How to Maximize Your Dining Credit Card

Enjoy going out to eat? You’re not alone. Americans eat out several times per week on average. Add that up over the course of a year, and you’re looking at thousands of dollars spent on dining out.

All that money begs the question: Are you maximizing your credit card rewards on restaurant purchases? Here are a few tips to capitalize on the benefits of a restaurant rewards card.

1. Register for Dining Programs with Your Restaurant Rewards Credit Card

These programs allow you to earn points or miles when you dine at participating restaurants. Some, for example, reward you a percentage based on what you spend (unlimited 1% back, or 5 percent back on everyday purchases at specific places that rotate each quarter up to a maximum amount each quarter when you sign up), while others reward you with miles.

To maximize your rewards on your spending, use your restaurant credit card at these outlets. If the dining program rewards you with cash back, you’ll get cash back from that program as well as from your credit card.

2. Use Coupons with Your Dining Credit Card

Group buying and coupon sites also offer coupons and offers at hundreds of retailers nationwide. And that’s on top of discounts at local restaurants listed on these sites. National restaurant websites list hundreds of nationwide chains offering certificates to eager diners, while checking a local business’s social media page could also net you a discount for liking it.

By using these coupons and paying for your meal with your restaurant credit card, you’ll defray the initial cost of your evening out, and get cash back on your card for the remainder you’ve spent. Note that many of these offers come with expiration dates or other restrictions such as a minimum spend before the discount kicks in, so be sure to understand the deals and discounts in full.

3. Use Your Restaurant Rewards Credit Card to Purchase Dining Gift Cards

Most chain restaurants and local mom-and-pop spots offer gift certificates in various denominations. By using your restaurant credit card, like the Discover it® Chrome Gas & Restaurants card, to buy a gift card at the restaurant, you may still reap the rewards on that purchase for yourself as long as gift cards are eligible to earn rewards, so you can gift someone else and gift yourself. Plus, some restaurant credit cards offer portals to redeem the rewards you’ve earned on that credit card toward gift cards to restaurants, so check on your credit card issuer’s website for deal portals.

4. What Is the Best Dining Credit Card for Me?

Put simply, the best dining credit card for you is the one with terms best suited to your habits, lifestyle, and credit profile. You’ll have to shop around to see what works best. While doing so, it’s helpful to keep these questions in mind:

Where do I eat out most often? If you eat out at certain restaurants or chains often, you’ll want to make sure that chain accepts the dining card you’re considering before signing up. That way you can be sure you’ll earn rewards on your purchases there.

What type of rewards do I want to earn for dining out? Credit card issuers offer different types of rewards on different cards, so take time to study the rewards profile of the card you’re considering. For example, are you looking for a card with introductory offers, such as a sign-up bonus if you spend a certain amount of money in the first few months? Do you want to be able to redeem your rewards in the form of statement credits or cash back? How generously is the card rewarding dining purchases, relative to other cards in the marketplace?

Do I want a card with or without an annual fee? Some dining cards may carry an annual fee. For those, you may want to estimate the value of the rewards you’d earn on your dining purchases in a typical year, and weigh that against the cost of the card

Does the card offer other perks or protections that are important to me? For some cards, dining rewards are just one part of the rewards equation. With that in mind, you may want to consider what other types of purchases the card rewards besides dining, if any, and at what rate.


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