Life

The Best Free Food Apps You Should Be Using Right Now


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The smartphone app has given the loyalty program a new lease on life. Where before you had to keep a bunch of plastic cards on your keychain, now you can just keep an app on your phone. If there’s a place you’re in and out of several times a week, the points pile up faster, and the free food arrives far more quickly than you might expect. And with a rare few exceptions, free food is good food.

One note: The most effective approach here is to pick the places you go to or order from the most often. That’ll consistently pay off, which is really the whole idea. But look into places that do the same job and offer better rewards. If you’re looking for free food, it might just pay to shift your habits.

McDonald’s

The Golden Arches really, really wants your mobile business. Each week, there are exclusive app-only deals that pretty much boil down to getting at the very least a free side. The breakfast deals tend to be better, like a free sandwich with your coffee, so if you’re a regular McMuffin eater, this will be indispensable.

The app also collects McCafe points, so free coffee is also on the table and McDonald’s coffee just might be their strong suit.

Whataburger

The deal is simple: Go five times, use the app each time, get free food. And if you’re in Texas for any length of time, trust us; you’ll be in Whataburger at least five times.

Panera Bread

Panera is fairly generous with the free food when you sign up for the MyPanera loyalty program. You not only rack up points, the chain gives away free food through its app, and only its app, on a fairly regular basis.

Schlotzsky’s Deli

This sandwich chain has a pretty good deal for its app: Download it and you get a free small sandwich, and every seven times you go to the restaurant you get a $7 coupon.

Rita’s Italian Ice

Every eight visits to this cult dessert chain lands you a free Italian ice. If you buy a phone in Philadelphia, this app probably comes preloaded, but if not, free dessert is a siren lure.

Chick-Fil-A

The chicken chain hands out quite a bit of free food on its app, and it also coordinates with the legendary cow calendar, giving you free food every month.

Quiznos

Nobody can knock a free sandwich, and that’s exactly what you get here. That said, the method for gathering points is a little convoluted — so keep that in mind when downloading.

Dominos

Order a lot of pizza parties for your workplace? Get the Dominos app. For every six orders of $10 or more, you get a free two-topping medium.

Krispy Kreme

Surprisingly, the donut chain’s best deals aren’t the free birthday donut — although it’s hard to think of a more beautiful phrase than “free birthday donut.” It’s that the points collect and score you free boxes of donuts, perfect for work breakfasts or Saturdays alone.

Don’t judge.

Burger King

The King tends to offer buy-one-get-one, since hey, those paper crowns you keep stealing aren’t cheap. But it’s hard to knock a good BOGO when you, or you and buddy, are hungry and need to cut down on spending. And you can link it to your PayPal account, a nice little perk for digital wallet fans.

Wendy’s

The social-savvy burger chain also tends to prefer buy-one-get-one deals over outright free stuff, but if you’re hanging out with a friend a lot and need to dine on the cheap, like if you’re on a road trip, those BOGOs can be a lifesaver.

Dunkin’ Donuts

Sign up on Dunky’s DD Perks app and you get a free drink, plus a free drink for your birthday every year. Anything beyond that, though, you’ll need to put at least $2 on the app’s gift card, which may be a dealbreaker for some of the most frugal cheap food lovers.

Chipotle

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Mmmmm… take this over bday cake anyday. #chipotle

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The embattled burrito chain’s Chiptopia program fell a bit flat, but you can still get decent rewards through the app, and yes, you do get free food occasionally (especially when the company feels apologetic).

Steak N Shake

The beloved sitdown burger chain isn’t as generous with rewards as some restaurants, but the app is easy to use, and $5 off after every $50 of purchases is a decent deal if you’re in the mood for steakburgers on a regular basis.

Starbucks

They may have pioneered in-app ordering, but the ‘Bucks is falling behind. Still, their loyalty program, which is tied to their app, is solid, even if 125 stars for free food is unusually high.

Sonic

Sonic is a bit stingy with the free food, giving you a free slush when you download the app, and requiring you to top up your in-app gift card to get the most out of it.

iOS, Android

Jack In The Box

The cult taco stand/burger joint has a pretty useful app… that it’s still testing out, so it only functions in San Diego, Brownsville, TX, Hawaii, and “select cities” in Oregon.

On the other hand, if you do live in one of those locations… free tacos!

Arby’s

It has the meats, but Arby’s doesn’t have much of an app at the moment, as they’re still testing the architecture that lets you order ahead and pay online. That said, it does make an effort; there are offers in the app, and they’re usually pretty good, even if you have to go the old-school route of actually showing the cashier your phone.

White Castle

Free food is sadly a bit sparse in the joint that pioneered eating burgers by the sack, at least on their app, which does offer special deals. But at least it’s a solid app with a complete menu, if you’re a fan of the Castle.

Taco Bell

Oddly, the Bell has a loyalty program, with some decent offers, but it doesn’t really coordinate with the app. Still worth it, if you run for the border of your local mini-mall on a regular basis, as you can at least pre-order your tacos.

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