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Love is in the cards: What plastic your date should use to pay for dinner

Feb. 14, 2020
8 min read
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Oh, dating.

If you know, you know, and if you don't, well ... probably best to keep it that way for reasons way beyond the purpose of this article. But that's not what we're here to talk about today. Instead, we're here to talk about a crucial situation that arises when the check comes at the end of a first date.

You know the one: The waiter swings by with a little black folder, and you both fumble for your wallets until, inevitably, the other person insists they pay or that you split the bill. And then it happens.

Your date puts down a debit card — and we rarely recommend using a debit card if your finances are in order and have a stable source of income. There are downsides to using a debit card when you don’t have to and you’ll forfeit the upside of using the right credit card.

So, if you see your date pull out a debit card or a wad of cash, consider sharing a few pointers about what card they should use instead. (And if he or she flashes an American Express® Gold Card, congratulations. You're on a date with a points-savvy person like yourself.) You're on your own for the rest of the night, though.

New to TPG? Check out our Beginner's Guide.

Debit Card

First things first: Keep it together. Think positive. You're about to bring them on the path to enlightenment. He or she might be (understandably) intimidated by credit cards and hesitant to make a commitment. They're probably also used to to doing things the way they've always been done. Explain to them how using a debit card is like throwing money down the toilet (assuming they're in a position of financial stability, of course), not to mention they're missing out on valuable travel rewards.

Encourage them to get a great starter card such as the Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants). It doesn't have an annual fee and they'll get 1% cash back on purchases — not to mention 5% back on rotating bonus categories every four months (each quarter), including supermarkets, gas stations, pharmacies and more (up to $1,500 each quarter they activate). They might not be earning travel points and miles just yet, but they'll get there. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

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Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

This is another cash-back credit card without an annual fee (see rates & fees). With it, you'll earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and U.S. online retail purchases on up to $6,000 per calendar year in purchases for each category (then 1%), and 1% cash back on other purchases, but you won't have access to Amex's Membership Rewards points program and the chance to use your points to travel the world. Your date probably likes to keep things simple and won't play games with you, so breathe easy.

That said, they should upgrade to the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express to get even more bang for their buck. It also doesn't have an annual fee, but you'll earn valuable Membership Rewards points — you'll get 10,000 of them after spending $1,000 the first three months you have the card.

The information for the Amex EveryDay 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.

Uber Visa Card

(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

OK, we get it: You don't take the subway. If your date has one of these, you can rest assured that they like to travel and eat, but might be a little misguided when it comes to maximizing their spend.

Instead, might we suggest the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card so that you ran rack up points you can actually use towards travel, and not just Uber, cash back or gift cards? The card has a $95 annual fee, earns you 3x points on dining and 2x points on travel, and is currently offering a 60,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening — that's worth about $1,200 in our book.

The information for the Uber Visa has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

This card is about as straightforward as they come — 1.5% cash back on all purchases, as well as a $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. It doesn't have an annual fee, either. If your date has one of these in their wallet, they definitely don't over complicate things; there's nothing wrong with simple.

If that's the case, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card should be on your radar. It recently introduced the ability to transfer your Capital One miles to airlines, a definite game-changer for cardholders. It also earns 2x miles on everything you buy. You can earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, worth about up to $1,388 according to TPG valuations (not provided by issuer).

Citi® Double Cash Card

We know this card is somewhat of a fan-favorite among the cashback crowd due to the 2% cashback on every purchase and 1% cash back when you buy and another 1% as you pay. But what if all that money your date was spending was going towards a romantic vacation in Italy instead?

Enter: the American Express® Green Card ($150 annual fee; see rates and fees) Your date will earn 3x bonus points on travel, restaurants and transit as well as an up to $100 statement credit for CLEAR and up to $100 LoungeBuddy statement credits. Mamma mia.

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.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Your date has a good head on their shoulders, although they sometimes forget. The Chase Freedom Unlimited is one of our favorite cards for beginners because you can. Much like what you're trying to do on your dinner date, approval is easy and it helps you build a relationship with Chase so that you can strengthen and upgrade your relationship over time.

Which brings us to... the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It's largely considered the holy grail of premium travel rewards cards. While there's a steep $550 annual fee, it's largely offset by the $300 travel credits, unlimited DoorDash delivery, Lyft Pink membership, Priority Pass lounge access and application fee credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. With this, your date will be wining and dining your way to your next vacation. Enrollment required for select benefits.

American Express® Gold Card

If your date doles out this card, congrats! You've found yourself a points pro — they know they're racking up 4x valuable Membership Rewards points at restaurants both in the U.S. and abroad. At the very least, you can bond over your love of credit cards, dining and travel.

Bottom Line

While we can't help you with the rest of your dating life, we can help you make sure your date has a credit card that is worthy of your high standards. I mean, you do want to be with someone who wants to travel the world, otherwise you wouldn't be here, right? At the end of the day, let's be real: Chocolate and flowers have nothing on points and miles. (But hopefully, they use an online shopping portal to buy you flowers and chocolate.)

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green Card, click here.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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