The small credit card perk that saved the day — and gave me a free cheesecake

Oct 4, 2019

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I don’t know where I first heard the saying that, when you look back, “It’s the little things that are really the big things.” But it’s a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree.

For kids, letting them stay up well beyond bedtime to watch a funny movie with you, or unexpectedly bringing their favorite lunch and eating with them at school — those things matter. So, while I like to use credit card perks and miles to go big (and because there absolutely is memorable magic to be made during a family vacation), I try never to miss the smaller perks.

Recently, I’ve dealt with a rapid-fire series of mundane but expensive and unexpected events: Our front door shattered. The sprinkler system went kaput. The car became a massive smoke bomb and needed repairs. The dog got sick. Torrential rains flooded the house. And more.

That’s why we’ve been really trying to rein in spending to compensate as best we can. Little splurges we normally wouldn’t think twice about have turned into, “let’s wait on that” or “sorry, not today.”

But a credit card we already had recently came through in a small, but very big way.

While out running otherwise boring errands with my daughters, we walked past a Cheesecake Factory and a lightbulb went off. This time, I could say “yes” to a surprise piece of cheesecake — and still not spend a dime.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

I’ve had the American Express® Gold Card in my wallet for about a year now, and while I love racking up 4x points per dollar at restaurants and U.S. grocery stores (up to $25,000 every year on groceries), I don’t always use the built-in $10 dining credit each month. This $10 monthly credit is valid at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, participating Shake Shack locations, on Grubhub and Seamless orders and — you guessed it — The Cheesecake Factory. (Just be sure you register for this credit prior to use.)

Related: Why the Amex Gold is a great card for families

A $10 monthly dining credit wouldn’t cover much during a full-blown family dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, but it’s just enough for a slice of cheesecake. I asked the girls if they wanted to go in and pick out a slice of any piece of cheesecake they wanted, and you know their answer. It’s basically like taking kids to a very fancy candy store.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

That’s how I became the hero of the afternoon.

Like everything at the Cheesecake Factory, the by-the-slice menu is hilariously long. But whether you choose original or strawberry, peppermint bark or chocolate cheesecake, they all cost under $10 a slice (at least here in Texas).

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

One carefully-selected, kid-friendly slice of chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake and a small tip for the cashier later, and we were on our way out the door having spent precisely $10 on the Amex Gold card — the exact amount of the monthly credit.

That one slice was plenty for the family to share after dinner that night, and the girls had a ton of fun with the whole thing. They’re already talking about which slice to pick next month when my dining credit resets. (Hershey Chocolate Bar and Godiva Chocolate are the current contenders.)

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Getting a slice of cheesecake for $0 out of pocket thanks to the Amex Gold dining credit is, unquestionably, a small thing.

But if a family tradition has been started, essentially for free since that card was already in my wallet, maybe it isn’t such a small thing after all. At a minimum, it brightened that day and was a good reminder that smaller card perks can still be a whole lot of fun.

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