My Favorite Dining Apps and How to Maximize Them
I love minimizing my costs on everything. It’s no coincidence that sensible spending is also one of my guiding principles in how I reached financial independence a few years ago. Naturally, I enjoy leveraging various loyalty programs on everyday expenses like dining. Over recent years, restaurant chains large and small have introduced programs for consumers to save. Banks have rolled out everyday rewards in such forms as temporary dining credits and permanent benefits. Various restaurant apps have also caught up – the phone versions, not the food before the main course. Today, I’m sharing a few of my favorite dining apps and how to get the most out of their related loyalty programs.
Buffalo Wild Wings
Since it’s football season, I’ll start with a restaurant I visit more often during this time of year. The Buffalo Wild Wings app has slowly but steadily improved. I can track and redeem your rewards, order, and even play trivia at the bar. Also, I can redeem in app for most any food or drink item on the menu (excluding alcohol). Pair this app with a solid loyalty program, and wing fans can easily pick up substantial rewards.
Members earn 100 points on every $10 spent and an additional 50 on any amount over $5 before reaching the next $10 threshold. In addition to the above earning structure, the program routinely runs bonus promotions, such as double/triple points. Right now, I have a 500 bonus points promotion when I spend $20. On the redemption side, I’ve found I generally obtain about a 1 cent per point (cpp) value before taking into account other discounts or promos.
I like that I can redeem points and take advantage of additional points or food promotions on the same order. I also enjoy using discounted gift cards (two maximum) in the app to save even more.
I prefer the quality of Jersey Mike’s over other chain sub shops. Their app is basic but fairly smooth. It’s not a busy app – I can easily get to my points and program details. I can arrange pickup (my favorite) or delivery orders in-app. I primarily include Jersey Mike’s program and app in today’s list because they improved their birthday benefit and its integration into the app. Historically, Jersey Mike’s emailed a birthday coupon good for one regular sub and a drink each year. This year, instead of the coupon, I got 80 Shore points (approximately equivalent to the previous coupon). I have greater flexibility now to combine these points with my others for bigger rewards.
Speaking of rewards, members earn points at the following rates: 3 per kids meal, 4 per mini sub, 6 per regular sub/wrap/tub, and 12 per giant sub. Redemptions are: 48 for a mini, 72 for a regular, and 144 for a giant sub. Valuations vary based on one’s region and what the type of sub, but I’ve routinely gotten about 1.1 cpp.
Gift cards can be used in-app but aren’t saved for future orders. I’ve used Jersey Mike’s Amex Offers to save big – $5 off $15, as I recall. Members can also add promo codes and offers in app.
This is my favorite all-around app from a fast food joint. The app flows well and is very versatile. I always find promos available in-app, and I stack them with discounted gift card payments. I can load gift cards into the app, toss the extra plastic, and track my running gift card balance. I’ve also loaded my balance with with a credit card, easily using up the monthly Amex Offer on dining many of us currently hold on co-branded cards.
Members earn 10 points per dollar spent and redeem on a variety of items. I usually get about 1 cpp in redemption value. Members can also upload offers from paper coupons and pay via QR code at the restaurant. I enjoy stacking these app savings with my free junior frosty keytag. Often, obtaining a light lunch for under $2 is a snap!
We don’t eat Chili’s often, but I exclusively order via their app when we do. By downloading the app and making a purchase, a member essentially becomes a “Chili’s Regular” for 60 days. This means free chips and salsa or a non-alcoholic beverage on each visit.
People like me who don’t go often can still come out ahead, as well. How? I’ve noticed Chili’s generously offers coupon in-app. Most of the time I check, I have a solid offer, including: free chips and queso, free appetizer, free kids meal, or free dessert. I generally qualify for these freebies with just one entree purchase. On a whole, I’ve found the value of the freebies to be quite high relative to the price I need to pay to obtain it (one entree). And the program is even easier, since it’s not points-based.
Instead of sitting in Chick Fil A’s jam-packed, double-lane drive thru for what I consider to be our country’s most overrated and overpriced fast food, I simply walk into the Zaxby’s on the other side of the highway for a better experience and product. The Zaxby’s app has recently received much-needed improvements, as well. I can load discounted gift cards within the app, stack them with my store’s local offers, and pay with the QR code. Zaxby’s also randomly adds small offers to the app, including free side or main items. There’s nothing flashy here, but there doesn’t need to be.
The asterisk here is primarily due to the fact that Amex gives me money to spend here, thanks to Amex Gold and Platinum credits. If they didn’t, I probably wouldn’t bother. As far as food delivery apps go, I actually prefer DoorDash, anyway. So why am I including Uber Eats on this list?
First off, yes, the “free” money. I’ve found reasonable, satisfying pickup options in my area, and I value these credits at about 90%. Also, I’ve managed to combine all of our Uber credits from various cards into one account. I can easily use that substantial balance on a fancier meal or several small ones throughout the month. But I can simultaneously obtain four or five more benefits out of using the Uber Eats app.
Stack For More
Second, thanks to their partnership, I earn Marriott points on my Uber Eats orders. I earn 2 Marriott points per dollar on all my Uber Eats orders ($25 order minimum). Those who order via Uber Eats while located in any Marriott property earn 6 points per dollar (same minimum). I haven’t cared about Marriott points in years, but that may be changing (more on that in a future article).
Third, I’ve earned rewards by navigating to Uber Eats via portal. Many options exist – do your own experiments to see which work! Some may not, but many do!
Fourth, I earn $5 Uber cash after reaching 500 Uber points. Even better, Amex is essentially subsidizing this reward since I’m obtaining it from their “free” money. Indeed, rewards on free spend is one of my favorite small wins in our hobby.
Fifth, with a bit of effort, I can easily stack restaurant rewards programs with Uber Eats orders. How? I simply ask for a paper receipt when I pickup my order, and I load my order details into the restaurant program’s app.
For a potential sextuple stack, I incorporate any temporary Uber-specific promos to save even more!
Of course, many others exist, but these are my favorite dining apps right now. We’re in another situation here where having seemingly endless options is a good thing! Various restaurants will continue competing for our money, and we can substantially benefit by leveraging our rewards skills. Likewise, I’m only scraping the surface in terms of all the different rewards angles here, as well. I’ll continue having fun identifying others and encourage you to do so! What are your favorite dining apps and angles for maximizing their value?
Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.