Most budgeting advice centers on dining out less and cooking more. But if you live to try out new restaurants, travel frequently or are too busy to cook, there are plenty of apps that let you save on meals out — or earn rewards that you can cash in for future purchases. Dining and rewards apps tend to all handle deals a bit differently. Some let you buy vouchers at a discount, some let you earn rewards points on restaurant purchases and still others give you free food and drinks. Some partner with national chains, while others partner with local and high-end establishments. Choose the one that’s right for you, or install all of them to maximize your saving potential.
Here are seven of the best apps to help you save on the cost of dining out:
— 1. Groupon
— 2. Hooch
— 3. LivingSocial
— 4. OpenTable
— 5. Restaurant.com
— 6. Seated
— 7. Yelp
Renowned by deal hunters as the way to save on practically everything, Groupon’s app offers plenty of deals for diners. In addition to offering its fixed-price discounts, where you pay in advance and receive a wine tasting, specific food item or credit toward your bill, Groupon also offers cash back offers. To get cash back, you’ll link a debit or credit card to your Groupon account, claim an offer (for example, 30% off at a local Thai restaurant) and use that card at the restaurant. At no point do you need to present a voucher. Your cash back will be refunded back to your card. Cash back offers are limited to a certain number of takers, so if you see a restaurant you’ve been meaning to try offering a generous amount of cash back, jump on it.
This app is aimed at frequent diners and frequent fliers. It rewards you for various lifestyle purchases with partner companies, including restaurants and bars. Simply dine at an affiliate restaurant and pay with a card you’ve linked to the app. Your rewards can be redeemed toward retailer gift cards, experiences, hotel rooms and future food and drinks at restaurants. In addition to its free membership level, Hooch offers paid membership levels, including Hooch Plus ($9.99 per month), which gets you a free drink every day at partner venues.
LivingSocial’s app uses the prepay model for restaurant discounts. Pay a certain amount to get credit toward your meal at various partner restaurants. The value of the voucher you get will generally be 40% to 50% higher than the amount you paid. If you enjoy meal kits, such as Blue Apron and EveryPlate, know that LivingSocial offers significant prepaid discounts on these services as well.
OpenTable is known as a reservations app. However, when you book (and show up for) a restaurant reservation, you can collect dining points, too. Points can be redeemed toward future meals at restaurants that partner with OpenTable, hotel stays via Kayak or Amazon gift cards. The number of points you earn per reservation varies by restaurant and timing of your reservation. If you book bonus point reservations, you’ll earn extra points. If you’d like to use your rewards toward a future meal, you can redeem them via the app and receive a voucher to show on your phone screen to your server.
Get discounted vouchers for restaurants near you instantly with the Restaurant.com app. All deals on the app can be redeemed from your phone, no printed coupons necessary. Restaurant.com sells pay-in-advance vouchers. You’ll purchase a digital certificate, often for more than 50% less than face value. For example, you may purchase a $25 certificate to a local barbecue joint for $10.
Restaurant.com also offers a Dining Discount Pass. Valid for six months, it generally costs $25 and offers freebies and discounts at more than 100 national chains (think: McDonald’s and Domino’s Pizza). Consider it the digital version of a coupon book. Past examples of dining deals available with the pass have included a free side with purchase and $5 off meals at various chains.
This app, available in select major cities, rewards you for making restaurant reservations. Book a reservation at a participating restaurant via the app, dine out, reach the minimum spending requirement and receive up to 30% of your check total in the form of a rewards code. That code can be used in the Seated rewards portal for retailer gift cards and ride-share credits. Seated’s partner restaurants tend to be a bit upscale. So earning a gift card or discount on your next ride can help you justify the splurge.