10 Foolish Ways People Waste Money at McDonald’s

From missing out on in-app rewards to forgetting about free fry days, here are 10 ways people waste money at McDonald’s — and how you can save instead.
Updated April 11, 2024
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group of friends eating burger on mountain top

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McDonald’s is known worldwide as a great place to stop for a quick and cheap bite.

Surprisingly, though, many frequent customers do not take advantage of tips and tools that make eating at the fast-food joint even cheaper.

Below are 10 common ways people waste money at McDonald’s — and how to avoid them so you keep more money in your bank account.

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Not downloading the app

FellowNeko/Adobe McDonalds app icon

Even if you only hit up McDonald’s for a rare treat, downloading the free app can save you money.

The app can be used to place pickup or delivery orders, and it also gives customers access to all the current coupons being offered at the restaurant. Users can expect deals like free fries with their purchase, “buy-one, get-one” specials, and more.

App users can also earn points through the MyMcDonald’s reward program every time they order through the app.

Missing out on in-app deals

ltyuan/Adobe smartphone browsing McDonald's application

Speaking of MyMcDonald’s, those points add up fast and can translate to free food. For every $15 spent (which is equivalent to 1,500 points), members can get a free item, such as a McChicken or vanilla cone.

Once you get to higher levels in the rewards system, you can nab pricier items for free.

Overpaying for a McFlurry

oasisamuel/Adobe McDonald's McFlurry

Springing for a sundae with toppings instead of a McFlurry can save you money at McDonald’s.

When ordering a sundae, simply ask for the toppings that you would normally get on a McFlurry, such as M&Ms, or Oreos. Then, do the mixing yourself.

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Not taking advantage of the $1, $2, $3 menu

Adriana/Adobe screen showing menu at the entrance of a local McDonalds restaurant

McDonald’s $1, $2, $3 Dollar Menu contains a series of items that cost between $1 and $3.

The menu also contains combo deals for $3, which is where customers can find real bargains, such as a McDouble and small fries combo or a six-piece McNugget and small fries combo.

By springing for these combo deals, customers should pay less than they would by buying the items separately.

Missing out on McNugget deals

Eric BVD/Adobe Chicken McNuggets on a tray

McNugget fans who keep the concept of “the bigger, the better” in mind can rack up more savings. The price per nugget goes down with the larger boxes.

That means the per-nugget price is significantly higher for a four-piece box than it is for a 20-piece box.

If 20 McNuggets seems a bit too ambitious, nab a six-piece or 10-piece instead.

Not taking advantage of senior discounts

linghaa/Adobe man is sitting to eat a burger at home

McDonald’s does not have a company-wide senior discount, but many locations do offer discounted prices on coffee and other beverages to customers ages 55 and over.

Some McDonald’s may even offer 10% discounts. If you’re unsure if your local McDonald’s offers any sort of discount, call the restaurant or show up in person to ask.

Missing out on teacher/veteran discounts

mtrlin/Adobe chemistry teacher holding a piece of hamburger

McDonald’s also does not have set company-wide discounts for teachers or veterans, but many franchise locations across the country may offer deals during specific times of the year.

For example, discounts might be available during Teacher Appreciation Week in May or on or around Veteran’s Day in November. Check with your local McDonald’s to make sure you’re not missing out on savings.

Forgetting to include your rewards number

rzoze19/Adobe McDonald's service the Drive Thru due to coronavirus

When you sign up for the MyMcDonald’s rewards program through the restaurant’s app, you can also earn points towards free food when ordering at the counter or at the drive-thru.

However, before you order, you need to hit “earn points.” You'll get a four-digit code to give to the cashier so you can earn credit.

Orders placed through the app will automatically add these points.

Forgetting about free fry days

Oleksandr/Adobe french fries McDonald's in a paper box

Another perk of the McDonald’s app is free fries every Friday. Customers can nab a free medium fry with any Mobile Order & Pay purchase of at least $1. The purchase must be made through the app for the deal.

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Failing to give feedback

radub85/Adobe McDonald's website on Apple iPad

If you have a few free minutes to fill out a survey, you can stop throwing money away by getting discounted food from McDonald’s.

The next time you order from the restaurant, save your receipt and head over to the McDonald’s customer satisfaction survey website. Your receipt will have a survey code on it that you can enter and then fill out a questionnaire.

Once you finish, you’ll receive a discount code that can be redeemed during your next visit.

Bottom line

wolterke/Adobe McDonald's sign

There are a lot of ways to score free or discounted food at McDonald’s. Simply downloading the app and using it can save you a lot of cash in the long run.

So don’t throw away cash needlessly. Instead, use these tips to save money the next time you go to McDonald’s.

Author Details

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.

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