“Nobody likes you when you’re 23,” sings Blink-182 in their hit song “What’s My Age Again?” a perfect lyric for me to sing on my 24th birthday. Finally, I’m a Pisces who can be liked again and test out a bunch of these so-called birthday freebies promoted by some of America’s biggest franchises and chain restaurants

For reference, I signed up for several of these restaurants’ rewards apps two weeks prior to my birthday and did not purchase anything from them ahead of time to gain any stars, points, etc. I wanted to test just how “free” their birthday offers were. So, for my birthday, I spent the day circling Cleveland and its surrounding suburbs to find as many birthday freebies as I could. Investigative journalism is super important to me, and I just love a deal… and free food… and everyone knowing it’s my birthday. Out of Spoon U’s list of 123 free birthday treat havens, here are the ones I tried. 

Stop 1: Starbucks

Perhaps one of the most well-known birthday stops is Starbucks. You can get a birthday drink of your choosing on, and only on, your birthday. I am an avid Starbucks app user, but if you are not, you only need to download the app seven days ahead of your birthday and make a purchase before the big day. Starbucks will remind you via email that your birthday coupon is coming.

I made sure to get something simple since the day ahead looked promising for a sugar rush. I used my coupon to get a grande iced coffee with milk, and I also ordered a pup cup for my journalistic assistant Bobbie for the day. Everybody eats on my birthday. That’s the rule. 

Original photo by Maria Serra for Spoon

#SpoonTip: Not sure what to get at Starbucks? ChatGPT might be able to help you decide. 

Stop 2: Crumbl

Yes, yes, yes, I know these viral cookies are divisive in nature, but a free cookie is a free cookie. Having never tried a Crumbl cookie ever, I just showed the baker at the front of the store my app birthday barcode, was given a box of one double chocolate chip cookie, and continued on with my day. I also bought my boyfriend a pink frosted sugar cookie for him to try as well because I am the very best girlfriend.

Admittedly, we liked the cookies a ton! I can’t say we would ever buy into the hype of trying their new flavor every single week. We can barely keep up with the Sunday night HBO show. But a cookie is a cookie, and free sugar is free sugar, and I have a sweet tooth on a budget.  

Original photo by Maria Serra for Spoon

Stop 3: Chick-fil-A

Right next door to Crumbl, I got to have another quick cookie adventure. On the Chick-fil-A app, I ordered a sandwich and cookie in the drive-thru and showed my barcode to the worker when I was paying.

Chick-fil-A has a great grasp of how to make chicken, but whoever is making their chocolate chip cookies, absolute props to you. I did not know this chain went so hard on a dessert. It was warm and everything. Highly recommend this being a stop on your birthday freebies journey.

#SpoonTip: If the worker you’re talking to is confused by the barcode or doesn’t know how to give you a birthday deal, just pay for your order. You never know how long someone has been working at a location or if different regions accept or deny birthday deals. 

Stop 4: Auntie Anne’s

Auntie Anne’s is all about giving deals to its rewards members. You get a free pretzel on your first birthday when you sign up and after your first purchase. Plus, you get a free pretzel every time you spend $25 on the rewards app. I walked right up to my local mall Auntie Anne’s kiosk, and within seconds, I walked away with a warm original pretzel in hand. If you do want a birthday dip, you will have to shell out an extra dollar. Or, grab all six sauces for $5.50. For my next birthday, I might just buy a pretzel nugget bucket instead of a cake.

Original photo by Maria Serra for Spoon

#SpoonTip: No Auntie Anne’s near you? Try this recipe at home!

Stop 5: Krispy Kreme

This place is giving its rewards members a free dozen original glazed donuts! You read that right… A DOZEN. I felt like an absolute queen walking out with 12 donuts and saving a whole $13. This would be quite the currency if I worked in an office setting.

These birthday freebies were more than my boyfriend and I could eat, so we gifted most of them to our apartment’s property managers and handymen. I’ll say it again — everybody gets a treat on my b-day. I don’t know how long this promotion will be going on, so either you or someone with a birthday coming up, better get your free dozen ASAP. Did I mention you can redeem this deal any day of your b-day month?

Stop 6: Chipotle

When I woke up on my birthday, I was actually quite scared that Chipotle had forgotten me when I didn’t see my reward in my account. I checked their FAQ and asked their virtual assistant if I didn’t qualify for free chips and guac. It turns out, the reward doesn’t show up in accounts until 2 p.m.

Thankfully, I did not want to eat guacamole for breakfast, so this timing actually worked out wonderfully. I grabbed my chicken burrito bowl, and the guac was not extra. This was the balance I absolutely needed after chowing down on coffee, cookies, and donuts.

#SpoonTip: There are so many ways to save at Chipotle, including this $4 meal hack. 

Stop 7: Wingstop

Wingstop is always a not-so-guilty pleasure in my house. After a birthday full of treats, we saved my free fries birthday coupon for the next evening since the rewards code worked for exactly one week. If you’re anything like me, birthday treats are a month-long thing, so this lengthened code worked well when I was hankering for garlic parm and mild wings. I didn’t have to wash a single dish all weekend, and that in and of itself felt like another birthday gift.

Bonus Stop: Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s was close to my local Auntie Anne’s, so it only felt right to stop by. While I was checking out my mundane lineup of grocery necessities, the checkout clerk carded me for wine and exclaimed, “OMG, it’s your birthday, happy birthday!” She then gave me an Ohio-inspired TJ’s tote on the house. No exaggeration — this is the best gift I have ever received.

While I don’t know if birthday treats are standard practice at Trader Joe’s, top-tier service and fantastic chocolate croissants are definitely what they do best.

Missed Opportunity: Panera Bread

As we’ve already discussed, I am a chocolate croissant fiend. I am devastated that I missed the opportunity to cash in my “Free Birthday Pastry” coupon within a week of my birthday. Panera was out of the way on my birthday journey, and I decided I would reward myself with a next-day pastry as a breakfast treat. Life happens and plans to go out in the morning turn into preferring to rot in bed from dawn ‘til dusk. Though I never made it to the pastry haven, I will remember the coupon expires in one week next year. At least I have my TJ’s croissants.

Overall, this is your wake-up call to download a bunch of apps from the birthday list and make a schedule to pick up some birthday freebies. I had the very best birthday ever by just listening to my favorite Ashnikko songs, driving around with my dog, and picking up little treats to share with my boyfriend and friends. The places I picked were remarkably easy to get free codes from, and I didn’t have to spend any amount of money ahead of time (except for Starbucks). Have a stellar birthday, and share your b-day freebie adventures with Spoon University through our Instagram or TikTok