Best Rewards Cards for Dining & Restaurants [2019]

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Want to maximize your credit card 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 your credit card points on every dining purchase, you’re leaving thousands of points and miles on the table every year.

The best credit card for dining purchases 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 credit cards for dining and restaurant purchases, so you can maximize the points or cash back earned from every transaction.

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Receive bonus points on dining categories

Our Pick – The Best Credit Card for Dining and Restaurants

Citi Prestige® Card
Citi Prestige® Card
Annual Fee$495
Welcome Bonus Earn 50,000 Bonus Points after spending $4,000 within 3 months of account opening.
  • Signup bonus of 50,000 ThankYou Points after spending $4,000 within 3 months of account opening
  • $250 Travel Credit each calendar year
  • 5X points on air travel and at restaurants; and 3X points at hotels and on cruise line purchases
  • 4th Night Free when you book any eligible hotel through thankyou.com
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select Membership
  • 5X points on air travel and at restaurants
  • 3X points at hotels and on cruise line purchases
  • 1X point per dollar on all other purchases

Following Citi’s recent overhaul of the Citi 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.

That means you’ll get a minimum return of 5%, which 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 spending $4,000 within 3 months of account opening.

Best Rewards Credit Cards for Dining & Restaurants

Credit CardPoints Earned on Dining & RestaurantsOther Bonus CategoriesAnnual Fee
Citi Prestige® Card5X points on dining5X points airfare
3X points on hotels and cruise lines
$495
American Express® Gold Card4X points at restaurants worldwide4X points at US supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year)
3X points on airfare on a scheduled flight charged directly with the airline or amextravel.com (charter flights/private jet flights excluded)
$250 - Rates & Fees
Chase Sapphire Reserve®3X points on dining3X points on travel$450
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card2X points on dining2X points on travel$95
Uber Visa Card4% cash back on dining3% cash back on hotel and airfare
2% back for online purchases
$0
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card4% cash back on dining2% cash back on groceries$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express2X Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases such as office supplies or client dinnersN/ANo annual fee - Rates & Fees
Citi Premier Card2X points on dining3X points on travel, including gas stations
2X points on entertainment
$95
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card3X points on dining3X points on travel purchases, streaming services, and at gas stations$0
AARP® Credit Card from Chase3% cash back at restaurants3% cash back at gas stations$0

While Chase consistently sits at the top of the rankings for best credit cards in 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.

American Express® Gold Card
American Express® Gold Card
Apply Now
Rates & Fees
(Terms Apply)
American Express® Gold Card
Annual Fee$250
Welcome Bonus Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X). Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
  • Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • Rates & Fees
  • 4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide.
  • 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X)
  • 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com
  • 1X on other purchases
  • Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.

The Prestige Card now comfortably takes the top spot, but we would be hard-pressed to choose between the Sapphire Reserve and the Amex Gold for dining purchases. While we value Ultimate Rewards higher than Membership Rewards, the additional point per dollar earned on the Amex Gold now gives it the edge over the Sapphire Reserve, particularly now that Amex is issuing bonus points on dining worldwide as opposed to just in the U.S.

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 Card squeaking ahead with no annual fee!

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 charges no annual fee (Rates & Fees). 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.

Chase

“…merchants whose primary business is sit-down or eat-in dining, including fast food restaurants as well as fine dining establishments.”

Citi

“…restaurants (including cafes, bars, lounges and fast food restaurants)…”

Barclaycard

“…UberEATS and at… restaurants, fast food restaurants and bars.”

American Express

“…restaurants worldwide…”

Capital One

“…purchases made at dining establishments.”

Wells Fargo

“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.

Chase

“…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.”

Citi

“…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

Barclaycard doesn’t list any specific exclusions. Provided the merchant codes as dining, you get the bonus points.

American Express

“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. You also will NOT earn additional points for purchases at bars, nightclubs, cafeterias, and convenience stores.”

Capital One

Outside of merchant category codes, Capital One doesn’t list any exclusions to its definition of dining establishments.

Wells Fargo

“Caterers, bakeries, grocery stores and other miscellaneous places that serve food or operate restaurants on their premises are not considered eating places and restaurants.”

Final Thoughts

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 loathe paying a yearly fee, the three cash back cards from Barclays, Chase, and Capital One all provide above-average returns, particularly the Uber 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)

Best Rewards Cards for Dining & Restaurants [2019]
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Comments

  • Lee Ann Bixler says:

    The Reserve Card is my favorite

  • CSR is obviously the best. Just depends if you can make up the remainder of the value ($150 after travel credit) in dining and other benefits.

  • Thanks! I love using Rewards Network for dining and easily made VIP with 12 dines last year.

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve seems to come out on top on a lot of your articles. Wonder if that’s advertiser bias or just the cold hard facts. I’m thinking the latter.

    • If this card didn’t have a permanent slot in our wallets it wouldn’t be on the list. At 3x earning for travel + dining and all of the other card perks, it is difficult to NOT include this card in such a list!

  • While it’s not 4.5% when redeemed for travel through Chase’s site, like the Chase Sapphire Rewards card, the Bank of America Premium Rewards card is worth mentioning. If you have $100,000 with Bank of America, including Merrill Lynch (move a $100,000 IRA balance to Merrill Edge, Bank Of America’s discount brokerage, and the 2% on dining and travel is increased by 75% to 3,5%, redeemable for cash (your $100,000 balance lets you maintain a free Bank Of America checking account with a free safe deposit box also). The $99 annual fee gives you a $100 annual airline incidentals cfedit, a TSA Precheck of Global Entry fee rebate, and 1.5%, increased to 2.625% rebate on all other purchases with the $100,000 balance.

    • The Bank of America program is an excellent one. The $100k requirement is a roadblock for many which is why we don’t cover it more.

      • That’s true. I figured the idea of moving a $100,000 IRA to Merrill Edge, their discount (cheap-no commission) brokerage may be easier for some people, although that, obviously, is only for people with a $100,000 IRA to move. I should have added that Merrill Edge has a promotion offering at least $200 depending on how much you move, You also get a lower percentage boost to the credit card cash back with lower balances.

  • Pretty hard to beat this card.

  • CSR moved to the front of my wallet almost as soon as I activated it. When dining out I use it w/o hesitation.

  • For a no-fee card, the Uber Visa’s 4% cash back on dining is outstanding

  • This is a great analysis of how to obtain the highest value for your dining dollar! Thanks!

  • For Costco members, I find the Citi Costco CC really valuable. Yes you have to wait for the yearly statement to get your reward certificate, which you can redeem at any Costco for cash, but with 4% back on Gas, 3% on dining, 3% on travel its hard to beat. Plus no annual fees as long as you’re a Costco member (any level).

  • Amex simplycash can be set to 3% cashback on restaurants.

  • Going to look into the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, thanks for the heads up, looks good for my use

  • Know I eat out but doubt I get anywhere near the 30% statistic level. I was surprised it was that high but I guess those of you who travel frequently may pull those statistics up some. Great benefit to capitalize on dining out with credit card usage.

  • I’m still considering the switch to the Sapphire Reserve but the fee for authorized users is also a hurdle. It’s free for the Sapphire Preferred and I have two authored users. Any data points on whether they ever waive the authored user fee for the Reserve?

    • That is a valid concern — it definitely gets expensive quickly. I’ve never heard of those fees being waived — Chase has to pay for the benefits provided on those cards, otherwise, they’d simply lose money.

  • I do constantly see that the Chase Sapphire Reserved is at the top of many lists as a great card. That is why I have the preferred one, just cannot do the higher AF. But I did just get the freedom unlimited and now I think I’ll be able to show my husband why we got all the cards by almost being able to pay nothing for a trip to see my family this Nov.
    I don’t know if I ever would have thought about stacking the cards and then transferring it all to my sapphire or even would have looked at the sapphire because of the AF, if I hadn’t had explanations here of the benefit. Sometimes it can take a really long time to earn miles and then use them. Now it’s not as long since I’m able to earn UR faster than airline miles directly. That dream to take my hubby in first to syd just got a little better now that United will go iah to syd! Yeay! Now I just have to build up UR points and transfer.

  • Interesting that Amex doesn’t classify purchases inside nightclubs as restaurants and that Barclay does.

  • Chase Sapphire is always on the top.

  • CSR is definitely top card for dinning.

  • At certain airports the merchant shows up as the airport itself.

  • Don’t forget double points on the Marriott card. Not the greatest unless you are trying to accumulate for a reward or towards your lifetime status. With either of those goals, the double points can be quite helpful.

  • Uber card and Capital one savor both look quite nice and useful. Will have to check them out.

  • Ulisses Jensen says:

    The Sapphire Reserve is hard to beat! Go for it!

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