In many ways, our 20s and 30s are the perfect time to dine out. 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: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.|
|Chase Freedom Flex℠||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 4X cash back on restaurants and dining.|
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
21.49% - 28.49% Variable
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 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
In addition to the stellar bonus offer and 3x 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.
Chase Freedom Flex℠
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ card offers 3% cash back on dining and on drugstore purchases, which includes takeout and some eligible delivery services. Cardholders can also earn 5% cash back on rotating categories (up to $1,500 each quarter) and 1% back on all other purchases.
With the Chase Freedom Flex℠, you can earn $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.. As an added plus, you’ll get 0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (followed by an ongoing variable APR).
For the folks who want to eat out without going out, Chase Freedom Flex℠ provides a free three-month subscription to DoorDash for cardholders.
Citi Premier® Card
Intro APR, Purchases
Intro APR, Balance Transfers
21.24% - 29.24% (Variable)
With the 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 other hotels. Additionally, cardholders may be eligible to receive discounts on dining experiences offered through Citi Entertainment®.
Earn 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.
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
Unlimited Cash Back Match on cash back earned the first year. Earn 5% Cash Back on everyday purchases that rotate every quarter. Rotating categories include purchases at restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, and more (up to the quarterly maximum). Earn 1% Cash Back on all other eligible purchases. $0 A decent all-around card with high rewards on everyday purchases, 0% intro APR period, and no annual fee.
Discover it® Cash Back
Unlimited Cash Back Match on cash back earned the first year.
Earn 5% Cash Back on everyday purchases that rotate every quarter. Rotating categories include purchases at restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, and more (up to the quarterly maximum). Earn 1% Cash Back on all other eligible purchases.
A decent all-around card with high rewards on everyday purchases, 0% intro APR period, and no annual fee.
This card offers 5% cash back (up to $1,500) in 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.
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
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership. Earn 4X Membership Rewards points for purchases at restaurants worldwide; 4X Membership Rewards points for groceries at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25k in purchases); 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com; and 1X point per $1 spent on eligible purchases elsewhere. $250 High rewards potential on everyday purchases and travel purchases make the Gold Card a well-rounded offer for anyone.
American Express® Gold Card
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.
Earn 4X Membership Rewards points for purchases at restaurants worldwide; 4X Membership Rewards points for groceries at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25k in purchases); 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com; and 1X point per $1 spent on eligible purchases elsewhere.
High rewards potential on everyday purchases and travel purchases make the Gold Card a well-rounded offer for anyone.
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 purchases, which includes delivery and takeout, as well as 4% on U.S. grocery store purchases. Cardholders also receive 3X points on flights booked directly at amextravel.com, and 1X point on all other purchases. As if these perks weren’t enticing enough, new cardholders can earn 60,000 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 4X cash back.
When you spend $4,000 within your first six months from account opening, you earn 60,000 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.
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 4X 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.
Many of the credit cards mentioned offer at least 3% cash back or 3X points on restaurant spending, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Citi Premier® Card.
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.