What Is a Drink Upcharge at McDonalds?


Look at your receipt the next time you order a combo meal at McDonald’s. Does it mention anything about a “drink upcharge?”

If so, the golden arches are slapping you with a fee that might not be legally allowed, and you should consider disputing the charge.

A drink upcharge is an additional fee that some McDonald’s franchises impose on customers, and there are ongoing lawsuits in several states disputing their legality of them.


A “drink upcharge” is an additional fee that some consumers have reported noticing on their receipts at various McDonald’s.

The cost of this fee can vary, with some customers providing receipts that show a $0.20 drink upcharge and others reporting a $0.29 upcharge. The price is only imposed when ordering a combo meal.

Some McDonald’s customers claim they are hit with a drink upcharge when substituting their combo meal drink. For instance, the fee is applied when the customer replaces the soft drink in their combo meal with orange juice or milk.

Other customers at Mickey D’s report that the cost was applied to their combo meal even if they ordered a soft drink.

The legality of the drink upcharge is unresolved. Class-action lawsuits are pending in California, Florida, New York, and Illinois.

If you prove you were subjected to a drink upcharge on your means from Mcdonald’s, you may be eligible to join or start your class-action lawsuit and seek monetary compensation.

Let’s dive in. This article will cover everything you need to know about McDonald’s and their practice of slapping a drink upcharge on combo meals at the selected course franchises in some states. Prices and participation may vary.

McDonald’s is the largest fast food company on the planet, and they sling burgers, fries, and other fast food in over 100 countries.

If you’re one of their customers, of whom there are 69 million daily, take a glance at your receipt, and confirm that you’re not getting hit with a drink surcharge.

The Drink Upcharge at McDonald’s

Mcdonald Store

The drink upcharge at McDonald’s has been reported in several US states, including California, Florida, New York, and Illinois. In addition, many McDonald’s patrons complain about the fee on the internet, although there is not much reporting on the issue.

This may be because the cost is insignificant (between $0.20 and $0.30, depending on which McDonald’s was patronized). Still, if the fee were applied to every combo meal sold by the company, the compounded charges would be massive.

Think about it this way. McDonald’s serves over 69 million customers every day. While it’s unknown how many customers order value meals because McDonald’s doesn’t release internal sales figures, it’s certainly in the millions.

Multiply 69 million by 20 or 30 cents; the figure will be in the tens of millions. And that’s every single day. That’d buy you a lot of cheeseburgers.

1. California Lawsuit Over Drink Upcharge

Drink Upcharge

California has an ongoing class-action lawsuit against McDonald’s over the drink upcharge.

A plaintiff, Paul Bledsoe, allegedly incurred the charge on his breakfast value meal. He ordered a coffee as his drink, and the drink upcharge was applied, even though coffee is a combo meal breakfast beverage.

Bledsoe claims that McDonald’s is falsely reporting their pricing – the cost of the value meal should be as stated on the menu, mainly when the drink was not a substitution. His claim says the drink upcharge fee hurts consumers because it’s hidden.

And McDonald’s sold a ton of value meals in California four years before the suit – over 450 million. So there were potentially millions of consumers impacted if the allegations of a hidden fee were proven true.

The California lawsuit is massive in the hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s estimated that the drink upcharge on those 450 million value meals sold in the state would amount to $130 million bucks.

2. Other Class-Action Lawsuits


California is not the only state where McDonald’s customers have brought lawsuits against the company. There is ongoing litigation against McDonald’s in Illinois, New York, and Florida.

The drink upcharge is often reportedly applied when making a substitution

McDonald’s customers report that the drink upcharge is more common when the drink is substituted. A value meal typically includes a soda.

If you ask to replace milk or another beverage, you may see a drink upcharge applied to your order.

McDonald’s claims this charge falls under the “additional charges may apply” category.

It’s worth noting that things like milk and juice are far more expensive for McDonald’s than soft drinks. This is likely why they allegedly apply the drink upcharge when substituting beverages.

Most McDonald’s Are Franchises


While McDonald’s operates some of their restaurants, most are franchises and have some independence and autonomy. The company makes money from the franchisee by charging them for rent, royalties, and fees.

Because McDonald’s is a franchise, not all restaurants imposed the famed “drink upcharge” on customers who ordered value meals. It also explains why the upcharge is reported as 20 cents in some locales and 29 cents in others.

In the words of a McDonald’s disclaimer, prices and participation may vary.

Want Fries With That?

Mcdonald Fries

McDonald’s is an institution in the United States and other countries. They are famed for their burgers and fries but offer various food options, including the notorious “Big Mac.”

They are the second largest employer in the world, with over 1.7 million employees (only Walmart employs more people, around 2.3 million of them).

The Golden Arches logo is iconic and has been around since the 1950s.

Other McDonald’s Controversies


There are other controversies besides the drink surcharge that McDonald’s has weathered.

1. Supersize Me

In 2004, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock released the film Supersize Me. Spurlock was critical of McDonald’s, saying it contributed to obesity and diabetes. He spent an entire month eating only food from McDonald’s, and if an employee asked if he wanted to supersize his order, he would say yes.

By the end of the documentary, Spurlock gained substantial weight. Afterward, McDonald’s discontinued the super size option for value meals.

2. Litter

Studies have shown that McDonald’s is one of the most littered brands in the world. A 2012 study showed that McDonald’s was more littered in Queensland, Australia, than any other brand.

Since McDonald’s packages each of its food items separately, there is a tremendous amount of package and waste when people consume McDonald’s.

Avoid the Drink Surcharge

The next time a craving for McDonald’s hits you, and you decide to order a combo meal, look at your receipt and see if you’re getting a drink surcharge imposed upon you.

Remember, McDonald’s is more likely to apply the surcharge if you swap out your soft drink for something atypical like milk or juice.

If you want to replace your soft drink with another beverage, McDonald’s may levy a drink surcharge against you.

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