Online food delivery service Seamless, its parent company GrubHub and their increasingly long list of competitors have upended the take-out (or, in this case, take-in) industry. But their convenience comes at a price.
Many restaurants on Seamless specifically charge a delivery fee and/or require a minimum before they'll bring you food. (Restaurants pay to appear on the platform, so the parameters aren't arbitrary.) Other platforms, like Postmates, which attempts to offer more variety by letting restaurants outsource their delivery, charge other fees for certain orders.
Plus, you can — and should — tip your delivery person or driver. Seamless orders default to a 20% tip, but you can auto-leave 15%, 25% or 30%. You can also enter a custom tip in case you prefer a different increment or want to tip in cash.
On top of these charges, because its so easy to queue up lunch or dinner, you can easily "eat in" more often than you should. Fortunately, there are a few money-saving hacks for Seamless and its online delivery brethren.
1. Work the referral codes
Seamless gives you a $7 referral bonus for each new person you get to order through the platform. You can send referrals by logging into your account, clicking on "Refer a Friend" in the dropdown menu next to your name and providing a friend's email, sharing a link or using Facebook.
You only get $7 per referral, so to keep earning discounts, you need to get more people to order with your codes. Granted, there are probably only so many people you know who will click on a link shared through social channels or appreciate you giving away their email address. Fortunately, there's incentive for them, too.
2. Ask a friend to refer you
New Seamless users with a referral code get $7 off the first time they order $15 or more. So, if you have yet to try the platform, get a friend to send you a referral code to score the discount.
3. Use the coupons ...
The Seamless app and site has a coupons section, so it’s silly to order without checking what eateries have offers. They're not all winners, but even $2 off a $30 order you were planning to make anyway is a score. And, over time, the savings can add up.
4. ... & the 'free delivery' filter
Not every restaurant charges for delivery. You can quickly see all the eateries skipping the fee (at least at the time of your order) by clicking on the "free delivery" filter.
5. Read the reviews
It won't lower a particular place's prices, but it can spare you a bad meal.
6. Look past the first pages
Restaurants pay to appear on online delivery platforms — and that can extend to where they appear on a site or app. In other words, the first restaurants you see might have paid for that placement. They're not necessarily the ones with the best deals, lowest delivery times or proven track record. As such, don’t rely on solely on the first page of a site or app for recommendations. Scroll deeper or use filters to find more budget-friendly options.
7. Learn how to cook
I know, I know. Technically, this isn't a way to save on Seamless. But it is a way to save in general. Ordering from online delivery platforms is easy and convenient, but restaurant prices are already a budget-killer. A 2015 study by VISA showed that the average cost of a meal made at home is $6.30, compared to $11 per meal for dining out. Or in this case, a Seamless delivery that can cost upwards of $20 after the delivery fees and tip.
Plus, cooking at home offers plenty of ways to save on food. For instance, you can make large batches of low-cost foods (like soups, stews, or cold pasta dishes) and keep them in the fridge or the freezer for easy access throughout the week.