if you don’t already have one), click on “Gift” at the top of the app.

This is where you’ll choose a gift card to purchase.

It doesn’t matter too much which design you choose, but probably best to go with one of the generic “thank you” cards.

If you’ll be sharing the card on a certain holiday – pick a design that goes with the holiday.

In the end, all you’ll need is the barcode that is generated.

Once you choose the card you’re going to use, fill out the required info on the next screen.

Enter your own email address as the recipient, and go ahead and skip the message part.

For now, just choose $20 to load onto it. I’ll explain more about the amount and why in a minute.

Setup a credit card for the purchase.

Then hit send.

Check your email. You should get 3…

One is your receipt. Forward it to the nerds in accounting and be sure to tell them it’s a marketing expense and not a food expense.

One email tells you that the gift card has been delivered to your recipient (in this case, you).

And the last email is the e-gift card – this is the email you’ll need to open next.

Once you open the email, click “Redeem my eGift now.”

This will open up the e-gift card with a large barcode.

Take a screenshot of that screen.

It’s best to crop the image to make it look nicer, just don’t edit out the barcode.

However, you DO want to edit out the card number and PIN. This way no one can add it to their Starbucks account and theoretically take everything. (See the PRO TIP below!)

Next, take the image and share it on Facebook, or Twitter, Instagram, etc.

People will be able to pull up the image on their phone and use it at Starbucks to pay for their order just like it was their own card. They can display it right there in the post, or they can save the image and use it that way.

They don’t need to tell the barista it was a gift or explain that it was posted online – they just need to scan it as if it was their own card.

Generous people who want to pay it forward can also scan it at Starbucks and add more funds to the card. You can encourage them to do this, or just let it happen organically.

How much money should I add to the card?

I suggest $20 because that’s enough to cover any single order, but it’s not enough for someone to abuse the system and buy one of those really cool home espresso machines.

If you load it with $100 and let people use it until it’s gone, you can sometimes find it emptied in a manner of minutes. Inevitably someone will get greedy and buy twelve pounds of coffee grounds, or a new $40 tumbler.

PRO TIP: Using the card number and PIN from the email, add the gift card as one of your cards in your personal Starbucks app. Then underneath that card, click on “Manage” and set the “Auto Reload” to $10. Now whenever the card empties, it will automatically add another $10 and no one has to worry about pulling up to Starbucks and the card doesn’t work.

Know your budget and watch the card balance. Once you come close to your budget, shut off Auto Reload and the card will be done once the money runs out (unless some Good Samaritan fills it back up for you!). You can spend $20, $50, $100, $500… it’s up to you.

What do I say when I post it?

Some people will think this is shady, or fake. Some people won’t be familiar with the Starbucks app and they’ll be confused. So it’s probably best to explain a bit how it works.

Probably most important is to mention that the card is “first come, first served.” People need to know the risk that if they’re late to the game, the card may be empty and they’ll be stuck at the register with a card that doesn’t work. This has never been an issue for us, so long as you post the disclaimer.

You can also ask people to pay it forward and add their own funds to the card.

Here’s an example of what you might post with the image:

Got a case of the Mondays? How about a free coffee on us? Scan this barcode at your local Starbucks to pay for your order. First come, first served until it runs out… unless you’re feeling generous, then go ahead and #payitforward by adding more funds to it. Just our way of saying we love you! ☕️

BONUS TIP: Try it with Chick-Fil-A and Other Restaurants

Any restaurant that has an app or e-gift cards that let you simply scan a barcode on your phone to pay should work. We’ve done this with Chick-Fil-A and Dunkin Donuts and it worked just as easily.

Go try it today – show your followers you love them. I pray that people will share your post and someone who doesn’t go to your church will see your random act of kindness and find God’s grace because of it.

I’d love to hear about your experience and how this worked for you. Let me know in the comments.