My Panera Card Review
MyPanera Loyalty Program
It's difficult to criticize something that's free. Yet it's still easy to criticize the MyPanera loyalty program from Panera Bread. While the program is simple to join and easy to use, its rewards are so skimpy that its barely worth the minimal effort to sign up.
How the MyPanera Loyalty Program Works
On the plus side, the MyPanera loyalty program is free to join and simple to use.
Simply ask for a MyPanera card on your next visit to Panera Bread, and then register the card online. You'll get credit on your card for a free pastry once you register.
Then, simply ask the cashier to swipe your MyPanera card whenever you make a purchase. You'll receive credit for another free item (typically a smoothie, coffee or tea) after your first purchase.
You will thereafter receive "surprise" free items from time to time during future visits. The cashier will let you know about your surprise, and you'll have up to 60 days to redeem it before it expires.
You will also receive a special surprise on your birthday, which you identify during registration.
You can look up your awards online at any time. If you forget to bring your card to Panera, just give the cashier your telephone number instead. You can use your MyPanera card at any Panera Bread restaurant, which is helpful when traveling.
That's it. There are no coupons to cut, points to track, or visits to remember. Just give the cashier your card (or phone number) and remember to redeem your rewards.
What are the MyPanera Rewards?
What free items will you receive?
As discussed above, people typically receive a free pastry simply for registering their MyPanera card. They also often receive a free beverage after their first purchase.
Additional MyPanera rewards include:
- free food and drink items;
- invitations to exclusive previews, tastings or special events;
- free recipe books; and
- ideas for cooking, baking or entertaining.
However, you will not know which rewards you'll receive, or when you'll receive them. The Panera Bread website says "[t]hat's part of the fun - it's always a surprise".
Advantages and Disadvantages of MyPanera Card
The MyPanera loyalty program has a number of advantageous features:
- free to join;
- simple to use with no coupons to cut, points to track or visits to remember;
- front-loaded rewards including free items for registering and first use; and
- "fun" of getting "surprise" rewards.
However, the program also has several disadvantageous features:
- unclear when you will qualify for an award;
- unclear what your reward will be;
- uncertain whether you will personally appreciate your reward; and
- rewards expire after 60 days if you don't redeem them.
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Experiences with MyPanera Card
My experiences with the MyPanera loyalty program illustrate its two major problems. First, the rewards are skimpy in comparison to Panera Bread's prices. Second, the economic value of the rewards to the recipient is often much less than the menu price of those rewards.
The MyPanera program starts out strong, with a free pastry upon registration and a free drink for the first use. Unfortunately, subsequent rewards are skimpy. As a casual Panera Bread customer, the only subsequent rewards I've received have been a free drink or free pastry (perhaps more frequent customers get better rewards). I'm still waiting for a free sandwich, soup, recipe book or anything else. From comments posted online by other customers, my experiences are not unique. Considering the premium prices charged for what are essentially sandwich meals, the rewards seem minimal.
As much as its fun to get a free cheese or cherry danish, the economic value of a free pastry to me is low. After all, I would almost never order one, so the economic value of a free pastry to me must be much less than the price listed on the menu. For people who don't like pastries, the value may be as low as zero. This illustrates the second major problem of the MyPanera loyalty program: the economic value of the "surprise" reward to its recipient will often be much lower than its price.
While it's difficult to criticize something that's free, it's still easy to criticize the MyPanera program because its rewards are skimpy and the recipient can't select the rewards. While some people no doubt appreciate the "fun" aspect of receiving an unknown "surprise" at unknown times, I'd prefer a more typical loyalty program where the rules are known and the rewards are truly appreciated.
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