6 Ways to Make the Most of Restaurant Loyalty Programs

Restaurant loyalty programs are a great way to save money when you eat out, but what if you forget your cards or miss out on coupon opportunities? Here are six ways to be sure you get the most out of your loyalty programs every time you eat out.

Don’t miss out on coupons. Be sure your card is registered and you’re on the restaurant’s mailing list. Most loyalty programs include a freebie of some kind just for registering. Qdoba, for example, will send you a coupon for free chips and salsa when you register your card. Which Wich gives out a coupon for a free sandwich when you register online, although they don’t provide a points card. And Chili’s, which also focuses on regular coupons rather than a loyalty card, will give you a free brownie sundae when you register on their website. Also be sure your email is up to date, and add your birthday to your personal information for a plethora of freebies during your birth month.

Remember to use your card every time. You don’t get your points if you don’t use your card, so be sure to let the server or cashier know you have a card if they don’t ask for it.

Know the limitations of your coupons. Some restaurants offer a great selection of coupons, but don’t allow you to credit purchases to your loyalty card if you use the coupon. This is spelled out in the fine print on the coupon. Get around this restriction by splitting your order in two if possible-have Dad use the buy one get one free coupon without the card, while Mom uses the card to get credit for points for the rest of the family.

Don’t eat without a coupon. If your loyalty program just sends out coupons, without a loyalty card to accumulate points, save trips to that restaurant for those times when you have a good coupon. Chili’s, Macaroni Grill, and IHOP are both examples of loyalty programs that provide frequent coupons but no point accumulation.

Keep punch cards where you can find them easily. Many restaurants take your phone number in place of scanning your loyalty card, but if the restaurant offers a simple punch card, with no need for registration, be sure you know where your card is when you visit that restaurant. Keep cards in a special place in your wallet, or invest in a special card case so your cards are always in the same place and easily accessible. Some restaurants that offer punchcards include Tokyo Joe’s, Panda Express, Which Wich, and Le Peep. Keep coupons easily accessible as well, in a coupon holder or envelope. A special tab for restaurants in your regular coupon organizer can help you get a hold of coupons quickly and easily.

Keep track of your points. Check your point accumulation online before you leave for the restaurant, and make a note in a notebook, on your phone, or on a Post-It stuck directly to the card. This way you know how many more points you need to accumulate before you can get a free meal, or if you have a free item coming. If you know you have a free entrée on your card, you just might decide to go ahead and get that extra appetizer.

Whether it’s a buy one get one free deal, a free dessert or appetizer, or a free entrée for your birthday, if you follow these guidelines, you’ll always know you’re getting the best possible use out of your restaurant loyalty cards.

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