The Best Restaurant Rewards Credit Cards

ADVERTISEMENT

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — People often sign up for credit cards based on how much of a discount the card can knock off of their travel expenses, but die-hard foodies can also find their own rewards if they do a little research before picking out some new plastic.

In addition to travel rewards, many issuers offer generous amounts of cash back or reward points on restaurant purchases, so those who frequently dine out should look for a card that lets them cash in whenever they do. Beverly Harzog of Credit.com suggests that frequent diners find a card that carries a 2% or higher return on each dollar spent at bars or restaurants.

“One percent back is pretty standard,” she explains. “Cards that give you 5% back are considered to be very good.”

Of course, those occasional high rates come with ample servings of fine print, so there are still a few other things foodies need to be aware of before settling on a card. First, it’s important to pay attention to when premium reward rates apply. Many issuers rotate 5% cash back or rewards point returns on different categories of purchases, so restaurant purchases may only net the highest rates once per quarter. 

“We'd argue that this really translates to at most a 2% dining reward,” Tim Chen, CEO of credit card ranking site NerdWallet, tells MainStreet. “This is because you get 5% one quarter, then 1% the other 3 quarters, which averages out to 2%.”

Additionally, since these are rewards cards we’re talking about, the annual percentage rates tend to be a little higher than cards with standard offerings, so Herzog points out, “if you are going to carry a balance, these are not for you.”

To help foodies find the best cards for them, MainStreet talked to other credit card ranking experts to find out what cards carry the best restaurant rewards and the least drawbacks. Here are their recommendations.

Citi Forward:

Chen says that the Citi Forward card easily ranks as number one on his restaurant rewards list since cardholders get five points for every dollar they spend at restaurants (roughly equivalent to a 5% return on your purchases). 

The card does come with a few caveats, though. First, you have to collect at least 10,000 ThankYou points before you can convert them to a $100 gift card, which is really the only way to redeem them at the 5% exchange rate. You can, of course, redeem points before you hit that threshold, but the points-to-dollars conversion isn’t quite as good. For instance, Chen says, 6,000 points will net you just a $50 gift certificate.

Secondly, Citi does impose an annual cap of 75,000 on the points you can redeem in a year, but the card doesn’t carry an annual fee and those with good credit standing can receive a reasonable APR of 12.99%.

Ink Cash Business card from Chase

Chase’s Ink Cash card carries a 3% return on all restaurant purchases, which may sound like cheap eats when compared to Citi’s aforementioned offering, but unlike the Forward card, Chase’s Ink Cash doesn’t put any limit on the amount of points that can be used in a year, so consumers should consider the lower rate as a small tradeoff. The 3% return rate also applies to gas, office supply and home improvement purchases. The card carries no annual fee; APRs are between 13.24% and 19.24%, depending on your credit score.
More good news? Chen says that, despite its name (“Ink” like “Inc.”), the card is available to non-business owners.

Discover Open Road

The Discover Open Road card entitles cardholders to 2% cash back on all purchases made at restaurants, and has a double cashback bonus for the first $250 you spend each month at eateries or gas stations. What makes the card even more attractive to foodies, however, is the fact that Discover gives cardholders a free $75 gift certificate for Restaurant.com after they use the card for the first time.

“It would take a long time for you to earn [that amount] in rewards,” points out Mary Ann Campbell, spokeswoan for IndexCreditCards.com, who recommended the card. Just be careful not to sign up for the student version of Open Road, she says, since that card doesn’t entitle you to the gift certificate. 

The card does not have an annual fee and APRs are between 11. 99% and 19.99% depending on the person, though a 0% introductory APR is offered to most for the first 12 months.

True Earning Costco American Express

Both Chen and Campbell recommend the True Earning Costco American Express card, which is perfect for frequent diners who also habitually shop at Costco, since it offers 3% back on restaurants and, as an added perk, on gas purchases for each dollar you spend. Plus, there is  no limit placed on the amount of points that can be earned or redeemed annually.

Anyone considering this credit card needs to have a membership affinity for Costco though, since it spares you from having to pay an annual fee. Additionally, rewards are paid out in a Costco gift certificate once a year, though this can be exchanged in stores for cash as well as just store credit.  The APR is a bit high, though at around 15.24%.

Chase Freedom for Visa


If you’re looking for a card that rotates rewards, Harzog suggests the Chase Freedom for Visa card, since it collectively carries one of the best rewards programs out there. Foodies will be happy to know that they can earn 5% cash back on restaurant purchases from October to December this year, and 1% in all other quarters.

Chase lets cardholders earn points on up to $1,500 spent per quarter, which translates to about $75 a month in maximum rewards. However, Harzog points out that the card carries a 9.99% to 13.99% APR, which is reasonable for a rewards card that carries a 5% return on certain categories. There is no annual fee though, and for now consumers get 5,000 bonus points, which is equivalent to a $50 check, when they make their first purchase.

“The card has a great return,” Harzog says, but she points out that consumers will need to register the card by calling the number on the back or go to Chase’s website if they want to set the card up for maximum rewards.

If you’re not a die-hard foodie but still looking for a good rewards card, check out this MainStreet roundup of cards with the best rewards programs!

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

Show Comments

Back to Top