However you prefer to take it, coffee is universally accepted as the holy grail of beverages for college students. As a caffeine connoisseur myself, it's pretty dejecting to see my paycheck slowly drain each day due to nothing but my coffee habit. While I haven't quite decided to try a caffeine detox (and probably never will), I have found a helpful alternative in coffee rewards programs for all my fellow "coffeeholics".

Many of the nation's most popular coffee chains have come up with rewards programs to keep their loyal (yet broke) customers coming back. Most give out free drinks every time you reach a certain number of "points", and involve other incentives as well.

Added bonus: all of the programs are free of charge to sign up as long as you download the app. So grab your cellular device, peruse the list below and start reaping the benefits of occasionally free cups of coffee.

1. Starbucks Rewards

coffee, cappuccino, espresso, mocha, chocolate, milk
Priyanka Godbole

Perhaps the most well-known of all coffee rewards programs, Starbucks Rewards offers loyal customers the chance to collect "stars" with each beverage or food item they purchase. You get 2 stars for every $1 you spend, and need to earn 125 stars—about 12 visits' worth—to earn a reward (aka a free drink on the house).

Creating an account via the Starbucks Rewards app or registering a Starbucks gift card automatically enrolls you into the basic Green Level of the rewards program. Once you earn at least 300 stars, you will transition to the Gold level and receive your very own Gold colored Starbucks card in the mail.

Additional perks of being a Starbucks Rewards member include a free drink on your birthday, double-star days (gold card members only), free refills of hot or iced coffee/tea and early or extended access to some promotional offers throughout the year.  

Starbucks has nailed the marketing game with this program, as whether you like it or not, the company is brewing up a green storm of profit.  

2. Peetnik Rewards

coffee, espresso
Priyanka Godbole

Although collectively Peet's Coffee & Tea is a smaller national chain than Starbucks, their rewards program also provides coffee lovers everywhere with immense joy. Available in the form of an iPhone app, the program gives you a free drink of your choice after 15 visits, as long as you remember to "check-in" with your barista while placing your drink order.  

The program also lets you pay any way you want, and does not require you to register a Peet's card to get started—unless you want to, of course. Peetnik Rewards also provides a fun twist under the inbox tab on the app: surprise sales and promos that you can apply to any order or purchase.

pAs a loyal Peetnik myself, waking up to see a notification from the Peet's app is comparable to waking up on Christmas morning.  

3. DD Perks

chocolate, coffee, milk, sweet, candy
Priyanka Godbole

In order to become a member of the DD Perks program, you must activate a Dunkin' Donuts card and enroll it into the rewards program through their website or on the mobile app. Like Starbucks, loyalty customers earn rewards based on how many points they collect. Unlike Starbucks, however, $1 is worth 5 points and members receive a free medium beverage every 200 points—about every 10-20 visits.  

Additionally, Dunkin' gives members $2 back for every $40 spent (essentially a 5% discount).  Bonus features to this program include a free drink when you sign up, a free drink on your birthday and other random rewards incentives or pbonus points on certain days. 

4. McCafé 

coffee, cappuccino, espresso, milk, cream, chocolate, sweet, mocha
Priyanka Godbole

Similar to the rest, the McCafé rewards program also gives out free drinks for a certain number of points collected. Unique in its own way, this rewards program doesn't require the download of an app to start collecting rewards.

All you have to do is simply purchase one McCafé beverage and peel off the sticker on the side that doubles as a rewards card. Once you acquire 7 "punches" on the detachable sticker buy presenting it to your barista each time you buy a drink, you receive one a medium sized drink for free! Easy as (mocha silk) pie.

5. Caribou Perks

beer, water, coffee, tea
Priyanka Godbole

In my opinion, Caribou Coffee has created the most aesthetically pleasing rewards app yet. Functionally, Caribou Perks is very similar to Peetnik Rewards. Customers must "check-in" via the app once they place their order at the store, and then either pay through the app or by any other monetary means.  

However, instead of receiving free drinks on the house every few hundred points, Caribou Perks sends their loyalty customers various coupons or promotional codes through app notifications every few times they "check-in". These 'perks' range from a size upgrade to 50% off a beverage, or even a free beverage altogether.  

Other features include a free medium drink upon signing up for the program, a birthday drink offer and members-only sneak peeks into new beverages, merchandise and more.