There’s a lot I’d do for free food—except pay, of course. That’s where I draw the line. A good fast food rewards program should make you feel like your purchases are an investment in future freebies. But Chipotle’s recent updates to its rewards program, as reported by Business Insider, mean we’ll all have to spend more if we want to be rewarded for our loyalty.
Although it’s still possible to earn yourself a free burrito, it might take a few more visits than it used to, and the chain is saying inflation is the culprit.
Chipotle Rewards are pretty much as straightforward as any other fast food chain’s loyalty program. Customers can sign up to earn 10 points per every dollar spent in the app, online, or at a Chipotle location. The program also boasts free chips and guacamole after you sign up, and you can redeem a special reward on your birthday.
When it comes to cashing in on the points you’ve racked up, you can redeem them for a burrito or other menu items, but you can also spend those points on merchandise or put them toward a charitable donation. All of this, however, is going to take longer within the updated rewards structure. The price of “free” just got more expensive.
Citing inflation as the main reason for the change, Chipotle has raised the amount of rewards points it takes to earn a free burrito. The magic number used to be 1,400 points; it now takes 1,625 points to earn a free entree in the app. When you do the math, that amounts to a pretty significant increase: If rewards members earn 10 points for every dollar spent, that means it previously took $140 to get to a free item. Now, it costs $162.50. So, you’re spending $22.50 extra to earn a burrito that costs the average customer roughly $12.
“To account for the additional cost of our real ingredients, we’ve marginally increased point values for menu items in the Chipotle Rewards Exchange,” a Chipotle spokesperson told Insider. Chipotle also cited inflation as a reason for increasing its menu prices in August of this year.
Inflation has definitely affected many aspects of the food industry, from tailgate dining to grocery staples and bagged snacks. But in an era where fast food chains are more desperate than ever before to get us to join their loyalty programs, a 16% increase in the amount that stands between the customer and their rewards seems pretty steep—a real test of the loyalty they hope to inspire in us.