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Want to maximize the points earned on dining and restaurant purchases?
We all love having someone else do the cooking. So much so that according to USDA statistics, over 30% of all spending on food in the U.S. is spent dining out, representing a considerable portion of overall credit card spend each year. If you’re not maximizing the points for every dining purchase, you’re leaving thousands of points and miles on the table every year.
The best card for your circumstances will depend on your current travel goals. Are you chasing flexible rewards points that transfer to airline or hotel partners, or do you need fixed-value rewards or cash back to pay for other travel expenses? Whatever your goals, we’ve put together our list of top rewards cards for dining and restaurant purchases, to maximize the points or cash back earned from every transaction.
Our Pick – The Best Credit Card for Dining and Restaurants
Following Citi’s recent overhaul of the Prestige Card, it takes the top spot in our list of best rewards cards to swipe at restaurants, bars, and fast food joints, earning a staggering 5x ThankYou Points on dining worldwide. It now joins the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and American Express® Gold Card at the top of the restaurant and dining category.
Up until September 2019, ThankYou Points earned on the Prestige Card are worth 1.25¢ per point when redeemed through the ThankYou Rewards travel portal, before the fixed-value drops down to 1¢ per point.
That means you’ll get a minimum return of 6.25% back on dining before Citi’s negative changes take effect in September, then 5%, which still beats the next best card on the list, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Those 5x ThankYou Points per dollar could potentially be worth a lot more transferred to airline or hotel partners such as Singapore KrisFlyer, Etihad Guest, or Avianca LifeMiles.
The Prestige Card recently reopened to new applications and is offering a signup bonus of 50,000 ThankYou Points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months.
Best Rewards Credit Cards for Dining & Restaurants
|Credit Card||Points Earned on Dining & Restaurants||Other Bonus Categories||Annual Fee|
|Citi Prestige® Card||5X points on dining||5X points airfare|
3X points on hotels and cruise lines
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®||3X points on dining||3X points on travel||$450|
|American Express® Gold Card||4X points at US restaurants||4X points at US supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year)|
3X points for flights booked directly with airlines or at amextravel.com
|$250 - Rates & Fees|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||2X points on dining||2X points on travel||$95, waived for the first 12 months|
|Uber Visa Card||4% cash back on dining||3% cash back on hotel and airfare|
2% back for online purchases
|Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card||4% cash back on dining||2% cash back on groceries||$0 intro for first year; $95 after that|
|The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express||Earn 2X Membership Rewards(R) points on everyday business purchases such as office supplies or client dinners.||N/A||No annual fee - Rates & Fees|
|Citi Premier℠ Card||2X points on dining||3X points on travel, including gas stations|
2X points on entertainment
|$95, waived for first 12 months|
|Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card||3X points on dining||3X points on travel purchases, streaming services, and at gas stations||$0|
|AARP® Credit Card from Chase||3% cash back at restaurants||3% cash back at gas stations||$0|
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While Chase consistently sits at the top of the rankings in both the dining and travel categories due to the value of Ultimate Rewards, the entry of the Amex Gold and the Prestige Card has turned the dining category on its head.
The Prestige Card now comfortably takes the top spot, but we still rate the Sapphire Reserve higher than the Amex Gold for dining purchases for a couple of reasons; we value Ultimate Rewards higher than Membership Rewards, and the Sapphire Reserve earns bonus points on dining overseas whereas the Amex Gold only covers purchases within the US.
Outside of the Amex Gold, the dark horse entries to the dining category for 2018 were the Uber Visa Card and the Capital One Savor, both earning 4% cash back on dining — the Uber Visa Card squeaking ahead with no annual fee ever!
You can comfortably swap the other Citi and Amex cards depending on which points are higher up your priority list, although we’d give the Blue Business Plus an edge here as the only card of the four listed that doesn’t charge an annual fee. The same can be said of the AARP Credit Card which made the list due to not charging an annual fee.
If you’re hunting even higher returns on your dining spend, don’t forget to join the numerous dining programs on offer from rewards programs. Sign up to receive emails from Mileage Plan Dining, clock up 12 qualifying transactions in a calendar year, and you’ll earn 5 Mileage Plan miles for every dollar spent at over 11,000 participating restaurants. That’s a better return than ANY credit card on this list, and you can stack these miles on top of the credit card points you earn for the purchase, i.e. 3X Ultimate Rewards and 5X Mileage Plan miles for every dollar you spend at qualifying restaurants.
What Purchases are Included in the Dining & Restaurant Category?
The merchant category code defines purchases included in the dining category, so the merchant must code the purchase correctly for you to receive bonus points.
“…merchants whose primary business is sit-down or eat-in dining, including fast food restaurants as well as fine dining establishments.”
“…restaurants (including cafes, bars, lounges and fast food restaurants)…”
“…UberEATS and at… restaurants, fast food restaurants and bars.”
“…restaurants located in the US…”
“…purchases made at dining establishments.”
“Eating places and restaurants, drinking places, or fast food restaurants.”
Are Any Purchases Excluded from the Dining & Restaurant Category?
As a general rule, if you swipe your card at a restaurant, bar, or fast food store, it should code in the dining category. Chase, Citi, and Amex list a bunch of exclusions, some of which are hard to define without making a purchase and waiting to see how it codes on your statement. Barclaycard and Capital One, on the other hand, keep things simple; no exclusions provided the merchant codes the purchase correctly.
“…some merchants that sell food and drinks located within larger merchants such as sports stadiums, hotels and casinos, theme parks, grocery and department stores will not be included in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in a restaurant category. In addition, gift card and delivery service merchants will not be included in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in the restaurant category.”
“…purchases made at bakeries, restaurants/cafes inside certain department, grocery or warehouse stores, sporting camps, public and private golf courses, country clubs (including membership fees), stores that sell musical instruments, video game arcades, bowling alleys, stores that primarily sell video games/accessories, charitable organizations that provide live entertainment, bookstores, sports complexes where you participate in the sport.”
Citi’s definitions also cross into the entertainment sector, but with the wording, it’s tricky to see where dining stops and entertainment starts.
Barclaycard doesn’t list any specific exclusions. Provided the merchant codes as dining, you get the bonus points.
“To earn additional points for a restaurant purchase, the purchase must be at a restaurant located in the United States. You will NOT earn additional points for purchases made at a restaurant owned by a U.S. company but located outside the U.S. (e.g. Hard Rock Café in Paris). You also will NOT earn additional points for purchases at nightclubs, convenience stores, grocery stores, or supermarkets. You may not earn additional points for purchases at a restaurant located within another establishment (e.g. a restaurant inside a hotel, casino, or event venue). For example, purchases made at a restaurant located within a hotel may be recognized as a purchase at a hotel, not a restaurant.”
Outside of merchant category codes, Capital One doesn’t list any exclusions to its definition of dining establishments.
“Caterers, bakeries, grocery stores and other miscellaneous places that serve food or operate restaurants on their premises are not considered eating places and restaurants.”
The Prestige Card provides the highest value return on dining spend, provided you leverage the travel benefits associated with the card to full effect. Otherwise, the annual fee wipes out any gains you make. For points and miles fans who loath paying a yearly fee, the three cash back cards from Barclays, Chase, and Capital One all provide above-average returns, particularly the Uber Visa Card and the Capital One Savor at 4% cash back.
Have a favorite rewards card for dining and restaurants we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.
For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), and American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Fees)
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