After grocery stores, it seems the biggest area of spend right now for people is dining; simply with a shift to carryout and delivery. In this article we'll discuss the best cards to use for your dining purchases.
Before we get started, it is worth noting what counts as “dining”. Each card issuer has a slightly different definition, but all of them depend on how a merchant's charge codes. This is something the banks do not have control over and can also vary between banks. One important note, if you are anticipating a large charge and want to make certain it codes a specific way, it is best to do a “test charge” by buying a soda or something small to see how it codes prior to doing the larger charge.
Chase defines the dining category as the “merchants’ primary business is sit-down or eat-in dining, including fast food restaurants and fine dining establishments.” Typically, food and drink venues within a larger venue such as a stadium or amusement park do not count within this category. Similarly, bakeries, caterers, and other similar services will vary based on how the merchant coded their establishment.
Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) and Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP). The Sapphire family from Chase earns Ultimate Rewards points and excels in dining with both cards earning 3x points per dollar spent. The annual fee on the CSR is $550 a year, while the CSP has an annual fee of $95 a year. They both have other benefits including travel insurance and the ability to transfer points to airline/hotel partners. Check out our full post comparing these cards here.
Chase Freedom Flex (CFF) and Chase Freedom Unlimited (CFU). These two no annual fee, cash back cards are a great option for dining spend as they both earn 3x points/cash back on dining. When combined with a Sapphire product or the Chase Ink Business Preferred, the points earned on the cards can be used as points for travel rather than cash back. Check out our review of the Freedom Flex here and our review of the Freedom Unlimited here.
American Express categorizes restaurants and dining similarly to Chase in that it includes establishments from fast food to fine dining and excludes a smaller establishment within a larger venue or beverage based establishments. A notable exclusion is that Amex does not include restaurants owned by a US company that are located outside of the United States.
American Express Gold Card. Like it does with spending on groceries, the Gold card stands out with an earn rate of 4x Membership Rewards on dining. While it has a $250 annual fee, it includes many perks including a $10 monthly statement credit for purchases made at several dining options including Grubhub, Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris, and Shake Shack. Anyone want a milkshake?
American Express Green Card. Similar to the Gold card, the Green card earns Membership Rewards on dining at a rate of 3x. This card was just revamped in the fall of 2019 with the current annual fee of $150.
Hilton Aspire. The Hilton Aspire comes with a hefty $450 annual fee but earns 7x Hilton points on all dining. When combined with the other perks of this card, 7x Hilton points earned on dining could really add up.
Hilton Surpass. This Hilton card has a much lower annual fee of $95 and earns 6x Hilton points on dining. Additionally, depending on your other spend, you earn a free weekend night certificate for $15,000 in annual spend. This certificate is good at almost all Hilton properties worldwide.
Wells Fargo Propel. Unlike all of the other cards mentioned so far, this card does not come with an annual fee but does include a lot of great perks. It earns 3x Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards on dining purchases. Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards can be redeemed at 1 cent per point for travel, gift cards or cash back through the card’s portal.
Citi also includes everything from fast food to fine dining in their dining category. However, Citi differs from American Express and Chase in that it categorizes any establishment that prepares food or drinks for consumption on or off premises. Thus Citi's dining category also includes bars, nightclubs, and cocktail lounges.
Citi Prestige and Premier. The Citi Prestige is the clear winner between these two Citi cards, but both cards earn additional points on dining purchases. The Citi Prestige ($450 annual fee) earns 5x Thank You Points on dining purchases, while the Premier ($95 annual fee) earns 3x. Thank You Points can be transferred to partners for a wide array of travel redemption options.
Capital One Savor Cash Rewards: Similar to the Wells Fargo Propel, this card earns cash back. It pays its highest cash back rate on dining purchases at 4%. The annual fee of $95 is waived the first year. If you are looking for a no annual fee card, you can also check out the Capital One SavorOne which earns 3% cash back on dining.
As we spend more of our time in social distancing, many of us are cooking more. However, we all need a break sometime. Grabbing takeout or delivery can be a nice alternative for each of us.
Personal Opinion: Support your local restaurants as much as feasible during this time. They are the ones supporting your community by sponsoring little league, fundraisers, etc. much of the time.
Share your strategy for achieving maximum gains in the comments below or in our Facebook group.
Special thanks to Shira Sliffman for writing this article.