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How to Save Money on Food and Grocery Delivery

Food delivery is more in demand than ever, whether for groceries, restaurant orders, or snacks. You can save money on food with these tips on delivery from around the web.

By Karen Lynch | American Express Credit Intel Freelance Contributor

7 Min Read | May 11, 2020 in Money

 

At-A-Glance

Food delivery has surged in the early 2020s—but this convenience can sometimes be pricey.

With a little effort, you can find ways to save money on food when ordering in.

More Americans are turning to home delivery of groceries and restaurant orders. In early 2020, reports showed double- and triple-digit growth in the downloading of mobile food delivery apps and in related food sales.1 Eight out of 10 people were already using restaurant delivery at least once a month in 2019,2 with mobile/online restaurant orders growing more than 20% a year.3

 

Food delivery can be pricey, though restaurants and delivery services may waive some fees during times of hardship. You could end up paying subscriptions, delivery fees, location surcharges, peak pricing, fees for small orders, and, notably, markups on the original menu or store item.4 This article suggests ways to save money on food delivery, including comparison shopping, complimentary subscriptions, cash back, promo codes, sign-up bonuses, rewards, and other (often limited-time) promotions.

 

How to Save Money on Restaurant Food Delivery

Most people ordering restaurant delivery use third-party delivery apps, though more restaurants are developing their own courier services. A recent New York Times analysis found that food purchased via those apps can include hefty markups. It compared four delivery services, showing that the same sandwich cost 25% to 91% more than if you picked it up yourself.5 Clearly, a good step toward saving money on food delivery is to understand the different fees each restaurant and delivery service charges.

 

They’re not easy to compare, though. To begin with, some restaurants charge more for food ordered for delivery, and some don’t. Some delivery companies have relationships with the restaurants they cater to, which could mean lower fees for you, but others don’t. Prices can be a moving target, depending on the time of day, availability of drivers, proximity to the restaurant, and other factors. You’re also expected to tip the courier.

 

But there are ways to save money on food delivery. Tips gathered from around the web include:

  • Sign-up bonus. Some delivery apps give a complimentary first delivery or account credit when you sign up.
  • No fee. National chains that partner with delivery services sometimes waive the delivery fee for your first order.6
  • Rewards. Multiple orders from the same restaurant can earn you rewards—free fries with that?7 Delivery services sometimes have their own loyalty and rewards programs, which can add up to a free delivery or other perk.
  • Subscriptions. You can sign up for subscriptions if you get a lot of food deliveries. These can include special offers, and can lower or even eliminate individual delivery charges for most orders (except the smallest). You might get a complimentary trial.
  • Coupons, promo codes. One order might arrive with a coupon for 25% off the next delivery. Promo codes are available online. Some delivery services also push out promotions by email.
  • Charging it. Some credit cards offer limited-time memberships to food delivery services and credits for deliveries. Other cards include popular delivery services in their dining and entertainment rewards programs.8 Some let card members use their points to pay for delivery.9
  • Going direct. As more restaurants offer their own (or shared) delivery services in 2020, these may prove less expensive than using third-party delivery.10
  • Takeout. Of course, it usually costs less to pick up your dinner yourself.

 

How to Save Money on Food with Grocery Deliveries

Many of the tips for saving money on restaurant deliveries also apply to groceries—and some of the same delivery companies do both. But national retail chains, e-commerce giants, specialty food suppliers, and local outlets provide a wider range of options for delivering groceries. Here are more tips:

  • Size your order. With groceries, it’s particularly useful to know that the larger the order, the smaller the delivery fee may be as a percent of your total. One delivery service charges about $10 for orders of $30 to $75, but about $7 for orders of $100 and up.11
  • Discounts, promo codes. Discounts can drive delivery fees down to about $3. In addition, some food brands offer promo codes that are redeemable only through a particular delivery service.
  • Subscriptions. If you subscribe—which may be required—or join through your credit card, you could gain benefits including rewards for the groceries purchased as well as delivery.
  • Markups. Grocers with their own delivery services may be less likely to mark up the items you order, but they often increase in-store prices on items if you order from third-party delivery services.12
  • Thresholds. Delivery charges are usually waived as part of a subscription service—but you might have to pay anyway for smaller orders if your order doesn’t meet the minimum threshold for an individual delivery.13
  • Location, location. Some fees are simply assessed by your proximity to a store, so it may cost less to shop closer to home.

 

The Takeaway

Whether in the best of times or in times of hardship, Americans value getting food delivered right to their door. This convenience comes at a cost, but there are ways to save money on food delivery. You can start by comparison shopping, then looking for discounts, rewards, coupons, and other promotions.

Karen Lynch

Karen Lynch is a journalist who has covered global business, technology, finance, and related public policy issues for more than 30 years.

 

All Credit Intel content is written by freelance authors and commissioned and paid for by American Express. 

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