The Best Credit Cards for Restaurants and Dining [Maximize Your Rewards]

Restaurant Table Above

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You don’t have to be a foodie to appreciate earning rewards when dining out at your favorite restaurant. Just knowing you’ll earn rewards on your meal is nearly as good as enjoying the food!

But when it comes time to pay the check, do you worry about which of your cards will earn the most cash-back or multiple points on dining purchases?

We do too — and that’s why we’ve created this go-to guide for the best credit cards to use when dining out.

We’ve put together a collection of the best credit cards for earning cash-back, getting multiple points per dollar, and our wildcard recommendations for earning even more rewards on your credit cards when dining out.

The 4 Best Credit Cards for Dining (Overall)

You’d have to spend an extraordinary amount of money on dining to select a credit card based solely on the level of dining rewards the card offers. For this reason, our choices for the 4 best credit cards include cards that offer more than just dining rewards.

American Express® Gold Card

Earning 4 Membership Rewards Points per dollar for purchases at U.S. restaurants makes the American Express® Gold Card a clear winner for dining rewards. It also comes with a $10 monthly dining credit when making purchases at participating restaurants.

Dining isn’t the only category earning 4 Membership Rewards Points per dollar as U.S. supermarket purchases earn too! Earning rewards in just those 2 bonus spending categories easily offsets the $250 annual fee. That’s why it’s a top choice card for dining rewards!

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

While the Chase Sapphire Reserve® comes with a $450 annual fee, it’s packed with premium benefits that bring great value for the frequent traveler. These include travel purchase credits, lounge access, earnings on travel purchases, and a generous sign-up bonus.

The fact that it also earns 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent makes it our top pick for dining rewards.

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

With a $95 annual fee that is waived the first year, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns a solid 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases.

Redemption options are flexible and include travel at a value of 25% more for your points, cash-back, gift cards and transfer options to hotel and airline partners.

For all these reasons, plus no foreign transaction fees, we’ve included it as one of the best credit cards for dining worldwide.

Barclays Uber Visa®

The average cardholder shouldn’t have to pay a high annual fee to earn dining rewards, so that’s the primary reason we’ve included the Barclays Uber Visa as one of the best credit cards for dining.

With no annual fee, it’s a handy card to carry in your wallet to cover dining expenses on a regular basis, and you’ll earn 4 points for each dollar spent on dining.

The points are easily redeemable for Uber rides by selecting the points option when you pay for your ride. You can also redeem points for cash-back or gift cards.

Mediterranean meal food dining
If you spend a lot on meals while traveling, it’s good to select a credit card that earns dining rewards and does not charge foreign transaction fees. Image courtesy of Christine Krzyszton.

Best Credit Cards With an Optional Dining Bonus Spending Category

Some credit cards allow to select your bonus categories, so if you eat out often, you may benefit from the rewards earned on your credit card when restaurants are your chosen bonus category.

Credit cards with the option to select restaurants as a bonus categoryDining rewardsLimit
US Bank Cash+ Visa Signature® Card5% cash-backUp to $2,000 in purchases per quarter, select category quarterly
SimplyCash® Plus Business Credit Card from American Express3% cash-backUp to $50,000 for bonus category spending annually, select category annually. Terms apply.

Bottom Line: You’d only want to select the restaurant option as your bonus spending category if you have significant dining spending, as you may be giving up other bonus category bonuses that result in higher bottom-line rewards earned.

Best Airline and Hotel Credit Cards for Dining

Dining out may be a necessity when you’re traveling, but you won’t earn rewards unless you pull out the right credit card to pay for your meal.

Hot Tip: Accelerate your earnings for dining when paying your entire hotel bill, including dining expenses, with your hotel-branded credit card. 

Best Business Credit Cards for Dining

When you pay for an expensive business dinner meeting, you’ll want to earn dining rewards. Here are some of the business credit cards to consider for 2% or better earnings on those expenses.

Hot Tip:  Holding your business dinner meeting at a hotel and paying with your hotel-branded business credit card could result in multiple times the dining rewards. 

Best Cash-Back Credit Cards for Dining

Earning cash-back is the simplest form of dining rewards, and fortunately, there are plenty of credit cards that offer excellent levels of cash-back earnings on your dining purchases.

The following cards earn a generous 3% cash-back on dining:

cheese plate with wine
Earning dining rewards on your meal is nearly as good as enjoying the food. Image courtesy of Christine Krzyszton.

Best No Annual Fee Credit Cards for Dining

Earning rewards on a no-annual-fee credit card is like getting free money because you can use the card a little or a lot and never worry about offsetting an annual fee with a specific level of purchases.

These cards allow you to spend on dining and reap the rewards.

Best no annual fee credit card for diningDining rewards
  • 4 points per $1 redeemable for cash-back
  • 3% cash-back
  • Chase AARP® Card
  • 3% cash-back
  • PNC® Cash Rewards
  • 3% cash-back
  • 3% cash-back

Bottom Line: You don’t have to pay an annual fee to secure a credit card that earns dining rewards, as there are plenty of choices. 

Best Credit Cards With Dining as a Quarterly Category

Every quarter, the Chase Freedom Card and select Discover® cards offer quarterly spending categories that earn 5% cash-back, and frequently, one of the quarterly categories is restaurants.

If you spend a lot on dining out, you’ll want to have one of these cards in your wallet to take advantage of the higher earnings when restaurants are a quarterly bonus category.

Best Credit Card with Dining as a Quarterly CategoryDining RewardsBest for Dining Because
Chase Freedom®
  • 5% cash back/Ultimate Rewards Points®
  • Ultimate Rewards Points can be transferred to Premium Chase Credit Cards for 25-50% greater redemption value
  • Up to $1,500 in purchases/quarter
Discover It® Chrome
Discover It® Cash Back Match
  • 5% cash back
  • Up to $1,500 in purchases/quarter. Cash back is matched at the end of the first card anniversary earning an effective 10% cash back

Best Credit Cards Earning 2% Cash-Back or 2X Points for Dining (Honorable Mention)

There’s nothing wrong with earning 2% cash-back or 2 points per dollar spent on dining using your credit card. While we’re focusing this article on the best credit cards for dining, here are a few solid cards that earn 2 points or 2% cash-back on every dollar you spend on dining.

Bottom Line: When considering a credit card that earns dining rewards, 2% cash-back or 2 points per dollar is a respectable level of earnings to consider.

shopping portal example

Best Credit Cards for Purchasing Dining Gift Cards

In addition to earning rewards for purchases made directly at restaurants, bars, fast food, and other dining establishments, you can purchase restaurant gift cards from merchants that fall into the bonus purchasing categories.

For example, purchasing a restaurant gift card from an office supply store with a credit card that earns 5% cash-back in this category yields an effective 5% cash-back on dining.

Hot Tip: If you often eat at fast food establishments or chain restaurants, you can purchase discounted restaurant gift cards with your credit card on websites including Raise, Gift Card Granny, and Card Pool for as much as 50% off.

Dining Rewards Programs

If you live in a major metropolitan area, it’s easy to earn dining rewards on nearly any credit card by joining a dining rewards program and registering the credit card you’ll be using to pay for your meals at member restaurants.

Some of the dining programs require you to submit a review of the eating establishment before crediting your rewards, and some may issue restaurant credits for future meals versus actual cash-back.

Joining any of these dining programs is free, but beware that you cannot register a card with several programs and double or triple dip earnings, as the most recent registration can override the others.

Dining rewards programDining rewardsSign-up bonus
idine®5% back in rewards up to $750 in purchases per year 10% over $750 per yearN/A
UPromise Restaurants2.5% cash-back for college savingsN/A
MileagePlus® DiningUp to 5 miles per $1 spent2,000 miles after spending $100 in first 30 days
SkyMiles® DiningUp to 5 miles per $1 spent3,000 miles after visiting 3 restaurants and spending $30 at each restaurant in first 30 days
AAdvantage® DiningUp to 5 miles per $1 spent1,000 miles after spending $25 in first 30 days
IHG DiningUp to 8 points per $1 spent1,000 IHG Rewards points after spending $30 in first 30 days

Hot Tip: While dining rewards programs can generate miles, points, and cash-back, participating restaurants can be limited. Using a credit card that earns rewards for dining to pay for your meal directly at the eating establishment is usually a better option. 

Final Thoughts

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. household spent $3,286 during a one-year period ending June 2017 on food away from home. If you spend that, or more, having a credit card that earns dining rewards is a smart move.

Dining rewards are just one earning category. You’ll want to match your entire spending profile with the bonus categories that come with any credit card to make sure you’re maximizing the earning power of that specific credit card.

If dining out is your passion or your job, your bottom line will grow with a credit card in your wallet that rewards those expenses. Bon appétit!

FAQ

How do dining rewards credit cards work?

Certain credit cards allow you to earn rewards such as cash-back or points for using the card to pay for meals at restaurants, fast food outlets, hotels, UberEATS, bars, or for other dining purchases.

Each credit card will have its own requirements, level of earnings, and even limits on the amount of rewards you can earn. That’s why it’s important to select a card that matches your dining spending habits.

How do cash-back cards work?

Credit cards that offer cash-back on dining purchases give you a percentage of your total purchase as a cash-back reward. For example, if you spend $100 at a restaurant and your cash-back credit card offers 3% cash-back on dining purchases, you’ll receive a credit for $3.

Some cards automatically credit your statement monthly with the cash-back you’ve earned during the previous statement period(s), others require you to earn points then request to redeem those points for cash-back on your statement or transfer the funds to your bank account.

Do bars and fast food places count as restaurants?

Yes, fast food establishments and bars count as restaurants when it comes to earning rewards for dining. You simply use your credit card as usual for dining at these places.

Occasionally, a cafe or food establishment located within another facility such as a sports arena or department store may not code as a restaurant. It will depend on how that food establishment is coded by the card issuer.

Also, some cards do have a separate category for fast food and restaurants, so you’ll want to check your card’s category requirements to determine the amount of rewards you’re earning when dining at each of these.

If I add an authorized user to my card, will they earn dining rewards too?

The short answer is yes. When the authorized user on your credit card uses the card to pay for dining, rewards are earned on the card, then subsequently credited to the primary cardholder’s account.

As a primary cardholder, your account will be earning all the rewards, but you will also be responsible for paying the account.

Are there credit cards that earn rewards on dining without an annual fee?

There are plenty of choices for no-annual-fee credit cards that earn dining rewards including the Capital One® Savor Card and the Barclays Uber Credit Card.

Having a credit card that earns dining rewards and doesn’t charge an annual fee allows you to keep the card as long as you prefer without having to meet spending levels to offset that annual fee.

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