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Nab Free Food With These Fast-Food Apps

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Illustration for article titled Nab Free Food With These Fast-Food 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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