NEW YORK — Starbucks is changing the terms of its rewards program so that people who spend around $5 or less per visit won’t get as many freebies.

The Seattle-based coffee chain says its loyalty program will award stars based on the dollars spent starting in April. Currently, people earn a star for each transaction, regardless of how much they spend, and get a free food or drink item of their choice after earning 12 stars.

People will now have to earn 125 stars for a free item, with each dollar spent being worth two stars – meaning they have to spend $62.50 to get their free item. People who stick with options like plain coffee will lose out.

For instance, someone who regularly pays $2 for a regular drip coffee would currently earn a free item after spending around $24 over 12 visits. Under the new system, they would have to visit more than 31 times to earn the perk.

Someone who gets a large latte for $4.45 currently spends around $53.40 over a dozen visits before getting a free item. So that person would also need to visit a couple of extra times for the freebie under the new system.

Still, Starbucks says the change is the No. 1 request among loyalty program members and predicts it will lead to higher spending by customers eager to earn more stars. The change applies to the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

In a call with analysts, Starbucks Chief Strategy Officer Matthew Ryan said the vast majority of customers will earn rewards at an equal or better rate with the change. Without providing details, he said a “small minority” of customers will earn rewards at a slower pace.

The change is not a way to opaquely reduce the value of the program, Ryan said.