Friends dining out at restaurant

Which Dining Credit Card is Best For You?

Last Updated: September 13, 2023
4 min read

Table of contents

Key points about: the best credit cards for dining out

  1. Dining credit cards can help you earn rewards for your dining purchases.

  2. Some dining credit cards offer rewards for restaurant purchases and other eligible purchases.

  3. Finding the best dining card for you depends on matching the card’s features with your lifestyle and the kinds of purchases you make with your card.

Whether you’re dining out, picking up food to-go, or at home waiting for delivery, a dining rewards credit card, like the Discover it® Chrome Gas & Restaurant Credit Card, can help you earn rewards on your meal purchases. But there’s more to consider than just the dining rewards when it comes to a dining rewards credit card. To find the best dining credit card for your wallet, you’ll want to review the fine print and consider all the cards’ benefits and drawbacks.

What are dining credit cards?

Dining credit cards, sometimes called restaurant credit cards, are a type of rewards credit card that give you rewards (like cash back) on eligible purchases. You might want a dining rewards card if you eat at restaurants often or frequently order takeout.

Dining credit cards can be part of your rewards strategy to help you earn rewards on your purchases. Dining cards can pair well with other rewards credit cards, like travel rewards cards and cash back cards. Then, you can use whichever card offers you the most rewards on your purchase.

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Compare the main features of each dining credit card

Credit cards can offer many benefits for card members, including security features and other perks. Before account opening, consider whether the features of a dining credit card meet your needs.

It’s important to read the fine print so you have a better understanding of the card’s features like:

  • Cash back rewards. Some rewards cards, like the Discover it® Chrome Gas & Restaurant Credit Card, let you earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically.1 You’ll still earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Reward maximums. Check to see if there’s a maximum amount of rewards you can earn when making purchases with the credit card, either in combined purchases or in the dining category.
  • Annual fee. Some credit cards have an annual fee; for those cards, you could pay the annual fee even if the benefits end or you don’t use them. And the annual fee amount could change in the future. You can avoid this fee with certain cards. For example, Discover has no annual fee on any of our cards.
  • Other fees. Be aware of other fees associated with your dining card. For example, some cards have a foreign transaction fee. If you plan on using your credit card for dining purchases on your next trip abroad, knowing about foreign transaction fees in advance could be helpful. There could also be fees like balance transfer fees, so be sure to read the fine print at account opening.

Find out what qualifies as a dining purchase

Whether or not you can earn dining rewards on your purchases depends on what your credit card issuer includes in the dining category and the store’s merchant category code (MCC).

Purchases at restaurants, diners, or coffee shops are typically eligible purchases on dining rewards cards. So, you could earn rewards whether you’re eating in or taking food to go.

Did you know

Some dining credit cards reward you for dining purchases and could also reward you for purchases in other categories or for all your purchases. For example, the Discover it® Chrome Gas & Restaurant Credit Card rewards you for restaurant purchases, gas station purchases, and all other purchases on the card.

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Remember that not all your food-related purchases may be eligible for rewards. For example, if you’re buying food at an event, a café in a hotel, or somewhere else that isn’t registered as a restaurant, the purchase may not help you earn dining rewards. Instead, the transactions might be coded based on the larger company—for example, food at hotels could count as hotel purchases. Food delivery app purchases may or may not count as eligible purchases in the dining category either, so check with your card issuer.

If your credit card only rewards you for dining purchases, you could miss out on rewards for gas or travel purchases or cash back on all purchases. The best dining credit card for you depends on whether the card rewards you for the kinds of purchases you make and if the card’s features match your lifestyle, among other considerations.

Review the redemption options

If you’re using a restaurant credit card to earn rewards, it can be helpful to understand how to redeem them. 

Review the rewards redemption options from your dining credit card issuer to find out how to use the rewards you earn and about any restrictions, like if the rewards change or expire. With Discover, your rewards never expire.2

Reward redemption can vary depending on the card issuer. You may be able to redeem your rewards for a statement credit, check, bank transfer, or gift card. Be sure to review the program’s rules to see if there are any limitations, such as a minimum redemption requirement.

Get pre-approved before applying

Once you’ve narrowed down the best credit card for restaurants for you, it’s time to apply.

But applying for a new credit card can lead to a hard inquiry, which could hurt your credit score even if the issuer denies your application.

Some credit card issuers may show you if you’re pre-approved for different cards before you fill out an application. So, it can be a good idea to consider a card with pre-approval offers since this usually only requires a soft credit inquiry, which doesn’t hurt your credit score, according to Experian.

Once you’ve applied and gotten your card, you could be on your way to earning rewards for dining purchases. While there may not be one best card for dining out, by comparing the main features of the card and considering which card best matches your needs, you can make a good decision for your wallet.


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