Clever Ways To Get Discounted Meals At Your 9 Favorite Chain Restaurants

Who doesn't love a good deal? Knowing that you're paying less for something that usually costs a whole lot more can be one of life's simple pleasures. And when you're getting a discount at one of your favorite chain restaurants, life can be very, very good.

Clever Ways to Get Discounted Meals at Your 9 Favorite Chain Restaurants (Slideshow)

Discounts at chain restaurants are fairly easy to come by; you just need to know where to look. Unfortunately, we tend to look in all the wrong places. Just type the name of your favorite chain restaurant into Google with the word "coupons" after it and you'll see what I'm talking about. There are innumerable websites claiming to offer coupons for chain restaurants, but in reality, they rarely bear fruit. For one, many of the coupons they claim to offer are either expired or were never valid in the first place, and in order to download them you usually need to give them your email address, sign up for mailing lists, or, even worse, pay for them — which would defeat the whole purpose even if the coupons you were paying for were valid.

Instead, if you're looking for discounts, you need to go straight to the horse's mouth, so to speak. Only the chain in question can offer discounts, and it's always smart to call ahead, because some discounts are only available at participating locations. The best way to receive discounted meals is to join the chain's loyalty program, or to ask and see if they offer special deals for seniors, teachers, service members, and so on.

Do a little digging and you'll find that just about every chain offers a loyalty program, because while you're saving money, they're able to collect info on what you're ordering, making the info you provide when you sign up very valuable for their metrics. But it's an even tradeoff if you're OK with the minor invasion of privacy. It's also smart to check chains' websites before you visit, because there might be special deals or promotions going on that you can take them up on just by showing up. So read on to learn how to score discounted meals at nine of America's top chain restaurants.

Applebee’stheir E-club,

Most Applebee's locations offer a 15 percent discount to seniors over the age of 60; just call ahead to make sure your local outpost participates. If you sign up for you'll have access to special perks, like free food on your birthday. Keep an eye on their website for promotions; right now, for example, you can get half-price appetizers after 9 p.m.

Chili’sMy Chili’s Rewards

The best way to get discounted grub at Chili's is to join their program, which awards you points for each dollar you spend with them. The 60 points you earn when you sign up will get you a free menu item, and you get a free appetizer or dessert on your birthday.