Earn Miles With Two Airlines With a Single Restaurant Purchase

June Casagrande
By June Casagrande 
Published
Edited by Mary M. Flory

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A diner goes out to eat and pays with a Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, which awards 2 American Airlines AAdavantage miles per $1 spent at restaurants. The check is $100 including tax and tip.

A few weeks later, 200 AAdvantage miles are credited to his AAdvantage account.

Soon after, 500 miles are credited to his United Airlines MileagePlus frequent flyer account for the same restaurant charge.

A fluke? A scam? Nope.

This is simply a way to earn points with two different — even competing — programs with the same restaurant purchase.

The trick could also be used to earn all those miles on a single airline, for example, earning 700 United MileagePlus miles. Or, for a Chase Sapphire® Cardholder, the one meal can simultaneously earn Chase Ultimate Rewards® points and airline miles.

How it works

The opportunity lies in the rules of airline and hotel dining programs, which work like this: Register one or more credit cards with a dining program like AAdvantage Dining, MileagePlus Dining, Delta’s SkyMiles Dining, Hilton Honors Dining or any number of other travel providers’ programs. Then, every time a qualified purchase at a participating restaurant is charged to the registered card, the transaction automatically earns miles or points.

Here’s where clever cardholders can double up: It doesn’t matter if the credit card is branded to another travel provider. An American-miles-earning card can be registered with United’s program, or a United-miles-earning card can be registered with American’s dining program. It’s all kosher.

Only one program per card

But the programs won’t allow a credit card to be registered with multiple dining programs. That is, a diner can’t earn miles on United, American, Delta, Alaska, Southwest and JetBlue on a single restaurant purchase by registering the same card with all those programs. One program per card only.

Most dining programs pay one mile per dollar spent on a meal, but it’s possible to earn more with VIP status. For example, 12 restaurant purchases in a year with MileagePlus Dining bestows VIP status, at which qualified purchases start paying five miles per restaurant purchase.

If there’s a downside, it’s that the number of restaurants that participate in these programs can be limited, and many are chains. A lot of people who skim the list of participating restaurants figure it’s not worth the time to join. But it’s faster and easier to just join a program and register a credit card than it is to scrutinize the restaurant list. After that, bonus miles earned could come as a happy surprise. And if miles get credited to not just one but two frequent flyer programs, the surprise is that much happier.


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 2024, including those best for:

Cards for American Airlines from our Partners
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
Citibank Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® Credit Card

on Citibank's application

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
4.6
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x

Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases.

Miles

Intro offer

70,000

Earn 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.

Miles
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Points
See more cards
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