After surveying thousands of people, Newsweek just came out with their list of the top-rated loyalty programs of 2021.
The programs were rated based on the value of the perks being offered, how easy it is to participate, customer support, trustworthiness, and more.
Although the list contained a bunch of different kinds of businesses with loyalty programs, we’re gonna focus on national restaurant chains.
Here’s who’s at the top of the pile:
1. Noodles Rewards by Noodles & Company
Locations: 410 nationwide
No App: You can give the cashier your phone number or earn points by placing an order while logged in to your account at noodles.com.
Earning & Spending: Once you sign up for Noodles Rewards, you start earning 8 points for every $1 spent until you hit 1,600 points. Then, 1,600 – 6,600 points earns 10 points per $1, and more than 6,601 points earns 12 points per $1. An extra add-on like sauce, cheese, or bacon costs 150 points, and a regular entree is 1,500 points (and there are plenty of options in between).
Also: Although they advertise a “welcome reward” for signing up, we didn’t receive one. And the welcome email had promos from December 2020.
2. Chick-fil-A One by Chick-fil-A
Locations: 2,605 nationwide
No App: You can enter your receipt data via your account on the Missed Transaction page at Chick-fil-A.com up to 30 days after purchase to get points. The website also lets you track rewards progress.
Earning & Spending: Once you sign up, you start earning 10 points for every $1 spent. It doesn’t take much to start earning real food; get hash browns, a cookie, or a kids’ Icedream cup for just 200 points. A Spicy Southwest Salad is at the top of the rewards menu, at 1,800 points.
Also: Members get a birthday reward — something like nuggets or a sandwich — and it’s valid for 30 days.
3. PF Chang’s Rewards by PF Chang’s
Locations: 210 nationwide
No App: You can earn and spend points at restaurants without the app, but you’ll have to give your phone number and/or your PF Chang’s Rewards ID number (which is available by logging in at pfchangs.com). You can also enter receipt information after your visit if you forget.
Earning & Spending: PF Chang’s Rewards members get 10 points per $1 spent at PF Chang’s, via online and dining room orders. Every time you hit 2,000 points you earn a $15 reward, which works like a gift card. That’s like 7.5% cash back.
Also: Members get a 1,000-point enrollment bonus, as well as a birthday reward.
4. MOD Rewards by MOD Pizza
Locations: 460 nationwide
No App: Gotta have the app to participate.
Earning & Spending: It’s one of the most straightforward programs we’ve seen; MOD Rewards members get 1 point per $1 spent. Once you hit 150 points, you’ll get a free menu item (excluding alcohol and gift cards).
Also: Once you earn a menu freebie, you have to use it within 60 days.
5. Firehouse Rewards by Firehouse Subs
Locations: 1,200 nationwide
No App: You don’t need an app to earn or spend points; in fact, you don’t even scan the app at the register — just give your phone number.
Earning & Spending: Earn 1 point per penny you spend at Firehouse Subs. Once you hit 6,000 points ($60 spent) you’ll earn a free small sub with purchase. Other rewards include a free salad (8,000 points), medium sub (8,000 points), large sub (10,000 points), or even a deluxe catering platter (50,000 points).
Also: You get a free large drink with sub purchase coupon when you sign up for Firehouse Rewards. Members also get a free medium sub as a birthday reward.
6. DD Perks by Dunkin’ Donuts
Locations: 11,300 nationwide
No App: A DD Card is how you pay and earn points with DD Perks. You can connect a physical DD Card to your Perks account and earn points by using the physical card in store, no app required. You can also print out reward coupons from home.
Earning & Spending: You get 5 points for every $1 spent, and once you hit 200 points, you’ll earn a free beverage reward coupon.
Also: DD Perks isn’t the same as a Dunkin’ account. It’s a separate sign-up. DD Perks members get a free birthday reward.
7. The DQ App by Dairy Queen
Locations: 5,700 nationwide
No App: Sorry, there’s no way to earn and redeem points without the app.
Earning & Spending: You get 1 point for every $0.10 spent, rounded to the nearest dime. DQ makes earning points pretty easy, and after only $15.00 spent, your 150 points will score you a free regular fries or onion rings. Other rewards include a free small cone or pretzels and queso (200 points), and a Mini Blizzard (250 points) — among many others.
Also: The DQ app also contains daily deals from Dairy Queen and lets customers place pickup orders.
8. Fridays Rewards by TGI Fridays
Locations: 566 nationwide
No App: If you forget to scan your app when you make your purchase, you have 72 hours to add receipt information to the app. You can log in to your Fridays Rewards account online and manage your points and rewards there.
Earning & Spending: Earn 1 point for every $1 spent. Start redeeming rewards at just 30 points. Earn 10 points for referring a friend. Members also get a free birthday dessert the first year as a member and free dessert (with entree purchase) on your birthday in the years to follow. Loyalty members get access to exclusive deals.
Also: TGI Fridays offers a free appetizer when you join Fridays Rewards.
9. Starbucks Rewards by Starbucks
Locations: 15,000 nationwide
No App: Order using your computer or a physical gift card that is linked to your Starbucks Rewards account. Reward members will need the app to pay using cash.
Earning & Spending: The most common way to earn Stars is to pay using a Starbucks card registered to your account. That way, every $1 you spend earns you 2 Stars. Other payment methods will earn you 1 point per $1, except for the Starbucks Rewards Visa Card, which earns 3 points per $1. Start redeeming for freebies as low as 25 Stars.
Also: Earn Stars faster by participating in double Star days, bonus Star challenges, and member-only games. Members get exclusive BOGO deals, free coffee/tea refills, and birthday rewards.
10. My Cold Stone Rewards by Cold Stone Creamery
Locations: 923 nationwide
App: Cold Stone doesn’t have one, actually.
No App: When ordering in store, give your phone number to the cashier to earn points; when ordering online, make sure you’re logged in to your My Cold Stone account. Members view their points/rewards at ColdStoneCreamery.com/MyCSC.
Earning & Spending: Earn 1 point for every $1 you spend. For every 50 points accumulated, you get a $5 Reward redeemable on an in-store purchase of $5 or more.
Also: New My Cold Stone signups come with 25 points and a BOGO coupon. Members also get a birthday BOGO, exclusive offers, and the opportunity to win prizes. Up to 7 family members can be added on to your reward account, and everyone’s birthday rewards are recognized!
11. Papa Rewards by Papa John’s Pizza
Locations: 5,200 nationwide
No App: Members can also use the Papa John’s website to place orders or access rewards info.
Earning & Spending: Get 1 point for every $1 you spend online or at the store. Once you earn 75 points you get $10 Papa Dough, which basically functions like a gift card.
Also: Become a Papa Rewards member and score members-only surprises and deals.
12. My Mike’s by Jersey Mike’s
Locations: 1,592 nationwide
No App: You can sign up for My Mike’s at jerseymikes.com, and you can earn points by placing orders via the website. But the app is the only way to get points for in-store purchases (and if you forgot while in store, you can’t get credit after the fact).
Earning & Spending: How many points you earn depends on what you order. Kids’ meals earn you 3 points, mini subs earn you 4 points, and giant subs earn 12 points (with many other items in between). Earn 48 points to get a free mini sub. Earn 72 points to get either a free regular sub, a sub in a tub, or a wrap. A free giant size sub costs 144 points.
Also: Exclusive coupons pop up from time to time in the app.
Regional chains have some of the top-rated loyalty programs.
Many of the top-rated restaurant perks programs were for regional chains — and many of them had higher rankings than the big national chains. If you have these restaurants in your area, you’ll want to learn more about their perks:
- Huddle Perks by Huddle House
- Beef’s Rewards by Beef’O’Brady’s
- Tijuana Flats Rewards by Tijuana Flats
- Loco Rewards by El Pollo Loco
- McAlister’s Rewards by McAlister’s Deli
- Caribou Perks by Caribou Coffee