Inflation has hit just about everybody — including beloved rewards program. Consider the fact that, not too long ago, Dunkin’ Donuts Rewards members dumped their morning brews into Boston Harbor in response to serious renovations (translation: cutbacks) to its rewards program (per CNBC). The company then tried the ol’ dipsy doo’ by doubling the number of points earned from five to 10 and lowering Dunkin’ Rewards redemption value for free drinks.
With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at loyalty programs from major food and drink franchises to find out what makes these rewards programs stand out.
Starbucks Rewards awards two “Stars” for every $1 spent. Like Dunkin’ points, these can be exchanged for coffee, tea, premium drinks, and food. Comparing the two, Starbucks actually offers the better deal on food and drinks. Purchasing $75 worth of products will earn customers handcrafted
It’s a steep freebie, but $200 spent at Starbucks also earns rewards members fresh-ground coffee free — something coffee fiends would find worth saving up for.
Chipotle Rewards members earn 10 points for every $1 spent in the restaurant, on the app, or online. While its deals are not the best (250 points/$25 for free chips?!), its random gifts and exclusives make the Mexican franchise stand out. Customers earn free chips and guac (with purchase) just for signing up. There are random freebies, chances to try new menu items, and participatory events. This includes earning a free burrito for building a burrito in its metaverse store.
Chick-fil-A awards new One members 10 points for each dollar spent. Rewards are available for as low as 200 points ($20) for a chocolate chunk cookie and go all the way up to 1,800 points for a cobb salad. To determine the relative value of these (points per dollar spent), Reddit user u/Plaguei5 created a chart comparing redeemable menu items. The lower the number, the better the deal.
Where Chick-fil-A really shines is its options for really loyal customers. The restaurant explains that once One members reach a certain number of points (and dollars spent), they ascend a level. Moving up the chain, silver members earn 11 points per dollar, red members 12 points, and signature members 13 points. To reach signature status, Chick-fil-A explains, people have to earn 10,000 or more annual points or $1,000 spent on fried chicken and accessories. These members might need a little diversity in their diet, but they do earn access to “unique experiences,” backstage passes, tours of the Chick-fil-A offices, first access to new menu items, and potential prizes like tickets to the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame.
Like Chipotle, Jimmy John’s offers free food for first-time Freaky Fast Rewards members. Instead of a free side, though, Jimmy John’s will hook you up with a free sub.
The sub station’s rewards program works differently than other franchises. Instead of earning points towards future exchanges, Jimmy John’s offers the freebies based on the member’s number of visits (made at least two hours apart). After two to four visits, the sandwich shop will credit the Freaky Fast app with any of a number of rewards —free chips, a pickle, cookie, or even a regular sandwich. Participants do need to keep track of their rewards, though; they usually expire after 60 days.
Similar to Jimmy John’s, Panera Bread offers up a free pastry upon signup to MyPanera. Rewards pop up in customer accounts as purchases accumulate. Complaints like this Delishably review have been levied that these do not add up very quickly, however.
There are advantages to MyPanera. Rewards are based on customer purchases, and Panera’s birthday gift offer lasts a week compared to only one day with most rewards programs. There’s also the opportunity for one-month free access to Panera’s Sip Club, which grants free endless refills on coffees, teas, and juice drinks.
Where MyPanera allows a week for a free birthday bonus, Buffalo Wild Wings will serve up six free wings anytime during a member’s birthday month. Every $10 earns 100 Blazin’ points. As The Krazy Koupon Lady shows, this generally converts to 1% to 2% cash back with rewarded items, with the loaded ice cream providing the most bang for the buck. The restaurant offers more of an impact with the quarter- and half-off discounts that pop up on its app.
You can earn extra points by participating in B-dubs surveys and trivia nights. The ultimate challenge is the Blazin’ Wings Challenge: Eat 10 Carolina Reaper wings (100 times spicier than jalapeños ) in less than five minutes and win 1,000 Blazin’ Rewards points, a Buffalo Wild Wings headband, a free ice cream dessert to cool down your mouth, and your sweaty mug on the “Blazin’ Challenge Wall of Fame.”
There are tons of deals out there to fill whatever hunger or thirst you’re after. If you’ve got a favorite spot or two, make sure that you’re up on the rewards programs and you know the best perks of each.
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