Happy hours and coupons aren’t the only ways to score deals at restaurants anymore. Now, certain credit cards offer rewards for dining out as well. With these rewards, frequent diners can enjoy eating out while reaping the benefits from their credit cards.
All rewards credit cards aren’t the same, though. For this reason, it’s important to understand the value of the rewards earned and how they can be redeemed. We’ve done the hard work for you and narrowed the list down to the three top credit cards for eating out, as well as two notable mentions.
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is an excellent credit card for earning cash back when dining out. The basic rewards rate is 1 point per $1 spent on all purchases. For dining out purchases, though — whether it be fast food or full-service restaurants — you’ll earn 2 points per $1 spent.
To sweeten the deal, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card comes with some attractive first-year perks. You’ll earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months of opening the card. You can also earn 5,000 bonus points when you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within three months of opening the card. In addition, the annual fee of $95 is waived the first year.
Using all those extra points you’ll rack up through dining purchases and first-year bonuses is easy. The three ways to redeem points are:
- Cash Back
- Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal
- Transfer to Frequent Travel Programs
Redeeming your points as cash back is pretty straight forward. Each point is worth one cent. So those 50,000 sign up bonus points would be worth a whopping $500!
Using your points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal maximizes the value of your points. You’ll get 20% off airfare, hotels, car rentals, and cruises when you book travel via the portal. For example, a $500 flight would cost you 40,000 points in the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal, leaving you with an extra 10,000 points — as opposed to having redeemed the entire 50,000 for the same value in cash. Plus, there are no blackout dates for booking travel.
Lastly, you can redeem your points by transferring them to participating frequent travel programs. This is a good option if you want the benefit of credit card travel rewards while still booking with your preferred airlines and hotels. Currently, the participating frequent travel programs include:
- British Airways Executive Club
- Korean Air SKYPASS
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- United MileagePlus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- Hyatt Gold Passport
- IHG Rewards Club
- Marriott Rewards
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards
Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders receive exclusive access to culinary events in metropolitan areas as well. These include private dinner parties and cooking demonstrations with celebrated chefs.
All in all, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is an excellent choice for culinary enthusiasts and people who find themselves eating out a lot. The first-year bonuses make this card a very attractive option.
Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card
If you find yourself spending a lot on entertainment, the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card is right for you. In addition to earning 2 ThankYou® points for every dollar spent on traditional dining such as restaurants, you’ll earn 2 ThankYou® points for every dollar spent on entertainment such as concerts, sporting events, movie theaters, and amusement parks. This is truly a two-for-one, as these are places you’re likely to spend money on dining out as well.
You’ll also earn 1 ThankYou® point for every dollar spent on all other purchases. And there is no annual fee.
Redeem your points for just about anything through the Citi ThankYou® Rewards Portal. You can apply the value of your points to your credit card statement or even donate to charities. One way to maximize the value of your points is to use them to redeem for discounted gift cards.
Being a Citi card holder comes with additional perks as well. With Citi Price Rewind, you could possibly save money on online purchases made with your Citi credit card. For 60 days after your online purchase, Citi Price Rewind searches the Internet to check for price drops. If a price drop is found, Citi will refund you the difference between the price you paid and the lower price that was discovered.
Another benefit of being a Citi card holder is Citi Private Pass. This gives you special access to presale tickets, VIP packages to concerts, complimentary movie screenings, and other similar entertainment perks.
Put simply, the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card is great for people who go out a lot. Whether that means dining at restaurants frequently or attending multiple sporting events, this credit card can definitely be used to your advantage.
AARP Credit Card from Chase
While AARP memberships are reserved for those 50 and over, you don’t have to be that age or a member of the organization in order to apply for an AARP Credit Card from Chase. The card is branded because Chase has sponsored the AARP Foundation in support of Drive to End Hunger. For everyone purchase made at a restaurant with the Chase AARP Visa Card, Chase will donate ten cents to the AARP Foundation in support of Drive to End Hunger. Since 2011, Chase has donated over $6 million to the program.
In addition to the charitable incentive to use this card, there are monetary benefits for you as well. Earn 3 points for every dollar you spend at restaurants with the AARP Credit Card from Chase. There is no limit to how many points you can accrue!
You can easily redeem your points for cash back once you hit the 2,000 points threshold. 100 points is equal to one dollar. So, 3 points for every dollar spent at restaurants means you’re getting 3% cash back on your dining out expenses. You can’t beat that rate.
The AARP Credit Card from Chase is a good choice for people who find themselves on the go a lot, as the card also offers 3% cash back on gas purchases. As with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card, you’ll also earn one base point for every dollar spent on all other purchases.
Costco Anywhere Visa® by Citi
Costco switched its card from American Express to Visa earlier this year, and there are certainly some noteworthy improvements that come along with the change. Applications for new cardholders just opened on June 20, 2016, so now you can take advantage of their cash back offerings on dining or even everyday spending.
The best part about the new card is a 1% cash back increase in all specified categories. So now, the Costco Anywhere Visa® gives you 3% back on dining (and travel), whereas you used to only earn 2%. If you decide to use the card for daily use, you’ll also enjoy 4% back on gas purchases (including those made at Costco), 2% back for all in-store and online Costco purchases, and 1% back on everything else. Costco Executive members also earn an additional 2% back on their Costco in-store purchases, bringing their total to 4% cash back. Cash back rewards are in the form of an annual Rewards Coupon, good for cash or merchandise.
The Anywhere Visa® itself does not have an annual fee, but you do need to pay the Costco membership fee in order to hold the card ($55/year for Basic or $110/year for Executive). If you’re already a Costco member, though, the card is all benefits for you.
Two cards that almost made the list are the Discover it® with CashBack Match™ and the Chase Freedom card. Both cards offer unlimited 1% cash back on everyday spending and 5% cash back on rotating, opt-in categories.
From July to September 2016, Discover it® offers 5% cash back on home improvement stores and Amazon.com purchases up to $1,500. (The CashBack™ Match feature means that they will also double your cash back rewards at the end of the year.)
From July to September 2016, Chase Freedom offers 5% cash back on restaurant purchases up to $1,500.
Although these cards offer a high percentage of cash back on restaurant purchases during the opt-in period, the fact that the timeframe only lasts a few months out of the year makes them not ideal for the frequent diner. The maximum limitation on cash back-qualifying purchases is also a downside.
If you have an affinity for eating out, use your credit cards responsibility, and want to make the most of your dollar, having a credit card that rewards you for dining purchases is a great idea. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is an excellent choice for people who live in metropolitan areas and want exclusive access to culinary events. The Citi ThankYou® Preferred card is good for people who spend just as much money on entertainment as they do on dining out. Lastly, the AARP Card from Chase is a decent option for people who want to support a charitable cause while still earning rewards.
Credit cards that offer rotating, bonus rewards categories are worth looking into as well. These cards offer a higher percentage of cash back for spending in certain categories at different times of the year. Two worth looking into are the Discover it® with CashBack Match™ card and the Chase Freedom card.
Which card would you use for dining out rewards?