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  • Marielle Bokor

The Top 7 Fast Food Apps to Help You Save on What You Crave




For most of us, at least some of the time, fast food is a fact of life. Whether it’s because you’ve got very little time but still need to eat, are on a road trip, don’t feel like cooking or simply because you just enjoy it (which is totally okay, by the way!) everyone from journalists who forgot to eat all day to politicians and celebrities get in those drive through lines.


The pandemic changed a lot of things, not all for the better, but one thing that’s a perk is the rise of the fast-food app. Apps not only mean you can take time and think about your order – they offer an opportunity to take advantage of some seriously great rewards systems. Many offer Apple or Android Pay or at the very least an option to store a card, and some even offer detailed tracking so you know just when to show up to grab your grub.


One of the very best features of the fast food apps we’re featuring though? They save you tons of money! On top of the rewards you get for signing up for their loyalty programs and ordering for the first time, like a free sandwich from Jimmy John’s or free fries on Fridays from Mcdonald's, many of the major fast food apps have exclusive deals only available to those ordering via mobile/online. These deals mean instead of spending nearly 20+ dollars on a quick trip to Taco Bell, for example, you can end up spending 10 and not feeling like you’re eating a kid’s meal.


Whip out your phone and follow along to get freebies and find the best way to enjoy your fast food forays!


Taco Bell



Taco Bell’s a big guilty pleasure of ours, but setting aside food preferences, the rewards are nigh unmatched.


Taco Bell’s Taco Bell Rewards program awards you free food early and often. You’ll get food for signing up, for special occasions, during sports events (we recently got a free taco when someone stole a base during the World Series) and when there’s new items. There are web exclusive deals that are perennial and exclusive first-looks at new items. Sometimes, rewards pop into your account without you doing anything at all. And when your free rewards can be something like a Nachos Bell Grande, it’s pretty rewarding overall to use this app.


Pros: Frequent Rewards, even without making purchases. Exclusive deals that offer deep discounts. New items offered to members first.


Cons: If you ever use the app at multiple locations, it can be pretty easy to order from the wrong one again. Also, the order tracker that was added in a recent update does not really seem to work on iOS.


McDonald's


If you’re lovin’ it, try lovin’ it for less with the app. McDonald’s has somehow become one of the higher priced fast food joints nationally as late, and the app does a lot to mitigate that. McDonald’s, using its MyMcdonald’sRewards program, loves to come up with reasons to give away free things, which is great for anyone who has the craving and doesn’t want to get too spendy.


Also, McDonald’s has some pretty robust technology packed into its app, with location services and a ton of options for ordering and paying inside and outside the restaurant. Oftentimes, there’s some pretty great offers and the points system is pretty fair, earning us free Big Macs and McFlurries (when the machine isn’t down.(


Pros:

Tons of ways to order, location based services, can use Siri to order on iOS, uses Apple and Android Pay as options. Plenty of free giveaways including large fries on Fridays.


Cons: While there’s a lot of savings and freebies, there’s been a lot of strange and sometimes super irritating bugs - orders repeating, not going through, or even a sort of butt dial reorder. In some cases we’ve had to contact support to resolve them. Location services prove to be great in some cases and terrible in others.



Burger King


With a slogan like “Have it Your Way” you had to expect Burger King to show up with its app, and along with its rewards program, Royal Perks, brings goodies to the table.


Burger King already had a great thing going via paper coupons, but if you’re the sort who tosses the junk mail and couldn’t remember to clip anything if your life depended on it, some of those same great deals appear in the app, too (though the family meal deal in paper mailouts is still unbeatable, and still traded on eBay and NextDoor apps to this day).


One of our favorite things about Burger King’s Royal Perks is the code - you can use this to pay cash and not have to scan any receipts after to get your points.


Still another great feature is its free upsize for Royal Perks members - don’t forget to mention it at the window and you’ll have yourself a large fry or drink just for signing up every time.


Pros: Royal Perks members free upsize, tons of great offers, and the ability to easily use cash and still reap rewards (which is somewhat of a problem with many apps)


Cons: Still doesn’t beat the paper coupons, prone to slow loading and crashing



Little Caesars


On top of having extremely decent pizza at its price point, Little Caesar’s has the pizza technology thing down pat. When you order online, your pizza will be trackable and safely and contactlessly placed inside the Pizza Portal, a wondrous device that has automatic garage doors that only unseal when you either scan the proper QR code once your pie’s done or enter the 3 digit code that’s texted and emailed to you.


There’s no attached loyalty program (a plus for some folks) and prices are already shockingly low, with promos running pretty regularly.


And there’s CRAZY BREAD! There’s hardly more that needs to be said.


Pros: Great technology, multiple ways to get alerted your pizza is ready, can choose contactless delivery easily. Uses Apple and Android pay. Great prices, frequent offers.


Cons: Tracker doesn’t always work.



Shake Shack


Ok, so this one’s a little higher-end and not quite as nationally ubiquitous, but its simplicity and elegance is to be admired. No loyalty programs here either, but there are exclusives and push notifications alerting you to whatever devilishly delicious things are upcoming at the nearest Shack, like the current Hot Ones.


And though the price points are obviously higher, there’s free delivery on $35 orders and it’s fairly often that they go BOGO on shakes, which is a great deal and a great excuse to get you in the door.


On top of this, you can save allergy and dietary preferences in the app, and save favorites for easy reordering for in store pickup or drive up window pickup where available. You can also peep the nutritional facts plainly. It streamlines getting Shake Shack to your mouth, and who wouldn’t want that?


Pros: Easy to locate nutritional info and inclusive to those with specific dietary needs. Good offers, “first look” exclusives.


Cons: Fewer offers than other apps



Jimmy John's


If you’re a freak for the freaky fast, and you’re not in the app, what are you even doing? Seriously, Jimmy John’s and apps go way back. They haven’t always had a great rewards program though, and now that that’s locked and loaded we love to get our sandwich fix from them even more.


This app’s pretty no-frills too, but offers a great tracker and a rewards system that gets you free sandwiches fairly frequently. If you’re like us and need at least a weekly sandwich fix for your work-from-home or eat-at-cube lunches, you’re gonna need this in your arsenal.


Pros: Great tracker, good rewards system.


Cons: Not a ton of offers



Starbuck's


Starbucks is another fact of life. If you’re a caffeine person, you’re going to land here at least once in a while.


And to be honest, even if coffee’s not your bag there’s a great array of tasty seasonal drinks to get your paws on, and some pretty decent breakfast options.


The point is, you’re going to be there anyway at some point - get the app! Starbucks has been in the rewards game a while, and their Starbucks Rewards system is fantastic for frequent caffeine fliers. It only takes 25 stars to get your first taste of rewards, and the tech is there to make using the app a great experience.


Order ahead, scan in a gift card, send a gift to someone else – even link your Delta SkyMiles account and get double rewards on days you’re taking to the skies. They’ve thought of everything and it shows. Not only that, it’s easy to customize your drinks from inside the app, which means you can add your 4 pumps of chai and extra hot milk without getting eyerolls from people behind you in line.


Pros: Great tech, tons of customization options, robust rewards program


Cons: Starbucks gift card balances don’t update in real time, so you’ll have to wait 24 hours before using that latest gift from the office manager.



Truth be told, this list is just a primer – the bottom line is, though you will run into bugs and not all apps are created equal, almost all offer exclusive deals and the ability to skip the speaker screaming and get down to your tasty business sooner, for less. Who doesn’t love that?


If you’ve got a hot tip on a great app we missed, don’t hesitate to leave it in the comments for others to benefit from!



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