Updated: 3 days ago
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. So as someone who eats out or orders in 99% of the time, I spend a lot of time thinking about the best credit cards for restaurants, and how to maximize the miles I earn on dining.
Best Credit Cards for Restaurants of 2019
One of the main things to understand about earning bonus points at restaurants is to know that different credit card issuers sometimes categorize merchants differently, based on the agreements that each business has with their payment processor. Merchants choose these categories when they enroll, so sometimes (particularly for companies using Square) your bank might not know you were at a restaurant.
For the most part, however, credit cards that offer bonus points on dining include more than just formal restaurants. Everything from coffee shops to food trucks is usually included as dining, though the little cafe attached to a gas station or the coffee shop inside your hotel might not be recognized as a restaurant.
- Best Overall with 4x on Dining and No Foreign Transaction Fees – American Express® Gold Card
- Best for Earning Ultimate Rewards points – Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Best for 4% Cash Back and Postmates Delivery – Capital One® Savor® Rewards Credit Card paired with the Citi Prestige Card or other World Elite Mastercard
- Best for Flexible Points with a Low Annual Fee – Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Best for No Annual Fee and 3% Cash Back – Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
- Best for Business Restaurant Spending – American Express® Business Gold Card
While the above cards represent the best overall values for dining out, there are other travel credit cards that might make sense for your situation. If you’re trying to rack up hotel points for a big vacation, you may want to use a hotel credit card that offers extra points at restaurants, for example. Here are the best credit cards for restaurant rewards available today:
Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to United, Hyatt, and many other programs. The card is also great for everyday spend given that it offers double points on dining and travel. This is probably the most-used card in my wallet.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Hyatt hit it out of the park with the new card. The card is worth holding onto for the anniversary free night certificate and the five elite nights towards status annually, which more than justify the annual fee, not to mention the pathway to elite status based on your spending.
Earn up to 50,000 Bonus Points - 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus an additional 25,000 Bonus Points after you spend a total of $6,000 on purchases within the first 6 months of account opening.
Earn 9 points total per $1 spent at Hyatt - 4 Bonus Points per $1 when you use your card at Hyatt hotels & 5 Base Points per $1 you can earn as a World of Hyatt member
Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
3x Points on Restaurants, Transit, and Travel
The annual free night certificate valid at many IHG properties and Platinum elite status for as long as you have the card make this a potentially good value, as most of those hotels would cost more than $89 per night. Read our Review
Earn 140,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
Earn 25 points total per $1 spent when you stay at an IHG hotel. Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
The card has a great sign-up bonus, and on top of that has lots of perks that make it valuable long term. I value Ultimate Rewards points at ~1.7 cents each, so to me the 50,000 points are worth $850, and that's before factoring in the travel credit and other great perks.
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
- $0 intro annual fee, then $525
- Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United purchases including tickets, Economy Plus, inflight food, beverages and Wi-Fi, and other United charges.
- Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel
- Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining
- Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
- Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck™ Fee Credit
- Free first and second checked bags - a savings of up to $320 per roundtrip
- 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi onboard United-operated flight when you pay with your Club Card.
Being a cardmember provides you complimentary Gold status, which gets you free breakfast and upgrades at Hilton properties across the world
Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
This is a great bonus for a no-annual-fee card, and the earnings structure can make this a very rewarding card if you want to earn points for Hilton properties.
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
Additional Temporary Perks through 2020
This is a fantastic welcome bonus, especially for a small business card. You'll enjoy complimentary Gold Status just for keeping the card, with great opportunities to earn points and free Weekend Night Rewards.
Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points with the Hilton Honors Business Card after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
Additional Temporary Perks through 2020
You receive top tier Hilton Honors Diamond status for as long as you hold the card. This card also earns an incredible 14x points at participating Hilton hotels & resorts. Read our Review.
Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
• Earn 14x Hilton Honors bonus points when you make eligible purchases on your Card at participating hotels or resorts within the Hilton Portfolio.
• Earn 7x Hilton Honors bonus points on eligible purchases on your Card for Flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, car rentals booked directly from select car rental companies, and U.S. restaurants.
• Earn 3x Hilton Honors bonus points on all other eligible purchases
• Complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond Status for being a cardmember
• Enjoy one weekend night reward with your new Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and every year after renewal. Plus, earn an additional night after you spend $60,000 on purchases on your Card in a calendar year.
• Enjoy up to $250 in statement credits each year of Card Membership for eligible purchases at participating Hilton Resorts.
• Receive 50,000 bonus points - a $500 value - after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
• Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
• If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase
• No limit to the points you can earn and your points don't expire
• Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center
• Get up to $200 in combined airline incidental and airport expedited screening statement credits + valuable travel insurance protections
• No Foreign Transaction Fees
• Low $95 annual fee
Membership Rewards has many transfer partners, including Aeroplan, British Airways, Delta, and Singapore, and this card lets you earn great bonuses in the categories that many of us use most often.
Earn 40,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
From May 1 through July 31, 2020 you'll ">earn 6x Bonvoy points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $7,500 in eligible purchases.
• Earn 6x points on eligible purchases at participating Marriott hotels
• Earn 3x points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines.
• Earn 2x points on all other eligible purchases
• Enjoy up to $300 in statement credits each year of Card Membership for eligible purchases at participating Marriott hotels
• Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary valid for redemption for a single night up to 50,000 points.
• Complimentary Gold Elite Status
Read our review
You can use the 4th night benefit multiple times per year, which keeps this card front-of-wallet for us, and more than makes up for the annual fee. Points can be transferred to a variety of programs, and ThankYou continues to increase their transfer partners, making points earned with this card more and more valuable.
• Earn 50,000 Bonus Points after spending $4,000 within 3 months of account opening
• 5x Points on Travel + Dining
• 3x Points on Hotels + Cruises
• 1x Points on all other purchases
• Up to $250 Travel Credit Every Calendar Year
• Complimentary 4th Night at a hotel of your choice after a minimum 4 consecutive night booking through ThankYou.com (based on your average night stay, exclusive of taxes and fees)
• Get a Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Application Fee Credit on your statement, up to $100 every 5 years, as a reimbursement of your application fee for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
• Enjoy access to Priority Pass™ Lounges for you and your authorized users
Certain versions of ThankYou points, including the ones offered with this card, can be transferred to airline partners at a 1:1 ratio, which gives you more options for aspirational travel.
Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
• Earn 3 points per $1 spent on travel including gas stations
• Earn 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants and on entertainment
• Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Earning 4X Membership Rewards® for small business expenses is an awesome return, and we especially like that it automatically applies to the categories you use most in a billing cycle, rather than having to choose just one or two each year.
Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 in qualifying purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points in your top 2 monthly spend categories -- 4X points applies to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these 2 categories each year.
Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. In addition, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
While it might not be the best option for the savvy traveler, it’s nice to see an airline with a no annual fee credit card. People often want to have a card from a brand they like, and lots of people like Delta. For a no annual fee card, the card is more generous than I was expecting.
Earn 10,000 bonus SkyMiles after spending $500 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership
Earn 35,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
Earn 40,000 Bonus Miles after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
- 75,000 in Brex Rewards points upon signup and waived card fees for life (equal to $750+ value)*
- No personal guarantee needed - we do not ask for a personal credit check or security deposit during the application.
- Credit limits 10-20x higher than traditional small business corporate cards.
The new Costco Citi cards have a great rewards structure for Costco loyalists. The bonus categories are compelling, and while it’s still not a card I’d personally use for everyday spend this is a solid option for Costco members.
• Discover one of Citi's best cash back rewards cards designed exclusively for Costco members
• 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter
• 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases
• 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com
• 1% cash back on all other purchases
• No annual fee with your paid Costco membership and enjoy no foreign transaction fees on purchases
• Receive an annual credit card reward certificate, which is redeemable for cash or merchandise at U.S. Costco warehouses, including Puerto Rico
• The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.24%. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
• Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
• Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants
• Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
• Earn a $125 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your cardmembership year and renew your card
• No Foreign Transaction Fees
• First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation
• Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights
• The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
The Best Dining Rewards Program (2019)
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!
|Loyalty Program||Dining Rewards Program|
|Alaska||Mileage Plan Dining|
|American||The AAdvantage Dining Program|
|Hilton Honors||Hilton Honors Dining|
|Southwest||Rapid Rewards Dining|
With so many great credit cards offering bonus points at restaurants, combined with the opportunities to double-dip through dining rewards program, you can truly dine for miles no matter where you choose to eat!