Advertiser Disclosure: Some of the card offers that appear on this website are from companies which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not review or include all companies or all available products.
Disclaimer: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone. For a full list of our advertisers, see our disclosure page.
We scoured the land and did the math to come up with a list of the best credit cards for dining. Eating away from home can be expensive, which is why choosing the right credit card to pay for your meals can make a great difference. The answer to “which card is best?” will depend on a number of different factors – ranging from how you spend, to what kind of rewards and perks you expect. Our list boiled down to 5 different consumer profiles – readers should pick the one that describes their situation the best, or jump to the bottom to enter their own monthly spending to see which cards offer the most rewards.
Before proceeding, note that in some states it is legal for restaurants to charge you a fee for paying using a credit card. In these situations, we strongly advise against using a card to pay for your meal. In many cases, the fee you pay will cancel out any positive effects gained through the card’s rewards program. Make sure you check with the restaurant whether this applies, before paying the bill.
Our Picks For Best Credit Cards for Eating Out
The following cards have made the cut, and are what we consider to be the top credit cards for eating out. For a more personalized recommendation, we suggest you check out our comparison tool at the bottom of this page.
Travel & Exclusive Dining Events: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is an excellent card for earning dining & travel rewards, as well as gaining access to exclusive culinary events. This card is no stranger to “Best”-type lists – we have previously named it the best travel, airline and overall credit card. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, users can get a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel purchases, and 1.25% everywhere else (2 points per dollar, or 1 point per dollar, multiplied by the 1.25 bonus when redeeming for travel on the Chase portal). With these higher than average rates on meals and trips, it’s no mystery that the card’s extensive features are amazing for travelers and foodies. However, because the card also comes with a $95 annual fee, you need to be a big spender in order to come out ahead - we calculate that you need to spend at least $3,800 annually on dining and travel to break even.
Being a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholder can unlock perks and access to special culinary events that are often sponsored by the card. Examples include private dinners with famous chefs, or events headlined by celebrity chef Emeril. Note that these are often limited to major metropolitan areas – Los Angeles, New York City, New Orleans and Chicago. A list of upcoming events – both culinary and other – can be found on this website.
Dining & Shopping: Discover it® Cash Back
The Discover it® Cash Back credit card is a rotating category cash back card that offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter in categories that change throughout the year, each time you activate. One of the categories we see make an appearance every year is ‘Restaurants'. At that time, the cash back rate you receive through the Discover it® Cash Back on dining out will be unmatched by most credit cards. Just keep in mind that you aren't guaranteed to receive "restaurants" as a category every year.
Currently, new cardmembers also receive a special offer – Discover will double the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year. That means, if you’re a new cardmember, you can receive an effective cash back rate of 2% on all spending, and up to 10% on rotating categories (up to the $1,500 quarterly limit) during that first year. For your first cardmember year that this benefit applies, the Discover it® Cash Back will be one of the best credit cards to hold in your wallet – whether you’re paying for lunch or otherwise.
Eat & Fly: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card
If you have both an appetite for food as well as airline miles, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card is an excellent choice. On the dining side of things, the card earns you 5 miles per $1 spent at restaurants that participate in its Mileage Plan, and there is a wide range of restaurants at a number of cities across the United States. However, restaurants only sign up to offer the 5x rewards on certain dates. As a result, it becomes important to coordinate your dining with the Alaska Airlines website, which allows you to look-up participating restaurants, and their rewards dates.
All the miles you collect with the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card carry a lot of value, and can be used to book travel with Alaska Airlines, Delta, American Airlines, British Airways, and more. We estimate the average value of a single mile to be $0.019, though we caution readers to redeem wisely – certain bookings will result in a better deal than others.
Students: Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students
The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students complements both the diet and lifestyle of college students. Studies have shown that 18-24 year olds make up one of the largest demographic groups to eat out the most. For many, hanging out with friends entails not just eating, but going out to bars and clubs. This combination is what makes the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students an excellent choice for most college students. The card earns 2 ThankYou® Points for every $1 spent for dining and restaurants. These categories encompass bars, cocktail lounges, nightclubs, taverns, and fast food restaurants. This kind of list will probably cover a majority of the diet of a typical college student.
Pure Savings on Restaurants: AARP® Credit Card
For those people who don’t want any special bells and whistles on their restaurant credit card, just pure savings, the AARP® Credit Card is a good pick. The card gives 3% cash back on purchases at restaurants and gas stations, and 1% back everywhere else. This savings applies year-round, which means you won’t have to worry about rotating categories, or finding optimal ways of redeeming any points or miles you earn through the card.
Don’t let the card’s name deceive you – you don’t have to be a member of AARP to apply. The standard criteria for selection apply with this card – minimum age (18), income, and credit worthiness (FICO 700+).
One final thing worth noting about the AARP® Credit Card is that using it will not only help with your dining, but also low-income older adults. For each purchase made at a restaurant with the card in 2015, Chase Bank will donate $0.10 to the AARP Foundation, in support of Drive to End Hunger. The bank has pledged up to a maximum of $1 million. The charity delivers meals to older adults who struggle to afford food – a problem that is estimated to affect nearly 9 million older Americans.
Choosing the best credit card to fit your budget can be monumental task that requires individuals to work through a lot of math. Luckily, our tool does the heavy lifting for you. Input your estimated monthly spending into the categories below (including dining). We will calculate which credit cards will return you the highest net rewards.