11 McDonald's Hacks That Will Save You A Few Bucks

Built on promises of instant gratification, the drive-thru is a symbol of our modern culture. But, a trip through the curb-painted lanes doesn't illicit the same level of joy it did 20 years ago. It could have something to do with the longer lines which spawn from higher demand. The anxiety of ordering and handing over your payment before the car behind you honks in irritation also plays a factor. Or, it could have everything to do with the inevitable sticker shock.

Fast-food joints are meant to be a haven for budget meals, but this is no longer the case. Fast food prices rose 29% from 2019 to 2023, and not even McDonald's — the corporate giant known for its value — has been exempt. Like most restaurants, Mickey D's has undergone multiple rounds of price hikes in these past few years since the onset of the pandemic, drastically increasing the cost of that Big Mac and the now not-so-Happy Meal.

To soften the blow, the chain currently has a slew of improvements on the horizon from plans for bigger and better burgers to an expanded loyalty program. However, if you're looking to get more for your money right now, there are plenty of crafty hacks. A few aren't worth your time — like extracting a patty from one of McDonald's double burgers to create a second sandwich. But, countless other tricks can save you cash and get you back to lovin' it.

1. Get the app and use it regularly

It's the age of the apps. Every brand, store, and restaurant has one by now and McDonald's is no exception. Released in 2015, the fast-food giant's platform is functional but far from perfect. It ranks as one of the worst fast-food loyalty apps with a finicky interface susceptible to tech outages and variable pricing that leads to confusion. Even with these bugs, it's a necessary evil to save you money.

You will receive a $4 kickback to use on any purchase of $4 or more just for signing up. Birthdays are a little sweeter — or should we say saltier — with the app thanks to the promise of free fries. Plus, the interface alerts you about weekly or daily deals happening at your nearest location.

The app's main purpose is to earn and track points. This is where you can make the most out of your moolah. For every dollar you spend at the chain, you earn 100 reward points that can be cashed in later for free food and drinks — turning mealtime into a satisfying game. The system is laid out in tiers of 1500, 3000, 4500, and 6000 points, each with a new list of associated freebies. For example, with 1500 points you can cash in for a vanilla cone. But, with 6000, a Big Mac is on the table.

2. Take advantage of deals and the $1 $2 $3 Menu

There's always a deal to be had at McDonald's, and they can all be found on the mobile app. The chain says, "New deals are added to the McDonald's app regularly to give you a variety of choices and discounts! Deals are removed from the Deal screen once they expire or have been used."

These limited-time promotions include offers like BOGOs, free items with a minimum purchase, percentages off of your order, or free delivery fees. It is important to note that these deals are only available to those who have opted into the rewards program, and only one deal can be used per person, per visit, so choose wisely.

In addition to deals, it would behoove you and your wallet to get familiar with the $1 $2 $3 Dollar Menu. We continue to mourn the loss of McDonald's original Dollar Menu, however, this modern approach still offers great value. Fountain drinks as well as eight food items —Sausage Biscuit, Sausage McMuffin, Sausage Burrito, Hash Browns, McDouble, McChicken, McNuggets, and fries — sit in this section of the menu, all coming in at $3 or under. So, for example, you could order two McChickens from this list for less than the cost of one McCrispy. Or, you can get two McDoubles for less than the cost of one Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. That's what we call getting more bang for your McBuck.

3. Order McNuggets in bulk

Chicken nuggets were not a part of McDonald's inaugural menu, but have been around since 1983. So, with decades of McNuggets munching under your belt, it may be upsetting to learn that you've been ordering them wrong this entire time. And no, we're not criticizing your sauce choice. It comes down to the size you've been ordering.

Like most foods or products, McNuggets become cheaper as you buy them in larger quantities. Therefore, it's always more economical to buy them in 20 or even 40-counts to get the best price per nugg. To break it down, when you order a 40-pack for its current price of $14.29, each bowtie, bell, ball, and boot-shaped piece comes out to about $.35. Conversely, with a 4-pack of nuggets priced at $2.19, the price balloons to nearly $.55 each.

The math doesn't lie, it always pays to combine orders within your party. Or, just buy in bulk and save any extras for another meal since McNuggets reheat well — especially when crisped up in the air fryer.

To further sweeten the deal, you can even get the recently re-introduced spicy McNuggets at the same price as the originals. Hurry though, because they'll only be around for a limited time.

4. The Poor Man's Big Mac

The Big Mac is arguably the most famous single item in the entire fast-food realm. How many other foods have their own designated jingle that's been stuck in consumers' heads for 50 years? We don't think the words "Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun" will ever be fully erased from our memories.

While the Big Mac is undeniably iconic, it's also on the pricier side, stacked high with all that glorious meat and extra bun layer. But, not to worry. There's a hack for that and one that everyone has been talking about. On Quora, one McDonald's employee explains exactly how you can outsmart your way to Mac, but hold the Mac price. They say to ask for a McDouble "dressed like a Big Mac," meaning adding both shredded lettuce and special sauce and doing away with the mustard and ketchup. This "Poor Man's Big Mac" won't come with its unique middle bun. When ordered successfully, however, it does come with a cost savings of around $2.00.

As with most hacks, it's unfortunately not always a surefire solution. Some locations may still charge you for the added lettuce and special sauce, even if you order in person or at the window. So, strategic ordering — and possibly a trip to the next closest set of Golden Arches — may be required to get in on this money-saving swap.

5. Don't Throw Out Your Receipt

We get it. Physical receipts can seem like a pointless waste of paper, and as such, they often become the first items tossed into the bin while cleaning. You're going to want to save your receipts from Mickey D's, though, because discarding one of those is like throwing money down the drain.

On every sales slip distributed by the chain, a survey code exists. This unique 26-digit number can be used to complete a quick online questionnaire through McDVoice.com. Upon completion, participating customers receive a validation code to redeem the offer originally specified on their receipt. In many cases, this consists of a BOGO deal with a choice between Quarter Pounders or Egg McMuffins, with the exact promotion varying by location.

Taking a few minutes to fill out these surveys may even benefit employees as well as yourself. On Reddit, cashiers and other workers have shared that they could receive perks like bonuses, free meals, or other prizes from a drawing if their name is mentioned positively in a survey.

Plus, there's one additional reason you'll want to keep tabs on that receipt. If you ever forgot to scan your app when ordering in person at McDonald's you can still use it to earn points. Just go to the "Add Missing Points from Receipt" section of the app, type in the required sales information, and, boom, the points will be added within one to six days.

6. Try a Sundae with Added Toppings Over an M&M McFlurry

A trip to McDonald's isn't complete without a sweet treat to wash everything down — unless of course the ice cream machine is broken again, but that's another story. Many people opt for one of the chain's famed soft-serve M&M McFlurrys, but, did you know there's a way to get essentially the same thing for less money?

Next time you're ordering from the Golden Arches, opt for a plain sundae. Topping options will include hot fudge, caramel, crushed OREO, whipped cream, and M&M's. Depending on your location, the sundae will ring up at around $2.89 with an upcharge of $.40 for the sugar-coated candies. Therefore, the M&M sundae will cost you $3.29, compared to a $3.49 M&M McFlurry. You could even add M&M's to a caramel or hot fudge sundae and still save $.10. Although a 10 or 20-cent price difference sounds small, don't underestimate its ability to add up quickly — especially when you have a car full of hungry kids and adults all suffering from a severe sweet tooth.

Sadly, this same trick doesn't work for the chain's OREO McFlurry, as the cost to add the cookies onto a plain sundae is greater. So, if you have a hankering for one you'll have to bite the bullet and splurge.

7. Up some toppings on your sandwich for free

Bigger and bulkier doesn't have to mean more meat or a higher price tag. You can also create a more filling burger or sandwich at McDonald's just by doubling down on toppings like veggies and condiments.

Garnishes like pickles, diced onion, mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard can be tacked onto any order free of charge. Shredded lettuce and sliced Roma tomatoes will likely cost you $.30 and $.45 respectively. Or, you could even throw in a couple of bacon slices for $1.89. Just a few of these add-ons and simple adjustments can help that $1.89 cheeseburger or $1.99 McChicken eat more like a meal, allowing you to fill your stomach while continuing to stick to your budget.

Customizations like this help stretch your dollar farther, but they also help you to ensure fresh food every time. Many of McDonald's standard, top-selling items are often made well in advance to reduce wait times. But, while the speed of service is appreciated, this means you could end up with an older and colder meal. When you go off-script with your order, it's guaranteed it will be made right then and there, similar to how your fries are fresh from the fryer when you ask for no salt.

8. Ask about senior or other personnel discounts

It pays to be in your golden years when you dine at the Golden Arches — sometimes. Since the McDonald's chain consists of 90% franchised restaurants that each set its own prices, it does not offer a company-wide senior discount policy. But, folks over the age of 55 may still be able to save some change on coffee or soft drinks at select locations. Twenty percent seems to be the standard markdown, as reported by customers, equating to just about $.22 to $.33 off that latte or bubbly beverage.

The better news is that if you do find a participating restaurant, you likely won't even need to pull out your ID as proof. Most locations work off the honor system. And, if you happen to look wise beyond your years, you may even have a few cents knocked off your order automatically — even if you're not yet 55. This exact scenario has offended some customers in the past, but hey, money saved is always a good thing, right?

Active military personnel and veterans may also enjoy free combo meals on Veteran's Day, or in rare cases, year-round discounts. A few joints even show appreciation for teachers with similar deals or percentages off. You can contact your local restaurant to learn more about its personalized offers.

9. Order eggs on the side of your breakfast sammie

We'll preface this hack by saying it's notorious for being hit or miss. But, it's worth a shot to hold on to some of your hard-earned cash.

As you may have noticed, breakfast sandwiches at the chain jump up starkly in price once an egg is added. For instance, a normal Sausage McMuffin is priced at $1.89 while one with an egg will cost you $3.99, meaning that one egg adds $2.10 to your order. Meanwhile, you can buy almost a full carton of eggs for that price at the supermarket. Something's not adding up here.

To fight back against this egg-recious price hike, McDonald's customers have discovered that ordering a plain breakfast sandwich and asking for an egg on the side can help to bring down their bill. As mentioned though, it's not a foolproof method. You will first need to find a McDonald's that allows you to purchase eggs on the side — the app doesn't cater to this hack and some restaurants won't either. Then, if you can order a side egg, the price you will pay is up in the air. A few lucky customers have been able to secure one for just $1. But, you could also end up forking over north of $2, ending up right around where you started.

10. Ask for your drink without ice

Cups containing too much ice and not enough drink is not a problem that's confined to just McDonald's. The issue plagues the entire restaurant industry. Unlike at sit-down eateries, though, where you can simply ask for refill after refill to compensate, at the Mickey D's drive-thru what you get is what you get. So, you want to make it count.

Since big hunks of ice take up a high percentage of your plastic cup, you're likely losing an ounce or two of liquid. Requesting no ice can help you make sure your cup is filled to the brim with the fountain drink of your choice. This could even lead to a cost savings of about $.10 to $.20 since a small drink with no ice may very well hold the same volume as a medium with ice, and the same goes for a medium to large.

In addition, without ice, your drink won't become distastefully watered down, or coated in condensation to the point where it drenches your car's cupholders and console. Plus, McDonald's ice is not the crunchy, crave-able kind like Chick-fil-A's, so you're not missing out in that regard.

11. Make your own creamsicle or soda float for cheap

We'd be lying if we said we didn't get a thrill from ordering secret menu items. Everybody loves a good tasty hack, and McDonald's has plenty of these hidden gems to offer. The McBrunch sandwich featuring two cheeseburgers, bacon, eggs, and a hash brown is one such concoction that went viral on TikTok. A combination Big Mac, McChicken, and Filet-O-Fish called the Land Air & Sea Sandwich is an established classic that McDonald's itself has embraced. And, another great off-menu hack involves creating an entirely new breed of dessert.

You'll need to start by purchasing a simple soda like root beer (only available at some locations), orange soda, or even Coca-Cola for a cost of just around $1.39 for a small on the app. Then, you'll want to snag a vanilla soft-serve cone or cup which rings up at close to $1.89. Lastly, all you have to do is combine the two, and voila! You have a delicious soda float or orange creamsicle that's budget-friendly at just $3.28 total. That's less than all the McDonald's McFlurries and cheaper than the chain's milkshakes with the exception of a small size.

What's more, is that this same technique can be done with coffee. Or, you can request a shot of espresso in your milkshake for a similar effect.