The 5 Best Credit Cards for Dining Out
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At first glance, dining out would seem be the opposite of frugality, as it is easy to spend enough in one meal at a restaurant as you could buying a week’s worth of groceries. Yet frugal people like me have been able to turn this equation on its head by using every trick in the book. On a recent night out, I made my reservation with Open Table just before departing in order to receive points worth future dining credits. When I arrived, I presented a coupon from Restaurant.com that took $25 off my $35 bill. Finally, I paid for our meal with my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which earns double points at restaurants. On other occasions I have use coupons from the Entertainment Book and participated in many of the dining miles programs offered by the airlines. By dining out frugally, I cannot claim to be saving money over the price of home-cooked meals, but I can come pretty close to the price I would have paid for just the ingredients I would have used to prepare a similar meal. (See also: Credit Cards for Groceries)
Another time I always have to dine out is when traveling. Those who travel for pleasure will visit restaurants for convenience, or if only to enjoy the local cuisine.
Restaurant Rewards Credit Cards
No matter what your situation, anyone can save money by using the ideal credit card to maximize the rewards they receive from their dining expenses. Just as with any reward credit card, cardholders must always pay their balances in full and on time in order to assure that interest payments do not overwhelm any rewards received.
Best Credit Cards for Dining Out at Restaurants
These are my picks for the best credit cards to use when dining out.
1. Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard®
This Barclaycard starts with a great bonus of 20,000 miles when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $200 travel statement credit — and then piles on the rewards with 2x miles on travel and dining and 1x on all other purchases. Get 10% miles back to use toward your next redemption every time you redeem for travel statement credits. Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing. On top of that, it comes with a 0% introductory APR on purchases for 12 months. After that, it's a variable APR of 14.99% or 18.99%, based on your creditworthiness. You also get complimentary FICO® Scores as a benefit to active card members. There is no annual fee.
2. Discover it® chrome
The newest addition to Discover's family, the Discover it® chrome card offers a straightforward 2% cash back on all gas and restaurant purchases (up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter), and 1% cash back on all other purchases. You also get the benefit of getting 5-20% cash back if you shop through their online portal which feature over 200 online retailers. Another outstanding feature of this card is the 0% promotional financing on both new purchases and balance transfers for 14 months. Plus, you get a free FICO® Credit Score online and on your monthly statement, and this card looks out for you: each Discover purchase is monitored. If it's unusual, you're alerted by email, phone, or text — and never responsible for unauthorized Discover card purchases. There are no foreign transaction fees, so take this card with you for dining aboard. There is no annual fee.
3. Chase Sapphire Preferred®
Chase offers several different cards that earn points in its Ultimate Rewards program, but their Sapphire cards earn double points for charges at restaurants. Those with the standard card can redeem points for gift cards or cash back at a rate of one cent in value per point. While there is no annual fee for the standard Sapphire card, I carry the Sapphire Preferred for several reasons. Despite its $95 annual fee (waived the first year), Preferred card holders receive a 7% bonus on their points each year, making each meal worth 2.14 points. Additionally, Preferred cardholders receive double points all travel expenses, and triple points when travel is booked through Chase’s web site. Finally, the Preferred card has no foreign transaction fees and cardmembers have the option to redeem points for miles with some airlines or points with hotel chains.
4. Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card
The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card offers unlimited double points on purchases spent on dining and entertainment, and one point spent on other purchases. As a bonus offer right now, you can get 20,000 points after spending $1,500 within the first 3 months -- this is redeemable for $200 in gift cards. They're also offering 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months. Citi also offers special benefits like Price Rewind. Citi will search hundreds of retailers' sites for 30 days from the date of purchase to help find a lower price. If one is found that's lower by at least $25, you automatically get the price difference back. There is no annual fee.
5. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers 2x miles on every purchase, unlimited! They're also offering a great bonus offer right now: get 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months. Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime -- no blackout dates or seat restrictions. Also, if you're traveling aboard, it's the perfect card to bring with you, since it has no foreign transaction fees. Annual fee: $59, waived for the first year.
Without a doubt, most consumers will save money when they prepare their meals at home. Nevertheless, I find a frugal night out to be a needed respite from our family’s normal routine of cooking and cleaning. By using all available coupons and discounts, and by choosing the best credit card to pay for your dining expenses, you can have affordable meals that ultimately lead to valuable rewards.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.