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How to Save Money on Fast Food Using Rewards Apps

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Illustration for article titled How to Save Money on Fast Food Using Rewards Apps

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Digital coupon redemptions have exceeded those of paper coupons, according to Inmar Intelligence, a market-research firm. This is partly due to the growing popularity of rewards or loyalty apps, which often exclusively offer the best deals that a company has to offer.

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It might be premature to declare the death of the coupon, as many of us are only captive online shoppers during COVID, but consumer behavior has long been changing too, with brands investing heavily in their apps. Some chains like Taco Bell and Chipotle are even investing in app-only drive thru lanes to further incentivize their rewards programs.

With that in mind, here’s a survey of some of the more popular fast food apps, focusing on usability, value, and free food. A few caveats, though:

  • Many apps benefits are specifically for new users.
  • While many promotions are national, they can vary by region. Delivery also varies.
  • These deals are current as of today, but are likely to change, so think of this survey as a snapshot of what the apps might offer.

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Starbucks

With Starbucks Rewards you earn a point—or Star—for each dollar spent, which can be redeemed for drinks and food items. As an example, if you spend $150 you can redeem a hand-crafted drink or a hot breakfast item. You can also double your Stars for each dollar spent when pre-loading money into the app. There’s other occasional promotions that award Stars, like double Star days and in-app games.

Order availability: Pick-up or Delivery.

Sign-up info requested: Your name and email.

Free food or drink: Coffee on your birthday.


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McDonald’s

McDonald’s has exclusive (and sometimes their best) deals on their app, along with a virtual McCafé card that allows you to get your sixth McCafé drink for free. You can always find good deals on the app, which typically shave a few bucks off an item (like offering $1 large fries), but sometimes free items are offered, too.

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Order availability: Pick-up or Delivery.

Sign-up info requested: Either your name and email, or Facebook, Apple, or Google account.

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Free food: Free Cheeseburger, McChicken, or Sausage McMuffin for new users.


Burger King

Like McDonald’s, Burger King’s app is focused on deals rather than reward points, but the deals are plentiful, with offers typically taking a few bucks off an item or meal (for example, a $3 Double Whopper). There is no mention of redemption using the nearly mythical Crown Card, which apparently gives you free food for life.

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Order Availability: Pick-up or Delivery (in some regions).

Sign-up info requested: Your name and email.

Free food or drink: A free Whopper for new users.


Wendy’s

You earn 10 points for every dollar you spend on the Wendy’s mobile app, which can be redeemed through an in-app Rewards Store. The rewards are okay (you have to spend $35 for a 350-point Junior Bacon Cheeseburger, for example), but Wendy’s has deals too, which are pretty good. As with McDonald’s or Burger King, having the app can knock a couple bucks off your meal.

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Order Availability: Pick-up or Delivery (in some regions).

Sign-up info requested: Your name and email.

Free food or drink: None.


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Taco Bell

Each dollar you spend earns you 10 reward points on Taco Bell’s mobile app, which can be redeemed for select items once you collect 250 points (examples include a Crunchy Taco or a Bean Burrito). When you’ve earned 2,000 points, each dollar spent earns 11 points and you have more menu items to choose from when you redeem them for 250 points (Chalupa Supreme or Doritos Locos Tacos). No deals are offered (except prize draws), although that’s somewhat offset by the lower price point of their items.

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Order availability: Pick-up only.

Sign-up info requested: Facebook or Apple accounts, or name and email address (birthday optional).

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Free food or drink: A “surprise” item can be redeemed on your birthday.


Subway

With Subway MyWay Rewards, you earn tokens with each purchase and collect rewards every 200 tokens. The reward system is unnecessarily complicated—the app isn’t clear about how many tokens you get with each purchase, so I had to read the small print on the website to confirm that it’s four. The app offers exclusive deals, although only one was available as I was signing up (a 2-for-1 footlong deal, which is good value).

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Order availability: Pick-up only.

Sign-up info requested: Name, email, and phone number.

Free food or drink: None.


Chipotle

For every dollar you spend on Chipotle’s rewards program, you get 10 points, and when you hit 1,250 points you a free entree. A unique twist is that you get more points for trying new menu items, and you also get a gift reward for your birthday. The app awards “bonuses” that work like deals, although there was only one deal for free Chips & Guac with a purchase when my new account was created.

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Order availability: Pick-up or delivery.

Sign-up info requested: Name, email, and phone number (birthday optional).

Free food or drink: A “gift reward” on your birthday.


Domino’s

With Domino’s you get 10 rewards points for every order $10 or more, and when you collect 60 points you earn a free medium 2-topping pizza. The app also has a wide selection of store-specific and nationwide coupons that typically have a few dollars in value. It’s an unfussy app with good digital coupons.

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Order availability: Pick-up or delivery.

Sign-up info requested: Name, email, and phone number.

Free food or drink: None.


Arby’s

There isn’t very much to Arby’s deals. You can browse menu items, find Arby’s restaurants, and apparently save money through deals, but there were none offered when I set up an account. Annoyingly, you have to sign up before you find out there’s no deals, which left me a bit disappointed.

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Sign-up info requested: Facebook account, or name, email, birthday, and choosing your “favorite restaurant” location.

Order availability: None.

Free food: None.

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Chrome OS may finally be getting a dark mode

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Chrome OS may finally be getting a dark mode, but so far it’s only been spotted in its experimental Canary channel, Android Central reported.

Before you go tinkering with Canary just be advised: Canary is Google’s “bleeding edge” Chrome OS path, which receives daily updates of features before they’ve been widely tested. It can only be accessed from Chromebooks switched into a special developer mode (not to be confused with the Chrome OS Developer channel). Google warns that Canary can be “unstable.”

But at the moment, to activate dark mode on your Chromebook, you need to have the Canary channel installed. Once you’ve done that, Android Central says you just open Chrome and type in chrome://flags/#enable-force-dark and chrome://flags/#enable-webui-dark-mode into the URL bar. I should note I tried this on my older Chromebook and wasn’t able to get it to work. But here’s the view Android Police captured:

A look at the experimental Chrome OS dark mode
Android Police

Android Central says the dark mode has some bugs, but notes it seems to apply across the UI, not just as darker backgrounds.

Google has rolled out dark mode versions for its Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Fit, and its mobile app over the last several months. Both iOS and Android both began supporting dark mode at the system level last year.

We reached out to Google to see if there are plans to roll out dark mode in Chrome OS to all users, and will update if we hear back.

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The science of why lockdown barely affected global temperatures

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Countries across the world took unprecedented action in the first few months of 2020 to control the spread of COVID-19. At its peak, one-third of the world’s population was in lockdown. Around the world, car travel fell by 50%, the number of flights plummeted by 75% and industrial activity fell by around 35%.

With so many cars parked, aeroplanes grounded and factories closed, global carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions fell by around 17% compared with the same period in 2019. But greenhouse gases such as CO₂ weren’t the only emissions to fall, and not all pollution heats the planet. Some of the industrial activities that shut down – particularly heavy industry, including steel and cement making – also produced aerosols, which are tiny particles that linger in the atmosphere for weeks and reflect heat from the Sun.

Previous studies have suggested that if a lot of these industrial processes were to suddenly shut down, it would lead to short-term warming because the atmosphere would lose the reflective effect of aerosols. But as the lockdown cleared skies, temperatures didn’t rocket.

[Read: What audience intelligence data tells us about the 2020 US presidential election]

In new research, we show that lockdown had a negligible effect on global temperatures. So what really happened?

Climate and chemistry

Sulphur dioxide (SO₂) gas is mainly produced in industrial processes that burn coal. In the atmosphere, it reacts to form white sulphate aerosols. These particles offset some of the heating caused by greenhouse gases such as CO₂ by reflecting sunlight back into space, in a process known as global dimming. If SO₂ were the only pollutant whose emissions fell, we would expect Earth’s temperature to increase.

Soot, otherwise known as black carbon, is also made when burning dirty fuels, and emitted in large quantities from older cars. Since soot is black, it absorbs sunlight and heats the atmosphere. Cars and aeroplanes also emit lots of nitrogen oxides (NOₓ), gases that make ozone in the lower atmosphere where it acts as a greenhouse gas that warms the planet. Satellite images in March and April showed huge reductions in NOₓ over Europe as national lockdowns came into force.

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The different gases and aerosols we emit either contribute to global heating or global dimming. So determining how lockdown affected global temperatures is a matter of finding out which effect dominated.

We ran a series of computer model simulations of the atmosphere during lockdown, versus what we would have expected if the pandemic had never happened. We fed into the model the best estimates of how much emissions of SO₂, black carbon and NOₓ fell from industry, transport and aircraft for the period between mid-February and mid-June.

Our model simulations showed that reductions of these different pollutants only had a small and temporary influence on the climate, overall, in part due to their opposing effects. This may sound like a dull conclusion, but it has important lessons.

Which sectors were affected most was hugely important. The largest emissions reductions were in transport, where NOₓ and black carbon emissions are particularly high. This largely offset any heating that would otherwise have occurred from the drop in SO₂ caused by the slowdown in heavy industry.

The global average temperature saw little change, but there were regional variations. For example, the Middle East was cooler since less black carbon in the air meant the highly reflective desert sand could send more solar energy back out to space. Other regions, such as eastern China, saw more heating overall, as they had some of the largest reductions in industrial SO₂ emissions. These differences in heating patterns could affect weather systems, such as monsoon cycles.

What we’ve described here are model simulations – they’re not perfect, but they’re our best method for investigating global atmospheric changes. Simulating the effects of all these different pollutants is difficult. In fact, the struggle to simulate how aerosols affect the climate is one reason we cannot predict exactly how hot the climate will get.

The lockdown offered an invaluable test for our theories about how pollutants affect the climate. From this, we’ll be able to improve our models and make better predictions. We’ll also know better how to plan a strategy that reduces emissions from different sectors without inviting a sudden and sharp increase in global heating.

The post-pandemic climate

The long-term effects of the pandemic on our climate will be determined more by what happens to long-lived greenhouse gases, such as CO₂ and methane. These remain in the atmosphere for centuries and decades respectively, compared to a few days to weeks for NOₓ, SO₂ and black carbon. CO₂ emissions dropped during lockdown, but not enough to stop levels in the atmosphere growing. Global heating won’t stop until emissions reach zero.

It may seem daunting that the near shutdown of society didn’t cause a big enough reduction in emissions to stop climate change. But this just shows the limits of doing less of the stuff we normally do, instead of changing how our economies and infrastructure are powered. While lockdown measures have brought temporary reductions in emissions, there are better ways of doing this that cause less harm to society and people.

Only a decisive shift from fossil fuels will stabilize global temperatures. That’s why the decisions governments take to revive economic growth after COVID-19 will be pivotal. The 2008 financial crisis caused a similar slowdown, but emissions soon rebounded as a direct result of economic rescue packages which invested heavily in fossil fuels. We cannot afford to make the same mistake again.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation by Scott Archer-Nicholls, Postdoctoral Research Associate in Atmospheric Science, University of Cambridge and James Weber, PhD Candidate in Atmospheric Chemistry, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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PayPal cuts ties with domain registrar Epik over digital currency

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PayPal has terminated the account of domain registrar and web hosting company Epik for violating its “risk controls,” prompting angry letters and blog posts from Epik alleging conservative bias was to blame, Mashable reported.

Seattle-based Epik is perhaps best known for its support of right-wing social media site Gab. The site was banned by its hosting company, domain registrar, and PayPal in 2018, after it was discovered that the alleged shooter at a Pittsburgh synagogue had written anti-Semitic tirades on Gab. In a 2018 blog post, Epik CEO Robert Monster criticized what he called the “digital censorship” by other sites.

According to Mashable, the issue that got Epik kicked off PayPal has to do with Epik’s digital “alternative currency” Masterbucks. It can be used to buy Epik products or converted into US dollars, and Mashable reports Epik did not take proper legal steps to run the digital currency.

But in an open letter to PayPal employees dated October 19th and posted to Epik’s blog, Epik senior vice president for strategy and communications Robert Davis said PayPal’s actions amounted to “abuse of power and overreach by a de facto monopoly,” and questioned the timing of PayPal’s decision.

“It would appear that in a direct effort to silence conservative voices, PayPal has terminated our payment services— just two weeks before a Presidential election,” Davis writes in the post, echoing a common— but thoroughly debunked— complaint about online anti-conservative bias.

Epik did not immediately reply to a request for comment Sunday.

In a six-page letter to PayPal CEO Dan Schulman dated October 13th, Davis writes that Epik “has zero tolerance toward racism, believes itself to be a force for good in the fight against inequality,” before launching into a litany of bizarre and seemingly unrelated complaints about Hollywood, Hunter Biden, the Democratic Party, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Davis also asserted that Epik “has been targeted and past labeled in horrifically unfair ways that did not reflect either its actions or its core beliefs.”

A PayPal spokesperson said in a statement emailed to The Verge on Sunday that “PayPal has sophisticated risk controls in place to alert our teams to potentially violative activity occurring on our platforms. The company independently reviews each matter and bases its decisions on the management of risk and compliance with our long-standing User Agreement.”

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