Where to Get the Best Birthday Perks

Editors' pick: Originally published Oct. 17.

Need another reason to love the day you were born? Besides being showered with gifts and attention from friends and family, you can also receive generous discounts and freebies from some of your favorite retailers on and around your birthday.

"The old saying, 'There's no such thing as a free lunch,' doesn't apply when it's your birthday," says Jeanette Pavini, savings expert at Coupons.com. "Restaurants are just one of the many types of businesses that offer free meals on your birthday, and you should check with any stores that you regularly shop with to see what perks they offer for your big day."

In addition to showing appreciation for their customers, retailers also have a smart business incentive for offering birthday perks.

"Retailers usually make additional revenue when you take advantage of their gift," Pavini explains. "For example, if you have a 15% discount off of your clothing purchase, you still are spending money with that store. And since most people don't go out to celebrate a birthday dinner without a friend or two, restaurants know they will still make a sale -- and of course the real hope is that you will love your meal and come back again."

Many birthday perks are offered through retailers' loyalty and rewards programs, so if you have a favorite store or restaurant, consider signing up. In the meantime, here's a list of 12 retailers that offer great birthday perks you won't want to miss out on.

12. Starbucks
12. Starbucks

What better way to kick off your birthday than with a delicious drink or tasty treat? Starbucks Rewards members can enjoy a free handcrafted beverage in a standard size, a food item or a ready-to-drink bottled beverage such as an Evolution Fresh juice on their special day.

If you're not already part of the Starbucks Rewards program, you can join by creating an account, either on Starbucks.com/Rewards or via the Starbucks mobile app. You'll have to register a Starbucks Card to join, which can either be a Starbucks gift card you pick up in the store (you'll add money to the card and swipe it each time you make a purchase) or a digital card you can get when signing up with the app.

11. P.F. Chang's
11. P.F. Chang's

The national restaurant chain P.F. Chang's, which serves up Chinese and Asian fusion food, offers guests who are part of its preferred loyalty program a free dessert or appetizer of their choice during their birthday month. It's free to sign up for the rewards program if you're not already a member -- simply create an account on the website by filling in some basic information, including your name and email address.

10. Medieval Times
10. Medieval Times

If you're looking for a unique way to celebrate your birthday, how about enjoying an action-packed live tournament set during the 11th century? No matter what your age, a birthday at Medieval Times can be an unforgettable experience as you cheer on knights in exciting games of jousting and sword-fighting while enjoying a four-course feast. Need more incentive? All guests get in for free on the month of their birthday with the purchase of one regular price adult admission, so bring a friend or loved one along with you. To receive the birthday perk, simply enter your email address on the Medieval Times website.

9. Baskin-Robbins
9. Baskin-Robbins

Whether you're a kid or simply a kid at heart, you can get a free 2.5-ounce or 3-ounce soft serve ice cream scoop on your birthday at Baskin-Robbins. You have to be part of the Baskin-Robbins Birthday Club to get the deal -- simply sign up for free online. Birthday Club members also get a $3 discount on a Baskin-Robbins birthday cake and a buy-one, get-one-free offer on their half birthday.

8. Dunkin' Donuts
8. Dunkin' Donuts

Are you a DD Perks member? If not, be sure to sign up today so that you get a coupon for a free, any-size beverage on your birthday. We bet you can just envision that hazelnut coffee in your hand right now, huh? Perks members also get a free beverage upon enrollment and can rack up points throughout the year for every dollar spent (200 points gets you a free drink).

7. Auntie Anne's
7. Auntie Anne's

Does the idea of a delicious soft pretzel make your mouth water? If you download the "My Pretzel Perks" mobile app offered by the popular pretzel chain Auntie Anne's, you can get a free pretzel at any time during your birthday month. You can choose any pretzel on the menu -- whether you prefer to play it safe with the "original" or mix things up with cinnamon sugar, sweet almond or even pepperoni.

6. CVS
6. CVS

If you're a CVS Beauty Club member, you can get $3 ExtraBucks on your birthday. The ExtraBucks can be applied to most items in the store -- not just beauty supplies -- but excludes things like lottery tickets, gift cards, newspapers, magazines and prescriptions.

Here's how the Beauty Club works: it's free to sign up, and in addition to the birthday perk, members can receive exclusive emails with coupons, tips and new product information, a 10% off beauty shopping pass after enrollment and $5 ExtraBucks for every $50 spent on qualifying beauty purchases.

5. Panera
5. Panera

Even though you're probably already planning to fill up on treats on your birthday, what's one more cookie or cheese Danish? If you're a member of Panera's MyPanera loyalty program, you can get a free pastry or sweet of your choice for your birthday. In fact, if you're busy on your actual birthday, you have your whole birthday month to redeem the perk.

To sign up for MyPanera, simply pick up a free card at your local Panera location, then register your card online. Once you're signed up, you can present your card each time you eat at Panera to help earn rewards, including complimentary bakery-cafe items, exclusive previews and tastings and cooking and baking tips.

4. Olive Garden
4. Olive Garden

Olive Garden is known for its flavorful Italian dishes, but its desserts are pretty darn good, too. Thankfully, if you sign up for the restaurant's free eClub, you'll get a complimentary dessert on your birthday. You can choose any dessert on the menu up to $8.50, whether you're craving lemon cream cake, tiramisu or a warm apple crostata.

Guests should expect to receive the coupon a couple of days before their birthday, and the coupon is good for two weeks.

3. Ulta Beauty
3. Ulta Beauty

If you enjoy trying out new beauty products -- especially when they're free -- we suggest signing up for the rewards program offered by Ulta Beauty, a national chain of beauty stores selling cosmetics, fragrances, skincare products and more. Called Ultamate Rewards, the program is free to join and you'll receive an email for a free beauty gift for your birthday that can be picked up in-store. You'll also earn double points on entire purchases during your birthday month, which can help you earn other rewards.

While the free birthday gift changes throughout the year, people who have birthdays now through December can expect a full-size Urban Decay Midnight Cowboy eye shadow.

2. Au Bon Pain
2. Au Bon Pain

Want another way to eat for free on your birthday? The bakery-cafe chain Au Bon Pain offers its eClub members a birthday coupon that will entitle you to any sandwich or salad for no charge. It's free to sign up for the eClub, and you should expect to receive the coupon sometime during the week before your birthday (it expires two weeks after it is sent). With choices like the chipotle turkey and avocado sandwich and the Thai peanut chicken salad, you won't want to miss out on this tasty opportunity.

1. American Eagle and Aerie
1. American Eagle and Aerie

It's your birthday, so why not treat yourself to a stylish new shirt or pair of pants? American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) gives members who are enrolled in their rewards program a 15% discount off of a single purchase during their birthday month, which can also be used at Aerie, its sister store. What's more, the discount increases to 20% off if you're part of the rewards program and also have an AEO credit card. You can sign up for the rewards program for free online.

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