In This Article
This guide will help you learn about the different types of dining cards and, hopefully, narrow them down to the card that is right for you.
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While many folks begin the points and miles hustle with travel goals in mind, it’s easy to forget that there are several cards that include great dining benefits as well. Whether you’re looking to earn extra points and miles on everyday purchases or redeem your points on dining experiences, looking into dining cards is a great idea for everybody who eats (read: everybody).
Your ideal dining card depends on your spending and dining habits, as well as your overall goals for your points and miles. This guide will help you learn about the different types of dining cards and, hopefully, narrow them down to the card that is right for you.
Dining Card Overview
Dining cards are credit cards that earn rewards on dining purchases. If you spend any money at restaurants or on takeout, then you should consider having a decent dining card in your wallet.
Cards with great dining rewards don’t just apply to restaurants or dining out. Many cards also provide rewards on grocery store purchases as well as take-out orders and purchases made through food delivery platforms. With these cards, you’ll be able to earn extra rewards just by making these everyday purchases.
Dining cards run the gamut of annual fees, additional benefits and issuing banks. Regardless of your spending habits or financial profile, you should be able to find a card that suits you from Chase, American Express, Citibank and other banks.
There are generally three tiers of dining cards: no annual fee cards with basic rewards and small welcome bonuses, moderate annual fee cards with decent benefits and often impressive welcome bonuses, and premium cards with hefty annual fees, decent welcome bonuses, substantial credits and reliable benefits.
Read on to learn about our favorite dining cards, plus why we think you should check them out.
Benefits of Dining Cards
As mentioned above, dining cards are beneficial for anyone who spends money on food, meaning they’re useful for nearly everyone. You don’t have to be a proper foodie or dine out often to reap the benefits of a dining card, although having one of these cards in your wallet might incentivize you to try out some new and different restaurants.
Not only do many dining cards offer rewards on purchases made at restaurants or on takeout and delivery, but many also offer rewards on purchases made at supermarkets. This is an excellent way to earn rewards on everyday necessary purchases as well as special nights out. Whether you’re running errands or splurging on a dinner date, dining cards put some of that spending back in your wallet.
Depending on the card you have, you can redeem your rewards for cash back, shopping or travel. A few dining cards also offer earning and redemption programs specific to dining experiences, such as the Chase Sapphire collection.
Chase Sapphire card holders have access to Chase Dining, which is a portal specifically designed for booking dining experiences from takeout to reservations. Through this program, you can earn points on Chase Dining purchases or repurpose the points that you previously earned to finance an exclusive reservation.
American Express has a similar program through Resy called Global Dining Access (GDA), which is available to Platinum cardholders.
Some cards also offer discounts or annual credits toward restaurants and delivery, plus even an additional monthly Uber Eats credit. If you frequently use food delivery platforms or like to dine out, then it’s worth checking up on these extra perks when deciding which dining card is best for you.
With that in mind, let’s look at the best cards for eating out as well as the best cards for staying in.
Best Cards for Restaurants
The best cards for restaurants typically feature great earning potential on restaurant purchases, but a few also feature exclusive dining programs. Here are a few of our favorite cards for great rewards and a couple that offer exclusive access to those dining experiences.
Best Premium Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve®: 3X points on dining including eligible delivery and takeout, plus 10X points for prepaid reservations, order takeout or join virtual cooking classes through Chase Dining.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a great premium card option for those who like to travel and dine out. It offers bonus rewards on all travel purchases in addition to dining, a $300 annual travel credit for travel purchases, a TSA Precheck or Global Entry fee credit, Priority Pass Select lounge membership and the ability to redeem points for 50% more value for travel purchases or other select categories through Chase’s Pay Yourself Back program.
Sapphire Reserve card holders can also earn 10X points on dining when booking a prepaid reservation through Chase Dining. It’s important to emphasize that it must be a prepaid reservation—a simple booking without prepaying won’t earn 10X points.
Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to a number of different airline and hotel partners, including United Airlines and Hyatt. This card charges a $550 annual fee.
Best American Express Card
American Express® Gold Card: 4X points at restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
The American Express Gold Card is one of the most rewarding cards for dining purchases, but also offers an elevated rewards rate for purchases at U.S. grocery stores and on flights. Those who add their Amex Gold card to the Uber account will receive up to $120 (issued as $10 per month) in annual Uber Cash credits for Uber rides and Uber Eats in the U.S.
Cardholders also receive up to $120 ($10 per month) in annual dining credits that can be used at Grubhub, Seamless, Boxed and other participating partners. Membership Rewards points can be transferred to airline and hotel partners. The card charges a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees).
Best Citi Card
Citi Premier® Card: 3X points at restaurants
The Citi Premier Card earns elevated rewards at gas stations, supermarkets and on air travel and hotels in addition to restaurants. It also offers a $100 annual hotel savings benefit. Citi ThankYou Points can be transferred to airline and hotel partners. This card charges a $95 annual fee.
Best Value Card
Chase Freedom Unlimited®: 3% cash back on dining at restaurants including takeout and eligible delivery services.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited also offers elevated rewards on purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards and at drugstores. Purchases in all other categories earn 1.5% cash back.
Those who pair this card with a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning card, such as the Sapphire Reserve®, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Ink Business Preferred® credit card, can transfer the rewards earned with the Freedom Unlimited to another Chase card where they can be redeemed in different, potentially more valuable ways. This card does not charge an annual fee.
Best Business Card
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: access to Resy Global Dining Access and great benefits.
Resy, an online table reservation service, allows members of the Global Dining Access program to reserve tables at some of the world’s most popular restaurants. This can help increase your chances of snagging a coveted table at some of the world’s best and most exclusive eateries.
Those with a business who are looking for a good dining card should consider the Business Platinum Card from American Express. This card earns elevated rewards on flights and prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel, on select business categories and on purchases of $5,000 or more.
The card also offers a slew of credits at the following: Indeed, Dell, Adobe and wireless telephone services. Cardholders have access to Priority Pass lounges, American Express Centurion Lounges and Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta on a same-day ticket.
Cardholders also receive an annual airline incidental credit of up to $200, up to $179 in Clear credits and access to the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program. This card charges a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees).
We consider this the best business card for the benefits it earns. Rather than earning the most points, it provides great access to securing a seat at some of the world’s best restaurants. Use this card to snag your seat, and another option from above to pay to get more points.
Best No Annual Fee Card
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card: up to 5% cash back
The Citi Custom Cash card is a good option for those looking for a no-frills, no-annual-fee card that earns elevated rewards on dining purchases.
The card earns 5% cash back rate up to $500 spent in one category each month, which is automatically selected based on the category with the highest spending. The 5% eligible categories include restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment.
Whether you plan to venture out to a new restaurant or cook something at home, you can benefit from making purchases with a good dining card. Earn cash back on your everyday purchases or take advantage of exclusive access to dining programs.
If you frequently shop at Walmart or use Uber Eats, it may be worth it to splurge on a premium line with applicable annual credits. Otherwise, take advantage of great cashback opportunities on a less expensive credit line. Regardless, there are a lot of options to choose from.
Can I redeem the points I earn on dining toward travel?
Absolutely! Your points are yours to redeem as you wish. You may redeem your points on travel and shopping as well as cash back or dining experiences. The choice is yours.
In which category are takeout and delivery purchases?
Takeout and delivery usually fall under the category of restaurant purchases. For example, if you earn 3% cash back on restaurant purchases, this generally includes takeout and delivery purchases.
How do dining programs work?
Dining programs are exclusively available to select cardholders, and they allow members access to certain reservations, experiences and rates at select restaurants. To take advantage of this benefit, cardholders must book experiences through the appropriate dining portal.
What is the difference between earning on “top” categories and “rotating” categories?
Earning a certain reward on “top” categories means that the earning rate applies to the categories on which you spend the most money. For example, if your biggest expenditures come from grocery stores and gas stations, then your rewards rate will apply to purchases that fall into those categories.
On the other hand, rotating categories are featured by the bank. For a set time, an enhanced rewards rate may apply to restaurant purchases whereas the next month will feature an enhanced rate for travel purchases. These categories rotate throughout the year.
I’m new to this. Which card should I open first?
If you are brand new to the credit card game and want to start earning through dining purchases, go for one of the Chase cards. Since Chase cards are limited by the 5/24 rule, you’ll want to target them first before moving on to other options.
New to the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the best card to start with.
With a bonus of 60,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months, 5x points on travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal and 3x points on restaurants, streaming services, and online groceries (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs), this card truly cannot be beat for getting started!
Cards in This Article
Chase Ultimate Rewards® Points
after you spend $4,000 in 3 months
Membership Rewards® Points
after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months. Terms apply.
Citi ThankYou Points
after making $4,000 in purchases with your card within the first 3 months of account opening.
An Extra 1.5%
on everything you buy, up to the first $20,000 spent, in the first year
Membership Rewards® Points
after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership
Editors Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.