Dining is one of the most common and competitive bonus categories among points and miles cards. This is because so many people in the United States frequently go out to eat, order takeout, or get food delivered to their houses. From simple convenience to special occasions, there are great opportunities to earn rewards for dining. This post presents some of the best credit cards for dining, restaurants, and takeout.
But the question here is what kind of rewards do you want to earn? All three of the major transferrable points currencies and cash back can be earned by eating out and ordering in.
Transferrable Points Cards
This section overviews the credit cards that earn the most of each transferrable points currency for dining. Citi, American Express, and Chase points are highlighted as they are the most powerful points in the industry.
American Express Gold Card
The American Express Gold Card is the best card in the industry for dining (and grocery) rewards! That’s because it earns 4x Membership Rewards (MR) points on restaurants worldwide and grocery stores stateside. There is a shared $25,000 annual spend limit for both 4x categories. The Gold Card also earns 3x MR points on travel from amextravel.com and one point per dollar on non-bonus spend.
Plus, the Gold Card also offers $120 in dining credits and $120 in Uber Cash credits each year. These credits can help to justify the card’s $250 annual fee (NOT waived the first year) if you can use them in full. Amex currently offers a sign-up bonus worth 35,000 points for this card. This bonus can be earned after spending $4,000 within the first three months.
American Express Green Card
Those who want to earn MR points for dining have a second option in the American Express Green Card. Like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, this card earns 3x points for dining and general travel.
Amex is offering a sign-up bonus worth 30,000 MR points for the Green Card. This bonus can be earned by spending $2,000 within the first three months. The Amex Green Card has a more affordable sign-up bonus (for just 5,000 fewer points) than the Amex Gold Card does. It also has a $150 annual fee (NOT waived the first year), which is $100 less than the Gold Card’s annual fee.
To counter this annual fee, the Amex Green Card comes with $100 annual credits to CLEAR and Lounge Buddy.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the best options for quickly earning Ultimate Rewards (UR) points. That’s because it earns 3x points for Dining as well as General Travel.
Like the Citi Prestige, the Reserve offers a sign-up bonus worth 50,000 points. It can be earned after spending $4,000 within the first three months. This card also comes with some nice perks including Priority Pass airport lounge access, Chase’s famous $300 general travel credit, and a Pre-TSA / Global Entry fee waiver credit.
The Citi Prestige currently has the highest rewards rate for dining in the points and miles world! But Citi Thank You (TY) points are not the most versatile or valuable transferrable currency. This card earns 5x points per dollar on dining and airfare (booked directly with the airline), as well as 3x points for cruises and hotels.
Plus, Citi is offering a sign-up bonus worth 50,000 points. It can be earned after spending $4,000 within the first three months. The card also comes with some perks including Priority Pass airport lounge access and its signature Fourth Night Free benefit. These benefits can help to justify the card’s $495 annual fee (NOT waived the first year).
Cash Back Cards
Cash back cards are not as rewarding as transferrable points cards for travelers. However, they shouldn’t be pushed aside. Straight cash can oftentimes cover travel expenses that transferrable points can’t.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
The Chase Freedom Unlimited became an excellent earner for dining when it was revamped in 2020. It earns 3% cash back on dining, which can be converted into 3x UR points if you have either the Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, or Chase Ink Preferred too. Plus, the Freedom Unlimited earns 5% cash back (or 5x UR points) on travel from Chase’s Travel Portal. It also earns 3% (3x points) on pharmacy purchases and 1.5% (1.5x points) on non-bonus spend.
Furthermore, Chase is offering a sign-up bonus worth $200 (or 20,000 UR points) for the Freedom Unlimited. It can be earned after spending just $500 within the first three months.
Either way, this card is great for beginners and as a supplementary card provided you can max out the categories. It also provides a no annual fee alternative to the Sapphire Reserve for dining and travel.
Capital One Savor
The Capital One Savor Card is also great if you want to earn cash back for dining. Capital One aptly created and named this card for “savers” who want to “savor” their meals. Nonetheless, the Savor Card earns 4% cash back on all Dining and Entertainment purchases. It also earns an unlimited 2% back at Grocery Stores.
The Capital One Savor Card has a $95 annual fee (waived the first year), which is one of the highest among cash back cards. But it also has a sign-up bonus worth $500 that can be earned after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. That bonus is like getting nearly a 17% return on your purchases on top of other cash back.
Caveat emptor (buyer beware) before applying for any Capital One card. Capital One is one of the few issuers to pull all three credit bureaus when applying for any of their cards. If you are inquiry sensitive, Capital One cards might not be for you.
Discover’s flagship card earns 5% cash back on quarterly rotating categories. Restaurants are also a regular category for Discover whose card lets its holders earn up to $75 in cash back each quarter. Restaurants are most commonly the main 5% category from July to September of each year.
Discover also offers an unconventional sign-up bonus that solely depends on how much you spend. Discover will double the amount of cash back earned within the first 12 months. Therefore, you would need to spend $3,000 in the 5% categories to earn $150 in cash back. That requires you to maximize any two categories, which can take up to six months.
Dining out is one of the easiest ways to earn travel rewards via credit cards. All you have to do is figure out what kinds of rewards you want to earn before applying. Consider your travel itinerary, loyalty to transfer partners, and how much you are willing to pay in annual fees.
Also note that your mileage may vary. The cards listed above are my suggestions and you might have another card that works better for you.
- American Express Gold Card
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- American Express Green Card
- Citi Prestige
- Chase Freedom Unlimited
- Capital One Savor
- Discover It