The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, December 22, 2020 7:00 am

Taking advantage of restaurant gift card promotions will pay off later

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

I have no shame when it comes to efforts to save money - and that extends to eating out.

When I shop during the year-end holiday season for gifts, I'm also looking out for my needs - or things I just simply might like.

I've browsed the women's clothing areas at multiple department stores this year while looking for a few other tangible gifts. I've seen some cute things - particularly sweaters. But even with sales and the coupons I always have stashed in my wallet or virtually accessible, I just haven't been much in the mood to buy for me - other than some footies to use a $10 off coupon this month at J.C. Penney.

What I have been game for is holiday deals from restaurants, including Red Lobster and Eddie Merlot's. When it's time to consider going out for food - dine in or carry out - one of my first considerations is what I have a coupon for.

Red Lobster had a promotion where if you purchase $50 in gift cards, you get two $10 bonus coupons - one for eating on-site and another for carryout. Eddie Merlot's had a promotion where if you buy $100 in gift cards, you get a $25 bonus card.

In both cases, you didn't have to put the total on one card. That means you could, for example, give two friends $25 Red Lobster gift cards and keep the two $10 bonus ones yourself. Or yes, you could give the bonus ones away - on top of the $25 gift cards.

At Eddie Merlot's, an upscale steakhouse, having a bonus $25 card almost feels like winning the lottery. OK, I said almost.

I've even purchased a couple of $25 gift cards from Smoothie King, with each one entitling me to a coupon for a free 20-ounce smoothie within the first two months of 2021.

I noticed one of the local Hall's restaurants had a sign near the road promoting gift cards. I called the State Street location to inquire there and was told for every $30 gift card, you get a $5 bonus card at all its restaurants. Other restaurants, ranging from Black Canyon Restaurant to O'Charley's, were also offering gift card deals.

Sure, the bonus cards often come with strings attached, like restrictions on when you can use them. But if you eat out even occasionally, the extra investment now along with other holiday shopping should be worth it.

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