The best credit cards for dining out, taking out and ordering in
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When it comes to bonus categories, TPG readers love getting extra points for dining (travel, unsurprisingly, is another top pick). While sit-down dining at restaurants might not be an option right now with the spread of the novel coronavirus, taking out and ordering in is still possible, and encouraged. If you’re spending a lot on dining, you should be using a credit card that will maximize your rewards and potentially even score special discounts.
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The best dining credit cards of 2020
- Citi Prestige® Card
- American Express® Gold Card
- American Express® Green Card
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
- Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Finding the best card for your dining charges is not as easy as just looking at the earning rate on a card and deciding that 4x on dining is better than 3x. The value of the points or miles you’re earning is also an important part of the calculation. Three points per dollar on one card can actually be better than 4 points per dollar on another.
It’s also important to factor in the net cost of carrying the card in your wallet; many reward cards have high annual fees, but those are sometimes offset by annual travel and dining credits. Additionally, many cards now offer dining-focused perks such as exclusive access to reservations at certain restaurants and free or discounted food delivery.
So rather than forcing you to slog through every card in your wallet, we’ve done the math for you. For each of the best cards offering bonus rewards on dining, we calculated the bonus multiplier, the value of the points earned based on TPG’s point valuations, the annual fee and noted any special requirements about that card. Cash-back cards may be more useful for some readers and we’ll examine those as well. Here are the best options for the truly dedicated foodie.
Comparing the best credit cards for dining out
|Credit card||Category bonus||Value of the points*||Total earned per dollar spent||Annual fee||Welcome bonus|
|Citi Prestige Card||5x||1.7 cents||8.5 cents||$495||50,000 points after $4,000 in spending in the first three months|
|American Express Gold Card||4x||2 cents||8 cents||$250 (see rates and fees)||35,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. Terms apply.|
|American Express Green Card||3x||2 cents||6 cents||$150 (see rates and fees)||30,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months. Terms apply.)|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||3x||2 cents||6 cents||$550||50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months|
|Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express||7x||0.6 cents||4.2 cents||$450 (see rates and fees)||150,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||2x||2 cents||4 cents||$95||60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months|
|Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card||4x||1 cent||4 cents||$95||$300 cash bonus after you spend $3,000 within the first three months|
|Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card||6x||0.6 cents||3.6 cents||$95 (see rates and fees)||125,000 bonus points after after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of cardmembership.|
*Value of points based on TPG valuations and not provided by issuers
The information for the Citi Prestige Card and the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit 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.
Best dining credit card details
Annual fee: $495
Welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.
Earning rates: Earn 5x points on dining at restaurants and air travel, 3x points at hotels and cruise lines and 1x everywhere else.
Analysis: As you can see, the Citi Prestige leads the way with 5 Citi ThankYou points per dollar spent at restaurants. Since TPG valuations peg the value of Citi ThankYou points at 1.7 cents each, the Prestige provides an 8.5% return on restaurant spending. Citi defines restaurants as including “cafes, bars, lounges and fast food restaurants.” The Prestige earns 5x points on dining both in the U.S. and abroad, but its $495 annual fee may be a bit much for some. However, 5x earning on airfare, a $250 annual travel credit and other benefits increase the card’s potential value.
Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)
Welcome bonus: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Earning rates: Earn 4x points at restaurants worldwide, 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 spent each year; then 1x), 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com and 1x on everything else.
Analysis: The Amex Gold Card comes in a close second by earning 4 points per dollar on dining worldwide, which is an 8% return based on our valuation of Amex Membership Rewards points. In addition to this terrific return, the card offers up to $120 annual in dining credits that you can use at merchants such as Boxed, Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory and participating Shake Shack locations. American Express also recently acquired restaurant-booking service Resy, so cardmembers can expect more dining perks including bonus points for bookings and preferred access to reservations. The Gold Card has a $250 annual fee. Read more about the Amex Gold card on our card hub.
APPLY HERE: American Express Gold Card
Annual fee: $150 (see rates and fees)
Welcome bonus: 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 recently got a major upgrade and now earns 3x points for dining worldwide, 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, but it offers up to a $100 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.
APPLY HERE: American Express Green Card
Annual fee: $550
Welcome 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.
Earning rates: Earn 3x on travel and dining at restaurants and 1x spent on all other purchases worldwide.
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 2020 and $60 in additional DoorDash statement credits throughout 2021. As a cardholder, you’ll also get at least one year of DashPass through DoorDash for free.
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.
APPLY HERE: Chase Sapphire Reserve
Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)
Welcome bonus: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $4,000 within the first three months.
Earning rates: Earn 14x points 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, car rentals booked directly from select rental agencies and at U.S. restaurants and 3x points on everything else.
Analysis: This is a great card for Hilton loyalists but 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, an 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.
APPLY HERE: Hilton Honors Aspire Card
Annual fee: $95 (see rates and fees)
Welcome bonus: Earn 125,000 bonus points after after you use your new card to make $2,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of cardmembership.
Earning rates: Earn 12x points on eligible purchases charged on your card directly with a hotel or resort within the Hilton portfolio, 6x points at U.S. restaurants, U.S. supermarkets and U.S. gas stations and 3x points on everything else.
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).
APPLY HERE: Hilton Surpass Amex
Annual fee: $95
Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 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.
Earning rates: Earn 2x on travel and dining at restaurants and 1x spent on all other purchases worldwide
Analysis: If you’re looking for a cheaper option that earns flexible rewards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred might be your choice. Although it only earns 2 points per dollar on dining, its $95 annual fee is also a lot lower than many of the other cards on this list. Plus, cardholders get a free membership for the DoorDash DashPass unlimited delivery program, normally $9.99 a month, for free for at least a year.
APPLY HERE: Chase Sapphire Preferred
Annual fee: $95
Welcome bonus: Earn a $300 cash bonus after you spend $3,000 within the first three months.
Earning rates: Earn 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores 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, in the past it provided access to exclusive dining experiences organized by the James Beard Foundation.
APPLY HERE: Capital One Savor Card
How we choose the best dining credit cards
These card picks are based on numerous criteria: the points program value, welcome bonus, perks and more. Popular features on some of these dining credit cards include monthly dining credits and exclusive access to reservations at certain restaurants.
When choosing the right dining credit card, always take into account the spending requirements for the welcome bonus, since you won’t want to miss out on that. You should only apply if you’re able to comfortably meet the required spend.
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. American Express, on the other hand, 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, but 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 properly, you can always try contacting the card issuer and asking for an exception.
The Amex Gold Card and Citi Prestige take the cake here with a return of 8% or more on dining purchases. The Amex Green Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve tie for third place with a 6% return on dining worldwide. 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 delivery services like Seamless 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 Julian Kheel.
Card photos by TPG. Featured photo by Alexander Spatari.
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.
This is The Points Guy’s permanent page with the best currently available credit cards for dining, so you can bookmark it and check back regularly for updates. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to older offers below.
SIGN-UP BONUS: 50,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,000
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on all travel and dining, $300 annual travel credit, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
- 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
- Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
- Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
- One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.