How to obtain and use gift certificates

By Stew

Last week, I mentioned several ways to decrease the cost of going out to eat – if you must eat out. Of course, I neglected to mention the #1 way to hold down restaurant costs: get someone else to pay. I suppose some of you might be better at that than others . . .

In the course of the article, I mentioned (RDC) gift certificates as one way to reduce the expense of going out to eat. Some of you may not be familiar with RDC gift certificates and I think that they can be a good way to reduce your out-to-eat-if-you-must budget. The concept behind the site is that people can purchase $25 gift certificates to particular restaurants for only $10, $50 certificates for $20, $75 for $30 and $100 for $40 – that is, if you even pay full price for your certificates. Mrs. Stew and I almost always get them for free or for a significantly reduced price.

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of gift certificates:

  • You will probably not recognize most of the restaurants. RDC works primarily with smaller, sometimes family-run restaurants. Typically they are good places to eat, but have trouble attracting customers since they do not have a franchise name or national ad campaigns. The eateries work with RDC in order to drive foot traffic and maybe earning a new customer or two.
  • RDC can be a great way to find good ethnic food.
  • Buy your certificates early in the month. Some of the more popular restaurants in the database have limited numbers of gift certificates in a particular month. One of our favorites, Ted’s Montana Grill is not offered every month and when it appears in the RDC list, the certificates sell out in the first week.
  • It helps to know a little bit about the menu at a particular restaurant.  For instance, if you are planning to invite another couple to eat at a restaurant where entrees are $25 apiece, you will probably need to go with the $100 gift certificate. It is good to have an approximate idea how much the food you need to purchase is going to cost.
  • Read the fine print carefully. This is the only real downside to RDC gift certificates: some of them have a lot of restrictions. For instance, some only allow the gift certificates to be used Monday-Thursday, some even restrict the time of day. Remember, the purpose of the gift certificates is to increase foot traffic to restaurants. Some have no trouble attracting customers on weekends, but Tuesdays before 4 pm might be slow, so that is when the gift certificates can be used. Other restrictions can include a minimum purchase amount, for instance many (not all) of the $25 gift certificates require a minimum $35 purchase. This restriction is about perfect for my family of five, but might not be convenient for a single person or a couple. Some gift certificates do not allow you to buy certain entrees.
  • Be sure to tip on the full value of the food that you purchase, not just the cash or non-gift card portion.

So how do we get RDC gift certificates?

There are a lot of ways – remember, we never pay full price. One way is to earn gift certificates through MyPoints. If you register at, you will be sent daily emails that offer points for clicking on links or purchasing something through the email. I content myself with just clicking the links. After a while, you will save up enough points to trade for a RDC gift certificate. Also, MyPoints often offers RDC gift certificates at 80% off when you purchase through their site. Mrs. Stew earns RDC gift certificates through the “Swagbucks” toolbar in our web browser. You can also sign up for email promotions from RDC itself or just look for advertisements throughout the web. One time I was able to buy two RDC $25 gift certificates for $2 after purchasing virus protection software.

Maybe you’ll bump into me at my favorite RDC restaurant, The Rib BBQ Restaurant and Catering . . .

Article by Stew

3 Responses (including trackbacks) to “How to obtain and use gift certificates”

  1. Michael @ Says:

    I’m also a happy user of 80/90% off gift certificates. We had an awesome $25 off brunch the other day at a place we never would have gone to if we hadn’t been in the area and found it on I’ve probably redeemed 10 of them an never had a problem. Another few tips on using from my experience.

    Watch out on using at an order at the counter place. Most of the gift certificates guarantee an 18% tip and at most order at the counter places I don’t usually tip and if I do it’s a buck in the jar. That mandatory 18% tip can eat up your savings. At a sit down restaurant I usually tip 15-20% anyway so a mandatory 18% just saves me the math so no big deal.

    If you like be sure and subscribe to sites like Groupon and LivingSocial. They usually have a local deal of the day and many days that deal will be 50% off at a restaurant.

  2. micki Says:

    In my area, ALL the restaurants (I’m on page 6 with 25 restaurants per page) add at least an 18% gratuity before the discount, so even if you have bad service the waitstaff gets a tip. I usually tip around 20% anyway, because I have done service-oriented (read: dependent on tips) jobs pretty much my entire life, but I like to have the option. I might do this, but basically we have stopped most eating out. There are a lot of ethnic restaurants on the list though and since I really really really enjoy ethnic foods of ALL kinds and most of them are hard to prepare at home, I might spring for a couple of these. Thanks Stew for your faithfulness in this blog :)

  3. TekGems Says:

    If you browse sites that specialize in “deals” they often have coupon codes or links that will let you purchase $25 off $50 for $2. I’m not sure if these restaurants make any money if you continually use the coupons, but its a way to get people in the door.