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.
You may be collecting numerous travel and shopping rewards through various hotel and airline loyalty programs. Have you considered that you may be missing out on rewards available through restaurant chains? From fast food to gourmet cuisine, these programs enable members to redeem points for freebies.
You can also double up on points by using credit cards that offer bonus points on dining. Here, we highlight 12 restaurants where you can score big rewards:
1. Starbucks Rewards
Earn stars on every Starbucks purchase with Starbucks Rewards. You’ll receive 2 Stars per $1 spent at Starbucks, be it a standalone location, airport, Target or even some grocery stores. Double Star Day and Bonus Stars make earning rewards even easier.
What will you get for your Stars?
25 stars can be redeemed for a customized drink.
50 stars can be redeemed for a brewed hot coffee, hot tea or bakery item.
150 stars can be redeemed for a handcrafted drink, hot breakfast or parfait.
200 stars can be redeemed for a sandwich, protein box or a salad.
400 stars can be redeemed for at-home coffee products (i.e. ground coffee or K-Cups) or Starbucks merchandise.
Get approved for the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card and you can receive the following sign-up bonus: Earn 6,500 Bonus Stars after you spend $500 anywhere in the first 3 months from account opening. The card has a $49 annual fee.
The card offers 1 Star for every $2 you spend on groceries, local transit, internet, cable and phone services. Use the card at Starbucks and earn up to 3 Stars per $1. All other purchases get you 1 Star per $4 spent outside of Starbucks. You also receive 300 Bonus Stars the first time you use your card to add money to your Starbucks account.
2. P.F. Chang’s Rewards
Sign up for P.F. Chang’s loyalty program and instantly receive 1,000 points. From there, you’ll earn 10 points for every $1 spent at participating P.F. Chang’s locations. Once you reach 2,000 points you’ll earn a free entree, so combining the initial reward with $100 in spending equates to a free entree.
The downside to P.F. Chang’s program is that unused rewards expire in just 60 days. Accounts with no activity within 365 days will forfeit all points.
If you use the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card, you can earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment.
3. Dine rewards
Under the Dine Rewards program, you’ll earn rewards from four different restaurants: Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. Nothing tricky about the awards here:
Spend at least $20 on food or non-alcoholic drinks on three visits in six months.
Receive 50% off your fourth meal: Up to $40 off at Fleming’s and $20 off at the other three restaurants.
There are no limits to how many rewards you can earn.
If you have an Uber Credit Card, you can earn 4% cash back on dining at these restaurants and others.
4. TGI Fridays Rewards
As soon as you enroll in Friday Rewards, you earn a free appetizer or dessert award. Head to your local TGI Fridays and eat up: You’ll earn one point for every $1 spent. Points can be applied towards free food, redeemable within 60 days.
It’s super simple:
50 points = a free dessert.
80 points = a free sandwich or burger.
90 points = a free select burger.
100 points = free chicken, salad or select entree or $8 off a food purchase.
150 points = free ribs or steak entree.
While you're earning free food through Fridays Rewards, pay with the American Express® Gold Card and earn 4 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent. Terms apply.
5. FOS Diners Rewards
For steak and seafood lovers, join the FOS Diners program to earn rewards at Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Havana Club. In exchange for a $25 annual fee, members earn 1 point for every $1 spent on food, drinks and gift cards. Is it worth it? Consider the redemption rates:
500 points = $25 restaurant credit.
850 points = $50 restaurant credit.
1,500 points = $100 restaurant credit.
8,000 points = $150 credit at Ruth Chris, two tickets for an event near you and four hours of limousine service.
15,000 points = $1,000 restaurant credit.
25,000 points = A 2-night trip for two to Atlantic City, including hotel accommodations, $150 restaurant credit at Ruth’s Chris and $200 hotel credit for on-site shopping and entertainment.
50,000 points = A 3-night trip for two to Cancun. Includes round-trip coach airfare, hotel, $200 Ruth Chris gift card and a $200 Visa gift card.
6. Chick-fil-A One
Chick-fil-A One lets you earn points when ordering through the Chick-fil-A app, scanning a QR code in-person or placing catering orders online. In addition to redeeming points for free food, members can earn elite status, which comes with higher earning privileges:
Members earn 10 points for every dollar.
Silver members (1,000 to 4,999 points) earn 11 points for every dollar.
Red members (5,000 points and higher) earn 12 points for every dollar.
Every member qualifies for a birthday reward. Silver and Red members have the option to gift rewards to friends.
This tiered reward program can be extra valuable if you use the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which earns 3 points per $1 earned on dining.
7. Applebee’s Most Valuable Neighbor
Applebee’s Most Valuable Neighbor program offers rewards through three membership tiers: Green Apple, Red Apple and Gold Apple.
The redemption system is basic: 75 points will get you a free appetizer, and 150 points will get you an entree.
8. CPK Rewards
Indulge in California Pizza Kitchen’s SoCal cuisine and you’ll earn 1 point for every $1 spent on food and non-alcoholic beverages. You’ll automatically receive a $5 reward for every 75 points earned. If you have received an activation code after a restaurant visit, use the code when you enroll and receive 20 bonus points and a free small plate. No code? No worries; you’ll still receive a free small plate for registering.
CPK Rewards has four membership tiers, providing additional awards for those who earn elite status:
Palm Members: Receive a free small plate for registering and a free birthday dessert.
VIP Members (requires 150+ points): Free birthday entree and additional bonus point events throughout the year.
Diamond Members (requires 350+points): Receive free “half birthday” entree, double points during your birthday month and rewards to share with friends.
Elite Members (requires 1,000 points): Receive a free meal for four upon reaching this status level. Elite members can jump to the front of the line if there is a wait for a table.
9. Dave & Busters Rewards
With the Dave & Buster’s Rewards program, you will earn 1 point for every dollar you spend. For every $100 in qualifying purchases, you will receive $10 in game play. Dave & Buster’s issues points on food, beverages, power cards and recharges, billiards and bowling. That offers plenty of opportunities to stock up on points while you eat and play.
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 Best credit cards for restaurants