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comments Gift Certificate Coupon Codes & Tips

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I remember when I first heard about a few years ago. Their offer back then is the same as it is now, you can buy a $25 Restaurant gift certificate for $10. Every few weeks, they run a 70% or 80% off promotion where you end up getting a $25 Restaurant gift certificate for two bucks. Two freaking dollars… three if you only use 70% off.

A few years ago, hardly anyone took them. You went on the site, did a quick search for your area, and chances are only a few obscure restaurants were available. When I first looked, I didn’t even recognize a single restaurant in the 15 miles around my zip code! That’s not to say there weren’t any popular restaurants, we just didn’t know about them.

However recently we’ve discovered two local restaurants that take the gift certificates, one of which accepts it for alcoholic beverages (it’s a local wine restaurant, Iron Bridge Wine Company), and that turns a non-deal into a deal.

Tips for Using Coupons

Here are a few tips we’ve learned:

  • Never pay full price: With some careful planning or internet searching, chances are you can find a 70% or 80% off coupon. If not, it’s still a pretty good deal but the huge discounts are almost always available.
  • Read the rules: Different restaurants have different rules for how you can use the gift certificate. Sometimes alcohol is excluded, sometimes there’s an automatic gratuity, sometimes there are date and time restrictions, so review everything before purchase.
  • Expiration period: They usually expire within a year of purchase, unless your state has gift certificate laws extending it (Gift certificates in Maryland can’t expire within 4 years). Since you can buy a gift certificate and print it out within minutes, I don’t see a point in stockpiling. Buy it if you have plans to go within a week.
  • Tip on the regular amount: Some places add an automatic gratuity and others don’t, but remember to tip on the original amount.
  • Use it to test out restaurants: If you’ve had your eye on a place, check if they offer a gift certificate through to try it out on the cheap. Review the menu first, we did this once the other way around (saw it on and decided to try it) and found the menu was slightly more expensive than we had anticipated (the gift certificate made it reasonable). Don’t do it the other way around! Coupon Code

I’m no longer updating the latest coupon codes, you can find the latest coupon codes here.


{ 74 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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74 Responses to “ Gift Certificate Coupon Codes & Tips”

  1. I’m with Kat on this one. When we use these, we usually get the $25 certificates. They require $35 in purchases, but with an 80% off promo, my total expense usually comes to around $15 for the two of us to eat at a fairly nice restaurant, ordering 2 entrees, appetizer(s), 2 desserts, and possibly soup. Sure we take some home for leftovers, but I usually do that anyway. $15 for all of that is an incredible deal!

  2. Jenny says:

    Hi everyone,

    First time using coupons. Do you know if we can combine gift certificates? For example, can I buy two $25 gift certificates and combine for a $50 one time use?


    • Joe says:

      I just looked this up and it seems that in the fine print, it does specify that only one coupon can be used at once. still not a bad deal! I found a code for good through 5/31/10 “flag” will give you 80% off!

  3. Kate says:

    In response to Kat…it shouldn’t matter how much a person tips (or doesn’t tip); that’s irrelevant.

    Tipping is a patron’s choice and is at their discretion. As much as people will balk, it *is* the truth. Perhaps some people don’t mind being told what to do with their money, but there are quite a number who DO mind.

    Now, before someone gets picky, I’m NOT talking about groups of people where yes, yes, the 18%+ gratuity is already added for “convenience” blah blah blah – I’m referring to a few people out for dinner on a regular evening.

    I have absolutely no problem tipping 25-35% for a great server, but I resent being forced to compensate someone (who may not deserve it) on a predetermined scale. Yeah, sure I could complain to the manager if the service wasn’t up to par, which would then cast a pallor on my evening because I had to gripe to management about a server. Honestly, wouldn’t most people rather avoid that scenario altogether?

    Side note: because people will be picky – I’m NOT talking about the good, honest servers who get cheated out of tips by the losers, because that just sucks, and NOT what I am talking about.

    So yeah, if that “gratuity” restriction was lifted and gave me control over what I WANT to give, I’d be more likely to purchase a certificate. But as it stands now, it leaves a bad taste.

    Let ME decide what perk I want to give my server; don’t dictate it to me.

  4. james says:

    You mean you print them out,they don’t come via mail?

  5. william southard says:

    i think there great . my question is i used on
    yesterday while away for the weekend now can i use one tomorrow to take my family out for a
    birthday. it would be two in the same month but
    at different restaurants.

  6. Debbie says:

    I just recently purchased 12 gift certificates at the 80% off special of $2 for a $25 GC. I was so excited. Unfortunately, the first one I tried to use, I had a problem with. I confirmed with the Restaurant (Union Hotel Restaurant & Bar in Benicia, CA) before ordering that they accepted it and they said they did. After the meal, which we ordered an appetizer to go with to get to the $35 minimum, they said that when they called the number,it said the Certificate was not valid and that I had to take it up with When I called they confirmed the Certificate was good, they had no complaints about the validation phone lines being down and to try again. I took it back to the Restaurant (about 40 miles from where I live) and they tried calling again, and said that again it said it wasn’t valid. I asked the Restaurant owner to call the Customer Service line, and he refused. I actually think that the Restaurant owner just didn’t want to accept them anymore. When I called back, they tried the validation number and said that it went through fine. They also said that if for some reason, the GC had been used by someone else, the validation line would have said that it had been used on a certain date not that it was not valid. Anyway, was very helpful (although both times a called I waited quite awhile before I got a person)and gave me a credit to use for additional certificates. I just hope it doesn’t happen at the next Restaurant I go to. Anyone else have a similar problem?

  7. Gary says:

    Anybody who doesn’t think is a good deal doesn’t understand it. If you’re going out with another couple and the 4 of you will spend $200, consider this: a $100 gift certificate costs $40 on If you buy it and apply it to your dinner, you save $60. Assuming you tip anyway.

    But… if you buy it at a discount (say 80% off, the current promo with code ‘autumn’), the certificate only costs: $8. That same dinner with the coupon now gets you a savings of $94…

    • Elle says:

      “Anybody who doesn’t think is a good deal doesn’t understand it.”

      That’s simply not true. It’s not a good deal for me and I understand it quite well. As someone that generally carries out food and as someone who is single and prefers to eat alone 90% of the time, it would be extremely difficult for me to meet the average $35 minimums imposed by the restaurants near me. You shouldn’t assume everyone is like you.

      • Sunny says:

        I’m with you, Elle. Many of us who eat out regularly, thereby stimultating the economy, dine alone. I travel quite a bit and so ordering an extra entree plus desserts is not an option when you’re checking out the next am. Same for eating out locally, I eat out at home probably 4 nights a week and could never get near $35 unless I was ordering a few glasses of good red wine. Good deal only if your’e a party of 3-plus!

  8. Gary says:

    One more thing: right now you can buy gift cards (good for puchases on and gift certificates ( certificates that are exchanged for face value restaurant coupons later).

    What this means is you can spend your money at NOW, saving 80%; but you can pick the restaurant coupon you want to get at that discount LATER. It’s like buying money at 80% off!!!

  9. carrie says:

    So if you buy a girt card can you use it anywhere? or how do you use one?

  10. govenar says:

    carrie: a gift card can only be used to purchase coupons at

    I’ve bought a few coupons when they’re on sale for $1 or $2. I don’t think the deals are that great, but they seem ok for turning a very expensive meal into a just kinda expensive meal.

  11. Hey, gang! I’m about to purchase my first gift cert/coupon/whatever (ha!) and your discussion has been very helpful. I’m going out with a group and getting a $25 cert for $2 is going to help our budget stretch a little bit further. I’ll comment afterward to let you know how it goes! 😉

  12. AmandaB says:

    I have used twice, and both times it was a disaster. I bought a certificate for a restaurant in Carmel for a weekend getaway. I didn’t receive the certificate when I ordered it and ended up calling and emailing too. I was on hold for a half an hour on the phone and it took well over a week to get an email response. I finally received my certificate just barely in time to use at the restaurant. After a mediocre and very expensive meal we presented the coupon. The waitress brought it back and told us the fine print said “only valid Sun-Thurs”. I gave it to the locals at the next table and fumed the rest of the night.
    Several months later I tried to use another certificate for a restaurant about 20 minutes north of me. After stopping a few times for directions we pulled up to the restaurant very hungry. A hand written note on the door said “we no longer accept certificates”. I had purchased the certificate seven days earlier.
    I will never use again. It is a total waste of time and money

    • govenar says:

      I’ve heard that in that situation when a restaurant stops taking certificates after bought one, you can contact and exchange it for a certificate to a different restaurant.

  13. Tiffany says:

    Thanks for this post! I was looking for hints and tips to use my first gift certificate. I got it for $2, but I don’t want to get to the restaurant and make some dumb mistake! lol!

    One question, my GC says that an $18 gratuity is automatically added to my bill. Isn’t gratuity a tip? Do I really need to leave a tip on top of a gratuity? And if it isn’t, aren’t they just adding 18% to my bill?

  14. Anonymous says:

    Terrible. They always add a 20% service fee no matter how the service was and if you can use $10 maximum for a party of two, only on Saturdays, with a minimum purchase of $50 and they add 20% for bad service – you may as well go wherever you want and eat for whatever you want.

  15. foodie says:

    I thought I was buying a $50.00 coupon for $25.00 to use at a local restaurant. It printed out for $25.00 w/a minimum purchase of $50.00 and my credit card was billed for $25.00. The website was hard to navigate and I will not be using it again.

  16. Chris says:

    Make sure to read the fine print on these. They often don’t apply to alcohol purchases, they also usually incorporate a built in tip…but if used right, they can offer quite a good savings on meals.

  17. wisernow says:

    We used our gift cert last night for the first time. It was for $25 (we spent $2). We had to spend at least $35. We ordered pop (which we normally don’t, but we did it to help boost our price up, since it was just the two of us), and an appetizer, in addition to our entrees. The dinner came to $35.99. Then, he added the 18% gratuity. I had forgotten about that. I said to him, ‘Oh you’re adding in the tip, right?’ He said, ‘no ma’am. That isn’t my tip, but if you’d like to leave me a tip, you can.’ So, we left him a 20% tip, like we normally do. We left feeling ripped off, because we thought that was what ‘gratuity’ was….their tip. What’s the 18% ‘gratuity’ for then???????

    • Steve says:

      I don’t understand that. The 18% IS in fact the “tip”. That’s what the word “gratuity” means. I would not have left any extra for the waiter. And if he had a problem with it, I would have given him a lesson in the English language and reminded him that the 18% “gratuity” was his tip! If he had a problem with that, he’d need to take it up with the owner of the restaurant.

      Sounds like you got played, wisernow.

  18. Sue says:

    We used a gift certificate last night. I specifically read it first and it didn’t say alcohol was not included. There were 4 of us, and when we got the bill, it was $85, but only $40 was food. The minimum was supposed to be $50. They said it couldn’t be used for alcohol. Long story short, they gave us an $8.00 break, and kept my gift certificate. So they will end up getting $102 between what we paid, and what they will get reimbursed from Restaurant.Com. I have emailed the customer service. My biggest question is, shouldn’t alcohol be included unless it specifically says it isn’t?

  19. Steve says: coupons can be a decent deal in certain situations, but they’re usually not as great of a deal as it first appears.

    As others have said, you have to pay very close attention to the terms and conditions for each restaurant. Some exclude alcohol, some don’t. Some have set hours you can use the coupon, some don’t.

    Also, I have found that these coupons are best if there are at least three people eating. When my wife and I go out, it is hard for the two of us to spend $35 (the minimum on most of the $25 certificates), especially if alcohol is not included. Much less $50! And while some have suggested “order a third entree and take it home”, I suspect some restaurants would consider that as not being in the spirit of the “Dine in only!” provision of the coupon.

    Also, one of my pet peeves is the “Show waiter your coupon before ordering” provision. Why do they need to see it before I order??? At almost all restaurants, they can easily adjust the bill right up until the time you pay it. So why do they need to know ahead of time that you have a coupon? Call me paranoid, but I’d bet that when you show the coupon upfront, you might somtimes get smaller portions or the “less fresh” food they have to serve to someone. Showing them the coupon first is basically telling the kitchen, “We have a customer who isn’t going to pay full price! Give them the ‘discount’ portion/quality of food”

    Yeah, these coupons can be ok IF you use them strategically. But coupons (buy one, get one free) are often just as good of a deal, if not better.

    • govenar says:

      I also don’t show the coupon to the waiter before ordering, for the same reasons you mentioned. I haven’t had any problems. I show it to them before they bring the bill though.
      Though maybe a benefit of showing it to them first is in case they no longer take them, you can find out before you order stuff that costs more than you’d usually spend; and you could ask them to clarify the terms, like whether it’s valid for alcohol. But you could call and ask that before going to the restaurant.

  20. Sarah says:

    We got suckered into buying one of’s $5 gift certificates that give you $50 for their site. Well it’s a complete scam. The $50 can only be used in a certain section of their site that only has minimal restaurants to choose from…and you can’t use promo codes. You have to buy the gift certificates for the same amount they are worth! To me that’s bad business practice. They should make that clear before you purchase.

    • schmoe says:

      Yea, I was hoping to triple stack the savings. Buy the site gift certificates with a 70% promo code. Then, after purchase complete, come back and purchase a restaurant gift certificates with the 70% promo, then apply the site gift certificates to the purchase and hope that the certificate is applied to the cost of the restaurant gift certificate and not the value of the gift certificate. Unfortunately, it does not work that way. You only apply the savings once.

      I did not notice a reduced set of restaurants in the site gift certificate section. Reduced user experience? crappier navigation? yes. Because of that, I don’t find it a scam.

  21. sooze says:

    Another thing you have to watch out for is the “holidays” exclusion. I went to a local mexican retaurant that I don’t even like very much because I had gotten the $25 certificate for $2. It was a Tuesday night. Turns out when we went to pay, the guy came back and said it was Veterans Day. No offense whatsoever to the veterans out there, but that hardly seems like the kind of holiday that causes crowds to go out to dinner to celebrate, thus making an exclusion make sense. They were technically correct, of course, but I was none too pleased and have never gone back to that restaurant again. So much for my 2 bucks.

  22. Arin says:

    I rarely say this but: don’t even bother.

    It *sounds* like a great deal. Spend $25 & get $50 in gift certificates at a ton of great restaurants. That’s what I thought too. We’re all watching our pennies these days but we still want to enjoy our lives, right?

    My goal was to have a wonderful dinner with my fella & celebrate our 2 year anniversary in style. I went to the site, read the terms & conditions for the restaurant we wanted to dine at carefully & purchased 4 gift certificates.

    What they don’t tell you is that you can only use ONE gift certificate for $25 for your party at a time, only ONCE PER MONTH per restaurant. (Even if you sit at separate tables & use separate checks!) This is not made clear to you until AFTER you’ve already made your purchase & printed out your gift certificates.

    So how far do you think $25 goes at a fine dining establishment? Especially when you are REQUIRED to purchase at least 2 entrees & 18% gratuity is automatically added before you get the check.

    There I was stuck with 4 gift certificates for the same place, in a town we don’t live in, that would take 4 months to use. I immediately tried to contact customer service to see if something could be done, but of course they close on weekends. That left me & my sweetie to come up with another place to eat on what was left of our budget.

    As if that weren’t enough, when I called during the week I was put on hold for 20 minutes plus waiting to talk to anyone real about it. With a busy work schedule & home life it took me 4 tries to get through. The final time I gritted my teeth & waited on hold for nearly 30 minutes.

    In short: DEEPLY UNIMPRESSED. Save your money, go to Groupon or Travelzoo or even Yelp, who often has deals for your favorite places.

  23. Smart Diner says:

    The theme of the reviews here is pretty much dead on. The certificates are not really such a great deal. The so called fine print destroys whatever value was there. The exclusions and built in tip remove what little discount was there to begin with. I used one at a strip mall restaurant and after they added in their 18% additional tip, I “saved” $5.00 based on the cost of the certificate added in. I’d never have tipped this place 18%, it just wasn’t great service, only the family owners carrying the plates a couple feet to our table. I received the certificates as a gift, the only reason I used one….. You’re better off eating and drinking on your own terms where and when you want. Plus, as others said, a gratuity is just that. A gratuity and whether you like it or not it’s optional.

  24. karen says:

    If I have a $100 gift card, does it have to be used at one restaurant? And do I have to pay a certain amount or would they take the $100 gift card for a $100 bill. (costing me nothing more)??

  25. Larry says:

    You are not going to get somethig for free. Thats part of the reason t he economy is where it is because people think if its not free its not a good deal, you saving money, end of story, you could either pay full price or save $10-$20, I’d rather save a bit.

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