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We’re all well aware that airlines and hotels offer (typically very lucrative) loyalty programs, but what about other businesses? There’s Starbucks Rewards, of course, with its occasional “Gold status for everyone!” promotions, and programs for California Pizza Kitchen, Dunkin’ Donuts, Jamba Juice, Jersey Mike’s and a bunch of others. Now we have one more restaurant chain to add to the mix: Pizza Hut.

The pizza giant just launched its new loyalty program, Hut Rewards, that specifically rewards customers for making purchases online or through the chain’s mobile app. You’ll be able to cash out your points for free food — a medium pizza costs 200 points, vs. 250 for a large pie. Pizza Hut is currently aiming to grow the number of US restaurants to 8,500 within the next few years, totaling some 20,000 restaurants worldwide (up from some 16,000 today) — so if there isn’t a store that delivers to you now, there’s a good chance there will be soon.

Hut Rewards

Customers can earn Hut Rewards at a rate of 2 points per $1 spent on food ordered on Pizza Hut’s website or via the chain’s mobile app, however, from August 10 through October 1, you’ll earn double points — 4 per dollar. Delivery fees count toward rewards as well, but taxes, tips, donations and gift card purchases do not, though you can earn points on purchases paid for with a gift card. The program is open to customers based in the 50 United States aged 13 and older.

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You can’t combine points with another account to reach a redemption, so if you’re ordering for your family, be sure to always use the same account. There’s no cap on the number of points you can earn (office pizza party every day!), but points do expire after six months of inactivity. If you place an order at least once every six months, your points will “never” expire. Points will take 24-48 hours to post to your account.

As for rewards, there are two options: a medium pizza (200 points) or a large pie (250 points). Or multiple pizzas if you’ve racked up tons of points that you’d like to redeem all at once. You can select any pizza with unlimited toppings, but stuffed crust, extra cheese, delivery fees and tips cost extra. Depending on the store, you may need to add paid items to your order to meet a delivery minimum.

Count Those Calories

Just as it doesn’t make sense to spend beyond your means (or make unnecessary purchases) to earn frequent flyer miles, the same applies to pizza points. Except instead of just cash, you’re also playing with another currency: calories.

To that end, I put together a table to give you an idea of how many calories you’ll need to “spend” to earn a free pie. I included a few of the countless combinations available through Pizza Hut’s website and app, starting with a basic Large Original Pan Pizza, with nothing but sauce and cheese.

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Unfortunately, Pizza Hut doesn’t deliver to TPG HQ in New York City, so I entered the second address that came to mind — 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Score! (No, I didn’t end up sending $100 worth of pizza to the White House.)

So let’s take a look at the chart. As I mentioned, I started with a plain pie, then I added a Meat Lover’s Skinny pizza, Spicy Garlic Wings and a Hershey’s Triple Chocolate Brownie (which isn’t so good for you, as it turns out). All examples are a-la-carte and pricing doesn’t factor in special “deals” and other promotions, such as the double points promo that launches August 10. Prices may vary depending on location.

Product Calories* Servings** Calories** Price** Total Calories Spent***
Large Original Pan Pizza (Sauce, Cheese) 410 8 3,280 $14.99 21,877
Meat Lover’s Skinny Slice 290 8 2,320 $18.99 12,226
Spicy Garlic Wings 120 6 720 $4.80 14,997
Hershey’s Triple Chocolate Brownie 380 6 2,280 $5.99 38,053

*calories per serving **servings/calories/price per order ***to reach 200 points/$100 spent

So, if you’re going the all-chocolate route, you’ll need to “spend” 38,053 calories to earn a free medium pizza. I knew brownies were the best!

Maximization Strategies

Since this is a revenue-based program, there aren’t any tricks to help you accelerate earnings — you’ll always earn 2 points per $1 spent online (or via the app) on food. Members will have access to targeted offers, though, along with Birthday Rewards — so if you want to take advantage of those freebies, be sure to add your birthday and opt-in for email marketing.

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As for redemptions… I managed to squeeze $25.49 in value out of a 200-point medium pizza award by adding a whopping 10 meat toppings (well, nine meats plus double pepperoni). Oh, yes. Unfortunately, you can’t add more than 10 toppings (and the pizza builder throws up a warning once you get beyond five), so I wasn’t able to add any veggies. She’s still a beaut, though:

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Update: I requested 250 points (for research/fact-checking purposes). During checkout, it became clear that free pizzas max out at eight toppings — you can add a total of 10, if you’d like, but toppings #9 and 10 will require a co-payment of $1.25 (plus tax) each for a medium pizza or $1.50 each for a large:

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Of course, there are far healthier dining options, so I’d hesitate to give Pizza Hut more business just because of an opportunity to earn points. As I mentioned in an interview with MarketWatch (on this very topic), it doesn’t make sense to compromise your health to participate in a loyalty program — just as you shouldn’t spend unnecessarily (or pay high fees) to earn credit card points.

That said, if you already frequent “The Hut,” you might as well join. And with a requirement to buy some pie just every six months (to keep your points active), you’re not compromising much by playing along.

Double Dipping

Of course, as with the other restaurant loyalty programs, there’s an opportunity to “double dip” with Hut Rewards. It’s pretty simple, actually, and you’re probably already doing it without realizing. In fact, the same applies to flights you take and hotel stays you book — you earn points not just through the loyalty program associated with the brand you choose, but with your credit card program as well.

So, in the case of Pizza Hut, you’ll want to buy your pies with a card that offers bonus points on dining, such as:

But can you triple dip by signing up with airline dining programs? Probably not, since transactions are processed online (and I haven’t been able to track down a Pizza Hut location that participates). And there’s definitely no “quadruple dip” opportunity, since you can’t book a visit with OpenTable.

Bottom (Waist)Line

There’s not a lot people won’t do for free pizza. I remember sitting through lectures on who knows what just to get a free slice or two as a “starving” college freshman. But will I opt for Pizza Hut over another option just to earn some points? Nope, not a chance. If I were already loyal to the chain I can see that being an entirely different story, though, and if I had a bunch of points on the line you better believe I’d make sure to buy something every six months to keep them active.

I’d probably “Skinny It Up” instead of opting for the “Original Stuffed Crust,” though. And maybe try a salad or two. And as delicious as a tray of brownie looks and sounds, with zillions of calories at stake I think I’d have to pass. I’d save the good stuff for my freebie — a pie loaded with 10 meat toppings is just too wacky to pass up.

Is there a Pizza Hut feast in your future?

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