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

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.

Click here to apply for the Capital One Venture Rewards Card

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

credit 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.

Click here to apply for the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card

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.

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Guest's picture
Carl Lassegue

I like the Discover Card. I've been looking for a good credit that offers decent rewards with no annual fee. What would you guys recommend?

Guest's picture
Guest

I would add the Visa Signature SonyCard from Capital One to this list. It offers 3X points on dining out and movies. No foreign transaction fees, no annual fee.

Guest's picture

Also, whatever card you go with, if you register it with upromise.com and you get additional cash back at many restaurants. This cash back can be applied to a Sallie Mae student loan, 529 plan or just a regular savings account if you don't have any education related expenses.

Guest's picture
Timothy Girard

Is the non-student version of the Citi Forward Card still available? I can't find it on the Citi website.

Guest's picture
Guest

yes, discontinued in January 2013 I think

Guest's picture

Thanks for sharing this information and this post! I'm mostly pleased with American Express, have been using it for years and I almost have no problems with it.

Guest's picture
Guest

overlooked is the Costco (American Express) card - 2% on restaurants - cashback paid annually (bummer) plus, of course the Costco membership fee. But, too, the card does 3% on gas.

Guest's picture
Guest

Just use the Fidelity Amex. Its 2% everywhere.

Guest's picture
Guest

I still use the Citi Forward Card with 5x point for dining but he Simply Cash Business from Amex looks like a good one..3% back at restaurants.

Guest's picture
Guest

U.S. Bank Cash+. 5% on restaurants if you choose restaurants+fast food as your two 5% categories.

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Guest

U.S Bank has downgraded restaurants to 2% beginning 2015.

Guest's picture
Drew

Amex Costco Card is definitely the best out there. 2% Cash back on restaurants no quarterly limit crap. Eat as much as you want as frequently as you want and you'll get 2% cash back. Just don't forget to exercise :)

Guest's picture

The new Bravo card from Santander is 3% on all restaurant spend.

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Guest

The Paypal Mastercard is offering 3X points on restaurants

Guest's picture
Steven Y

I use to use the Costco Amex as my #1 card for restaurants and gas. I eat mostly all meals out. But since Sams Club came out with there new MasterCard which gives 5% on gas, 3% on travel and restaurants, and 1% on everything else. I switched. While I like Amex look and customer service better, the Sam's Mastercard has superior cash back rewards, and is my new favorite to use in restaurants and gas stations now. I hope Costco competes, however Mastercard is excepted everywhere and Amex is not..

Guest's picture
Guest

Citi double Cash 2% everything

Discover it or Chase freedom sometimes has 5% on restaurants if you feel like dealing with rotating categories.

Many cards have 5% or more on groceries and work for restaurant gift cards. Using this method you are more likely to overspend or lose gift cards.