9 Simple Tips To Maximize Dining Rewards When Eating Out

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If you’re reading this blog, you already know to use a credit card to earn bonus points while dining out. But did you know that there are so many other ways that you can earn additional rewards from the money you’re spending at fast food joints and restaurants? Here are 9 simple tips to maximize dining rewards when eating out.

How To Maximize Dining Rewards When Eating Out

What are some of your favorite ways to maximize rewards when dining out? I don’t go out of my way all of the time, but when I’m in a new city, I’ll start my search for interesting restaurants from those participating in programs where I can save a bunch of money or where I can earn the most cash back or airline miles.

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1. Use The Right Credit Card

Every good travel rewards strategy starts with using the right card. More and more banks realize that dining out is a big part of every family’s budget, so they’re incentivizing you to use their card when you’re spending those dollars on meals.

So many credit cards offer 2x or 3x on dining. If you’re not using one of these cards, check out our credit card marketplace to research the best credit card offers available.

Maximize Dining Rewards credit-card-1730085_1920
What’s in your wallet?

2. Register For Dining Rewards

In my 11 immediate steps when you get a new credit card, one of them is to register your new credit card (and all of the old ones too) for dining rewards from your favorite airline. Most of the major airlines participate, so choose the airline that works best for you, then start racking up the free airline miles… no matter which registered credit (or debit) card you’re using.

Maximize Dining Rewards Dining Rewards Network airlines
Some of the participating airlines in the Dining Rewards Network.

3. Register For Automatic Cash Back

I absolutely love this one because it’s like having a coupon at restaurants that don’t always offer a coupon. I’ve been using Dosh to receive 7-10% cash back whenever I eat at a participating restaurant.

Maximize Dining Rewards Dosh cash back on dining at Fat Cats
Dosh cash back on dining at Fat Cats in Avila Beach (near Santa Barbara, CA).

There are so many places on the list and they range from fast food joints (like Wendy’s) to Mom & Pop diners to fancy sit-down restaurants (like Black Angus). I like how there is a variety of options among local flavors and regional/national chains.

When you use my referral link to Dosh, you’ll receive $5 after you register a credit card and earn your first rebate on dining, shopping, or travel booking. Don’t forget about the Dosh Cash Back Multiplier… you can earn up to 10x the cash back when you spin the wheel!

Maximize Dining Rewards Dosh Cash Back Multiplier 2x savings
This time I doubled my savings with the Dosh Cash Back Multiplier.

4. Buy Gift Cards From Grocery Stores, Gas Stations, or Office Supply Stores

If you have a credit card that offers bonuses for shopping at grocery stores, gas stations, or office supply stores, consider buying gift cards there to use for your meals.

Maximize Dining Rewards pumping-gas-1631634_1920
Gas stations aren’t just for pumping gas.

For example, you can generally earn 5x the rewards at office supply stores with the right card. Still not sure which card is right for you? Schedule a free 30-minute telephone consultation with us, and we’ll help you pick a card that will help you reach your goals.

5. Buy Discounted Gift Cards

You don’t have to buy a 5-year supply of toilet paper to make a Costco membership worthwhile. Did you know that they also sell discounted gift card for local restaurants and attractions?

Whether you are in your hometown or out traveling the world, if there’s a Costco nearby walk in and check out the gift card aisle. You can generally buy $100 worth of gift cards for around $80 for a nice 20% savings. Not too bad, right?

You can also buy discounted gift cards online at sites like Raise and GiftcardGranny. Make sure you sign up for their email lists because they’ll often share promo codes for even greater savings. For example, Raise offered me $5 off my first $50+ order if I signed up for their newsletter.

6. Get A Little Groupon In Your Life

I’ve been spoiled with all of the discounts from sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, Restaurant.com, and (a local SoCal site) LocalFlavor. They offer dining and activity deals for around 50% off. Not too bad, right?

It gets even better if you have patience.

Whenever I receive emails with their promo codes, that’s when I buy deals for the next few months to lock in even greater savings. And when I know that I’ll be visiting a city that has Groupon-type deals, I search these sites for restaurants and activities to try while we’re in town. It’s a great way to explore the city and get a taste of local cuisine while saving some serious dough!

7. Handle The Bill, Collect The Cash

When dining out with friends, this is a great opportunity to earn massive amounts of miles and points. As long you don’t have the type of friends that shortchange the collection plate, offer to put the tab on your card, then collect the cash from all of your friends.

Maximize Dining Rewards sushi asian-2970211_1920

Meals with friends can easily run into the $100s of dollars, so by using the right credit card you’ll get 2 or 3 times the rewards for this big bill. Even better if it is a restaurant that participates in dining rewards and/or cash back!

8. Answer The Follow-Up Surveys

If you participate in the Dining Rewards program of your favorite airline, don’t delete the follow-up survey emails. For a quick second of your time, you can earn a few extra miles and points that will really add up as you’re saving towards your next flight redemption.


9. Put Corporate Expenses On Your Personal Card

Similar to #7 above, when you’re traveling or entertaining for work, consider paying for the bill with your personal credit card instead of the corporate credit card. Usually, these bills will be larger than personal meals, especially if you’re entertaining a large group of clients or co-workers or if you’re on assignment and have a daily stipend for meals.

Be aware that not every company will allow this, so speak to your manager ahead of time to ensure that this strategy is ok with them. And take note that sometimes you’ll have to float the money a bit while you’re submitting for reimbursement and waiting for the accounting department to cut you a check. Plus, there is the possibility of losing the receipt, which may make it hard for you to collect at all.

So, this tip may not be right for everyone, but it is a good way to earn bunches of rewards and cash back for bigger-ticket restaurant bills.

The Bald Thoughts

With minimal effort, you can be earning some serious extra rewards and cash back whenever you go out to eat at fast food restaurants, local Mom & Pops, or sit-down restaurants. I favor the options where I can set it up once and then collect the rewards without any additional effort. I hope you enjoyed these 9 simple tips to maximize dining rewards when eating out.

What are your favorite ways to maximize rewards when you go out to eat? Please share in the comments below.

Maximize Dining Rewards


  1. Great tips, thanx. Though I think it’s a bit sleazy to put a bill on your credit card then collect cash from friends. You’ll get a reputation that way. Even though nobody’s getting cheated, they’ll know there’s an angle you’re playing. I’ve had friends offer to collect cash from us and nowadays we all balk about it. One time a friend actually bragged that he was going to be reimbursed as a biz expense after submitting the bill to his company after we gave him cash. Essentially he was stealing from his “friends.”

    • Thanks for the feedback, Steve. If friends aren’t going to put it on their credit card (most of my friends are now focused earning on miles & points too, so they put their cards in for their portion of the bill) and pay cash, I don’t see any problem with collecting the cash and putting that portion on your card. And if people question why you’re doing it, that’s a perfect opportunity to enlighten them to the benefits of travel rewards and strategic spending to afford awesome vacations.

      As for the work angle, I’m not advocating that you collect cash from friends and then get reimbursed from work. That is immoral and potentially illegal. I’m saying that, when you’re entertaining clients or paying for work expenses while on assignment, consider using your personal card instead of a corporate card if your work allows it. The situation you described is definitely wrong and could get your friend fired… not to mention losing some friends.

      • With Venmo being popular, most people won’t even put cash but will Venmo you what they owe. My family and friends know i collect points so they never had issues with me putting the bill on my card and just collecting cash. However, that happens less these days because they also have started collecting points so we’ll end up splitting the bill so we pay our portion.

  2. Funny you mention getting fired–the guy ended up losing his job a yr or 2 later. He told his boss he was seeing clients while he was actually just playing golf. His boss suspected and met him on the 18th green. Fired on the spot.
    We’ve never gone to dinner w him after being robbed by him. 😀

    • You hate to wish negative things upon anyone, but it seems like he got what he deserved – fired from his (most likely) lucrative job AND now his friends won’t share a meal with him. It’s stupid and short-sighted when people take advantage of others like that. Have a Happy Easter!

  3. Hi Lee – so here’s my question on this … I have Yelp cashback (7%) enabled as well as Delta and Southwest rewards. I recently dined at a place near me that is giving 7% cashback on Yelp and Delta (and on Dosh, I see). I got a notification immediately from Yelp saying I will be receiving cashback (they just add it to your credit card). I haven’t received anything yet from Delta. Do all of these apps not play well with each other?


      • Hi Liz, thanks for asking. Dosh can stack with Dining Rewards (i.e. Southwest & Delta) but it uses the same platform as Yelp and MOGL so you have to choose one from those 3.

        I prefer Dosh because they also offer cash back at some retail stores and they also have the Dosh Cash Back Multiplier, which can multiply your cash back up to 10x.

  4. Hi Lee,
    I shop at Grocery Outlet and always use my connected card. I have yet to receive cash back. Do I need to check if the location participates, if so how do I do that?

    • Hi Mari, yes, only certain restaurants participate in these dining rewards programs. When you log in to Dosh, Dining Rewards, etc., they will offer the ability to search for participating restaurants near you. You can even search by type of restaurant if you’re in the mood for a specific type of meal.

      I’m in the process of writing an article that will help you save money on your grocery bill. Please sign up for our email list to be notified when it is released.


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