Many NEA members take full advantage of the great—sometimes jaw-droppingly amazing!—deals available on Restaurant.com dining certificates offered through NEA Discount Marketplace. You can purchase gift certificates to local restaurants for far less than face value and really stretch your dollar. Frequently, you’ll find $25 dining certificates for just $10, but sometimes you can even find specials where you pay a mere $4 or $5 to get a $25 certificate!
These piping-hot deals drive a lot of people to the Restaurant.com website. These top discount-dining tips can help you have a fulfilling experience and save a lot of dough:
1. Pay attention to the “minimum spend”
When you see that “$4 for $25!” offer, you may assume that you’ll get that $25 meal and pay only $4. It doesn’t quite work like that, though. Most of the participating restaurants have a “minimum spend” requirement that’s higher than the face value of the gift certificate. For example, you may be required to spend $37 during your visit for the $25 coupon to be accepted.
This minimum-spend information is listed as you’re browsing for deals, and the requirements vary by restaurant. Before you buy, make sure you’ll be able to meet the minimum-spend requirement on your upcoming visit. This is particularly important for certificates with a higher face value. A $75 certificate may be on sale for $12, but your minimum-spend requirement could be $150.
2. Print the certificate now—or later
At the time of your purchase, you’ll be given the option to “print now.” You may be ready to cash in your great deal, so you’ll print your certificate right away. But if want to wait until you’re ready to go to that particular restaurant, or you want to give a certificate as a gift, you may decide to print the certificate later.
Either way is OK: Your purchases are tracked, and your active certificates are kept in one convenient place. You also can see all the certificates you’ve ever used or exchanged.
You can access your certificates under the My Account area of Restaurant.com. To print, click the blue “View Certificate” link next to the restaurant name, and then click “View and Print Certificate.”
You also can go paperless by using the app and showing your restaurant certificates via your mobile device.
3. Before you head to the restaurant, make sure it still participates in the program
Under your active certificates, you may see a note that says, “Does not expire.” Although your certificate will never expire, sometimes restaurants can cease participation in the Restaurant.com program for a variety of reasons, in which case your certificate won’t be valid at that particular restaurant anymore.
Therefore, the first thing you should do before you head off to dinner is to make sure your coupon will work when you get there. You can do this online or by calling the restaurant. To check online, look up your active certificates (as discussed above). If any of your certificates are no longer accepted at a restaurant, you’ll see a message there.
Just because a restaurant doesn’t accept a certificate anymore doesn’t mean you’ve lost out on your great bargain. If, for example, a restaurant goes out of business before you can use the certificate, you can exchange it at Restaurant.com for a comparable deal at another participating restaurant.
4. You can exchange your certificates online in a flash
Your favorite pizza joint changed management and dropped out of the Restaurant.com program, so now you can’t use the $4 for $25 certificate you bought last month to order two deep-dish 3-topping pies for dinner tonight. Your money isn’t lost: You’ll just need to exchange your certificate for one at another restaurant.
Under the “My Account” section of the website, invalid certificates have an “exchange” link next to them. All you have to do is click the link, choose which restaurant you’d like to patronize instead, and make the swap.
You can exchange certificates for those of similar face values, meaning you could turn in that $25 certificate and get a $25 certificate at your local Mexican restaurant, regardless of how much you actually paid for your original certificate.
5. Don’t call the phone number on the certificate
The restaurant uses the phone number on your certificate to validate and redeem the certificate so that the discount can be reflected on your bill. As soon as the certificate is validated, it becomes invalid so it can’t be used again.
But if you call the number on the certificate yourself in an attempt to get information, you’ll end up invalidating your certificate before you even get to the restaurant!
To rectify the situation, you’ll need to contact Restaurant.com directly.