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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 it's 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.
- "Fun" way 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.
- Rewards expire after 60 days if you don't redeem them.
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.
Sandy on December 23, 2019:
I signed up for rewards many months ago I got a cookie right away but since then I’ve received nothing I go there quite often I think it’s a big joke!
charles on May 14, 2019:
Tried to register my card. Panera will not allow me to register.
Kris on April 29, 2019:
The rewards are so skimpy that I googled Panera Rewards to see if I was the only one who noticed. I feel that that their rewards program is an insult. Compared to what a person pays for a sandwich, the rewards amount to nothing. I continue to get $1 off a beverage as my reward...…..really?!
Margaret Oleson on September 05, 2018:
I have had my card since 2010. Yesterday it was not registered at the Panera I usually go to. I tried to register my card number and code online and it would not accept the number. Help!
KatherineNowicki on June 12, 2018:
Why was my phone number not recognized today?
Darlene on February 22, 2018:
To many change not good going down hill 20 mins for breasfast
Erin on February 02, 2018:
I don't like that the rewards are random - I would go more often if I knew I was close to obtaining a reward I really liked. I've had the card for several years now, and I've gotten a couple of really good rewards. I got a free "you pick two" once and a free bagel everyday for a month twice.
Kaybee on April 15, 2017:
I agree. After the free pastry and drink, I barely get anything... maybe once a month $1 off a pastry, if that. The pastries are $2.99. Not really worth it. How about a free soup or sandwich? This program is the worst rewards program ever!
Cash Money on May 21, 2016:
Just another way to get your private information so they can sell it off to advertisers.
anonymous on September 16, 2015:
12th "reward" in a row... $1 off a beverage. I go at least once a week, but don't drink anything but water. If I get the beverage I'll be spending more than I normally would. Not a reward.
Squeak on September 02, 2015:
I just received a free cup of soup everyday during the month of September. Not too skimpy to me.
eyhung on August 19, 2015:
I usually spend a lot at Panera cause I get their group soup, which is $12.99, at least once a week or so. The rewards I've gotten have been quite skimpy, like what others mentioned, free soda or coffee, sometimes free pastry.
Anonymous on September 18, 2014:
Personally, I'm actually not into sandwiches and soup of any sort, as I grew tired of the homemade ones that I used to eat and drink often. So to me, any free pastries and drinks that I can choose, in terms of the flavours, is perfect to me!
c. cole on May 29, 2014:
Program needs to give better. Incentives like a free sandwich or soup !!!.
Dianna Mendez on February 02, 2013:
I have not activated my card yet, but getting a free pastry is great with me as I do love their bakery items. Their coffee is also a mellow flavor and I love it as well. They actually offer more than other cards I currently have, so I rated them well. Sorry you haven't seen anything special offered yet for you, but maybe they will give you something more your style in the future. I know a Corporate Manager of Panera Bread and they do appreciate feedback such as yours. Thanks for the interesting read.
Beth37 on January 31, 2013:
I don't mean to sound unkind, but I really hate this kind of attitude. If you don't want the free stuff, don't use the card and don't complain. If you are grateful for the free stuff, say thank you.
This is, imo, just the kind of attitude that seems to come so naturally from Americans. They are dying for lack of food in other countries and we are to the point where we complain when it is given to us freely? Ugh.
Audrey Surma from Virginia on January 30, 2013:
I had no idea Starbucks had a program, although I rarely go there unless I have a giftcard, as their prices seem pretty high for coffee. Good to know.
tipstoretireearly (author) from New York on January 30, 2013:
I love the Starbucks reward program. You get a free food or drink item after every 12 purchases, and you can pick anything you like! It'd be great to see Panera make some changes along those lines.
Katherine Sanger from Texas on January 29, 2013:
I have to agree, it seems to be so random that it isn't worth having. When a Panera opened up across the highway from where I live (under a mile away), I thought it would be great, but since there is no way to know when or if you have a reward, I find myself preferring to go to Starbucks where I know I will get "points" and free food and drinks at a pre-determined time.
Audrey Surma from Virginia on January 29, 2013:
We go to Panera often, and like you, I have received very little in terms of the rewards. Even so, I don't know of any other restaurants or coffee shops that offer a rewards program. Starbucks has never offered a reward program that I know of. It would be nice to get something more than a free coffee or pastry, but at it's something.
Stephanie Giguere from Worcester, MA on January 29, 2013:
I have a my Panera card, and everything that you say here is true. However, I like it! I agree that the rewards don't come that often, but it's still free. And although I don't usually buy their pastries, I would still love to get a pastry for free.
I think that the real problem is that it doesn't necessarily keep me loyal, which I believe is the purpose. I don't have much incentive to patronize Panera over another resteraunt because of the MyPanera card. I go there because it is right next to where I work and I like their food.
Melanie Casey from Indiana on January 29, 2013:
I love Panera bagels and the nice variety of cream cheeses. Great coffee too!
tipstoretireearly (author) from New York on January 29, 2013:
The sandwiches and salads are delicious! Enjoy the visit.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 29, 2013:
I have never been to that business. I think we have one in town, too, but I've never stopped in. Great suggestions and now I think I need to go there this weekend.