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These 11 Restaurant Chains Will Give You Free Cash When You Buy a Gift Card

When you give the gift of food this year, you can reap big rewards.
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Why have gift cards become such a huge business for so many businesses? Because they get us in the door, and once we're in the door, we're likely to spend well past the value of said gift card. When it comes to restaurant holiday gift cards, this year the deals are better than ever and that means free money for you.

This year, restaurants are offering all sorts of gift card deals and incentives that really do benefit the customer. With deals like a $5 gift card thrown in with a $25 gift card purchase here or $20 off the purchase of a $100 gift card there, the savings are real, so consider giving food gift cards to friends or family or gifting yourself some savings at your favorite eatery, too.

Why do restaurants offer such great deals on gift cards right now? Because, according to Nation's Restaurant News, approximately half of all gift card sales occur in the last two months of the year (a.k.a the holiday shopping season) and the largest time for gift card use is in the first few months of the New Year, which is otherwise a slow time for the restaurant business. So by offering genuinely great deals that may mean a slight haircut in revenue here and there, restaurants can, overall drive more sales now and keep diners coming later. It's a win-win for you and the businesses, and a tasty one, too.

Here are 9 restaurant gift cards well worth your money right now.

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chilis restaurant

When you give the gift of baby-back ribs and Big-Mouth Burgers, you get a little something for you this year too. For every $50 Chili's gift card purchase, you will receive a $10 e-bonus card. The e-gift card can only be redeemed from 1/1/23 through 2/13/23 and only one card can be used per table.


chipotle restaurant exterior
Miosotis_Jade / Shutterstock

According to Chipotle's VP of brand marketing, Chipotle's holiday gift card program is responsible for nearly half of its annual sales in the last two months of the year. This year the chain is offering a "buy one, get one free" offer code for the first 10,000 customers who purchase a $40 or more e-gift card. The promotion runs from 12/22 through 12/25 and is targeting those last-minute shoppers. The BOGO promotion expires on 12/31/22, so this targets serious Chipotle fans only.

California Pizza Kitchen

california pizza kitchen pizza

CPK has long been known for its generous gift card offerings, and that tradition continues this holiday season. Right now, when you buy a $100 California Pizza Kitchen gift card, you get a $20 gift card back. Just note that it's technically a "promotional card" and is only valid between 1/3/23 and 2/7/23; if it's likely you'll eat at CPK between those dates, then this is free money.


ihop cinnastack pancakes
Courtesy of IHOP

Right now, when you buy a $25 IHOP gift card, you get a $5 "bonus card" that can be used at an IHOP up until 2/26/23, which is a pretty generous window. And when you think about how low-priced many meals are at IHOP, a $5 card means more than half the entrée covered in many cases.

Shake Shack

shake shack burger

Shake Shack is offering the same monetary deal as IHOP, so that's a $5 "bonus card" with the purchase of a $25 gift card, but this shake and burger chain has even more generous terms in timing: you can redeem your $5 bonus any time until the 29th of March, so it's good all winter long (and even into early spring, technically).

Outback Steakhouse

Outback Steakhouse / Facebook

Now, to be sure, the whole "No Rules, Just Right" thing is not accurate here, because your $10 off offer from Outback when you buy a $50 gift card is only good from 1/1/23 through 2/6/23, but hey, $10 off is almost good enough for an entire Bloomin' Onion, so not a bad deal!

REALTED: I Tried the Most Expensive Steak at Three Most Popular Steakhouses


subway meal

This holiday season, the purchase of a $25 Subway gift card can net you a free six-inch sub sandwich. Just note that the offer is only valid through 1/31/23, and that, as franchise-based businesses, not all Subway locations are obliged to honor this promotion, so check with your local spot if you're keen on the free sandwich.

Ruth's Chris Steakhouse

ruths chris steakhouse
Ruth's Chris Steak House/ Facebook

Keep in mind that Ruth's Chris Steakhouse is on the higher end of restaurants when you chew on this one, because in order to get some free steakhouse bucks here, you need to spend $200 on a gift card. But that will get you $40 in a "Digital Bonus Card" to Ruth's Chris, and that's enough for most entrees there. Just note the 3/31/23 expiration of those digital dollars.


Lumberjack slam
Courtesy of Denny's

Denny's is yet another chain offering a $5 for $25 situation. When you buy a $25 gift card, you get a $5 "Bonus Card" that's valid from 1/2/23 until the end of March of 2023. But hey, the gift cards never expire, so feel free to "treat" yourself to one and enjoy the $5 and use your own gift card for the rest.

Panera Bread

panera small drink
Panera Bread/ Facebook

When you buy a $50 Panera gift card, you get a $10 "Bonus Card." (Yes, there is a 20% trend running through almost all restaurant gift card promos this year—clearly, the industry folks ran some numbers!) This $10 promo is good only from 1/1/23 through 1/31/23, though, which is one of the shorter terms.

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Buffalo Wild Wings

buffalo wild wings platter wings fries slaw
Courtesy of Buffalo Wild Wings

BW3 fans can get $5 back with the purchase of a $25 gift card bought any time through 12/31/22. And that $5 bonus is good through 2/28/23. But note that the $5 credit cannot be applied to alcoholic beverages, so if you were thinking "free beer!" you'll need to think again.

Steven John
Steven John is a freelancer writer for Eat This, Not That! based just outside New York City. Read more about Steven