You Can Get Free* Panera Coffee Until 2022—but At What Cost?

A new Panera promo promises roughly two months of free coffee—in exchange for your soul. Ahem, data.

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Branded apps aren't about improving the customer experience; they're a way for companies to mine your data and increase their profits while tempting you with, I don't know, a single free chicken nugget. Please keep that in mind as we share the following news: Panera customers can score free* coffee through the remainder of 2021 if they sign up for the chain's MyPanera+ Coffee subscription service, TODAY reports. Worth it? You be the judge.

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Per TODAY, the bakery-cafe chain is offering all customers "unlimited, complimentary coffee, hot or iced, for three months," if they register for a MyPanera+ Coffee subscription. The subscription is ordinarily $8.99 a month, and includes unlimited hot tea and coffee refills for dine-in customers. That rate doesn't kick in until January 1, 2022, which means you'll get free* beverages for roughly two months.

Meanwhile, CNBC reports that American Express cardholders can also get access to MyPanera+ for six months for free* thanks to a new partnership between the brands.

*Once again, the beverages are not free. You're paying for the beverages with your data, which Panera will almost certainly use for nefarious purposes. I don't know exactly what those nefarious company practices entail, but I'd imagine it involves serving you highly targeted ads for products you don't need and/or publishing your mother's maiden name on cyberstalking sites.

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Oh, speaking of nefarious happenings: It's also worth noting that the MyPanera+ Coffee promo does not extend to iced tea, cold brew iced coffee, espresso or cappuccino beverages. (Or soup garnished with bits of glove.) That's a shame; I might have been willing to hawk my data in exchange for a free latte every day through the end of the year. Hell, they've probably already got my social security number.

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