At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.
Savvy cardholders know that earning credit card rewards for purchases like filling up at the gas station or booking an upcoming vacation package can add up to valuable savings. Credit card rewards programs, however, aren’t the only way to gain traction when it comes to maximizing travel rewards.
Dining rewards programs offered by airlines and hotels allow you to earn points while indulging your inner foodie. By linking your preferred credit or debit card to the dining rewards program of your choice, you can accumulate more points or miles by doing what you already do — dining out.
Here’s how you can grow your rewards through dining programs.
1. Sign up for the welcome bonus
Get a head start on earning dining rewards by taking advantage of welcome bonus offers when they’re available. These opportunities let you accelerate your rewards earnings, typically through minimal requirements.
For example, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining Program offers a 1,000-point bonus if you spend at least $25 using your linked card at a partnering restaurant. You’ll have to reach this minimum spend within the first 30 days of opening your dining program account and complete an online survey to receive the bonus.
2. Subscribe to the email newsletter
When you opt in to receive email newsletters from a dining rewards program, you’ll not only be privy to the latest program news, but you'll also get limited-time bonus opportunities. Email subscribers get the first peek into which restaurants can earn you more than the standard rewards rate.
Newsletters also share the program’s newest restaurant partners near you. This heads-up can keep you from missing lucrative rewards while planning a date night or group get-together. The advantages of being an email subscriber can be ongoing, as some dining rewards programs increase your earn rate if you choose to receive email notifications.
3. Offer to pick up a group tab
The saying “there’s power in numbers” is especially fitting when it comes to dining rewards programs. If you’re dining out with a large party, splitting the tab can get messy, and some restaurants even have restrictions on how many credit cards are allowed to split a bill.
Save your group the trouble and earn more rewards in the process by offering to put the entire check on your registered card. The same principle applies to office or team outings, if your employer allows reimbursements instead of using a company credit card.
You’ll maximize your earning potential and help the group close out the tab efficiently. Just remember to keep track of how much money each person owes you. Taking a photo of the bill, including tax and tip, can help you collect individual payments after your meal.
» Learn more: Best credit cards for restaurants
4. Double dip with a travel rewards card
If you have a high-value airline or hotel travel credit card, you’re not restricted to earning points through only one program. Instead, you can earn rewards from your credit card and your chosen dining rewards program. This helps you earn rewards toward your next flight or hotel stay faster.
Similarly, if you have a rewards card that has rotating bonus categories, stay on top of when reward accelerators kick in on dining purchases. That way, you benefit from your card’s spending bonus and dining rewards.
5. Link multiple cards to your dining account
Don’t make the mistake of paying for a meal at a dining program restaurant using an unregistered card. If you have a revolving arsenal of cards you’d like to use when dining out, link multiple cards to your dining rewards program to ensure you don’t miss out on earning rewards.
It’s also a good idea to keep your registered cards up to date, especially if your card number was completely replaced due to loss or theft. These small moves help the program accurately track the rewards you’ve earned at its partners.
Enrolling in a dining rewards program is a free and easy way to earn more rewards when you’re on the go. Try these hacks the next time you’re enjoying a meal at a restaurant to boost your rewards savings overall.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Find the best travel credit card for you Dining out? Don’t leave credit card rewards on the table Earn more points and miles with these 6 strategies