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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 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card