November 26, 2022

The 8 Best Restaurant and Fast-Food Loyalty Programs

Andrey Armyagov / Shutterstock.com

Fast food and casual dining: It’s convenient, quick and often very tasty, which is why millions of Americans consume it every day. But that quick convenience can come at a cost. A Smokehouse Combo from Chili’s costs $16.79, while a Baconator combo at Wendy’s costs $8.09. And if you’re buying for a family of four, the cost can really add up and wreak havoc on your budget — especially if you eat out once a week or more.

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The good news is that many fast-food chains and casual-dining restaurants are offering rewards programs, which means if you’re a loyal customer, you’ll be able to save. It takes just a few minutes to sign up, and you’ll get rewarded for spending money that’s already part of your budget. But before you start tapping and swiping your way to rewards, know that some rewards programs are much better than others. To help, here’s a rundown of some of the best ones in the business. See if your favorite fast-food joint or casual-dining restaurant made the list.

Last updated: July 15, 2021

DW labs Incorporated / Shutterstock.com

DW labs Incorporated / Shutterstock.com

Chick-fil-A One Rewards

Where to sign up: Create an account online or download the app on the App Store or Google Play

With Chick-fil-A One rewards you can earn 10 points for each $1 you spend, with point values per dollar increasing as you reach each new membership tier. Membership tiers include the following:

  • Chick-fil-A One Member: Up to 999 annual points

  • Chick-fil-A One Silver Member: 1,000-3,999 annual points

  • Chick-fil-A One Red Member: 4,000-9,999 annual points

  • Chick-fil-A One Signature Member: 10,000 and up annual points

Chick-fil-A’s different membership tiers unlock different privileges, such as the ability to give rewards to friends and family, surprise rewards, bonus point challenges and voting opportunities. According to the Chick-fil-A Rewards section in its app, food and beverage point-redemption values range from 200-1,800 points. So, you’ll earn your first reward worth 200 points — chocolate chunk cookie, hash browns or Icedream — once you spend $20.

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helen89 / iStock.com

helen89 / iStock.com

Starbucks Rewards

Where to sign up: Create an account online or visit the App Store or Google Play to download.

If your daily Starbucks habit is straining your budget, joining the company’s rewards program may help give it some relief. Starbucks Rewards credits you one star per $1 to redeem for free food, drinks and more, and you can start redeeming with just 25 stars. Here are some examples:

  • 25 stars: Drink customization, such as an extra espresso shot

  • 50 stars: Brewed hot coffee, bakery item or hot tea

  • 150 stars: Handcrafted drink, hot breakfast or parfait

  • 200 stars: Salad, sandwich or protein box

  • 400 stars: Select merchandise or at-home coffee supplies

To help you earn rewards faster, Starbucks Rewards offers bonus star challenges, double-star days and fun games. Plus, if you preload your digital Starbucks card or register a Starbucks gift card in the app, you can earn 2 stars per $1 or up to 3 stars per $1 with your Starbucks Visa Rewards Card. Earning 3 stars per $1 means you’re only about $9 away from your first reward.

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ivanastar / iStock.com

ivanastar / iStock.com

MyMcDonald’s Rewards

Where to sign up: Download the app on the McDonald’s website.

McDonald’s rolled out its new customer loyalty program nationwide on July 8, which allows you to earn 100 points for every $1 you spend with the MyMcDonald’s Rewards program. However, if you make your first order via MyMcDonald’s Rewards by the end of Dec. 31, you’ll get whopping 1,500 points to redeem free Tier 1 rewards. And the more points you rack up, the better reward options you’ll earn:

  • Tier 1, 1,500 points/$15 spend: Vanilla cone, McChicken, cheeseburger, hash browns

  • Tier 2, 3,000 points/$30 spend: Medium fries, 6-piece chicken McNugget, large iced coffee, sausage burrito

  • Tier 3, 4,500 points/$45 spend: Filet-O-Fish, large frappe, large fries, sausage McMuffin with egg

  • Tier 4, 6,000 points/$60 spend: Big Mac, Quarter Pounder with cheese, Happy Meal, bacon, egg and cheese biscuit

To really save on a trip to the fast-food giant, use your rewards and limit everyone else to ordering conservatively off McDonald’s $1, $2, and $3 Dollar Menu.

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dcwcreations / Shutterstock.com

dcwcreations / Shutterstock.com

Wendy’s Rewards

Where to sign up: Create an account online or visit the App Store or Google Play to download.

With Wendy’s Rewards, you’ll earn 10 points for every $1 you spend, and you may have the opportunity to earn bonus points. Wendy’s likes to keep things interesting for its customers, so rewards may change, but here’s what’s currently on offer:

  • 150 points: Small Frosty, 4-piece chicken nuggets

  • 200 points: Sausage biscuit, small fry, small seasoned breakfast potatoes

  • 300 points: Jr. bacon cheeseburger

  • 400 points: Honey butter chicken biscuit

  • 450 points: Breakfast Baconator, Dave’s Single

  • 500 points: Premium chicken sandwich

  • 700 points: Baconator, full-size salad

You can start earning rewards at Wendy’s with just a $15 spend, which can be easily achieved each time you hit the drive-thru with your family.

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jetcityimage / Getty Images

jetcityimage / Getty Images

Popeyes Rewards

Where to sign up: Create an account online or visit the App Store or Google Play to download.

As a welcome gift, you can redeem a free regular side, small drink or apple pie when you sign up for the Popeyes Rewards program. You’ll earn 10 points for every $1 you spend online or in the app and you can start redeeming rewards at 150 points, which is a lower threshold than some of the other places on this list.

Here are some additional benefits of joining the Popeyes program:

  • $1 regular sides every Tuesday and Thursday, 5 p.m.-9 p.m.

  • 50 bonus points on select combo meals

  • 100 bonus points on family meals

  • Personalized challenges that help you earn rewards even quicker

If you’re a loyal customer of Popeyes, it seems like all of the savings opportunities it offers through its rewards program could really pay off.

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Wolterk / Getty Images

Wolterk / Getty Images

El Pollo Loco: Loco Rewards

Where to sign up: Create an account online or visit the App Store or Google Play to download.

This Southern California-based chain that’s currently expanding in Texas, offers fresh, never frozen, flame-grilled chicken as its main course, and for those following the keto diet, the chain offers some keto-certified options. When you sign up for Loco Rewards from El Pollo Loco, you automatically receive a reward for free chips and guacamole. From there, you’ll earn one point for every $1 you spend, and every time you reach 50 points, you get $5 off. You’ll also receive a birthday reward and special offers throughout the year.

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Jim Lambert / Shutterstock.com

Jim Lambert / Shutterstock.com

My Chili’s Rewards

Where to sign up: Create an account online or visit the App Store or Google Play to download.

When you join My Chili’s Rewards, you can save money on an appetizer because you’ll score free chips and salsa (or a non-alcoholic beverage) every time you visit and spend at least $5. All you have to do is make sure and visit once every 60 days to continue receiving your reward. Also, you’ll receive personalized rewards, like free kid’s meals, appetizers, desserts and delivery. And on your birthday, you’ll receive a free dessert.

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Mike Mozart / Flickr.com

Mike Mozart / Flickr.com

Red Robin Royalty

Where to sign up: Create an account online.

Red Robin’s rewards program is a bit different because it doesn’t feature an app. Instead, you join and redeem rewards online via your Red Robin Royalty account. But even if there’s not a convenient app, the rewards are pretty great. Here’s a rundown of what the restaurant offers when you join its program:

  • Each time you accumulate purchases for nine burgers, entrees, wraps, sandwiches, or full-size salads in any combination, you’ll receive the 10th item free.

  • When you purchase a burger, sandwich, full-sized salad or entree five times within the first five weeks of joining, you’ll earn $20 toward your sixth visit.

  • Free birthday burger during the month of your birthday

  • Military and teacher rewards

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: The 8 Best Restaurant and Fast-Food Loyalty Programs