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Since Americans are eating out more – on average 4.5 times per week, according to Zagat’s State of American Dining 2016 – saving every time you pay with your credit card is smart.
Here are some easy ways I’m getting a little back – and sometimes a lot – every time I pay with plastic at a restaurant.
American Express: I signed up for the Blue Cash Everyday card to get the 10 percent cash back offer on restaurants for six months (topping out at $200). AmEx rolled out the promotion at the end of February 2017 for new Blue Cash Everyday and Blue Cash Preferred cardholders.
“We know our card members love to eat out, whether it’s a quick visit to their local coffee shop or a night out at a favorite restaurant,” says Elizabeth Crosta, AmEx vice president of public affairs.
I’ll be paying for a lot of buffets in Las Vegas during a vacation in April, so getting some cash back makes sense. Ten percent might seem small, but when you consider the $85 per person price tag for the Sterling Brunch at Bally’s … We’ll be skipping this one, but you get the idea: It adds up.
Groupon: Groupon is testing card-linked offers from restaurants – with discounts ranging from 10 to 40 percent cash back – in select cities, including Chicago, Minneapolis and here in Austin, Texas. Visa is the card issuer partnering with Groupon for the test, but “We have other card issuers in the works,” says Nick Halliwell, a Groupon spokesman.
How it works: Groupon users claim the deal, visit the restaurant, use the Visa card connected to the Groupon account and earn cash back as a statement credit. Halliwell says the Groupon restaurant offers provide a frictionless experience for consumers and restaurant staff.
“Plus, it’s reusable, meaning you can use the same offers multiple times until it expires and continue to earn cash back,” he says.
For example, in Austin, my Groupon membership and Visa cards will get me 35 percent cash back on my first visit to Green Mesquite in Round Rock, Texas, and 20 percent on subsequent visits.
Based on the Groupon Restaurants test results, “we’re planning to expand the product to other markets in 2017,” Halliwell says.
Rotating 5 percent bonus cash back cards: U.S. Bank’s Cash+ Visa is a cash back card that lets you pick two categories for your 5 percent bonus. Selecting restaurants for every quarter would get you 5 percent back every time you eat out all year.
Other rotating 5 percent bonus category cards – Chase Freedom and Discover it cards – haven’t detailed categories for the second half of 2017. Citi Dividend’s rotating bonus categories don’t include restaurants this year.
Stack your savings: Join an airline frequent flier program’s dining program to rack up miles whenever you eat out at select restaurants. If you pay with cash back cards, you’ll get cash back and miles. If you’re a member of AAA or AARP, you can save at participating restaurants and save more when you use a card that gets you cash back with every dip or swipe. Coupon books/apps (Entertainment is just one) and Restaurant.com gift certificates are other ways to double-dip – or triple-dip – with rewards on restaurant spending.
I double-checked with Halliwell at Groupon to make sure this savings stacking would work.
“In most cases, when credit cards offer additional bonus points or cash for eating at restaurants, those benefits are funded by the issuing banks or their partners – airlines, airlines, hotels, etc.,” he says. “In our case, the discount is funded directly by the merchant, so stacking airline points or cash back on top of the merchant-funded Groupon discount is a great benefit for customers that does not cost the restaurant.”
Bottom line: Add up the savings. Using a card that already offers cash back with every use on top of any Groupon restaurant deal will total up to even more savings. If you have that card linked to an airline dining program, you’ll score miles that can be used for your next flight (or, in my case, to pay for my Wall Street Journal and many magazine subscriptions).