It sounds almost too good to be true: Spend only $4 and get a certificate for $25 worth of food at your favorite restaurant.
But with a national service called Restaurant.com, you can indeed do that – as long as you are careful to read ALL the fine print.
The company sells discount dining certificates all the time: $10 for $25 worth of food, $20 for $50 worth of dining, etc.
But you should never pay full price, because those certificates are nearly always on sale. They go as low as $4 for $25 worth of food, though the lowest price we’re seeing lately is $4. To get the lower price, you need the promo code (which changes frequently).
The selection of available restaurants varies by city. In some cities, you have lot of choices. Some smaller towns may not have any participating restaurants.
- Make sure you have the current promo code before you order. If there is one, you should be able to find it on the ad on the right.
- Don’t buy a certificate until you’re ready to use it. Yes, you can buy them ahead of time and carry them around in your purse, but will you? And will you use them all? Restaurant.com has just come out with a free smartphone app that you can use to buy certificates while you’re in the restaurant, pointing to them on your phone rather than printing them out. But you might want to verify that your waiter understands the process and will accept a cellphone certificate before you buy.
- If you’re looking for a certificate to a really popular restaurant, buy it at the first of the month (and ignore the advice above). There are a limited number of deals sold for each restaurant, and the certificates are restocked once a month, usually at the beginning of the month. The prices get lower as the month progresses.
- Read all the fine print. Most restaurants require minimum purchases, and some don’t allow you to count liquor toward those purchases. One of my neighborhood restaurants has great French toast, but its certificates are good only for dinner. Not only that, but to use them you must eat in and buy two chicken, meat or fish entries. This is clearly not a good deal if you’re a vegetarian.
- Double check the restaurant you choose is still in business. Restaurants that have gone belly up often linger on the list. If you buy a certificate to a restaurant that has closed, Restaurant.com will let you exchange it. But it’s easier to verify the place is still open before you buy.
- Certificates never expire, but use them rather than stash them in a drawer and forget them.