The Best Dining Credit Card to Have in 2021
Conventional financial wisdom, especially from the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” camp, says that you should avoid eating out in order to save money. Still, dining at a nice restaurant is one of the few moments of reprieve we can give ourselves during stressful work weeks. You can relax and enjoy the delicious food and cozy atmosphere without spending hours preparing the meal and washing the dishes.
If you’re going to spend money eating out, why not get one of the best dining credit card options and earn rewards while you’re at it? Using the right card can net you generous cashback rewards or points in addition to a plethora of other bonuses and promotions.
4 Best Dining Credit Cards
The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is a top-class option and the best business credit card for the dining elite. Boasting 3x rewards for both dining and travel, $300 travel reimbursement, and a welcome bonus that’s worth up to $750, this card has only one drawback: its $550 annual fee.
If going out to eat is more than a once-a-month affair for you, this is the card to go with. Offering some of the highest reward rates in the business, the Amex Gold Card is more than rewarding for heavy spenders.
For users looking for the credit card with the best dining cashback, Costco’s 4% cashback for gas and 3% cashback for restaurants should be reason enough to apply immediately. The only downside is that you can redeem the cashback only once per year, and you have to go to a Costco warehouse to do it.
The Go Visa Signature Card is an ideal choice for cash-strapped users who can’t afford expensive annual fees but still need a highly rewarding dining card. With 4x rewards for dining and 2x for grocery, gas, and streaming, you’ll be seeing significant rewards on an annual basis which is what makes this among the best credit card rewards for dining out.
How We Evaluate Dining Credit Cards - Our Review Methodology
Credit cards can be intimidating and confusing. Consequently, picking the right restaurant credit card is a complex process, as you have to take multiple important factors into account. In order to make this process easier for you, we’re showcasing the evaluation methodology we rely on in our reviews, which should help you make an informed decision about which card to go with.
The rewards are naturally the main reason anyone goes hunting for the best credit card for dining. As such, they’re one of the main ways we differentiate, rate, and compare different credit cards in our reviews. There are two main ways in which dining out cards reward their users: cashback or a reward points system.
Cashback basically refunds a certain percentage of the money you spend on a qualifying purchase - in this case, dining out. This is an easy way to get a small portion of your funds back. In most cases, the cashback will be between 1% and 5%. While this may not sound like much, a good cashback program can net you a significant amount of money, especially if you eat out often.
The best credit card for dining out can also net you reward points. Reward points are also tied to the amount of money you spend on eligible purchases, with card issuers offering a range of different reward rates. Reward rates act as multipliers: a 4x rate rewards you with four points per dollar spent, for example. These points can then be used to get discounts or purchase various services.
In addition to dine rewards, most of the credit cards we review come with a welcome offer that gives some sort of bonus or incentive to new card owners. These best dining out credit card bonuses usually involve a hefty number of reward points if you exceed a certain threshold in purchases during your first few months of having the card. Alternatively, you might be credited with free cash to your account.
These bonuses are far from game-changers and won’t impact your financial situation in a meaningful way. However, they can tip the scale when you’re trying to decide between two fairly similar cards.
Unfortunately, in addition to the usual costs a credit card incurs, some of the best dining rewards credit card issuers charge an annual fee for the use of their cards. These fees usually range between $100 and $500, depending on the card. While these fees may be steep, the benefits they bring are usually worth the price.
If you think the annual fees will be too much for you, don’t worry; there are some great dining cards that come with no annual fees whatsoever. Just remember that even with $0 annual charges, you still need to watch out for APR, transaction fees, and balance transfer fees.
The best credit card for dining rewards is not the one that just gives you a hefty cashback or number of reward points when you dine, but one that combines dining rewards with other useful promotions or bonuses.
These can include benefits like free miles, free access to various subscription services, hotel credits, and much more. Depending on the promotion in question, these benefits can greatly improve a card’s functionality or even offset its annual fee if you use the promotions in full.
Credit Score Requirement
Due to the fact that these restaurant credit cards are highly rewarding, they are mostly reserved for individuals with high credit scores. In case your credit score isn’t great - under 690, for example - you most likely won’t be able to get the credit cards we review here.
Best Dining Credit Card Options in 2021:
What is the Best Credit Card for Dining? Detailed Reviews
Users looking for the best travel and dining credit card should probably look no further than the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Boasting a 3x reward rate for both dining and travel as well as a generous welcome bonus, the Sapphire Reserve is a godsend for frequent travelers and restaurant aficionados. However, be prepared to shell out a hefty sum for its annual fee.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve does not provide cashback - it relies on a reward points system via its Chase Ultimate Rewards program. With this card, you’ll receive triple points on both dining and travel. While some contenders for the best credit card for dining offer 4x rewards on dining, it’s rare to find one that offers such a high rate for both traveling and restaurants.
Additionally, you’ll earn one point per dollar for all other purchases.
Before you start accumulating your travel points, you get up to $300 in statement credits as reimbursement for travel purchases. Dining out, some delivery services, and takeout are considered eligible for these rewards.
Redeeming the Rewards
Points gained with the Chase Sapphire Reserve are used through the Ultimate Rewards program. There, they can be used for travel, hotels, events, and gift cards. When we look at the value of the points gained with the card, it falls in the 1.5-2 cents area.
Another feature that makes this potentially the best credit card for travel and dining is that you can trade reward points for cashback, albeit at a somewhat low rate of one cent per point.
Chase has a really generous welcome offer for new card users. If you spend $4,000 or more in purchases in the first three months after you’ve opened your account, you’ll be credited with 50,000 reward points. When redeemed, this is worth up to $750 in rewards.
The requirement to get the welcome offer isn’t really steep - if you use the Sapphire Reserve card at least a few days a week, you’ll cross the $4,000 threshold quickly enough.
Finding the best rewards credit card for dining out is often an expensive endeavor, and the benefits the Chase Sapphire Reserve brings don’t come cheap. The annual fee is $550, plus $75 for each authorized user. The APR is variable and ranges between 16.99% and 23.99%
However, on top of its travel and dining rewards, this card has no foreign transaction fees, making it ideal for international travelers.
This card also comes with a breadth of other promotions that further improve its already impressive offer. These promos include a free one-year DoorDash subscription plus $60 DoorDash credit, a complimentary one-year Lyft Pink membership, trip delay reimbursements, and more.
There’s no doubt that the Sapphire Reserve is a great card with some of the best credit card dining rewards. While it has a relatively high annual fee, its 3x rewards rate and huge number of additional promotions make the high cost more than worth it.
Reasons to Apply
- Great dining rewards
- $300 travel credit
- Generous welcome offer
Heavy-duty restaurant-goers will greatly appreciate the Amex Gold Card’s very high reward rate for dining. Besides dining rewards, the Gold Card boasts a 4x reward rate for US supermarkets, has an acceptable annual fee, and allows you to pay off your credit card balance without interest.
As we’ve already mentioned, the American Express Gold Card also relies on a reward points system. For dining, this card has one of the highest reward rates around, granting four points per dollar spent on dining.
This is considered high and makes it arguably the best rewards credit card for dining. Furthermore, you’ll also receive the same reward rate for purchases in US supermarkets. While the dining rewards are unlimited, the supermarket ones are capped at $25,000 per year.
The dine-in rewards are counted for restaurants worldwide. Coupled with 3x rewards for travel booked directly with airlines or via amextravel.com and no foreign transaction fees, it makes this card ideal for travelers as well. All other purchases net you one point per dollar spent.
Redeeming the Rewards
The points accumulated with your American Express Gold Card can be used on various membership rewards. These include gift cards, the ability to cover some of your card charges, paying on several eCommerce sites, booking flights, buying electronics, and more. As you’d expect from the best credit card for restaurants, the value of a reward point is somewhere around one cent.
The Amex Gold Card’s welcome offer rewards you with 60,000 membership points. In order to receive these points, you need to spend $4,000 on eligible purchases in the first six months after you get the card. As far as welcome offer requirements go, this one is pretty light.
The Amex Gold isn’t your typical credit card. Normally it would act as a charge card, meaning you wouldn’t be able to carry over your balance and would have to pay your bill in full every month. However, the reason this is counted among the best credit cards for restaurants is that you can use the Plan It feature to set up a payment plan for your bigger purchases, split into monthly fees instead of interest charges.
The Pay Over Time feature is an alternative that is the closest to traditional credit cards, where you pay for your purchases over time, with interest. The APR for Pay Over Time is 15.99% to 22.99%. The annual fee falls in the medium tier: $250.
As you’d expect from the best restaurant credit card, the American Express Gold Card also brings with it a set of useful promotions you can redeem. These include $100 in annual dining credit, $100 of annual travel credit, and a one-year Eats Pass for Uber’s premium delivery service.
With its affordable annual fee and huge reward rate for international dining and US supermarkets, the American Express Gold Card is the optimal choice for frequent restaurant-goers.
Reasons to Apply
- 4x rewards for dining and US supermarkets
- Pay Over Time feature
- Useful additional promotions
The Costco Anywhere Visa Card offers a generous multi-tiered cashback program for gas, dining, and travel, without any annual fees. Sounds perfect, right? The only major drawback is that these rewards can only be redeemed once per year by going to one of Costco’s warehouses in person.
Those looking for the best credit card for gas and dining would be more than happy to know that the Costco Anywhere Visa Card offers high-value cashback rewards for both. Costco has a multi-tiered cashback reward system for different types of purchases.
The Anywhere Visa is a 4% cash back credit card for eligible gas purchases. However, this only applies for the first $7,000 of the year, after which the cashback rate goes down to 1%. When it comes to dining, the cashback percentage is 3%. The same rate applies to eligible travel purchases.
Any purchases made directly from Costco or via costco.com earn 2% cashback, while everything else nets you 1% cashback, as usual.
Redeeming the Rewards
The multi-tiered cashback rewards are the reason we included the Costco Anywhere Visa Card on our best dining credit card list. However, there’s one significant pitfall to using this card: you can only redeem the rewards once per year.
The cashback is provided as an annual credit card reward certificate after your February billing statement closes. To make matters worse, you have to go to a Costco warehouse to redeem your cashback, either for cash or merchandise.
Unfortunately, there’s no signup offer with the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi. This is fairly standard for cards that have no annual fees and/or offer cashback rewards.
The Costco Anywhere Visa Card is arguably the best travel and dining credit card with no annual fee. The lack of annual fees is great news for cash-strapped users, especially when you consider that some competitors charge annual fees exceeding $500. However, the card does require you to have a Costco membership, which starts at $60/year.
Like with most of the cards we’ve reviewed here, this card doesn’t have foreign transaction fees. The standard variable APR is 15.24%.
While the cashback rewards are certainly hefty, especially for gas, Costco does not have many additional promotions that might lure users in.
Yes, you could save a significant amount of money annually through the cashback scheme (up to $280 on gas alone), but some free credit or a subscription service - as you’d probably expect from the best credit card for dining and travel - would have been nice.
For users looking for significant cashbacks on gas and restaurants, the Costco Anywhere Visa card by Citi is a great choice, saving you hundreds of dollars annually. However, while it does not have an annual fee, you still have to pay a Costco membership, which costs $60/120 per year depending on the plan. Unfortunately, the card lacks the juicy additional promotions its competitors usually offer.
Reasons to Apply
- Multi-tiered rewards
- 4% cashback for gas
- Good for saving money
The U.S. Bank Altitude Go Visa Signature card offers top-tier cashback bonuses for restaurants and a more-than-solid reward rate for groceries, gas, and streaming services. While it lacks travel benefits, the fact that there are no annual fees and its low intro APR is why many users consider it to be the best credit card for dining and groceries.
When it comes to cashback rewards, the U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card is nearly unmatched by the competition. When making eligible restaurant, food delivery, and takeout purchases, you’ll be rewarded with four points per dollar. This restaurant cashback credit card also gives 2x points for grocery stores, grocery delivery, gas stations, and streaming services like Netflix.
As with most other dining cards, all other purchases reward you with one point per dollar spent.
Redeeming the Rewards
The point of using the best dining credit card is to reap the rewards they bring. Reward points accumulated via this dine out card can be redeemed instantly and at any point in time. The points also never expire, so you don’t have to worry about spending them on time.
The points are redeemed via the U.S. Bank e-banking platform. They can be used for cashback, travel, merchandise, or gift cards. The minimum number of points you can use is 1,000. Furthermore, there’s no limit on how many points you can earn.
Another quality that makes the The U.S. Bank Altitude Go Visa Signature Card one of the best credit cards for eating out is that it has a fairly generous welcome bonus that’s really easy to redeem. The only requirement is that you spend at least $1,000 in the first 90 days after you get the card. This is easily achievable even by light spenders. After you fulfill this requirement, you’ll be credited with 25,000 points.
This restaurants credit card has no annual fees. The APR is 0% for the first 12 billing cycles for both purchases and balance transfers. After that period, a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.99% applies. There are no foreign transaction fees.
We wouldn’t count the U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card among the best dining credit cards if it didn’t have additional promotions in its offer. Besides the 0% APR for the first 12 billing cycles, you’ll also receive $15 credit for annual streaming service purchases for Netflix, Spotify, and some similar services.
When looking at pure value, the U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card is one of the best budget choices around. There’s no annual fee and the APR is 0% for the first 12 billing cycles. When you combine that with a 4x reward rate for restaurants, it’s evident that this card is a win-win for avid restaurant-goers.
Reasons to Apply
- Best dining rewards card around
- No annual fee
- Points never expire
Fortunly’s Guide to Choosing Restaurant Rewards Cards
When on the lookout for the best credit card for dining and entertainment or travel, you might be taken aback by all the different reward schemes, requirements, and options at your disposal. This is a perfectly normal reaction; credit cards are often an intimidating financial concept as it is, and that’s before you try to understand how a food credit card works. That’s why we’ve compiled this small guide to make it easier for you to find your footing and choose the best card for your needs.
Cashback or Reward Points?
One of the most commonly asked questions is: “Should I opt for a cashback or a rewards card?” Let’s go over the advantages and disadvantages of each.
When shooting for the best cashback credit card, you’ll be choosing a much simpler, carefree option. You get a percentage of your eligible purchases back in cash, without having to worry about how many points you have, how and when can you redeem them, and their value and prerequisites. With a 3% cash back credit card, for example, it’s easy to work out how much money you’ll be getting back. Furthermore, cashback cards rarely have annual fees. If they do, they’re usually on the cheaper side.
However, as you can see in our best credit card for shopping and dining reviews above, they rarely have any signup bonuses, and they might also lack additional promotions. Cashback cards are for users who want easily predictable perks and cards that do not require any effort to keep an eye on.
When it comes to rewards cards, the rewards you can redeem with points can sometimes be of really high value, allowing you to gain much more than you would by trying to purchase those services or products with cashback money. You might get free travel, hotel stays, tickets for shows, and much more. Furthermore, unlike any best cashback credit card for dining, a reward card usually boasts generous welcome bonuses and additional promotions, especially when it comes to high-class cards.
The downside to a restaurant reward card is that it’s very high-maintenance, requiring you to constantly keep an eye on all the rules for accumulating and redeeming points, timed promotions, and so on. Furthermore, rewards cards usually have annual fees, some of which can get very pricey.
Are Rewards Points Worth It?
Another frequently asked question is whether the reward points gained via rewards are worth paying an annual fee.
There’s no easy answer to this question, and figuring out what works for you is key to finding the best credit cards for dining out. Firstly, you should take a close look into exactly what you can redeem the points for. Are these services you need? If these are miles or hotel stays, they’re not worth much to you if you don’t travel often.
A lot of credit card reviewers offer an estimate of how much a reward point is worth in comparison to a dollar. While these are useful for getting a general feel of the value of a credit card issuer’s reward system, you should always consider whether the services or products offered are actually worth anything to you.
Furthermore, you should compare the restaurant rewards with the annual fee you’ll be paying to get a cost/profit calculation. Our advice even when using the best credit card for gas and dining is not to force yourself to make purchases just to accumulate reward points. The rewards system works in your favor if you’re already dining out or traveling frequently, with the rewards being a way to get some value for the money you spend.
Do I Need a Dining Credit Card?
Finally, we reach the big question of whether or not you need a dining card in the first place. We’ll warn you upfront that getting another credit card is a serious financial decision that’s not to be taken lightly. It’s up to you to estimate whether a dining credit card is worth it. If you’re eating out only every now and then, it’s probably not worth the hassle and potential cost.
However, the best dining credit card rewards usually also include benefits for gas, travel, and supermarket purchases. Take these into account as well and make a rough estimate of how much value you’ll get by using a dining card. Thankfully, most credit card issuer websites include calculators where you can see, based on your monthly expenditures, how much you’ll be getting in points or cashback.
You may also be interested in:
All of the cards we’ve reviewed here are great choices, but ultimately, choosing the best dining and entertainment credit card depends on your needs. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the best for high spenders, while the U.S Bank Altitude Go Visa Signature Card is for those who want to avoid an annual fee.
All of the card issuers we’ve listed are highly reputable, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve is considered to be a top-class card among those we’ve reviewed here.
Only if the merchant has classified the establishment as a restaurant. Furthermore, eligibility may depend on the specific reward program, so read the fine print before applying for a card.
The trick to finding the best dining credit card lies in calculating your monthly and annual expenditures on dining, gas, travel, and groceries, then finding the card that rewards your most frequent purchases the most.