Credit Card Industry Expert Roundup #25 - What credit card do you use for eating out, and why?
Everyone likes to eat out at restaurants until the bill comes. But, there can be some positives that can come from the end of the meal -- rewards from paying with a credit card. Jason Steele asks everyone which card they prefer to pay their meals with to earn the most in return.
Ben Luthi - Credit card expert and personal finance writer.
For a long time, I used the Costco Anywhere Card for dining purchases. It offers 3% cash back at restaurants worldwide, which is impressive considering its bonus rewards on other purchases like gas and travel. The only thing I don't like about it is that I can only redeem my rewards once a year. Every February, Citi will send a certificate for the amount I earned the previous year, which I can use for Costco purchases or redeem for cash at my local Costco store.
In July of this year, I got an email about updates to my Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Business card. The card now offers 4 points per dollar on restaurant purchases in addition to some other a bunch of other everyday purchases I make. Marriott points are typically worth about 0.9 cents apiece on average, giving me a 3.6% rewards rate on that card versus the 3% rate I get on the Costco Anywhere Visa. Because of that, I've switched over to using that card instead.
Since I don't eat out a ton, I haven't considered any credit cards that focus on dining rewards. The only time I'll change up which card I use for is when my Discover it card is offering 5% cash back at restaurants. This typically happens at least one quarter every year, so I try to take advantage of that when I can. That also includes stocking up on restaurant gift cards with the 5% rewards rate for future quarters when the default rate for restaurant purchases is 1%.
Miranda Marquit - Founder of Planting Money Seeds, a website dedicated to helping consumers use their money as a resource to create the lives they want.
I use my American Express Delta SkyMiles gold card. I signed up for the dining rewards program and I get extra miles with it. I like it because I use this card for most of my everyday spending, so getting a bit of a boost on eating out is great. This is the card I use to get free flights for myself and when I send my son to see his dad, so anything I can do to get extra miles is much appreciated. I'm not a huge travel hacker, and I love simplicity, so this works out well for me. There are a lot of other partner rewards that come with the Delta SkyMiles card from AmEx, so being able to stack those, along with the dining rewards, helps me accelerate the accumulation of miles in a way that makes it a rare occasion that I actually have to pay for a flight.
Emily Guy Birken - Milwaukee-based former educator and freelance writer specializing in personal finance
Unlike many rewards card users and experts, I don't differentiate my spending on different cards to maximize my rewards, and I in fact only carry two rewards cards total. I have a Upromise credit that I've carried for nearly 10 years, and a travel rewards card that my husband and I just recently acquired within the last two years.
The reason why I don't differentiate my spending is because I fell into a bad pattern when I first got the Upromise card where I would chase the bonuses, which significantly affected my spending. Instead of simply spending on what I already planned to purchase, I'd look for opportunities to make purchases that would earn me more cash back--which is exactly why rewards cards offer varying rewards depending on categories, since it's easy to rationalize dining out because you're earning 5% cash back!
Once I realized what I was doing and how that could potentially get me in serious trouble, I decided to let the cash back bonuses fall where they may with the Upromise card and I don't pay any attention to what types of spending are generating the best bonuses at any given time. I simply don't have the discipline to avoid the cash back temptations, and I've been happy with what I earn on my regular spending without knowing what the best bonuses are. We do use the travel rewards card for dining out about once every three months. But we make a point of only using that card for the quarterly restaurant spending necessary to earn the rewards we want and otherwise only use it for airline or other travel purchases to make my financial housekeeping easier.
Robert Harrow - Product Manager in charge of the credit cards vertical at ValuePenguin.com
When it comes to dining out, I pay exclusively with my Uber Visa card.
It’s one of the few cards I own that I deem “special use” — meaning I only have one or two designated roles for it. Each of those cards must satisfy two conditions: a rewards rate above 2.5% and no annual fee. That second condition is really there to make sure I don’t lose money on a card, even if I forget to use it from time to time. The 2.5% rewards rate is just a good benchmark. You can get 2.5% rewards with a solid travel card no matter how you spend, provided you use your miles wisely. If I see a card that can deliver more than that in a category, like dining, I start to pay attention.
The Uber card comes with an amazing 4% rewards rate on dining out. You won’t find a card that gives you more than this, unless you’re willing to pay a high fee. What’s even cooler is that the dining category encompasses bars and UberEATS.
In general, this is one of my favorite no annual fee cards because it’s more than just a one-trick-pony. You can also use it to get 3% back on hotel and airfare purchases and 2% back on online purchases (like Amazon). That’s enough to make this card a good everyday option as well.
Shawn Coomer - Founder and Managing Editor of Miles to Memories
It has never been a better time to use a credit card if you dine out a lot. Over the past couple of years banks have been upping the ante when it comes to rewarding eating out. While 2X was about the best you could get before, now there are several amazing cards that offer up to 4X.
Up until about a month ago my go to card for dining was the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The Sapphire Reserve earns 3X Ultimate Rewards for both travel & dining. I highly value those points and often get upwards of 2 cents per point value when transferring to airline/hotel partners. With that said, there is a new king of dining in my wallet.
Earlier this month American Express launched their new Gold card which earn 4X Membership Rewards points on dining. I recently picked up the Limited Edition Rose Gold card and have been using it exclusively when dining out since.
While I tend to value Chase points a bit higher than Amex points, the extra point per dollar gives the Gold card my top spot and Amex has really valuable transfer partners as well. Truthfully though either card is great and with other banks also jumping onto the dining category bonus bandwagon, dining out has never been so rewarding.
Jason Steele - Journalist who specializes in covering credit cards, award travel, and other areas of personal finance
I’m still using my Chase Sapphire Reserve, as it offers 3x on all dining purchases. And what few people realize is that the Sapphire Reserve also offers you 1.5 cents per point redeemed for reservations through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel center, so that you will realize a minimum of 4.5 cents in value for each dollar spent eating out. And when you transfer points to airline miles or hotel programs, you can potentially realize even more value per point redeemed.
Nevertheless, I’m strongly considering the new American Express Gold card, which ups the ante to 4x points for dining purchases. While these points are only worth one cent each towards travel reservations, they have some excellent airline transfer partners that I could utilize. This would further diversify my rewards, as I still earn plenty of Chase Ultimate Rewards points from other activities.