Partly because I started spending so much time on planes at such a young age, I’ve never learned how to cook. And my one foray into the world of cooking left me committed to making reservations rather than meals at home whenever possible.
Ford has started cooking more in recent weeks, but as someone who previously ate out or ordered in 99% of the time, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the best credit cards for restaurants, and how to maximize the miles I earn on dining.
Dining is a big spending category for many, and now that many restaurants are reopening I wanted to look at what I consider to be the best credit cards to use when dining out or getting takeout.
I’ve put together a collection of the best credit cards for earning cash-back, getting multiple points per dollar, and our wildcard recommendations for earning even more rewards on your credit cards when dining out. Here are the best credit cards for restaurants:
4 Best Credit Cards for Dining (including takeout!) as of September 2021
Citi Prestige Card
The Citi Prestige offers 5x points at restaurants globally, which is fantastic. In my opinion this is the best credit card for restaurants, and this is one of the main reasons I have the card. To me this is like the equivalent of an 8.5% return on dining out. There isn’t a more compelling card for eating out at restaurants.
Reward for dining: 8.5% (5x ThankYou points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $495
Other things to be aware of: This card has no foreign transaction fees, so you can earn 5x points on dining globally
American Express® Gold Card
When the Amex Gold Card was introduced it only offered 4x points at restaurants in the U.S., but this restriction has been removed. There’s no limit to how many bonus points you can earn with this, and earning 4x Membership Rewards points is an excellent return on spending at restaurant. One thing to keep in mind is that Amex is accepted less frequently overseas than Visa and Mastercard, so you may find yourself having to pay with a different card at the end of a meal.
Reward for dining: 6.8% (4x Membership Rewards points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $250 (Rates & Fees)
Other things to be aware of: This card has no foreign transaction fees, so you can earn 4x points on dining globally
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 3x points on dining and travel purchases globally, and the card offers 1x points on all other purchases. I value Ultimate Rewards points at ~1.7 cents each, so to me, that’s the equivalent of a 5.1% return on those purchases, which is pretty incredible. Being able to use a single card for all of your dining and travel expenses and getting a 5.1% return is pretty incredible, and makes life easier for those who don’t want to juggle several credit cards.
Reward for dining: 5.1% (3x Ultimate Rewards points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $550
Other things to be aware of: This card has no foreign transaction fees, so you can earn 3x points on dining globally
American Express® Green Card
The Amex Green Card has a reasonable annual fee, offers statements credits that can potentially more than offset the annual fee, and offers 3x points at restaurants globally with no limits. Like the Chase Sapphire Reserve this card also earns 3x points on travel purchases as well. Generally speaking, the restaurants category doesn’t just include sit-down dining establishments, but you’ll often find that fast food establishments, cafes, etc., code as restaurants as well.
Reward for dining: 5.1% (3x Membership Rewards points, which I value at 1.7 cents each)
Card annual fee: $150
Other things to be aware of: This card has no foreign transaction fees, so you can earn 3x points on dining globally
What Qualifies As Dining Spending?
In general, the “dining” category is broader than you might think. The first thing to understand is that it’s up to individual merchants to decide how they categorize themselves. Sometimes they won’t be categorized correctly, and some businesses use Square, where they may also not have selected the right merchant code.
In general, credit cards that offer bonus points on dining include more than just formal restaurants. They generally include coffee shops, frozen yogurt stores, fast food establishments, and more. They don’t, however, include grocery stores, even if you’re shopping for pre-made meals in the deli.
Generally speaking, restaurants are defined pretty broadly, and the category includes everything from fast food to cafes to fine dining. Just note that convenience stores, nightclubs, and restaurants located within other establishments won’t typically qualify for bonus points.
Best Airline and Hotel Credit Cards for Dining
Citi AAdvantage Platinum Card
The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Card earns 2x AAdvantage miles at restaurants worldwide. If you’re someone who values American miles, this is one of the best airline-branded credit cards for eating out. The card also earns 2x miles at gas stations and on American Airlines purchases. There are no foreign transaction fees, so you can use the card globally. The card has a $99 annual fee, which is waived for the first 12 months.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is unique in that it’s a hotel-branded credit card that earns bonus miles for dining at US restaurants. The card earns 7x Hilton points at US restaurants, which I value at a return of about 3.5%. There are better cards for dining purchases, but if you’re someone who values Hilton points this is the most compelling card for earning rewards when eating out. Keep in mind you won’t earn bonus points for restaurant spend overseas, so only use this card at US restaurants. The card does come with a high annual fee of $450 (Rates & Fees) which isn’t waived the first year. It does have quite a few other benefits that many will find useful, the most compelling of which is Hilton Honors Diamond status.
Best Business Credit Cards for Dining
Brex Card for Startups
Typically the Brex for Startups card doesn’t offer a bonus on dining, but the Brex Exclusives program was quickly revamped to offer better benefits for remote teams. Startups can now earn 3x points on food delivery, in addition to a host of other less-conventional perks.
The points earned through Brex can be used as cash back either as a statement credit or through their travel portal, but the best value will be in transferring points to one of their seven airline partners.
Amex Blue Business Plus Card
While the Amex Blue Business Plus Card doesn’t earn bonus points for dining, you earn 2x Amex points on all purchases, so restaurants would be included in that earnings rate. Membership Rewards points are one of the four major transferable points currencies, and personally I value the points at 1.7 cents each. So to me that’s the equivalent of a 3.4% return on everyday spending, which is unrivaled.
This card earns Membership Rewards points that can be transferred to Amex airline and hotel partners. There aren’t many no annual fee cards that are enrolled in the “full” Membership Rewards program, so that in and of itself is a reason to keep this card. The card does come with foreign transaction fees though (Rates & Fees), so if you’re dining overseas you’ll want to be sure to use one without forex fees.
Capital One Spark Miles Business Card
The Capital One Spark Miles Business Card also doesn’t have a specific bonus categories for dining out or restaurants, but it does earn 2x Spark miles on all purchases. Those miles can be transferred to airline partners or redeemed as cash back. I value those miles at 1.1 cents each, so that’s equivalent to earning a 2.2% return on all of your business expenses.
The card has no annual fee the first year, and it’s only $95 the year after that. None of Capital One’s cards have foreign transaction fees either, so you can use this card worldwide and get the same rate of return.
Best Cash-Back Credit Cards for Dining
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Savor offers a flat 4% cash back on dining globally, with no caps. This bonus category doesn’t just include sit-down restaurants, but also includes bars and taverns, fast food restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and more. So this is really quite a broad category. This is an industry-leading cash back offering on dining, and being able to use the card worldwide makes it a great option. The card has a has a $95 annual fee, though it’s waived for the first year.
Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards for Dining
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Card is the best cash back credit card with no annual fee for dining. It earns 3% cash back on restaurant purchases worldwide, and like all of Capital One’s credit cards it has no foreign transaction fees. If you value cash back more than transferrable points, this card would be great for dining and restaurant purchases, but I wouldn’t use it for any other purchases. You can get better return with other no annual fee cards.
Costco Anywhere Visa Card
For those who are Costco members, the Costco Anywhere Visa Card offers 3% cash back on dining purchases worldwide. The card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, so it can be used at restaurants around the world. The card is exclusively for Costco members though, and there is a fee for that membership. If you are already a member, this is a great card to have as it earns 4% cash back on gas purchases and 3% cash back on travel, in addition to the 3% cash back at restaurants.
Best Credit Cards With Dining as a Quarterly Category
The Chase Freedom earns bonus points in rotating categories that change quarterly. When restaurants are one of the quarterly bonus categories, you’ll earn 5% cash back with this card. If you have another card that earns Ultimate Rewards points like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can earn 5x points instead. The card has no annual fee, so maxing out your spend in the rotating bonus categories is a no-brainer. The card does have foreign transaction fees though, so you won’t want to use it at restaurants outside of the US.
Best Credit Card With an Optional Dining Bonus Spending Category
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card is unique in that it lets you pick which categories you’ll earn 5% cash back in. You can select two categories per quarter, and you earn 5% cash back on the first $2,000 in combined eligible purchases. You earn 2% cash back in another category you select, and there’s no cap for the 2% cash back. The card has a unique earnings structure and comes with no annual fee. For someone that values cash back above points and miles, this card would be great for maximizing your return on dining purchases.
Best Credit Cards Earning 2% Cash-Back or 2X Points for Dining
Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred use to be the card to use for dining purchases worldwide, and is still considered our best card for getting started with travel rewards. Chase has since introduced the Reserve card which earns 3x points on travel and dining expenses, but with a heftier annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great “entry level” card that lets you earn 3x points on dining and 2x points on travel worldwide. The Chase Sapphire Preferred has a much milder annual fee of only $95, which some will find more attractive than the Reserve’s higher annual fee.
Citi Double Cash Card
In general, we wouldn’t recommend only earning 2% cash back, given you can get a better return by using a card that offers you flexible points. However, the ease of using Citi Double Cash card can make sense for those that prefer to not juggle different credit cards and are looking for a card with no annual fee. The card lets you earn 2% cash back on all purchases including dining, so it could make sense for some.
Citi Premier Card
You’ll earn 3x points on all dining purchases with the Citi Premier® Card (review), and with no foreign transaction fees you can use the card worldwide. The card has a $95 annual fee. For those of you that are looking for a card with a lower annual fee than the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Citi Prestige, this would be my recommendation.
Best Credit Cards for Purchasing Dining Gift Cards
If you’re purchasing dining gift cards directly from a restaurant, any of the cards on this list can be used for the transaction. You should earn the applicable bonus points as the purchase should code as dining. You’ll earn 5x points with the Citi Prestige, 4x points with the American Express Gold Card, etc. If you’re purchasing the gift cards at a supermarket, office supply store, or another merchant, you can use one of the following cards:
Chase Ink Business Cash at Office Supply Stores
The Chase Ink Business Cash earns 5% cash back at office supply stores. If you have another card that earns Ultimate Rewards points like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve, you can convert the cash back to Ultimate Rewards points instead. If you frequently buy restaurant gift cards, you can do so at an office supply store to leverage the earnings of the Chase Ink Business Cash.
American Express Gold Gard at Supermarkets
The American Express Gold Card earns 4x points per dollar spent at US supermarkets (up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1x). As a lot of supermarkets sell gift cards for many different merchants, using the Amex Gold Card. While the card is really well rounded for purchases at restaurants and US supermarkets, there are many other options. Here is my full list of cards to use at supermarkets and grocery stores.
Any Ultimate Rewards Earning Card for Restaurant.com
If you use restaurant gift certificates from Restaurant.com, you’ll want to be sure to purchase them through the Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal. The portal can only be accessed by those who have Ultimate Rewards earning cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred, or the Chase Ink Business Preferred. You’ll earn a whopping 20x points per dollar spent at Restaurant.com, which is a fantastic return on your spend. Keep in mind that Restaurant.com only partners with a limited number of restaurants and there are often terms and conditions associated with the certificates, so there may be a few additional hoops you have to jump through to leverage this.
Best Dining Rewards Programs
There are several different dining rewards program that help restaurants advertise by offering points, miles, or cash back by using a linked credit card at participating restaurants. These are more prevalent in major cities where the restaurant market is more crowded, but it can still be worth joining even if you don’t live in a dining rewards market — you never know when you’re going to stumble across one of these restaurants on a work trip or vacation.
It’s worth pointing out, however, that these dining rewards programs are taking a sizable commission from the restaurant for marketing their establishment. These can be in the range of 10-20% of the revenue from the dining transaction for dining rewards customers, so restaurants have to be pretty desperate to drum up new business in order to feel participation is worth that expense.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some good restaurants that participate, but there are also some pretty crappy ones.
So if I’d dine at one anyway I of course wouldn’t turn down free miles, but I also won’t go to a restaurant just because it’s on the list. It still makes sense to register your credit card with one of the programs though, and you can find the links to do so below. Here are the best dining rewards programs available today:
- Seated – This app serves major cities, gives you $15-20 in gift cards (with your choice of Amazon, Starbucks, or Uber) every time you dine out at a participating restaurant.
- Mogl – Mogl is mostly on the West Coast, and lets you choose between earning cash-back, donating to a fundraiser, or converting your rewards to miles and points.
- Rewards Network – This company partners with major loyalty chains to offer a co-branded dining rewards program. While you may be able to double-dip with Seated or Mogl, for Rewards Network you’ll have to choose whether each of your credit cards is linked to the dining rewards program for Alaska, American, Delta, Hilton, Southwest, or United, but you can participate in all of the programs. This is a great way to keep miles from expiring!
Dining Rewards Program
Alaska Mileage Plan
Southwest Rapid Rewards
Hopefully, the above list gives a card for every budget and rewards preference. From a no annual fee card earning 3% cash back, to a premium card earning 5x points, there are lots of great options to choose from for your dining spending.
For those looking to earn Amex or Chase points (which seem to be most popular), it’s tough to go wrong with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, American Express® Gold Card, or American Express® Green Card, as you’ll be earning 3-4x points on eating out. Personally, I use the Citi Prestige Card to earn 5x points.
What credit card do you use for dining purchases?
The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Fees), The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (Rates & Fees).