How Do I Maximize Rewards for Dining at Hotel Restaurants?
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TPG reader Jim sent me a message on Facebook to ask about earning points during hotel stays:
“How do you recommend paying for meals at hotel restaurants? Should I pay with a card that has a dining bonus, or should I charge meals to my room?”
One way I maximize rewards from restaurant spending is by paying for meals with a credit card that earns a bonus on dining purchases. It's an easy way to boost points to double, triple or, in some cases, even five times the normal rate (like with this year's third quarter bonus on the Chase Freedom card). Hotel restaurants present an interesting opportunity, since you can often apply charges to your room rather than settle the bill immediately after eating. That's helpful because it means you can effectively choose whether your meal is categorized as a dining purchase or a travel purchase. (The Chase Freedom is no longer open to new applicants)
Even better, however, is the fact that dining charges and other incidentals on your folio typically earn points just like charges for the room itself. That means you can double-dip by earning rewards from both the hotel and your credit card, which makes charging meals to your room a no-brainer.
For example, if you pay for your meal at a Hilton property with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (my usual card of choice for restaurant purchases), then you'll earn two Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. On the other hand, if you charge the meal to your room instead, you'll earn 10 Hilton Honors base points per dollar, along with bonuses depending on your earning style, elite status level and any ongoing promotions. Plus, you can still earn those same two Ultimate Rewards points per dollar (since Sapphire Preferred earns a bonus on travel as well as dining).
Of course, in that scenario you'd be better off using a co-branded hotel card to pay for your room. The Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express earns 12 points per dollar spent at Hilton properties. Even though I value HHonors points at just 0.5 cents apiece (while I list Ultimate Rewards points at 2.1 cents apiece), the higher earning rate easily makes up for the difference. The same goes for Marriott, Hyatt, Starwood and other hotel chains if you have their respective credit cards.
Not all hotel restaurants will let you charge the bill to your room. In those situations, you can stick to whichever card you'd normally use for dining purchases, since your meal is unlikely to earn a hotel bonus from a co-branded card.
Check out these posts for more info on maximizing dining purchases and hotel stays:
- How Credit Card Issuers Classify Travel and Dining Purchases
- Maximizing Credit Card Bonus Categories to Earn More Points
- Points Intervention: Maximizing Hotel Stays