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Best Credit Cards For Dining Out: 2018

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 2.50% rewards rate on dining and travel purchases, and 1.25% everywhere else. 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.

Comparison Tool

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.

Assumptions Based On Monthly Spend of: $1,430 Edit
General:
U.S. Gas Stations:
U.S. Supermarkets:
Airlines:
Hotel:
U.S. Restaurants:
Office:
Utilities:
Computing:
Card Annual Fee 2-yr Net Rewards Rate

The Net Rewards Rate is equal to the Rewards Value over two years divided by the total spending. The total spending is equal to the values entered into the tool and multiplied by 24 months. See the rewards Value note to see details on how it is calculated.

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

Bonus Value

The bonus field shows our estimate for the value of the card’s welcome bonus. If the bonus is point or mile based, we multiply the total bonus points/miles by our estimate for their value to arrive at a dollar equivalent. We display $0 if there is no bonus or if the user doesn’t qualify for the bonus based on the current spending entered into the tool. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

2-yr Rewards Value

The Rewards value is calculated by adding together the rewards earned from charging purchases to the card over two years and any welcome bonuses (if applicable). They are then multiplied by our estimated point/mile value, with any annual fees (if applicable) subtracted. All values are based on our own estimates for the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using a card and on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95 3.00%
$625
50,000 Ultimate Rewards when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
$1,028
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 39,840 x $0.013 = $498
Bonuses
50,000 x $0.013 = $625
Less Annual Fees -$95
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,028

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
APR 17.99% - 24.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card
$75 2.94%
$540
Get 30,000 bonus miles after qualifying purchases
$1,008
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.018 = $618
Bonuses
30,000 x $0.018 = $540
Less Annual Fees -$150
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,008

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $75
APR 16.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • First Checked Bag Free for you and up to 6 companions booked on your reservation
  • Coach Companion Fare from $121 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees from $22)
  • Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent directly on Alaska Airlines purchases.
  • Earn 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees, plus chip-enabled for enhanced security when used at chip-enabled terminals.
  • No mileage cap.
  • Miles won't expire on your active account.
  • Low Annual fee of $75
AARP® Credit Card
No Annual Fee 1.89%
$100
Spend at least $500 on purchases in your first 3 months and receive $100 in cash back
$650
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 550 x $1 = $550
Bonuses
0 x $1 = $0
0 x $1 = $100
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 650

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee No Annual Fee
APR 16.49%

Card Details

  • No Annual Fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers
Discover it® Cash Back
$0 1.50%
$171
Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
$514
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 343 x $1 = $343
Bonuses
171 x $1 = $171
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 514

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0
APR 13.99% - 24.99% Variable

Card Details

  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students
$0* 1.23%
$25
Earn 2,500 bonus points after spending $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
$423
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 39,840 x $0.01 = $398
Bonuses
2,500 x $0.01 = $25
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 423

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0*
APR 16.49% - 26.49%* (Variable)

Card Details

  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 7 months on purchases from date of account opening; after that the variable APR will be 16.49% - 26.49% based upon your creditworthiness*
  • Earn 2,500 bonus points after spending $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • 2,500 ThankYou® Points are redeemable for $25 in gift cards, electronics and other great rewards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • Earn 2X Points on Dining Out & Entertainment
  • Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No annual fee*

Comments and Questions

Opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the issuer. We may be compensated through the issuer's Affiliate Program. For a full list of our advertisers see our disclosure page

* See the online credit card application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button, you can review the credit card terms and conditions on the issuer's website.

Info about the following cards: Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, Hilton Honors Surpass® Credit Card, American Express® Blue Sky, American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex, Blue from American Express®, Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, Bluebird, Centurion® Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card, and Amazon Business American Express Card has been collected independently by ValuePenguin. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).

Credit Cards

Advertiser Disclosure: Some of the offers that appear on this website are from companies which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where offers 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. For more information please see our Advertiser Disclosure.