Credit card rewards structures vary from card to card, yet the most competitive prime offers have one thing in common: they will reward you more in popular spend categories, typically involving high spend areas such as gas, and for the purpose of this edition of the Roundup series, food. As Americans, we love to eat, and issuers are constantly trying to outdo each other with large rebates at restaurants, sometimes even expanding it to all entertainment as Capital One did last year with the introduction of their Savor Cards.
For this segment, Jason asks the group of experts which cards they use most frequently for dining:
What credit card do you use when you eat out, and why?
Winnie Sun - Managing Director of Sun Group Wealth Partners, a trusted financial consulting firm on the West Coast. She is a CNBC Financial Advisor Council Member and a “top advisor” speaker at national industry events.
I’m very strategic with my spending, I like every dollar that I spend to go towards one of my key financial goals, and that is to take my kids and husband to as many unique vacations as I can. With this in mind, I have to be very mindful of which credit card to use when making purchases. One of the areas where I’ll spend is on that periodic restaurant visit. When eating out, I typically use one of two cards. If the meal is related to my business, I’ll use the Citi Prestige card which gets me 5x points on dining, and if it’s for personal dining, I’ll often use the Chase Sapphire Reserve for 3x dining. This helps me with my record-keeping by keeping expenses nearly organized, while still helping me maximize my credit card points early towards my goals of travel.
I also like having a Visa and a Mastercard as dining card options, because they are pretty easy to use regardless of which country I’m at and they both don’t have foreign transaction fees, and as a parent and a financial advisor, I’m a natural planner. I always plan ahead and have a backup in case one of cards isn’t accepted. For bakeries or some food eateries that I’m not sure will code as “dining,” I’ll pull out a Visa/Mastercard gift card that I had purchased beforehand at an office supply store and have already maximized 5x points. It’s really making sure I’m focused on that important financial vacation goal.
Ben Luthi - Credit card expert and personal finance writer
I use the American Express Gold Card for dining out. Right now, I'm focusing all of my rewards-earning in the Membership Rewards program, so it helps, but the card's 4X multiplier at restaurants makes it a no-brainer for me. I know there are other cards that offer 4% back, but I value Membership Rewards much more than straight cash back because of the program's transfer options.
I also like the card for its dining credit. I get $10 a month, and I use Seamless a few times a month anyway, so that's a nice credit to get back.
Some people don't care about the aesthetics of a credit card, but I also like the metal design of the card. Also, I have the rose gold version, and I get compliments on it regularly. That aspect wasn't part of my decision to get the card in the first place, but it is a nice perk.
Jason Steele - Journalist who specializes in covering credit cards, award travel, and other areas of personal finance.
I used to use my Sapphire Reserve that offers 3x on dining. Now I use the Amex Gold card which features an amazing 4x on dining. These points are Membership Rewards points, which are extremely valuable to me. In fact, I’m often able to realize several cents in value per point redeemed towards premium class airline tickets especially.
However, the Capital One Savor is another great choice for those who prefer the flexibility of cash back rewards. It offers 4% back on dining and entertainment, which is great because they go hand in hand and you don’t always know which way a purchase will be coded.
Edward Pizzarello - Business traveler who oversees a venture capital portfolio of companies located around the United States
For years, the first card I pulled out of my wallet when I dined out was the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Two miles per dollar on restaurants? Sign me up! A few years ago, I transitioned to the Citi Costco Card. A 3% rebate on dining expenses is solid, even if you just take cash back from Costco. However, today my choice is a simple one. I added the American Express Gold Card to my wallet after a 15 year hiatus.
American Express revamped this card last year and added a 4X bonus category for restaurant spending. At the outset, the bonus was only for restaurants in the United States. Recently, they changed that to restaurants worldwide. There's no foreign transaction fee on the card (unlike the Citi Costco Card), so I can feel comfortable pulling the American Express Gold Card out of my wallet to eat anywhere in the world.
Dia Adams - Blogs at Traveling Mom
I'm still a big fan of the Chase Sapphire Reserve. At 3X dining worldwide with no transaction fees, it's a clear winner. The one shift I've made recently is to the Citi Rewards + (name?) card that rounds up to the nearest 10 points. I use it at places like 7-11, where I'm getting 11X for my 79 cent big gulp.
Shawn Coomer - Managing Editor of Miles to Memories
While dining has long been a popular bonus category on rewards credit cards, over the past few years eating out has become more rewarding with banks having enhanced their offerings to give bigger bonuses. For awhile my go-to card for dining was the Chase Sapphire Reserve. When that launched it was the first major card with 3X earnings in the dining category. Since the launch of Sapphire Reserve, the other major banks have all gotten into the game, so I am constantly torn when choosing which card to use for dining.
Today I actually use a combination of cards depending on the purpose of the meal. While I still keep that Sapphire Reserve as a backup and for use while traveling, on dining purchases today I use the American Express Gold card and the Citi Prestige. Amex Gold gives me 4X points on dining whereas Citi Prestige pays 5X. Overall I think the Gold card is the better value as it also comes with other cool perks such as a monthly Grubhub credit and the Prestige has a higher fee.
When deciding which card is right you’ll need to first determine if you spend enough on dining to warrant a specific card for that bonus category. If you do, then check out the banks and their offerings to see which program works for you. Remember that cash back cards like the Capital One Savor also exist to give 4% cash back, so choose wisely when locking yourself into a bank and their points and no matter what you choose, dining is now more rewarding than ever!