Use holiday gift cards to get free food

Use holiday gift cards to get free food

Around the holidays, many restaurants¬† (and other stores–I was able to save $5 on a haircut by buying a discounted gift card!) will offer discounted gift cards, e.g buy a $20 gift card, get $5 free. If you buy them for restaurants you already go to, it’s an easy way to score free food! I love discounted gift cards, because they can stack with other promotions. For instance, suppose bought a $25 gift card for $20, and a restaurant has a BOGO promotion so you get $50 of food for $25. Using the discounted gift card, you paid only $20 for $50 of food–a 60% discount, compared to 50% if you just used the BOGO.

Why do restaurants offer these gift card deals?

1. It’s an interest free loan. You’re giving them $25/$50/$100 of money now, and redeeming that value of food later.

2. People lose or forget about gift cards. I have a $50 gift card to a restaurant that I misplaced during my many moves this year, and that’s . A family member who worked for a well-known retailer said ~7% of gift cards were never redeemed. That’s free money for the business.

3. Psychologically, people tend to view gift cards as “free money”, even if they paid for the gift card

4. Gift cards are a free form of marketing, because people feel compelled to go to the restaurant by virtue of simply having the gift card. No marketing, advertising, or other customer acquisition required!

Here’s how we can turn this assumptions around and win the gift card game:

1. Use gift cards sooner than later

2. Don’t lose your gift cards (duh)

3. Don’t spend more than you would otherwise, and only go to the restaurant when you would’ve gone out to eat anyway (essentially, don’t let having a gift card influence any decisions you make). It may seem like a $28 meal is “only $3” since you have a $25 gift card, but don’t forget that you already paid $25!

Here’s a list of specific gift card discounts I’ve found:

Bruster’s ice cream (must buy in store): $5 free with a $25 gift card

Cici’s Pizza (must by in store): $5 free with a $25 gift card (offer ends today!)

Chipotle (must buy in store!): Buy a $30 gift card (offer ends today!), use the receipt to get a BOGO valid through 12/31 (see https://www.chipotle.com/giftcardpromo)

Subway: Buy a $50 gift card, get a $10 gift card free (online through 12/25 only)

Discount gift cards available from Amazon:

$50 Cold Stone ice cream for $40 with promo code ICE10

$50 Legal Seafood for $40 with promo code SEAFOOD

$50 Boston Market for $40 with promo code BOSTON

Also, don’t forget that if you have an Amazon credit card, you get 3-5% cash back (3% if you’re not a Prime Member, 5% if you are. If you’re not a Prime member, you can get a free 30-day trial, or college students can get Prime for six months for free).

There’s a good chance your favorite restaurant is running a similar promotion too. Google “[restaurant name] gift card promotion” and it should surface; I found a favorite restaurant of mine offering a $70 gift card for $50 and a $40 gift card for $30. Merry Christmas!

Full disclosure: the Amazon links above are affiliate links, meaning I’ll get a small commission if you end up buying those items. Thanks for supporting FFG!

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