McDonald’s Rewards: Learn To Get The Most Mac For Your Buck & More

McDonald's Rewards program app
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In 2021, McDonald’s ditched its old punchcard-based loyalty program (McCaf√© Rewards) in favor of MyMcDonald’s Rewards, or simply, McDonald’s Rewards.

The new program is far more flexible, as you’ll now earn points on every food purchase, and can redeem those points for a wide variety of menu items, including favorites like Big Macs and Quarter Pounders, along with side items, beverages, and desserts.

Yet, it’s not without its shortcomings. There are several frustrating limitations, and some rewards offer way better value than others.

In this guide, we provide an overview of McDonald’s Rewards, look at its strengths and its annoying restrictions, and take a deep dive into which rewards offer the best bang for the buck.

How does McDonald’s rewards program work?

McDonald’s rebranded loyalty program doesn’t really break any new ground. There are no loyalty tiers, there is no membership fee, and the program works on a simple points system.

Simply stated, any customer that has the McDonald’s app installed on their smartphone can use it to earn and redeem points on their food orders.

McDonald's combo meal

Points are earned at a rate of 100 points per $1 spent on food subtotals. Taxes, other fees, and gift card purchases are not eligible, and unfortunately, neither are delivery orders.

From the detective’s desk: If you cash in a deal or reward with your McDonald’s purchase, then the number of Rewards Points you receive will be based on your subtotal after all discounts are applied.

Points can then be redeemed for one of 16 eligible menu items, broken out into four redemption tiers. The lowest tier, which unlocks a McChicken, vanilla cone, hash browns, and a cheeseburger, will set you back 1,500 points ($15 spent).

Customers can spend up to 6,000 points on bigger ticket items like Big Macs, and Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuits.

The other two redemption tiers are set at 3,000 and 4,500 points.

Signing Up

The first step is to get the McDonald’s app. If you already have it installed on your smartphone, then congratulations, you’re automatically enrolled in McDonald’s Rewards.

If not then you have a couple of options:

  • Either navigate to this page from your smartphone and click on either the App Store or Google Play link. From there, download the app.
  • Navigate directly to the McDonald’s app from the App Store or Google Play, depending on your device. Download the app.

McDonald's Rewards App Google Play
McDonald’s App on Google Play

Note: The McDonald’s app can only be downloaded for either iOS- or Android-powered devices.

Once downloaded, open the app. Sign-in options include Facebook, Google, Email, or Apple (iOS only).

Email users can have a log-in link sent to their inbox — this bypasses the need for a password.

McDonald’s may then ask to allow location services, so it can pair you with a local restaurant.

You can also enter your birthday under More -> Profile -> Personal Settings. You’ll want to do this since McDonald’s will send you a birthday offer. Also in the Profile menu is an option to enter your payment information, which is necessary if you’re planning on placing mobile pick-up or delivery orders through the app.

Free Large Fries McDonald's App

Upon creating an account you’ll receive an offer for free large fries with no purchase necessary (pickup only). To check out this deal and others, as well as any promotional bonuses and your rewards, tap the “Rewards & Deals,” tab located at the bottom of the app.

Earning McDonald’s Rewards points

There are three ways to earn McDonald’s Rewards points through the app:

  • Inside a McDonald’s restaurant: If you’re physically going inside a McDonald’s to place your order, then you’ll need to open up the app and have the cashier scan your QR code. The code can be found under the “Earn Points” tab.
  • Drive-thru: Before you order, go to “Earn Points” and provide your 4-digit drive-thru code.
  • Mobile pick-up: If you place an order through the McDonald’s app for pickup, you’ll earn Rewards Points on that order. There’s nothing else that you have to do.

As stated previously, you earn 100 points per $1 spent on food, but only on the subtotal. To clarify, let’s say you spend $20 on food and then apply a $5 discount. Your subtotal is now $15, so you will receive 1,500 points. Your actual total will be slightly higher than $15, because of taxes, but you don’t receive points on taxes and other miscellaneous fees.

Note, that McDelivery orders placed through the McDonald’s app or through a third-party service like Uber Eats does not generate rewards points.

Points show up in your account within 24 hours, but often much faster. You can check the status of your points in the “Rewards & Deals” section of the McDonald’s app.

From the detective’s desk: If you forgot to scan your QR code or provide your drive-thru code, you can still get points. Just save your receipt and contact support through the McDonald’s app. Have your order number and subtotal handy.

As an added perk, the first time that you place a mobile pick-up order using the McDonald’s app and a linked card, you’ll receive a 1,500 point bonus.

The only drawback is that bonus points take longer to hit your account, up to 10 days. Still, it’s hard to complain about a bonus that’s the equivalent of a free cheeseburger!

Redeeming McDonald’s Rewards points

Just as you earn points through the McDonald’s app, you also redeem them from the app. To redeem a reward, head on over to the “Rewards & Deals” tab, and select a reward of your liking.

If you don’t have enough points for a reward, then it will be locked and cannot be selected.

Next, you’ll be given two redemption options:

  • Add to mobile order: Select this if you wish to place a mobile order and pick it up at a McDonald’s restaurant
  • Use at restaurant: Use this if you’ll planning to travel to a local McDonald’s to place your order. You’ll then be given a four-digit code, which you’ll need to redeem your reward. Or, if you plan on going inside, you can also use the Restaurant QR Code.

McDonald's Rewards redemption options

You can redeem a reward and earn points in the same order. However, your redeemed reward won’t earn you any points, because it’s free.

What McDonald’s Rewards items offer the best value?

Some McDonald’s Rewards offer more value than others. In fact, the difference between the item with the best value and the worst is pretty staggering.

Here is a list of each reward, the number of points you’ll need to redeem the reward, and your return on investment on those redemptions.

Note: This table reflects NYC Metro area pricing, which is among the highest in the country.

McDonald's Rewards : Return on investment (ROI %)

ItemPrice (May Vary)Rewards Points CostROI (%)
McChicken$2.79150018.6%
Vanilla Cone$1.99150013.3%
Hash Browns$2.49150016.6%
Cheeseburger$1.99150013.3%
Large Iced Coffee$2.6930009.0%
Medium Fries$3.49300011.6%
6pc Chicken McNuggets$3.89300013.0%
Sausage Burrito$2.2930007.6%
Large Fries$4.2945009.5%
Large Frappe$3.7945008.4%
Filet-O-Fish$5.39450012.0%
Sausage McMuffin with Egg$4.3945009.8%
Quarter Pounder with Cheese$5.99600010.0%
Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit$4.3960007.3%
Big Mac$5.99600010.0%
Happy Meal$4.69 - $5.5960007.8% - 9.3%

As we can see, the ROIs are all over the place. The best deals appear to be the lower-priced items, like cheeseburgers and McChickens, which offer between a 13.3% and 18.6% ROI. Some big-ticket items like the Big Mac and the Quarter Pounder with Cheese also fare reasonably well, offering 10% ROI.

With the exception of hash browns, breakfast items don’t offer the greatest bang for your buck, particularly the Sausage Burrito and Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit, which don’t even crack 8% cash back.

Fries sit in the middle of the pack but notice that the medium fries (11.6%) offer a much better value than the large (9.5%). They’re better for your waistline too.

The two drink items on the list aren’t great values, with the Large Frappe coming in at 8.4%, whereas a Large Iced Coffee offers a slightly better return (9.0%).

From the detective’s desk: To calculate the ROI % of McDonald’s Rewards in your area, simply divide the price of the item over the number of points necessary to redeem that item, and multiply by 100. Hooray, simple math.

Other observations

  • The average ROI is 11.2% in our area, which is exceptional. However, nationwide it’s closer to 10%, due to inflated pricing in the NYC Metro area.
  • In our area, Wendy’s Rewards averages a 9.8% ROI on its redeemable menu items. McDonald’s Rewards is a clear winner here. However, Wendy’s divides its rewards into more tiers and offers more redemption options.

Also of note, McDonald’s doesn’t allow you to redeem points for combo meals, with the exception of a Happy Meal. That’s problematic.

Let’s say you redeem your points for a Big Mac and want to make a meal out of it. You’ll now have to purchase the fries and drink individually. Since combo meals are cheaper than the sum of their parts, your effective ROI on the free Big Mac takes a hit.

MyMcDonald’s Rewards faq

Some of the faqs listed below reveal important limitations of McDonald’s Rewards.

How many McDonald’s Rewards can you use at once?

One, just one. Once you claim a reward, you’ll be locked out of claiming another one for an hour.

In other words, you cannot stack rewards.

Can you combine rewards and deals on the McDonald’s app?

Nope. Unlike Wendy’s, which does allow you to combine one deal and one reward, McDonald’s forces you to choose.

Once the choice is made, you’ll be locked out from claiming another deal/reward for an hour.

This is really too bad, as McDonald’s offers a ton of great deals, including buy one get one free, discounts on items and entire orders, and the occasional freebie.

McDonald's Deals
Many deals can be redeemed more than once!

If McDonald’s is running a deal that appeals to you, we suggest claiming the deal first and saving your points for later. Deals change frequently. Rewards stick around longer.

Do McDonald’s Rewards points expire?

Yes. According to McDonald’s, points “expire on the first day of the month after the sixth month from the day your points were earned.” That’s not exactly the most intuitive choice of language, so let’s clarify.

Say you earned points on January 15. Six months from that date is July 15, and the next first day of the month is August 1. This is the day you’ll lose those points.

Can I use McDonald’s Rewards on delivery orders?

Regardless of whether you use McDonald’s McDelivery service or order McDonald’s from one of its delivery partners, you will not receive McDonald’s Rewards on your purchase.

Deals are also not available for McDelivery. You can still claim deals from the McDonald’s app, but you’ll need to physically pick up the order.

McDonald’s is partnered with Uber Eats through its app, as well as Grubhub, Doordash, and Postmates.

Truth is, you’re going to pay inflated prices and fees when using one of these delivery services. There’s just no way around the price of convenience.

However, McDonald’s delivery partners often offer special discounts on purchases, and you can mitigate delivery and other fees by signing up for premium services like DashPass and Grubhub+.

Learn all about DashPass and Grubhub+ and how to get them for free.

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