My fiancée and I spend an exorbitantly large amount each month on food delivery. Thankfully, because we always use the best credit card for dining, we earn a significant amount of points.
We are not alone. The average U.S. couple spent $4,436 at restaurants between July 2017 and June 2018, according to the latest Consumer Expenditures survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number was 11% higher for married couples with at least one child.
That average couple could expect to earn $88.72 in cashback from their restaurant spending if they were using a standard 2% cashback card. However, if they instead used one of the best-earning credit cards for dining out, they would have earned an equivalent of $332.70 in cashback.
It pays to be strategic with what credit card you use for dining.
What is the best credit card for dining?
Below is a list of the best credit cards for dining. You should have a card that earns a minimum of 2% cashback on all purchases. Therefore, this list only includes cards that earn the equivalent of at least 2.5% cashback per dollar at restaurants (based on my point redemption values).
I have ranked them in order of the most valuable earning rate.
|Citi Prestige Card||5x|
|Amex Gold Card||4x|
|Amex Business Gold||4x|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve Card||3x|
|Barclaycard Uber Visa Card||4%|
|Capital One Savor Cash Rewards||4%|
|Amex Hilton Aspire||7x||U.S. restaurants only|
|CNB Crystal Visa Infinite||3x|
|Amex Hilton Ascend||6x||U.S. restaurants only|
|Amex Hilton Business||6x||U.S. restaurants only|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||2x|
|Citi Premier Card||2x|
|Chase Ink Cash||2x|
|Chase World of Hyatt||2x|
|Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business||4x||U.S. restaurants only|
|Amex Hilton||5x||U.S. restaurants only|
|Capital One SavorOne||3%|
|Citi AAdvantage Platinum||2x|
|Chase United Explorer Business||2x|
|Chase United Explorer||2x|
|Amex Blue Delta SkyMiles||2x|
|Barclays Frontier Airlines MasterCard||2x|
|Barclays JetBlue Plus Mastercard||2x|
|Barclays JetBlue Business Card||2x|
|Barclays JetBlue Card||2x|
Citi Prestige Card: The Best Credit Card for Dining
It is simple—with a category bonus of 5x ThankYou points, the Citi Prestige card is the best credit card for dining and restaurants. Since Citi introduced 5x in the category in January 2019, it has become my go-to card when eating out or ordering in.
The Amex Gold card comes in a close second, but points earned on the Prestige card have historically posted more accurately. Earlier this year, Amex Gold card members encountered issues with restaurants not coding correctly its 4x category. Although it appears Amex may have fixed this issue, you should still keep an eye out to ensure you receive the correct number of points.
On another hand, if you value Chase Ultimate Rewards substantially higher than Amex Membership Rewards or Citi ThankYou points, the Sapphire Reserve card may be your best credit card for dining. Given that Citi will soon eliminate all of their travel protection benefits, the Sapphire Preferred probably delivers a better value overall.
With any of those three cards, you are going to be paying a high annual fee. While I would argue the other benefits of those cards can justify paying the annual fee, you should certainly not sign up just to get the dinning bonus alone. Instead, you should consider the Barclaycard Uber Visa Card, which is clearly the best no-annual-fee card for dining. The card earns 4 points per dollar, which you can cash out for 4% cashback.
The Capital One Savor Cash Rewards also earns 4% for dining in the U.S. and abroad, but the card comes with a $95 annual fee after the first year.
What counts as a restaurant?
Essentially, anywhere that sells prepared food counts. Traditional sit-down restaurants, cafes, bakeries, lounges, and bars count as restaurants for credit cards. Fast food, coffee shops, and juice bars also count.
Delivery services also count as restaurants for credit card rewards. Anything ordered through a food delivery service (including Grubhub, Seamless, Doordash, Delivery.com, Postmates, UberEats, Caviar, etc.) should receive the category bonus.
Technically, the rate you earn is based on what merchant category each restaurant codes as with Visa, MasterCard, Amex, and Discover. As was discovered with American Express, sometimes merchants do not map to the correct category. In this case, you should reach out to your credit card company and ask that they credit you at the proper earning rate.
Rotating Category Bonus Cards
The Chase Freedom, Citi Dividend, and Discover It cards sometimes offer 5x points / 5% cashback at restaurants each year as one of their rotating category bonuses. Unfortunately, none of these cards are currently offering restaurants as a category bonus for this quarter.
Until recently, the Amex Gold card did not earn 4x points at restaurants internationally. Amex recently changed the benefit in June, and now all restaurants, regardless of location, earn 4x MR points with the card.
However, the rest of the Amex cards listed above still do not earn bonus points at restaurants outside the United States.
Other Ways to Save at Restaurants
Visa and Mastercard Small Business Cards
If you have a Visa or MasterCard business card, you can enroll in one of the above programs to earn an additional 1-5% back at select restaurants. Each takes only 1-2 minutes to sign up, so you might as well enroll one or two of your cards if you think you will be using them at restaurants.
Amex Gold Dining Credits
The American Express Gold card comes with a $10-a-month dining credit that can be used at “Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations.”
The credit appears as a statement credit, so you still earn 4x points for the full bill amount.
Amex Platinum Uber Credits
The Amex Platinum Card comes with $200 a year in Uber Credits ($15/month Jan-Nov, $35 in Dec). These credits are added to your Uber Balance and can be used at Uber or UberEats. Just add your American Express Platinum card as a payment method to your Uber account to start receiving the credits.
Unfortunately, since these are added directly to your Uber account, you do not earn points on the $15 each month.
Go through a portal
You can also use Rakuten (Ebates) to get an additional 1% or 1 Membership Reward point per dollar spent through Grubhub and 10% or 10 points per dollar at Postmates. These offers are only available on the Rakuten app. Stacking these offers with a credit card that offers a restaurant category can be a great deal.
For example, if you placed a $50 Postmates order, went through Rakuten, and paid with your Amex Gold card, you would earn 700 Membership Rewards points. If you value Membership Reward Points at 1.5 cents a point, you are effectively getting $9.80 (20%) back.
Dosh, Drop, Uber Offers, Yelp, and Upromise are just a few of the card-linked apps that allow you to earn additional cashback in restaurants and through delivery services.
Drop currently lets you earn 100 points per dollar spent at Postmates. Unfortunately, this cannot be stacked with Rakuten or other portals.
American Express Offers
There are often Amex Offers available for restaurants and food delivery services. My Amex Gold card had an offer to an additional Membership Reward point for each dollar spent through Grubhub through the end of the year. Therefore, I have effectively been earning 6x MR points per dollar on Grubhub purchases when paying with my Amex Gold and stacking with the Rakuten deal discussed above.
If you can stack offers like that, it easily makes the Amex Gold card the best credit card for restaurants. It’s worth checking your account to see if you are targeted for one of these offers.
Join an Airline Dining Program
- American Airlines AAdvantage Dining program
- Delta SkyMiles Dining program
- United MileagePlus Dining program
- See other programs here.
All of the major airlines and some hotel chains have dining reward programs, where you can earn additional miles for dining at local restaurants. All three programs are structured similarly, and that’s not surprising given that they are all run by the same company (Rewards Network).
They offer between 1-5 points per dollar spent with your linked card at participating restaurants. Each program includes a tiered membership, whereby your earn rate increases as you reach spending thresholds. The programs also offer a signup bonus for spending a certain amount within the first month after joining.
Unfortunately, you can only link a particular card to one of the programs. Once you attempt to link the same card to a second program, it will de-link from the original program. That also applies to any other Rewards Network card-linked programs such as the Upromise, iDine, IHG, and Hilton programs. However, these should stack with the non-Rewards Network programs listed above, including Dosh and Yelp.
With all that said, during the six years that I have been registered with these programs, I have only ever found myself at one participating restaurant. Even then, I forgot to pay with my linked card, so I ultimately never earned any points.
Nevertheless, it’s probably worth taking the two minutes necessary to sign up and link a card to at least one of the programs.