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Best Credit Cards for Restaurants of September 2020

NerdWalletSeptember 17, 2020

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Turn restaurant meals, including takeout and delivery, into serious rewards by paying with a credit card that offers extra cash back or points on spending at restaurants. According to federal consumer expenditure data, the average U.S. household spent $3,459 on "food away from home" in 2018, the most recent year available. When paying for those meals with a card that earned 3% on restaurant spending, the rewards would top $100 — enough for a few more free meals.

NerdWallet's Best Credit Cards for Restaurants of September 2020

Best Credit Cards for Restaurants From Our Partners

Our pick for

High rewards + no annual fee

on US Bank's website

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0*

Rewards Rate

1x-4x

Points

Intro offer

25,000

Points

Recommended Credit Score

Few if any cards on the market offer what the U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card provides: namely, huge ongoing rewards on dining with a $0* annual fee. Other cards that match or exceed its rate at restaurants cost anywhere from about $100 to nearly $500 a year to carry.

Pros

Earn quadruple points per $1 spent on dining purchases, which includes takeout and delivery; 2X points at grocery stores (including grocery delivery), gas stations and streaming services; and 1X points on other eligible purchases. There's also a bonus, an intro APR period and an annual credit on eligible streaming services.

Cons

It doesn't earn rewards on "entertainment" spending, so it's not as comprehensive as other products for a night on the town.

  • Earn 25,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. That's a $250 value redeemable towards merchandise, gift cards, cash back, travel and more
  • Earn 4X points on takeout, food delivery and dining
  • Earn 2X points at grocery stores, grocery delivery, gas stations and on streaming services
  • $15 credit for annual streaming service purchases such as Netflix and Spotify
  • No annual fee*
  • 1X point per $1 on all other eligible purchases
  • Low Introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • Points never expire
  • View Rates and Fees

Our picks for

High cash back + no annual fee

on Chase's website

on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

1.5%-5%

Cashback

Intro offer

$200

Recommended Credit Score

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® isn't the only card that pays 3% back at restaurants. But it's the only one that pays 3% at restaurants AND pays 1.5% on spending outside its bonus categories, rather than the standard 1%.

Pros

This card earns 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase; 3% cash back at restaurants and drugstores; and 1.5% on other purchases. New cardholders also get 5% back on up to $12,000 in grocery store purchases in the first year (not including Target or Walmart) and can snag this sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

Cons

There just aren't a lot of drawbacks to this card. But if you prefer to cook at home as much as eat out, keep in mind that the amazing grocery store rewards wear off after the first year or the first $12,000, whichever comes first.

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
  • See if you qualify for a better offer with Chase:

on Chase's website

on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

1%-5%

Cashback

Intro offer

$200

Recommended Credit Score

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers a slew of bonus categories — some permanent, some that rotate — including 3% cash back at restaurants. If you don't mind putting in a little effort, it could be a rewards maximizer's dream.

Pros

In addition to 3% cash back at restaurants, this card earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter in categories that change every three months (online activation required); 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase; 3% at drugstores; and 1% on other purchases. New cardholders also get 5% back on up to $12,000 in grocery store purchases in the first year (not including Target or Walmart) and can earn this bonus: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

Cons

Activating the quarterly bonus categories can be a hassle. And while dining used to be a regular 5% category for Chase, it's been out of the quarterly lineup for a while (and might be out for good now that restaurants are a permanent 3% category). That might make a rotating category card a less appealing choice to some.

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
  • See if you qualify for a better offer with Chase:

Our picks for

Travel rewards

on American Express's website

Rates & Fees

on American Express's website

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$250

Rewards Rate

1x-4x

Points

Intro offer

35,000

Points

Recommended Credit Score

The American Express® Gold Card comes with big rewards, including 4 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide.

Pros

In addition to to dining rewards, you get 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 a year in spending; 3 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines and amextravel.com; and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Cardholders can also enroll to receive up to $10 in monthly statement credits when they use the card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations. And don't forget the welcome offer: Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply.

Cons

The annual fee is $250. Frequent travelers can make up for the fee with the card's travel perks. If you don't travel much, this card isn't for you.

  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • View Rates and Fees

on Chase's website

on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$550

Rewards Rate

1x-3x

Points

Intro offer

50,000

Points

Recommended Credit Score

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® made its name with a treasure trove of travel benefits, but restaurant connoisseurs will also appreciate its first-rate dining rewards. It offers an unlimited 3 points per dollar spent on dining and travel and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

Pros

Points can be redeemed for travel through Chase at a value of 1.5 cents each, giving the card an effective rewards rate of 4.5% on dining. The card also comes with a sizzling sign-up bonus: Earn 50K 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® .

Cons

The annual fee is a whopping $550. However, the $300 annual travel credit and other benefits of this card can make up for the fee — but only if you travel regularly.

  • Earn 50,000 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®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.

Our pick for

Small business

on American Express's website, or call (866) 512-6673

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$295

Rewards Rate

1x-4x

Points

Intro offer

35,000

Points

Recommended Credit Score

For entrepreneurs with clients to wine and dine, the $295-annual-fee American Express® Business Gold Card could be a perfect fit.

Pros

This card has no preset spending limit and gives you 4X Membership Rewards points on the 2 select categories where your business spent the most each month, including restaurants, and 1 point per $1 on everything else. Terms apply.

Cons

The annual fee of $295 is steep when compared with alternatives. And if your spending doesn't align with the six areas that are eligible for bonus rewards, you're better off with a different option.

  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Gold Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.*
  • MORE REWARDS: Get 4X Membership Rewards® points on the 2 select categories where your business spent the most each month. 1X is earned for other purchases. **
  • **4X points apply to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these 2 categories each calendar year.*
  • AIRLINE BONUS: Get 25% points back after you use points for all or part of an eligible flight booked with Amex Travel, up to 250,000 points back per calendar year.*
  • PAY OVER TIME OPTION: A flexible payment option with interest to help manage cash flow on purchases of $100 or more.*
  • *Terms Apply
  • View Rates and Fees

Want to compare more options? Here are our other top picks:

FULL LIST OF EDITORIAL PICKS: BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR RESTAURANTS

Click the card name to read our review. Before applying, confirm details on the issuer’s website.

Our pick for: Best rewards rate + sign-up bonus 

If a night out is more than a once-in-a-while proposition for you, consider the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card. You get a best-in-class cash-back rate on dining and entertainment, plus bonus rewards at grocery stores. The sign-up bonus is one of the best you can get on a cash-back card. Read our review.

Our pick for: High rewards + no annual fee

The U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card is perhaps the most cost-effective restaurant card on the market, earning a whopping 4 points per dollar on dining purchases including takeout and delivery. You can find higher rates on dining, but not on cards with no annual fee. Read our review. 

Our pick for: High cash back + no annual fee 

Love the night life but dead-set against paying an annual fee? Consider the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card. It pays a lower cash-back rate on dining and entertainment than the regular Savor card, but the rewards are nevertheless quite good. The sign-up bonus is smaller than on the annual-fee version, too, but it's still solid. Read our review.

Our pick for: High cash back + no annual fee 

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® was already a fine card when it offered 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Now it's even better, with bonus rewards on travel booked through Chase, as well as at restaurants and drugstores. On top of all that, new cardholders get a 0% introductory APR period, bonus rewards at grocery stores and the opportunity to earn a sweet cash bonus. Read our review.

Our pick for: High cash back + no annual fee 

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers bonus cash back in quarterly categories that you activate, as well as on travel booked through Chase, at restaurants and at drugstores. Category activation can be a hassle, but if your spending matches the categories — and for a lot of people, it will — you can rack up hundreds of dollars a year. There's a fantastic bonus offer for new cardholders and a 0% intro APR period, too. Read our review.

Our pick for: Customizable rewards 

If you don't mind putting some work into your rewards, check out the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card. It might be the most customizable cash back card available. You pick which categories earn the most cash back — you get two 5% categories and a 2% category — and you can change those options every quarter. There's a good bonus offer for new cardholders, too. Read our review.

Our pick for: Marvelous entertainment rewards

Earn extra cash back when your ideal date night is dinner and a movie, regardless of whether the film features an actual Marvel superhero. The Marvel Mastercard® earns bonus cash back on restaurants and entertainment categories like movie theaters, amusement parks, theater and concert tickets, game stores and more. Read our review.

Our pick for: Travel rewards 

The American Express® Gold Card can earn you a pile of points from everyday spending, with generous rewards at U.S. supermarkets, at restaurants worldwide and on certain flights booked through amextravel.com. Other benefits include hundreds of dollars a year in available dining and travel credits and a solid bonus offer for new cardholders. There's an annual fee, though, and a pretty substantial one, so it's not for smaller spenders. Read our review.

Our pick for: Travel rewards 

The high annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve® gives many potential applicants pause, but frequent travelers should be able to wring enough value out of this card to more than make up for the cost. A fat sign-up bonus, annual travel credits, airport lounge access, 3X points on travel and dining, and a 50% boost in point value when you redeem for travel booked through Chase all add to the appeal. Points can also be transferred to about a dozen airline and hotel partners. Read our review. 

Our pick for: Everyday use 

The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card offers so much value, it's hard to believe there's no annual fee. Start with a great bonus offer, then earn extra rewards in a host of common spending categories — restaurants, gas stations, transit, travel, streaming and more. Read our review.

OTHER OPTIONS

 Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

If you like your shopping carts like your dining rewards — extra large — the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi is your card. It offers bonus rewards in several categories, including:

  • 4% cash back on gas (up to $7,000 per year, then 1% after that).

  • 3% back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases.

  • 2% back at Costco stores and Costco.com.

  • 1% back on all other purchases.

It doesn’t have a sign-up bonus. Its annual fee is $0, but it requires a Costco membership, which starts at $60 per year.

Sam's Club® Mastercard®

After using this card to fill up on gas at the pump, you'll want to tap it to fill up on daily specials at your favorite restaurant. The Sam's Club® Mastercard® gets you:

  • 5% cash back on gas bought at Sam's Club, Walmart and other gas stations (on up to $6,000 per year)

  • 3% back on dining and travel.

  • 1% back on all other purchases.

The annual fee is $0. It requires a Sam's Club membership, which costs at least $45 a year.

PayPal Extras Mastercard®

The PayPal Extras Mastercard® is designed for people with average credit, but its dining rewards are better than average. You’ll get an unlimited 3 points per dollar spent at restaurants and gas stations, 2 points per dollar spent at eBay and PayPal, and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Points are worth 0.83 cents each when redeemed for cash back, and they expire after 24 months. The card doesn't have a sign-up bonus. The annual fee is $0.

AARP® Credit Card from Chase

You don't have to be a card-carrying member of AARP to qualify for this dining card. It gets you an unlimited 3% cash back at restaurants and gas stations and 1% back on all other purchases. Its annual fee is $0, and it comes with a generous sign-up bonus: $100 bonus cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Information related to the AARP® Credit Card from Chase has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

To view rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, please visit this page.

To view rates and fees of the American Express® Business Gold Card, please visit this page.

Last updated on September 17, 2020

Methodology

NerdWallet's credit cards team selects the best cards in each category based on overall consumer value. Factors in our evaluation include fees, promotional and ongoing APRs, and sign-up bonuses; for rewards cards, we consider earning and redemption rates, redemption options and redemption difficulty. A single card is eligible to be chosen in multiple categories.