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There’s never been a better time to be a foodie. Dynamic, creative chefs the world over are reinventing traditional cuisines and helping diners discover new tastes.
There are also plenty of rewards credit cards that offer lucrative earning bonuses on restaurants and dining out. Beyond the chance to earn double or triple points on your tab, there are a few high-end credit cards that also offer members opportunities to score hard-to-get reservations at sought-after eateries, and even host exclusive events with some of the world’s best chefs.
For true gourmets who take their food seriously and want to mingle behind the scenes with the biggest names in the restaurant world, here are the credit cards that can get you unparalleled access.
This card has many benefits. Among the lesser-known ones is that, like the Business Platinum® Card from American Express and the Centurion Card, the personal Amex Platinum participates in Amex’s By Invitation Only series.
Launched over 25 years ago, the exclusive invite-only program consists of 80-100 events annually in the fields of art, entertainment, fashion and dining. Amex bills them as once-in-a-lifetime experience for card holders with the opportunity to interact personally with famed artists, designers, entertainers and chefs.
Recent restaurant events have included an intimate evening with chef Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana at the Peninsula Hong Kong. At another, card holders got to spend a night with the Roca brothers of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, that included a cooking demonstration with chef Joan Roca, a wine-tasting of rare cellar entries with Josep Roca, and a full dinner with wine pairings at the restaurant, including dessert handmade by third brother and the focus of an episode of Chef’s Table, Jordi Roca.
Up next? A full day of foraging and feasting in Copenhagen with chef René Redzepi and his team at noma on May 11. Though these events are not cheap, they are an intriguing opportunity for folks who really take their food seriously and want face time with their favorite chefs. The noma event is $1,500 per person, which is a lot to pay for dinner, but considering it involves several activities including a dinner with wine or juice pairings that normally costs around $600, the premium could be worth it.
Apart from the special events of the By Invitation Only series, Platinum card holders can also use Platinum Concierges to score impossible, last-minute reservations at Amex’s Global Dining Collection of partner restaurants, including Eleven Madison Park in New York City, Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, Sur Mésure in Paris and Pierre in Hong Kong.
The one downside to the Platinum Card and Business Platinum Card in terms of dining is that they each only earn 1 point per dollar. If all you’re looking for is an earning bonus on restaurant purchases, you might want to consider the American Express® Gold Card instead, which earns 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar at US restaurants.
Although folks with various Chase cards have access to events through the issuer’s Chase Experiences program, those with one of the Sapphire cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the more premium Chase Sapphire Reserve can take advantage of the most exclusive dining events, including private dinners and tastings at some of the best-known restaurants in the US.
The program offers dozens of experiences per year. Among the upcoming ones is a private dinner at Husk in Charleston, South Carolina. The event costs $150 per person or 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points, though you’d get better value redeeming points for a travel purchase.
The evening includes an appearance by chef Travis Grimes along with a discussion of the menu, a welcome reception with hors d’oeuvres, a multicourse dinner, taxes, gratuities and valet parking.
In April, Sapphire card holders can spend $200 or 20,000 points on a dinner at Pacific Standard Time in Chicago. Like the Husk event, this one will feature an appearance by chef Erling Wu-Bower, a welcome reception, a mix-and-match dinner of plated and family-style dishes, tax, tip and valet.
The culinary events cost the same whether you have the Reserve or Preferred version of the Sapphire card, so you’re not missing out on anything other than 3 points per dollar with the Reserve versus 2 points per dollar with the Preferred on your purchase if paying rather than redeeming points.
If you have a Citi credit card like the Citi Prestige Card or the Citi Premier Card, you can take advantage of the issuer’s Private Pass events. Along with music, sports and theater performances, card holders can purchase tickets to dining and beverage happenings that are not usually available to the general public, or that offer more perks than what your average consumer can enjoy.
Among the upcoming opportunities are presale and preferred tickets to Cochon555, which is a culinary roadshow focusing on gourmet pork products that also draws chefs, restaurateurs, bar owners, sommeliers and other folks in the restaurant industry.
Citi card holders get 15% off normal pricing, early access to the venue and exclusive foodie trays. Cochon555 events will take place at Snowmass Base Village in Colorado, Charles Krug Winery in Napa, Fulton Market in Chicago and Weylin in Brooklyn, among other settings, and tickets range from $110.50-$170.
While Citi Private Pass events and tickets are open to pretty much any Citi card holder, the reason we’re highlighting the Citi Prestige in particular is its revamped earning structure that includes 5 points per dollar not only on air travel but also on dining.
Like Amex, Chase and Citi, Capital One has an events portal for card holders, called Capital One Access, that includes a few foodie-focused benefits. The program has partnered with online reservation service Resy on a few initiatives. The first is to reserve tables at hard-to-book restaurants in Austin, New York and Washington, D.C. for Capital One card holders.
Resy and Capital One have also created a new dining program called Off Menu Week that will take place at a variety of restaurants in six US cities throughout 2019. The first one took place in Los Angeles in February. The next is in Washington, D.C. from Apr. 8 – 14. The partnership allows Capital One card holders to book reservations in advance of the general public and try experimental off-menu dishes created specially by the chef of each restaurant. How’s that for bragging rights?
While Capital One fields a lot of great credit cards, the best choice for traveling gourmands is the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card. With a $95 annual fee (waived the first year), this card earns a whopping 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, so you can get a lot of value out of it if these are two of your main expense areas. Otherwise, the no-annual-fee Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card earns a respectable 3% back on dining and entertainment.
If you have a Mastercard like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard or the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, you have access to the Mastercard Priceless Cities VIP events and offerings in cities around the world, including tastings, dinners and tours.
Unlike some of the events from other issuers, you can book many of these any time, though it usually requires a week or so advance notice and only consists of a meal and a quick meet-and-greet with the chef.
For instance, this booking at NOBU at the InterContinental Hong Kong for $1,000 HKD ($127 USD) includes a sushi-making class and lunch at the restaurant, and is bookable on the first Saturday of every month from April 2019 – February 2020.
This experience at République in Los Angeles includes an eight-course tasting menu, a chance to talk with chefs Walter and Margarita Manzke, and a souvenir apron and photo for $625 per person. At the moment, there are also experiences in New York, Miami, Sonoma, Napa, Paris, London, Vienna, Rio de Janeiro and Singapore, among other locales.
These occasions are less about a one-off evening and more about enjoying some unique experiences and the certainty of getting to talk to the chef in restaurants you might want to visit in major cities around the world.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card or Marriott Bonvoy™ Business American Express® Card
Although you don’t actually need a Marriott Bonvoy credit card to access Marriott Bonvoy Moments listings, you might want to carry one anyway for several reasons. Not least of which is the ability to earn 3 points per dollar at US restaurants with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card or an even more attractive 4 points per dollar at US restaurants with the Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card.
Both cards are offering a 75,000-point welcome bonus after you spend $3,000 in the first three months, and the extra points they can earn you could be just the boost you need for bidding on exclusive packages through Marriott Bonvoy Moments.
In addition to entertainment and sporting events, there is always a rotating selection of culinary experiences on offer that you can use points to bid on. Most auctions start at a reasonable 10,000 points, though the more exclusive or expensive the restaurant, the more you can expect to pay.
For instance, an upcoming meet-and-greet with the Lebano brothers from the Excelsior Hotel Gallia, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Milan, accepts bids starting at 10,000 points. A private dinner at Gwen in Los Angeles with celebrity chef Curtis Stone, however, starts at 75,000 points.
Meanwhile, dinner at The French Laundry in Napa Valley on Mar. 30, including a kitchen tour, a gift card, a 10-course dinner for two, and an autographed copy of The French Laundry cookbook, was up to 300,000 points at time of writing.
Are these always the best deals? No. But using points not only to secure a guaranteed reservation at one of the world’s most famous restaurants and pay for your dinner there might come in handy if you’ve been hoarding your points or have a stash of new ones thanks to some recent credit card applications.
Beyond earning miles and points, many travel rewards credit cards offer additional value-added perks like trip protection, car rental insurance and lost luggage reimbursement. But perhaps the most undervalued benefits are the experiences many of them offer, including reservations at some of the world’s best restaurants and the chance to actually meet with the famous chefs behind them. Check the cards you already carry to see what kind of insider access you can get.
Featured image by rawpixel on Unsplash.
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