The 5 Best Credit Cards for Dining Out
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At first glance, dining out would seem to 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 taking advantage of rewards points.
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)
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 top credit cards to use when dining out.
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 (equal to $400 in travel). 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.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase offers several different cards that earn points in its Ultimate Rewards program, but their Sapphire Preferred card earns double points for charges at restaurants. I carry the Sapphire Preferred for several reasons. Despite its $95 annual fee (waived the first year), Preferred card holders receive double points on all travel expenses, and 20% off travel when redeeming travel through their website. The card also offers a 1:1 point transfer to partner programs. Finally, the Preferred card has no foreign transaction fees.
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.
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
With the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card, you can receive 5% cash back on your first $2,000 spent each quarter on combined purchases in two categories of your choice, which range from department stores to fast food. In addition, you can also receive 2% cash back on one everyday category of your choice, which include gas, grocery, and restaurant purchases. You'll get 1% cash back on all other purchases you make with the card. There is no minimum you need to meet before you can start redeeming your cash back rewards. Currently, there is a special introductory offer of 0% APR for the first 9 months on any balance transfers made within the first 30 days from account opening. There is no annual fee.
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 bank, card issuer, airline or hotel chain.