Rewards cards offer chances to win: swiping can earn free food, gas, prizes

By Kristin Martin

Fattening up wallets with rewards cards can lead to filling up stomachs with free food.

Most students and restaurants believe rewards cards are a win-win. A win for the cardholders who get free food after buying it, and a win for the businesses that cardholders visit frequently.

Roxanna McFarlan, a kinesiology freshman, doesn’t have a rewards card to any restaurants, but said the one she has for Speedway comes in handy. She doesn’t think cards from restaurants save her money, she said.

Tres Russell, a business graduate student, disagreed. He has had a rewards card from Qdoba Mexican Grill for several years, and said he loves getting a free burrito now and then.

“I don’t come weekly or anything, but when I’m thinking of Qdoba or Chipotle, I’ll come in Qdoba because of (his rewards card),” he said.

Lucy Vose, the manager at the Qdoba on Euclid Avenue, said to get rewards from Qdoba, people can ask for a card, register online and then get a free drink or chips and salsa just for registering. With the card, customers get a free entree for every 10 entrees they buy.

“We’re actually supposed to ask every customer that comes through if they have (a rewards card) or if they would like one,” she said.

Vose said many people use the cards, but she encourages those who say no to register for one.

“Especially on campus, we see so many people that come in here day after day, and to not have one is just a waste of money,” she said.

Vose said she doesn’t know the exact numbers, but believes Qdoba makes more money now than it did before offering rewards cards that encourage people to eat there frequently.


David Huston, a computer science junior, has a rewards card to Subway.

Though he doesn’t go there all the time just to get points, he said he chooses Subway over other sandwich shops.

“Given the choice between two equal options, I would pick the one that can give me free things as opposed to one that won’t,” he said.

Subway customers can get a Subway card that earns a point for every dollar they spend. What they get for free depends on the amount of points they have when they redeem them — 10 points gets them a free cookie and 100 points gets them a free premium foot-long sandwich.

Points in between can get them free drinks, chips and more.

Huston said the Subway in the Student Center doesn’t offer rewards.However, the Subway on North Broadway does.


At Starbucks, customers get a “star” each time they pay using their registered, re-loadable gift card. They also can get free drinks for their birthdays.

When someone reaches the “gold” level status, every 15 stars — or 15 visits — will also earn them a free drink. Customers get a personalized gold card and free syrups and refills after they earn 30 stars within a year.

Buying Starbucks coffee at the Student Center location will also put stars on registered cards, although employees weren’t allowed to comment about it to the Kernel.

Orange Leaf

Orange Leaf, a frozen yogurt shop, offers a free Ounce Back card.

Every dollar spent earns a point. Ten points puts a dollar on the card, and customers can save up to $10 on their cards before spending it and starting over. The closest Orange Leaf to campus is the Romany Road location.

Raising Cane’s

Raising Cane’s also offers a rewards program called the Caniac Club.

Members get a free box combo for signing up and free food on their birthdays.

April Walsh, Cane’s manager on South Upper Street, said the rewards cards there get customers more than free food.

“We just gave away tickets to the Miranda Lambert concert,” she said. “Every time you come in it automatically registers you to concerts and tickets. We’ve done basketball games — a bunch of stuff like that.”

Walsh said she also believes the cards are a treat for both customers and the company.

“They’re already buying our food to swipe a card, so there’s nothing that we’re really losing out of it because they actually come here,” she said.

Jamieson Mundy, an art studio senior, has rewards cards for Raising Cane’s, Subway and Speedway. Mundy said if he has a card from somewhere, he doesn’t go anywhere else similar to it. So if it’s fuel he needs, he goes to Speedway. If it’s chicken

he’s craving, it’s Cane’s.

Mundy said he isn’t going to tell people to swipe a card, but said if people already go somewhere, they are missing out on an option that allows them to have free benefits. He used his Cane’s card to get a free meal for his friend when he bought his on Friday.

“It’s ridiculous not to say, ‘All right, I’ll take a rewards card,’ because I’m going to buy it anyway,” he said as he pulled out all three of his plastic Cane’s cards from his wallet. “That’s the thing about this place; this place is addictive … which is why I have three.”