In many ways, our 20s and 30s are the perfect time to dine out often. We’re grabbing drinks with friends or colleagues, enjoying date nights with significant others or hopeful prospects, and exploring trendy new restaurants as soon as we spot them on social media (…or is that just me?).
However, eating out can be a little less kind to our wallets, and increasing food costs have only made matters worse. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of restaurant meals increased 8% from 2021 to 2022, and general food costs have matched the rise, increasing by nearly 9%.
Even so, post-pandemic Americans are dining out frequently or are merely defaulting to takeout. In fact, more than half of Americans order takeout or delivery at least once a week.
With this reality in mind, it’s important to create some boundaries for ourselves and take advantage of opportunities to save here and there. One of the ways you can maximize meal purchases is with rewards credit cards designed specifically for those of us who enjoy eating out.
Read on to discover the best credit cards for restaurant spending.
Overview: best credit cards for restaurants and dining
|Credit card||Best for|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Intro offer: 80,000 points when you spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening.|
|Chase Freedom Flex℠ Card||Bonus rewards: rotating 5% cash back categories every quarter.|
|Citi Premier® Card||Variety: excellent cash back rewards, available in multiple categories.|
|Discover it® Cash Back Card||Cash back match: receive a dollar-for-dollar match on points earned in the first year of card ownership.|
|American Express® Gold Card||Highest consistent cash back rate: earn 4% cash back on restaurants and dining.|
What We Like:
A monster of an up-front bonus; 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months.
5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining, 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
Points are worth 25% more when you redeem travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
If your love for travel matches your love for eating out, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card could be a perfect fit. You’ll earn 3 points for every dollar spent on dining, which includes eligible delivery services and takeout.
Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from opening your account. With the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal, those points can be used for booking $1,000 worth of travel!
In addition to the stellar bonus offer and 3 points per $1 spent on dining, Chase Sapphire Preferred® cardholders earn 5X points on travel purchases made through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and 2X points on other travel expenses.
This credit card also rewards cardholders each account anniversary with bonus points, equaling 10% of total purchases made the previous year. In other words, if you spent $20,000 on your card annually, you’ll earn an additional 2,000 bonus points.
What We Like:
Awesome $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Earn 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter, plus earn 1% on all other purchases.
0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 15.24% – 23.99%.
- Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
- 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
- 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more
- 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!
- 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.24% to 23.99%.
- No annual fee – You won’t have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom Flex℠ card
- Keep tabs on your credit health - Chase Credit Journey helps you monitor your credit with free access to your latest score, real-time alerts, and more.
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ card offers 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases, which includes takeout and some eligible delivery services. Cardholders can also earn 5% back on rotating categories (up to $1,500 each quarter) and 1% back on all other purchases.
After spending $500 with your Chase Freedom Flex℠ card within the first three months from opening your account, you’ll earn $200 cash back. As an added plus, for the first 15 months of owning your card, you’ll get a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers.
For the folks who want to eat out without going out, Chase Freedom Flex℠ provides a free three-month subscription to DoorDash for cardholders.
What We Like:
60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. These points are redeemable for $600 in gift cards at thankyou.com
Three points per dollar spent at Gas Stations, Supermarkets, Restaurants, Hotels and on Air Travel
No foreign transaction fees
- Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
- Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
- Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
- Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
- 60,000 Points are redeemable for $600 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
- No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
With a Citi Premier® Card, you earn 3 points per $1 spent at restaurants, but you’ll also earn 3 points per $1 spent at supermarkets, gas stations, air travel, and more. Additionally, cardholders may be eligible to receive discounts on dining experiences offered through Citi Entertainment®.
When you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening, Citi will reward you with 60,000 bonus points, redeemable for $600 in gift cards at thankyou.com.
Citi Premier® cardholders can earn 3 points per $1 spent on a number of categories, including restaurants, but they’ll also earn 1 point per $1 spent on every other purchase.
This credit card also has some phenomenal perks for travelers, including $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more each year (when booked through thankyou.com).
Discover it® Cash Back Card
In a nutshell
Every purchase you make with the Discover it® Cash Back card earns 1% cash back on all purchases, but the real perk of this credit card is the rotating 5% bonus categories. Every quarter, you can earn 5% cash back ($1,500 max spend) on select categories, such as Amazon, grocery stores, gas stations, and — you guessed it — restaurants! Plus, Discover matches everything you earn at the end of your first year.
This card offers 5% cash back (up to $1,500) in rotating categories each quarter as long as you activate them. From July through September in 2022, the rotating categories are restaurants and PayPal.
After your first year with the Discover it® Cash Back card, Discover will match all the points you’ve earned, dollar for dollar. Not to mention, you’ll get an intro rate of 0% APR for the first 15 months.
In addition to Discover’s 5% bonus categories and the generous cash back match offer for new cardholders, there is no annual fee with this credit card, and you’ll earn an unlimited 1% back on every purchase.
American Express® Gold Card
In a nutshell
The American Express® Gold Card has a lot more going for it than just a ritzy appearance. Cardholders can earn 4X points on dining expenses, which includes delivery and takeout, as well as grocery store purchases. Cardholders also receive 3X points on flights and 1X point on all other purchases. As if these perks weren’t enticing enough, new cardholders can earn 75,000 bonus points within their first six months from account opening (when you spend $4,000).
Foodies will love their American Express® Gold Card, since restaurant, delivery, and takeout purchases earn a whopping 4% cash back.
When you spend $4,000 within your first six months from account opening, you earn 75,000 bonus points.
If you decide to order out, this credit card has a perk you’ll crave: $10 in Uber Cash (redeemable for Uber Eats orders as well as Uber drives) each month, for a total of $120 a year. You can also earn $10 in statement credits each month for Grubhub orders.
For the nights you opt for a home cooked meal instead, the rewards continue, with 4% cash back on grocery store spending.
Keep in mind, however, that this card’s catch is a hefty annual fee: $250.
Summary of the best credit cards for restaurants and dining
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on other travel purchases; 1X point on all other purchases.||16.24% - 23.24% Variable||$95|
|Chase Freedom Flex℠ Card||5% cash back on rotating bonus categories (up to $1,500 each quarter) and travel (purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards), 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1% back on everything else.||0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months|
15.24% - 23.99% Variable
|Citi Premier® Card||3X points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel, and hotels; 1X point on all other purchases.||16.74% - 24.74% (Variable)||$95|
|Discover it® Cash Back Card||5% cash back on rotating bonus categories (up to $1,500 each quarter) and 1% back on all other purchases.||0% intro APR for the first 15 months from account opening, followed by 12.24% to 23.24% variable APR||$0|
|American Express® Gold Card||4X points on dining and grocery store purchases, 3X points on flights, and 1X point on all other purchases.||16.24% to 23.24% Variable||$250|
What to look for in credit cards for restaurants and dining
When you’re considering a credit card for restaurant spending, you need to look beyond the perks. Here are some factors to keep in mind as you evaluate your options.
Rewards rates on all purchases
Just because you’re getting a credit card for dining out doesn’t mean you should ignore all the other rewards categories.
For instance, with the Chase Freedom Flex℠ card, you can earn up to 5% cash back in their rotating bonus categories, which could include eating out. However, with the Citi Premier® Card, you consistently earn 3X points on restaurants, as well as supermarkets, gas stations, air travel, and more
Find the card that maximizes your overall rewards earning potential.
Introductory bonus offers
With introductory bonus offers, you can earn a large amount of rewards in a short amount of time. With that said, it’s easy to spend money you wouldn’t typically spend in an effort to secure the bonus.
Even if the credit card you select has an attractive intro offer, be sure to only use your card for regular, planned purchases that you know you can pay back on time.
Bonus category caps
Not all credit cards offer unlimited cash back in bonus categories like dining at restaurants.
Before you apply for a new credit card, make sure you check the card details to see if there are caps associated with the bonus categories. If you know you’ll spend more than that amount, consider a different credit card with unlimited rewards.
While some cards offer amazing cash back rates, they may not be worth it if the card comes with a large annual fee.
For instance, the American Express® Gold Card offers excellent cash back rewards, including 4% back on dining out and grocery store purchases. However, the card also comes with a steep annual fee of $250.
Before you select your credit card, think through your spending habits to see if the annual fee outweighs the cash back you’ll earn.
Whether you enjoy dining out, takeout, or both, the five credit cards mentioned above can help you earn money back and make the most of your spending.
Chase Freedom Flex℠ cardholders can earn the same, plus a free three-month subscription to DoorDash as an added benefit.
And, Discover it® Cash Back cardholders can earn as much as 5% back on dining out through their rotating bonus categories each quarter.
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