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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.
Our Pick – The Best Credit Card for Dining and Restaurants
- 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 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
|American Express® Gold Card||4X points at restaurants worldwide||4X 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)
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®||3X points on dining||3X points on travel||$550|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||2X points on dining||2X points on travel||$95|
|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||2X Membership Rewards points on everyday business purchases such as office supplies or client dinners (applies to first $50,000 spent each year, then 1X)||N/A||No annual fee|
|Citi Premier℠ Card||2X points on dining||3X points on travel, including gas stations|
2X points on entertainment
|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|
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.
- 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.
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 . 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)…”
“…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.
“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.”
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 loathe paying a yearly fee, the three cash back cards from Barclays, Chase, and Capital One all provide above-average returns, particularly the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card at 4% cash back.
Have a favorite rewards card for dining and restaurants we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.
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