Eating my way to amazing 2021 travel

Since we're staying home (and getting bored with cooking), you can earn rewards for travel by ordering takeout


The “COVID-15” is more than just a meme, as many of us are over our sourdough phase and prefer takeout over cooking. Here are ways to continue earning rewards for travel while enjoying the guilty pleasure of ordering takeout.

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The “quarantine 15” isn’t a myth. This week, I tried on my bikini in preparation for my upcoming trip to Mexico and I confirmed its reality.

COVID-19 memes have been warning us about weight gain since the Instagram sourdough trend hit ovens in May. As we peer into our refrigerators wondering if 2020 will ever end, even reputable institutions like the Mayo Clinic have been advising us to try and keep healthy habits.

Apparently, in 2020, we’ve spent a lot of time eating and the amount Americans have spent on groceries has skyrocketed, while dining-out dollars have been on the decline. While this might be bad news for our waistlines, it can be good news for future travel planning.

Credit card companies know that most of us still aren’t traveling and continue to add benefits to incentivize points-earning on things we’re actually spending our money on – and that happens to be food.

Do I like that I’ve put on a few pounds? Certainly not. But instead of worrying about what the scales say, I’ve decided it is much more productive to own the fact that I’m eating more at home and figure out if I can turn this new spending habit into a future travel advantage.

Here’s how I’m maximizing my earnings on food and eating my way towards my dreams of amazing travel in 2021.

See related: Coronavirus: I’m not traveling right now, but I’m still maximizing travel rewards

Earn big with supermarket bonuses

I’ve said it a few times already this year, but make sure you’re using your highest points-earning credit card when you hit the grocery store. Many cards have had short-term supermarket bonus increases during the past months, but these bonuses come and go. I suggest double-checking at the beginning of each new month to remind yourself what current offers are on your card and that you are registered for any offers that require a signup.

At the beginning of the summer, I had switched to using my Chase Sapphire Reserve card for supermarket shops since it had a short-term 5x supermarket offer. Now that it’s ended (and Chase has shifted the bonus to Instacart deliveries), I’ve swapped back to using my American Express® Gold Card that always earns 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in purchases per year, then 1 point per dollar thereafter).

As another limited-time option for travel-specific earning, the IHG credit cards from Chase are earning 5x per $1 spent at grocery stores up to $1,500 through Sept. 30 (registration is required). That’s an easy way to earn a couple thousand extra points toward an Intercontinental or Kimpton stay next year.

Know what your card offers are and apply them wisely!

Get it delivered and earn more with Instacart

I like earning points in the supermarket, but one thing I’ve learned about myself during COVID-19 is that the one thing I like better than grocery shopping is someone doing my grocery shopping for me.

If you, too, love delivery service and Ultimate Rewards points, you may have already figured out that the Chase Sapphire Reserve has been paying out 5x points on Instacart deliveries and pick-ups since July.

If you happened to miss the memo on this, don’t worry, you still have the rest of September to earn your 5x on up to $3,000 of purchases (no registration required). You can also get a refund of $50 in the form of a statement credit if you purchase a yearly or monthly Instacart Express membership before Sept. 30.

Double-dipping on supermarket shopping

Another way to double up on points-earning from your grocery bill is to pair your online shopping with a shopping portal if you can. Doing my shopping online at Safeway via the American Airlines e-shopping portal currently earns me an additional two AAdvantage points for every dollar I spend. That’s on top of whatever points I’m already earning for supermarkets based on the benefits of the card I’m using to pay with.

For Safeway shoppers who are fans of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, shop via the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal for 2x per dollar spent and get an additional 1.5x back by paying with your Chase Freedom Unlimited card.

If Sam’s Club is more your shopping style, both the AA and Ultimate Rewards portals are currently offering a 1x bonus.

DoorDash and points for delivery

For those of you who are completely tired of shopping and cooking, don’t miss out on the limited-time offers that many cards have out there for food delivery services.

If you’re stocking up on Marriott Bonvoy points for your next year’s travel fantasies, you should know that most of the Marriott Bonvoy Chase cards are currently offering 10x earnings on takeout from restaurants and eligible delivery services, such as GrubHub and DoorDash, until Sept. 30 (registration is required).

The delivery deal that I’ve personally been using most is the Sapphire Reserve DoorDash offer. Cardholders get a free DoorDash Pass Membership for a year that allows for zero fees for most deliveries, as well as $60 in statement credits annually on DoorDash purchases charged to my card. I’ve maxed out the benefit for 2020 already, but it renews again in January for an additional $60 credit that I’ll definitely be taking advantage of in 2021.

See related: Coronavirus: Ultimate guide to limited-time credit card offers and promotions

Dine for rewards and double dip where you can

The opportunity that you have to dine out these days likely has a lot to do with what reopening phase a restaurant has reached in the city or town where you reside. While you may not be indoor dining yet, you should definitely still be earning miles any time you visit one of your favorite restaurants for takeout or delivery.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is still my go-to card for all restaurant spending since it pays out 3x Ultimate Points per dollar anytime I eat a meal I haven’t made myself. This is also the card that I have registered with the American Airlines reward network, so any time I eat at a restaurant in the program, I automatically get 3x bonus points in my American Airlines account.

You can also register a Marriott card from Chase with that 10x points at restaurants offer – just be sure the card you use at the restaurants is the same card that you have registered on the dining portal. You can always swap back to your primary card when you get to the end of the limited-time bonus.

We all have to eat. And even if we aren’t as excited about sourdough as we were in April, there are always ways to turn calories into free flights into the Caribbean. Bon appetit, friends!

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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