Lessons in Finance from Chick-fil-A
By Mark Deering, CFP®

I have a confession to make. I am a very big fan of Chick-fil-A waffle fries.

I have been living in the Nashville area with my wife and family for about 20 years now and my history with Chick-fil-A is at least that long. It has been a go-to dinner option for our family for many reasons: tasty food, generally quick service, and an always friendly environment. The biggest factor, however, is probably that my family of five can all find something on the menu they would look forward to eating. That is not an easy feat!

If you knew me well, you would know that I am the saver in my marriage. I am always looking to squeeze a little extra juice out of the lemon when possible. Given my family’s fondness of Chick-fil-A, you would probably suspect that I am a rewards member. And you would be right in that suspicion.

As you can imagine, after a few family dinners and lunch runs, I found myself with a healthy rewards balance in my Chick-fil-A app. When it came time for me to redeem my rewards, I was scrolling through the app to find the items on my regular order.

If you are not familiar with this process and how it works, it is a lot like when you take your kids or grandkids to the ticket counter at Chuck E. Cheese’s or another arcade. The entire menu is listed, and each item has a cost in rewards points. For 200 points, you can add a cookie to your order for free, but it takes a whopping 700 to get a grilled sandwich. Just like a kid at the ticket counter, it takes a little thought to make a decision.

So, there I was scrolling through all the items looking for my normal sandwich, side, and drink. On this particular day, and I cannot tell you why, I was struck with a very interesting thought. Maybe it was the financial planner in me, or the saver, or the kid who wanted to make the most of his tickets at the ticket counter. Could there be more to this than meets the eye?

Like a flood of water over the edge of a cliff, the questions came. Is there a way to make my points go further? What if certain items were a better value? Was the system rigged?

It did not take long for me to move from questions to action. At some point in the next few days, the spreadsheet came out. The numbers rumbled. Data gathering and analysis led to a startling conclusion: Not all Chick-fil-A points were created equal.

As it turns out, Chick-fil-A points go further with certain items. And in a lot of cases, way further. How much further, you wonder? Twice as far. That’s right. From a points perspective, the most advantageous menu items compared to the least efficient are worth nearly double. To save you the time, here is a brief list of a few common menu items and their “dollar” per “point” value.

As Peter Parker’s uncle once so wisely opined, “with great power, comes great responsibility.” My best advice to you is find the item in your normal order that is the most efficient and use your rewards points for that item every time you dine at Chick-fil-A. This turns out to be the easiest and most straightforward habit to make the most of your points without sacrificing your favorite order! If you want to see the whole list, we have a comprehensive spreadsheet you can find below.

In my role as a financial planner, I cannot help but draw a parallel to the work we do with the families we serve. Sometimes all a person needs is a little extra insight – a little bit of research and expertise to help reach a goal sooner or to a greater extent than previously thought possible. Finding this idiosyncrasy with Chick-fil-A has brought me a surprising amount of joy. One of the things I enjoy most about my work is seeing the excitement in people’s lives when they experience the same breakthrough in their financial plan.

Thank you for reading this far and engaging with my story. My question for you as reader would be as follows: Where in your life are you settling for half of what you should be? Think of this in terms of your personal life, your work, or your finances. Would it make sense to put in a little effort to get twice as much as what you are getting now? I do not know the answer for you, but I hope you will take time to ponder this question every once in a while… Perhaps next time you find yourself in the drive-thru line at your friendly neighborhood Chick-fil-A.

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