How to make the most of your Dine and Discover vouchers in lockdown

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If you're not familiar with Dine and Discover vouchers, every NSW resident aged 18-plus is eligible for four $25 vouchers worth $100 in total. Two 'dine' vouchers can be used (separately) at participating eateries, and the remaining two 'discovery' vouchers can be used for experiences like a trip to the cinema, hot air ballooning, or a museum visit.

The voucher scheme was originally slated to end on June 30, 2021, and later extended to July 31. With Greater Sydney, the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, and Wollongong now in lockdown until July 9, the expiry date for Dine and Discover vouchers has been pushed back to August 31, 2021.

More than 4.2 million people have downloaded their Dine and Discover vouchers. But $1.8 million adults - one in three NSW residents - are missing out on the freebies. The latest extension means there's still time to sign up. Just download the free NSW Service app and follow the prompts to apply for vouchers.

how to make the most of your dine and discover vouchers despite lockdown

Here's how to make the most of your vouchers.

Dining out - book ahead

Dining options have been the big hit of the voucher scheme. More than 5 million vouchers have been handed over at food outlets, letting NSW residents wolf down $125 million of free food.

One of the original conditions of the scheme is that Dine vouchers couldn't be used for takeaways or food delivery orders. The latest lockdown has changed that, with the Premier announcing that Dine vouchers can be used for takeaways during the lockdown period.

It's recommended that the food is delivered directly to your home by the restaurant or café, though you can pick it up yourself if you check-in to the venue using the QR code on the NSW Service app. Dine vouchers cannot be redeemed for takeaways using third-party delivery platforms.

With the end date for Dine vouchers extended to August 31, there's a lot more time to dine out on the Premier's coin once lockdowns are lifted. By July 10 plenty of us are likely to be experiencing cabin fever, and it could be worth making an advance booking for a table at your favourite eatery. Just remember to set a date prior to August 31. After that the vouchers expire.

Plan ahead for an experience

Dine and Discover vouchers can't be exchanged for gift vouchers or credit notes. However, you can use Discover vouchers to reserve your place for an experience after the scheme ends. You could, for instance, book a harbour jetboat ride for September as long as you use the voucher to pay before 31 August.

With a bit of shopping around it's possible to get more bang for your Discover voucher buck. Event Cinemas has a deal where one $25 voucher can be used to buy two movie tickets. Or, use a Discover voucher to buy a Sydney Big Ticket combo pass and save up to 56% on attractions like Sea Life Sydney and Sydney Tower Eye.

The bottom line is that the vouchers are the state government's way of shouting you to a good time, and they're worth taking advantage of. A 'pay it forward' scheme where vouchers could be donated to charities was recently shut down. So any unused vouchers after August 31 are a missed opportunity to save on dining and leisure.

Coming soon... TGIF vouchers

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet  recently announced a fresh set of freebies that will see NSW residents eligible for four $25 Thank God it's Friday (TGIF) vouchers. They can be used for dining and entertainment experiences but only in Sydney CBD and only on Fridays.

Unlike the Dine and Discover vouchers, there will be no restrictions around using multiple vouchers for one meal or discovery activity. The $25 vouchers can be pooled to pay for a single purchase up to $100. The scheme is expected to be in place in time for summer.

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A former Chartered Accountant, Nicola Field has been a regular contributor to Money for 20 years, and writes on personal finance issues for some of Australia's largest financial institutions. She is the author of Investing in Your Child's Future and Baby or Bust, and has collaborated with Paul Clitheroe on a variety of projects including radio scripts, newspaper columns, and several books.