Starbucks Aims for Status With $450 Steel Gift Card

First a $7 cup of coffee. Now a $450 gift card.

For the Starbucks (SBUX) aficionado on your holiday gift list, consider the coffee chain's latest offering: the Starbucks Metal Card, a gift card made out of steel.

Each card is specially etched steel, costs $50 to make, and comes pre-loaded with $400, which can be used for purchasing vanilla lattes to your heart's content (actually the card will buy you about 82 grande vanilla lattes). And you can't buy one at your corner Starbucks shop — they'll only be sold on members-only luxury goods site Gilt.com, according to the report in USA Today. The Seattle company is issuing 5,000 of the steel cards.

Starbucks members will have first access to buy the card on Gilt on Thursday, while Gilt members will see them starting Friday. USA Today said the card comes with "gold-level" Starbucks membership benefits, which comes with perks like a free birthday drink, and free drink and food rewards.

"We've never sold anything like this," says Jason Goldberger, executive vice president of Gilt.com. The average consumer who's happy buying a non-brand-name cup of coffee at the local deli would no doubt scoff at the $450 price tag. But Gilt.com members, at least, are showing interest. Goldberger says both Gilt's site traffic and new member sign-ups were stronger than usual this morning. "It's directly tied to the [Starbucks card] announcement," he says. Gilt has more than 5 million members.

The ultimate status symbol?

Starbucks doesn't exactly scream "exclusivity" (the company just announced today it planned to add at least 1,500 cafes in the U.S. over the next five years; it currently has 11,100), but it's certainly been trying to target an upscale client base.

The company started selling its new Verismo single-serve coffee machines in October for fans who want their Starbucks fix at home. The basic 580 model costs $200. And last month the chain announced its priciest cup of joe yet — a 16-ounce (grande) cup of Costa Rica Finca Palmilera coffee for $7 or $40 for a half-pound bag. The coffee is made from a rare coffee bean strain known as Geisha, and is available only at 46 locations in the Northwestern U.S., according to this report.

And with just 5,000 Starbucks Metal Cards made, you'll likely see them end up as collectors' items on eBay — along with the 1,800 Starbucks-issued cards already listed — and selling for much more than the retail price.

Tell us: Would you buy a $450 gift card from Starbucks?

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