- 4X Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, including takeout and delivery.
- 4X Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
- 3X Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
Why we chose it
This isn’t just a card that’s nice to look at. It packs a real punch, offering 4x points on global dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x). There’s also an up to $120 annual dining credit at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations, plus it added an up to $120 annually ($10 per month) in Uber Cash, which can be used on Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S. Card must be added to Uber account to receive benefit. All this make it a very strong contender for all food purchases, which has become a popular spending category. Enrollment required for select benefits.
- 5X Earn 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- 3X Earn 3X points on dining.
- 2X Earn 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
Why we chose it
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of the most popular travel rewards credit card on the market. Offering an excellent return on travel and dining purchases, the card packs a ton of value that easily offsets its $95 annual fee. Cardholders can redeem points at 1.25 cents each for travel booked through Chase or transfer points to one of Chase’s 14 valuable airline and hotel partners.
- 10X Earn 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- 5X Earn 5X total points on air travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- 3X Earn 3X points on other travel and dining.
- 1X Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Why we chose it
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of our top premium travel cards. With a $300 travel credit, generous points on dining and travel purchases and other benefits, you can get excellent value that far exceeds the annual fee on the card.
- 12X Earn 12X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases charged on your Card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio.
- 6X Earn 6X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for each dollar of eligible purchases on your Card at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. supermarkets, and at U.S. gas stations.
- 3X Earn 3X Hilton Honors Bonus Points for all other eligible purchases on your Card
Why we chose it
The Hilton Honors Surpass Card stands out in the crowded mid-tier category of cobranded hotel credit cards. It comes with elite-like perks at a reasonable annual fee. New cardholders can earn up to a generous 180,000 bonus points after spending $10,000 on eligible purchases within the first six months of card membership.
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|Card||Best for||Welcome Offer/Sign Up Bonus||Earning Rate||Annual Fee|
|American Express® Gold Card||Best overall dining card||60,000 points||
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Best for travel and dining||60,000 points||
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®||Best for Chase Ultimate Rewards||50,000 points||
|Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card||Best for Hilton loyalists||Up to 180,000 Points||
Best dining card details
Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)
Welcome offer: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months. Check the CardMatch tool to see if you’re targeted for a 60,000- to 75,000-point Gold Card offer (offers are subject to change at any time).
Earning rates: Earn 4x at restaurants, 4x at U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 spent each calendar year, then 1x), 3x on flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel and 1x on everything else.
Analysis: The Amex Gold Card comes in a close second by earning 4x points per dollar at restaurants, an 8% return based on TPG’s valuation of Amex Membership Rewards points. In addition to this terrific return, the card offers up to $120 in annual dining statement credits that you can use at merchants such as Boxed, Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory and participating Shake Shack locations. Cardholders also receive up to $120 in annual Uber Cash ($10 credit per month), which can be applied toward Uber Eats orders or rides in the U.S. Plus, cardholders get 12 months of complimentary access to Eats Pass**, valued at $10 per month, if you enrolled by Dec. 31, 2021. At the then-current monthly rate, Uber Eats Pass will auto-bill starting 12 months from initial enrollment in this offer. American Express also acquired restaurant-booking service Resy, so cardmembers have more dining perks, including bonus points for bookings and preferred access to reservations. Enrollment required for select benefits. Read more about the Amex Gold Card on our card hub.
APPLY HERE: American Express Gold Card
Annual fee: $95
Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That’s $1,200 when redeemed for travel, according to TPG valuations.
- 5x total points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out
- 3x points on select streaming services
- 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs)
- 2x points on all other travel
- 1x point on all other purchases
Analysis: If you’re looking for a cheaper option that earns flexible rewards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred might be your best choice. Cardholders get a complimentary membership for the DoorDash DashPass unlimited delivery program, normally $9.99 a month, for at least a year.
APPLY HERE: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Annual fee: $150 (see rates and fees)
Welcome offer: Earn 30,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within three months from account opening.
Earning rates: Earn 3x points on global restaurants and travel, including transit, and 1x on everything else.
Analysis: The mid-tier American Express Green Card earns 3x at restaurants, plus 3x for travel, which is defined broadly to include airfare, hotel rooms, car rentals, tour operators, travel agencies, campsites and home shares, plus transit that includes ride-hailing, buses, taxis, metros, subways, tolls and more — and 1x on everything else. It doesn’t have any dining-specific perks like the Amex Gold. Still, it offers up to $100 in annual credit for your Clear membership and up to $100 in credits for lounge access purchased with LoungeBuddy, meaning that if you can utilize both those credits in full, you’ve more than covered the annual fee. Enrollment required for select benefits.
The information for the Amex Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Annual fee: $550
Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That’s $750 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
- 10x on Chase Dining purchases and flights and hotels booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 10x on Lyft (until March 2022)
- 5x on flights booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3x on all other travel and dining purchases
- 1x on all other eligible purchases
Analysis: The 3x bonus on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which ties for third with a 6% return, is valid for dining both in the U.S. and abroad. Dining is defined as “merchants in the restaurant category whose primary business is sit-down or eat-in dining, including fast food restaurants as well as fine dining establishments.” Chase has also partnered with DoorDash, the on-demand food platform, to offer both new and existing cardholders up to $60 in DoorDash statement credits throughout 2021. As a cardholder, you’ll also get at least one complimentary year of DashPass through DoorDash.
But keep in mind the card’s $550 annual fee. You can offset a large portion of that fee with the card’s $300 annual travel credit, but you should still consider whether the points you earn on the card are worth the money you’re paying each year for it. And the $300 annual travel credit can now also be redeemed at gas stations and grocery stores through the end of 2021.
APPLY HERE: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)
Welcome offer: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $4,000 within the first three months of account opening.
Earning rates: Earn 14x on eligible purchases charged on your card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio; 7x on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com, on car rentals booked directly from select rental agencies, and at U.S. restaurants; and 3x on other eligible purchases.
Analysis: This is an excellent card for Hilton loyalists, but it’s an expensive one if your hotel focus lies elsewhere. Its 7x return equates to a 4.2% return on dining, based on our valuations. This card also comes with access to Amex’s concierge service that may help you get a table at certain sought-after restaurants. Other benefits include an up-to-$250 annual Hilton resort statement credit, up-to-$250 annual airline incidental fee credit, complimentary Hilton Honors Diamond status, a free weekend night each year upon your account renewal and the ability to earn an additional free weekend night by spending $60,000 on the card in a calendar year. Enrollment required for select benefits.
The information for the Hilton Aspire Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Annual fee: $95 (see rates & fees)
Welcome offer: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend a total of $10,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months.
Earning rates: Earn 12x on eligible purchases charged on your card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio, 6x at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations, and 3x on all other eligible purchases.
Analysis: This card packs a punch for a relatively reasonable annual fee. It comes with automatic Hilton Honors Gold status, a free weekend night reward after spending $15,000 on eligible purchases on your card in a calendar year and 10 free Priority Pass lounge visits a year — all with no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees). Enrollment required for select benefits.
APPLY HERE: Hilton Surpass Amex
Annual fee: $95
Sign-up bonus: Earn a $300 cash bonus after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
Earning rates: Earn 4% cash back on dining, entertainment and popular streaming services, 3% at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart and Target) and 1% on everything else.
Analysis: The Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card is a decent contender, with a $95 annual fee. The Savor Cash earns 4% on all purchases that involve eating establishments — from restaurants to Starbucks to food trucks — so it’s a rewards credit card to consider if you’d rather deal with cash back instead of travel rewards.
Aside from offering a solid return, Capital One has been investing in more unique dining-focused benefits. For instance, it provided access to exclusive dining experiences organized by the James Beard Foundation in the past.
How do we choose the best dining credit cards?
These card picks are based on numerous criteria: the points program value, welcome bonus, perks and more. Some of these dining credit cards’ popular features include monthly dining credits and exclusive access to reservations at certain restaurants.
When choosing the right dining credit card, always consider the sign-up bonus’s spending requirements since you won’t want to miss out on that. You should only apply if you’re able to meet the required spending comfortably.
Related: 10 best dining rewards programs
What counts as dining?
Every card issuer applies different criteria to charges that will qualify for these bonuses. For instance, Chase defines dining quite broadly, including everything from conventional restaurants to coffee shops and even some bars that don’t serve food. On the other hand, American Express typically only awards points for conventional restaurants and often not for independent coffee shops and bars. Some American Express cards also exclude foreign transactions from earning bonus points.
Several of the cards discussed offer dining bonuses that are supposed to exclude food delivery services. However, in practice, these services usually still code as dining or food merchants and do earn bonus points. Sometimes restaurants aren’t categorized correctly, so if you feel like an eligible dining purchase didn’t code correctly, you can always try contacting the card issuer and asking for an exception.
What is the best card for restaurants?
This depends on what your preferred reward is — points or cash back? If it’s points you’re after, then it’s hard to argue with the Amex Gold Card. With this, you’re looking at 4x on restaurants, including takeout and delivery, and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases; then 1x). The Capital One Savor card is likely the best option for cash back, with a healthy 4% cash back on dining, entertainment, and popular streaming services, 3% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases.
Do bars count as restaurants for credit cards?
This very much depends on the card issuer. But essentially, any establishment that serves (as opposed to sells) food or drinks counts. As long as a merchant classified itself in a restaurant category when applying to accept credit cards, the purchase will qualify. For example, bars (including ones that don’t serve food) and coffee shops such as Starbucks typically code as dining purchases. As a guide, the following count as qualifying “restaurants”: bars, cafes, breweries and juice shops. The following do not: catering services and inflight drinks.
The Amex Gold Card takes the cake here with a return of 8% or more on dining purchases at restaurants. The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Green Card tie for third place with a 6% return on dining at restaurants. They all offer an unbeatable combination of a strong earning rate on dining purchases, a high point value and a reasonable net effective annual cost. But any of the cards on this list will get more value on dining purchases than a run-of-the-mill credit card, so make sure you pick the right card before you plan that night out — or a night in, since food delivery services count as dining with many cards. There are also worthwhile cash-back cards for those who don’t want to collect and redeem points.
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Additional reporting by Stella Shon.
Featured photo by d3sign/Getty Images.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass card, please click here.