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McDonald’s to axe 'free hot drink' stickers on cups

Update 29 July 2021: Since publishing this story McDonald’s has confirmed that, as of 1 July, completed physical loyalty cards can no longer be redeemed, and its terms and conditions have been updated to reflect this. However, we’ve heard some instances of branches continuing to accept stickers at the server’s discretion, so it’s worth a try.

McDonald’s is to scrap a long-running loyalty scheme which lets you collect stickers from cups and claim a free hot drink after purchasing six. The separate 'My McDonald's' app-based loyalty scheme, which gives a free hot drink after you've bought five, will continue - but crucially the change means from this summer you'll no longer be able to stack both schemes and earn TWO stickers per drink purchased. 

The fast food chain told customers in an email today that it's phasing out the McCafe Rewards on-cup loyalty scheme, which has been running for years at most McDonald's restaurants and gives customers a completely free regular hot drink of their choice when they present a loyalty card with six stickers collected from cups. Officially the scheme will stop running at the end of June, though after that you may still be able to find some stickers for a period as restaurants use up cups, and you'll still be able to redeem stickers you've collected.

We've full details on the changes below, but for many more ways to save see our McDonald's Hacks blog.

You can continue collecting 'free hot drink' stickers till the end of June at least

Currently, there are two ways you can get a free hot drink after purchases at McDonald's - here's what's happening with each scheme:
  • 'Free hot drink' stickers will be phased out from July. Currently you can collect a sticker on a cup every time you buy a hot drink, then when you've collected six stickers on a paper loyalty card, exchange them for a free regular hot drink. You'll be able to keep doing this until the end of June - after that, the scheme officially ends, though some restaurants may continue to offer cups with the stickers for a short time while they use up stock.

  • The app-based 'free hot drink' scheme will continue. The main way in which the McCafé Rewards digital scheme differs from the on-cup stickers is that you can earn a free drink after purchasing five rather than six drinks (though only regular and large hot drinks qualify, while every size of drink qualifies for the on-cup stickers). Other than this it works the same, albeit with virtual rather than physical stickers - you simply scan the loyalty card on your My McDonald's app when you purchase hot drinks or use mobile ordering to get them.

    This scheme is ongoing, for the time being at least. Officially the app shows an end date of 31 December 2021, but it's possible this could be extended - McDonalds says it's too early to say. 
At the moment, it's possible to double your free hot drinks by collecting stickers under both schemes - so by the time you collect virtual and physical stickers for six coffees, you have TWO freebies to claim. However that clearly won't be possible after the physical stickers are phased out. 

You'll still be able to redeem your stickers after June

McDonald's tells us you will still be able to exchange a loyalty card with six stickers for a free hot drink after the stickers are phased out on cups at the end of June, for an as-yet-undetermined period. It says an end date for exchanging stickers will be announced nearer the time. 

If you've less than six stickers at the end of June, it's not currently clear if you'll be able to use them in any way -when we asked McDonald's, it simply told us: "We’re giving customers three months notice to collect and use the stickers - we’ll communicate more information on the physical stickers nearer the end date". However you WON'T be able to transfer physical stickers to the app.

Paper loyalty card showing an expired end date? You can ignore it

Some McDonald's customers have queried whether there's an earlier deadline for the scheme as some paper loyalty cards are showing earlier expiry dates - eg, 31 March 2021. However McDonald's says you can ignore any earlier expiry dates, which may be shown because the scheme has already technically been extended several times. It says all paper loyalty cards are valid to use until the scheme ends.

Not got the My McDonald's app? You can get a free hot drink just for signing up

As we've highlighted before in the weekly email, currently anyone who downloads the free My McDonald's app and signs up for the first time gets an automatic e-coupon for a free regular hot drink - and of course, you can then use it to go on and collect virtual stickers as well. See full info in our McDonald's Hacks.

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