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The travel rewards card market has seen dining emerge as a major bonus category over the last few years. Chase led the pack by offering an industry-leading 3x points on dining when it launched the Chase Sapphire Reserve in 2016. Then, in 2018, American Express topped that by introducing 4x on dining with the American Express® Gold Card. And now, Citi is the latest issuer to make a splash in the market by adding 5x points at restaurants to the Citi Prestige Card, which recently reopened to new applicants.

With TPG’s valuations in mind, let’s take a look at how these three cards’ earning rates currently compare to each other.

Card Dining Category Bonus RETURN ON SPENDING (BASED ON TPG VALUATIONS)
Citi Prestige 5x points 8.5%
Amex Gold 4x points 8%
Chase Sapphire Reserve 3x points 6%

It probably goes without saying that the Citi Prestige leads the way when it comes to return on spending based on our valuations. However, deciding which card is best for dining isn’t as simple as comparing just their earning rates. After all, each of these cards earns points that can be transferred to a different set of travel partners.

So, today we’re going to take a deeper dive into each of these cards to help you determine which card you should use for your dining purchases.

Citi Prestige Card

Return: 5 Citi ThankYou points per dollar on all dining and air travel. Points are worth 1.7 cents apiece, so you’re getting a return of 8.5% when dining worldwide.

Welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 within 3 months from account opening.

Annual fee: $495 ($450 until September 2019 for current card holders)

The Citi Prestige’s 5x points at restaurants is the highest return out of any other rewards card for dining, and it’s available globally. It also offers 5x points on air travel, as well as 3x points on hotels and cruises. While the card’s annual fee is increasing soon, benefits such as a $250 travel credit and the 4th Night Free benefit help trim it.

You can transfer Citi ThankYou points to 15 airline partners (there are no current hotel partners) including Avianca LifeMilesQantas Frequent FlyerTurkish Airlines Miles & Smiles and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Citi ThankYou points generally get less love than Amex Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards points, as the transfer partners aren’t the most useful and many of the transfer times are sluggish, but if your primary goal is to book award flights on international carriers, there are still quite a few values to be had.

Here’s a sampling of what you can do with Citi ThankYou points:

Amex Gold Card

Return: 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar on dining. Points are worth 2 cents apiece, so you’re getting a return of 8% for dining, but only in the US.

Welcome bonus: Earn 35,000 points after you spend $2,000 within 3 months from account opening. Check CardMatch to see if you’re targeted for a 50,000-point welcome bonus (also after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months) (offer subject to change at anytime).

Annual fee: $250 (See Rates & Fees)

With 4x points on dining and 4x points on the first $25,000 spent per year at US supermarkets (then 1x), the Amex Gold is a strong pick for eating out (or in). The card also offers 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines and through amextravel.com, as well as up to $120 in dining credits each year when you pay with the Gold card at participating partners (up to $10 in statement credits each month) and up to $100 per calendar year in statement credits toward airline incidental fees.

Amex Membership Rewards points can be transferred over to 20 different airline and hotel partners, such as Delta SkyMiles, Etihad Guest and British Airways Executive Club.

Here’s a sampling of what you can do with Amex Membership Rewards points:

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Return: 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on all travel (excluding $300 travel credit) and dining. Points are worth 2 cents apiece so you’re getting a return of 6% when you dine both in the US and abroad.

Welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 within 3 months from account opening.

Annual fee: $450

While the Chase Sapphire Reserve might no longer lead the pack for dining purchases, it remains a top pick for dining globally due to the value of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

Points can be transferred to over a dozen airline and hotel partners, including HyattSingapore Airlines and United. All transfers are at a 1:1 ratio — 1 point for 1 point — and in the majority of cases, they are instant. A large portion of the card’s annual fee is offset by its $300 annual travel credit.

Here’s a sampling of what you can do with Chase Ultimate Rewards points:

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, picking the best card for your dining purchases isn’t as simple as just looking at the earning rates. There are other factors that come into play, such as transfer partners and restrictions on where you can earn bonus points for dining.

So, while the Citi Prestige has the highest earning rate for dining purchases based on our valuations, if your goal is to book a business-class award flight to Europe for example, you might be better off using the Amex Gold because Iberia is a transfer partner and offers very attractive pricing for flights there. Likewise, if you’re making a lot of dining purchases abroad or you’d the ability to redeem your points for hotel stays, you’ll want to consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.  

Featured image by Jay Wennington / Unsplash.

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2018 TPG Award Winner: Mid-Tier Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, 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.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 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®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.99% - 24.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.