Calling all foodies: Best credit cards for restaurants

These cards can help score savings while dining out, regardless of credit profile

Aaron Broverman
Personal finance journalist
Host of the podcast Speech Bubble

Best credit cards for restaurants

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In this world of Instagrammable dishes and celebrity chefs, food has long passed the point of simple sustenance and morphed into a full-blown event.

If you count yourself among the nouveau gourmands dining out every weekend, why not get a return on your investment?

Read on to find the best credit cards on the market if you love earning rewards while you’re eating out – regardless of your credit profile.

Best credit cards for restaurants, depending on your credit profile

Best card for restaurants for premium cardholders: Chase Sapphire Reserve

Most credit cards would make this list if cardholders received three times the points on travel or dining, but the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives you the best of both worlds.

You can transfer your points 1:1 to a host of frequent flyer programs across the globe – and you get a 50 percent bonus if you redeem your points for travel through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards travel portal.

The annual fee may seem steep, but the $300 annual travel credit offsets much of that and puts this card in an affordable range.

Also, Chase Sapphire cardholders can have access to unique gourmet experiences redeemable for points, including the Sapphire Sundays Brunch series and the Chase Sapphire Private Dining Series.

Here’s a look at the slew of goodies that come with Sapphire Reserve:

  • 3 points per dollar spent on dining and travel.
  • 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else.
  • 50,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months.
  • $300 annual travel credit on eligible purchases including Airbnb, Uber, parking lots and garages.
  • $100 Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit.
  • Airport lounges: Complimentary access to more than 1,000 lounges.
  • $450 annual fee.

Alternative: Chase Sapphire Preferred

If you’re a little wary of the Reserve’s annual fee, but still want a double dose of travel and dining rewards, try the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

  • 2 points per dollar spent on dining and travel.
  • 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else.
  • Access to exclusive dining events such as private dinners with famous chefs.
  • $95 annual fee, waived the first year.
Tip

Pro tip: “If you’re looking to add a new card to your wallet so you can maximize dining purchases, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is a great option,” says Sean Bryant, founder and editor of One Smart Dollar. “Even though it has a pretty high annual fee, earning 3 points at restaurants can be very valuable for anyone that frequently eats out.”

Best card for restaurants for everyday cardholders: Barclays' Uber Visa 

This may be called the Uber Visa card, but it should be called the UberEATS Visa card because its biggest benefit is the unprecedented 4 percent cash back on dining out, including UberEATS.

With each point equal to one cent, that’s the best year-round food reward available from any card on the market, plus there’s no cap on points.

If you don’t take Uber very often or Uber is not available in your area, the points are versatile enough to be redeemed for cash back or gift cards.

If you do use Uber a lot, you can put points toward your ride and still use additional discounts on top of that.

The one drawback to this card is that the redemption minimums are pretty high unless you redeem points for Uber credits: Redemptions for Uber credits start at 500 points for $5, but all other redemptions start at 2,500 for cash back and gift cards. And you have a daily redemption cap of 50,000 points.

Here’s what else the Uber card offers:

  • 4 points per dollar spent on restaurants, takeout, bars and UberEATS.
  • 3 points per dollar spent on airfare, hotels and vacation home rentals.
  • 2 points per dollar spent on online purchases including Uber, online shopping, video and music.
  • 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • $50 credit on online subscriptions each year you spend $5,000, including Netflix, Pandora, Hulu, Spotify and Amazon Prime.
  • $100 credit if you spend $500 in the first three months.
  • No annual fee.

Alternative: Capital One Savor Cash Rewards

For a card that’s more focused on food in all aspects, the Capital One Savor Rewards card offers cash back on dining out and on eating at home through grocery purchases.

  • 3 percent cash back at restaurants.
  • 2 percent cash back on groceries.
  • 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.
  • $150 sign-up bonus when you spend $500 in the first three months.
  • No annual fee.
Tip

Pro tip: If you find yourself eating out often, it only makes sense to have a card that offers 3 percent cash back. It’s a no-brainer, says Adam Bryan, founder of the food product review blog Urban Tastebud.

Second alternative: AARP credit card by Chase

If you’re looking to feed the hungry while also collecting cash back on food for yourself, AARP and Chase have a credit card that does just that and you don’t have to be an AARP member to apply.

For every dollar spent at restaurants on the AARP credit card, 10 cents will be donated to The Drive to End Hunger – up to $1 million every year.

  • 3 percent cash back at restaurants and gas stations.
  • 1 percent cash back everywhere else.
  • You don’t have to be an AARP member to apply.
  • $200 bonus cash back when you spend $500 in the first three months.
  • No annual fee.
Tip

Pro tip: Don’t let the AARP name fool you, says Bryant. The card is open to anyone over the age of 18 who qualifies. Earning 3 percent cash back helps put this card at the top in terms of earnings potential.

Best restaurant card for credit builders: Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students

If you’re just starting to build a credit history, you won’t qualify for most reward and premium cards, but the Citi Thank You Preferred card for College Students gives students a large number of rewards in a great number of categories that fit a student’s lifestyle.

If you eat and party – and what college student doesn’t? – the points are yours and they can be redeemed for travel and gift cards for the most value.

However, be careful. The APR and penalty rates can be steep, so don’t carry a balance and always pay on time. Only get this card if you’re going to be judicious with your finances.

This is what Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students offers:

  • 2 points per dollar spent on dining out and entertainment.
  • 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else.
  • Earn 2,500 bonus points when you spend $500 in the first three months.
  • 0 percent intro APR for seven months.
  • No annual fee.
Tip

Pro tip: I love the fact that you get 0 percent intro APR for the first seven months [on the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students], which is more than enough time for the semester, says Urban Tastebud’s Bryan.

See related: 4 ways to stack your rewards at restaurants, Easy ways cards can save you money when dining out



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Updated: 05-23-2018