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5 Ways to Get Free Food at McDonald’s

By Lana Kisner | November 27, 2023

McDonald’s is known for being fast, affordable, and having a distinct menu beloved around the world. If these reasons are not enough to love the Golden Arches, maybe the many ways to get free food at McDonald’s will be more enticing.

McDonald’s has always catered to their customers with special promotions and discounts, but technology has brought us new and easy ways to save. Most hacks to get free McDonald’s food are through its mobile app. Customers get free food for downloading the McDonald’s app, for being a first-time user, and on their birthdays.

There are also daily specials and numerous other ways for savvy shoppers to find discounts and save. Free McDonald’s food is no secret; it just requires knowing where to find it! In this article, I’ll explain five ways to get free food at McDonald’s and several other discounts and coupons you can use to save money on your next meal.

1. Download the McDonald’s App for Instant Rewards

Downloading the McDonald’s mobile app is the key to getting free food. You get instant rewards as soon as you download the app and have continued access to free food through different discounts and promotions. You’ll get a coupon for a free order of large fries just for downloading the app, which of course, is also free.

If that’s not enough, McDonald’s offers first-time users an additional exclusive deal, such as a free 10-piece Chicken McNuggets. McDonald’s also offers other discounts and freebies every day. However, they change regularly, so you’ll have to check back before each order to see what the current specials are.

The following are some of the deals you can expect to see on the McDonald’s app:

  • Free large fries with any purchase
  • Buy One Get One Free on signature sandwiches
  • A free Happy Meal with the purchase of a Combo Meal
  • Free medium fries and a drink with some signature sandwiches

Redeeming these deals is as easy as choosing your favorite menu item, then completing your order and picking it up at a participating location.

2. Sign up for the McDonald’s Newsletter

The McDonald’s newsletter is a great resource for every superfan. It’s filled with the latest news and updates so that you’re always aware of the newest specials and menu items. You can easily sign up on their website.

What makes it really worth subscribing to are the exclusive discounts that will get sent to your inbox. Although the McDonald’s app gives you tons of great specials, there are some that you can only get through their newsletter. My favorite is the coupon for every new item my local McDonald’s adds to their menu.

The newsletter is also the easiest way to receive regular updates whenever the discounts and free items on the McDonald’s app change.

3. Take Advantage of the MyMcDonald’s Rewards Program

One of the best ways to get your favorite McDonald’s menu items for free is by using their Rewards program. It’s often an overlooked part of the app, but it’s a great way to collect points that can later be used for free stuff.

Any orders placed through the app will automatically earn you reward points, making this the easiest method. You can also earn points when you order in person by showing the cashier your 4-digit code.

Find the code by selecting “Earn Points” in your McDonald’s app, and be sure to show it to your cashier each time you order to earn points from every purchase.

You’ll earn 1,500 points for every $15 spent, which can be collected to redeem higher-value items for free. You can reach four tiers using MyMcDonald’s Rewards points, and each tier unlocks new menu items.

The following chart will show you the options for each tier so you can choose whether to redeem your points right away or save them up for something better.

Hash Browns, Vanilla Cone, McChicken, or Cheeseburger
Medium Fries, Sausage Burrito, 6 pc. McNuggets or Large Iced Coffee
Large Fries, Large Frappe, Filet-O-Fish, or Sausage McMuffin with Egg

Bacon Egg and Cheese Biscuit, Big Mac, Quarter Pounder with Cheese, or Happy Meal
McDonald’s Rewards Points With Free Food Options

When you’re ready to redeem your free item, simply go to the McDonald’s Rewards tab in your mobile app and choose your freebie, then either add it to your order or select “Use at Restaurant.”

4. Fill Out the Survey on the Receipt

Many of us habitually throw the receipt out with the rest of our trash, but anyone who wants free food at McDonald’s should think twice. A link to a short customer satisfaction survey is included at the bottom of every receipt, and filling it out will earn you free food on your next visit.

The exact rewards vary, but I’ve seen a coupon many times for free fries or a Buy One Get One Quarter Pounder with Cheese. What makes this option even better is that you can earn with every single order.

Each coupon has a unique 26-digit code you’ll have to enter when filling out the survey, so there are no limitations to how many a person can redeem.

5. Enjoy a Free Birthday Dessert

Birthdays are one of the best times for free stuff, including free food at McDonald’s. To help you celebrate your special day, McDonald’s offers a free birthday dessert through their mobile app.

McDonald’s has given out free birthday goodies for many years, but their offer has changed over time. While they used to give kids a free Happy Meal on their birthday, anybody can now get a free dessert through the app.

Before your actual birthday comes around, McDonald’s will send you a coupon to use for either a free apple pie or a free ice cream. You can redeem your treat at any participating McDonald’s restaurant between receiving it and its expiration date. 

Bonus: The Best McDonald’s Discounts

The mobile app gives us some great options for getting free food at McDonald’s, but there are even more ways to get amazing discounts. Here are some of my favorite discounts and hacks that will get you more for less at McDonald’s.

Utilize Gift Cards

There are countless websites that offer coupons and gift cards to popular restaurants and retailers, and they often include McDonald’s. Popular sites that offer McDonald’s gift cards at discounted prices include Groupon and Raise.

Although a discounted gift card isn’t technically free, it will increase your buying power. Purchasing a $50 gift card for the discounted price of $40, for example, gets you a free $10 worth of food and drink.

Leave Out the Ice to Get More Pop

This hack is relatively common knowledge, yet it’s easy to forget when ordering, so I included it on the list. McDonald’s will fill your cup with ice when you order pop, then fill the remaining space with soda.

If you want more pop for your dollar, all you have to do is request less or no ice, and your drink will suddenly last much longer. In fact, leaving out the ice can get you as much as double the pop you would have gotten otherwise.

Order More Nuggets

Ordering more might not sound like the best way to save money, but when it comes to Chicken McNuggets, a larger order will get you more bang for your buck.

Depending on which size you order, the price difference per nugget can vary quite a bit. For example, at the time of this writing, a 4-piece Chicken McNuggets cost $3.19, and a 40-piece order is $17.48 in my location. That comes to approximately 80 cents per nugget on the 4-piece order versus 44 cents per nugget for a 40-piece box.

That means if you’re ordering for a group, it makes more sense to purchase one large order of McNuggets than several small orders. Even if you’re riding solo, you can order more and make multiple meals out of it.

Take Advantage of Special Discounts

McDonald’s offers several discounts that can help anyone who qualifies save money. The following groups of people can commonly enjoy discounts at McDonald’s:

  • Seniors
  • Teachers
  • Military
  • Employees

Many participating McDonald’s restaurants offer seniors 50 and older a 10% discount on food and drinks. Educators and military personnel can also find discounts throughout the year. Examples from previous years include free breakfast for educators during Teacher’s Appreciation Week and 10% off for veterans on Veteran’s Day.

Another sure way to get a regular discount is by working for McDonald’s. Employees typically receive a 30% discount at all participating McDonald’s restaurants in addition to a benefits package.

About the Author

Lana Kisner is a writer on the team with more than 15 years of experience in the food service industry. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, exploring new restaurants, listening to live music, and hiking with her dog.