6 Ways to Save Big on Dining: Find Faves, Get Points + Cashback With Every Visit

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Eating out is probably my biggest weakness. I give myself a couple of things to spend relentlessly on. And beyond that, I save like a madman.

My 2 things are: eating out and travel. I do well stocking up at Costco and cooking at home most nights. But my god if a good happy hour deal doesn’t get me.

I pay pennies on the dollar when I travel. Dining is easy, too. By enrolling my cards once and having a few go-to places, I get discounts close to 20% off in the form of points, miles, and cashback – and the savings add up!

save on dining

I love happy hours at this cantina. Plus, I get points, miles, and cashback every time I visit

It’s not hard. Here’s how to do it.

Dining programs + cashback app + points card = big dining discounts

There are 3 main pieces of this delicious puzzle.

1. Mileage dining rewards

If you haven’t already enrolled in a dining rewards program to earn miles when you eat at participating restaurants, what are you waiting for? They’re completely free to join.

Get 1,000 Alaska miles when you join their dining program and eat out this month

You can choose to earn miles with the most popular airlines. And they usually have one-time bonuses when you sign up:

All you have to do is enter your cards and frequent flyer number. And when you eat at a restaurant in the network, you’ll get bonus miles sent to your loyalty account.

I eat at all of these places

There are lots of popular restaurants on the list for my area. Places I already go to anyway.

Plus, I love earning bonus miles for eating at a place I didn’t even know was on the list. That happens a lot when I travel.

You earn 3 miles per $1 when you join. And when you dine more than 10 times in a year, you’re a “VIP” and earn 5 miles per $1. There is no minimum you have to spend. So if you go to a bar and order 3 drinks and close out each time, that counts as 3 visits.

And when you have a $100 dinner, you’ll earn 500 miles. I value my miles at 2 cents each, so 500 miles is worth $10 to me – or a 10% discount toward future travel.

Regardless of how you value your miles, these programs are free to join. And you only have to plug in your cards one time.

2. Dosh

Even cooler, you can double dip with cashback! Many of the same restaurants also earn rewards when you plug the same cards into the Dosh app.

Many of the same places are on the Dosh app and earn cashback

So if a restaurant is part of dining rewards AND on the Dosh app, you can earn 5 miles per $1, and also get cashback – usually 5%, but sometimes more or less.

Again, you just have to add your cards one time. You can withdraw the cash to your bank or PayPal account once you reach the $25 mark. So it’s literally free cash in your wallet. Plus, you get $5 when you sign-up with my link and add your first card. 👈

So you can get 5 miles per $1 (10% discount) and stack with 5% cashback. That’s a 15% rebate for eating at a participating restaurant! I love that dining rewards stack with the Dosh app. *rubs hands and cackles*

3. Points cards for dining

This goes without saying but: you always earn points by paying with a card with restaurants as a bonus category. I use my Chase Sapphire Reserve to get 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points on dining. That includes bars, fast food, coffee shops, and most places that sell pretty much anything food-related.

At 2 cents each, that’s a 6% return toward travel. And a further 6% toward the total savings when you can stack with mileage rewards and Dosh. It comes to:

  • 5 miles per $1 from dining rewards (10%)
  • 5% cashback from Dosh
  • 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for using the Chase Sapphire Reserve (6%)

That puts the discount north of 20% for those restaurants! Of course, your return will depend on which card you use and how highly you value your points. But these are nice discounts – and worth seeing what’s on the list near you.

Increase your savings

Why stop there? Here are a few more tips, in varying degrees of “worth it-ness.”

1. Restaurant.com and shopping portals

You can get some good deals on Restaurant.com – especially useful for saving when you travel. Or splurging on a night out.

Zaguan is part of all the rebates programs – see if a place around you lets you dip like this!

Be aware the certificates come with restrictions (must buy an entree, minimum check amounts, not for use certain days of the week). But if you want a big dinner on a Tuesday night, for example, and a place near you looks good, go for it!

In the case of Zaguan (a restaurant in Dallas), well, they participate in mileage dining, are on Dosh, and sell certificates on Restaurant.com. So you can save huge at places that meet that criteria because you get 5 miles per $1 (as a VIP), 5% back, plus $25 worth of food for $10 (in this case). That’s awesome. Latin food anyone? 🍗

Whaaaat

If that wasn’t enough, you can get 20 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on the Restaurant.com certificate just by clicking through the shopping portal (at the time of writing). For the $10 certificate, you’d earn 200 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which is a super strong deal.

My personal experience with Restaurant.com has been hit or miss. I recommend reading reviews on Yelp or Google and making your own opinion. Some of the places are fantastic. Others are dive-y. Some places don’t mind the certificates. Others act like it’s a big deal. Either way, trying new places is always a good thing. ✌

2. In-house specials and rewards programs

Many restaurants have their own deals and promotions, like:

  • Happy hours
  • Free apps when you buy an entree
  • Something free after X visits
  • Their own points/loyalty programs

Lots of restaurants have their own promotions, too

If you can combine free miles, cashback, and credit card points with a happy hour deal for cheap drinks – that’s even better! And can represent nice savings.

3. OpenTable points

Worth a short mention. OpenTable used to be great for racking up points. They’ve changed the program and it’s not worth really keeping up with any more.

That said, if you can get free points, why not?

OpenTable points might save you a bit, but I wouldn’t focus on it

I wouldn’t go crazy with this one. I have the app on my phone and use it sometimes.

It really does all add up

I’ve been able to earn enough points for a reward even with occasional use. So it’s worth a look, especially if you’re reserving tables anyway.

My best stack

Once, a restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn was part of:

  • Mileage rewards
  • Restaurant.com
  • OpenTable with 1,000 point tables
  • And had an in-house deal going on

I combined them all. And earned credit card points for paying with my card and buying the Restaurant.com certificate through a shopping portal.

I think I came out paying $35 for an $80 meal with all the deals and discounts factored in.

Just a millennial trying to get a deal on avocado toast, man

These places are few and far. But when it works, it’s awesome. I always love a good stack.

Bottom line

Even if all you do is use a points-earning card when you dine, you’re giving yourself a built-in discount every time. Earning miles and cashback is gravy.

I recommend signing up for a free dining program to earn miles. And get the Dosh app for free cashback. Link your cards one time to start earning. Take a look at restaurants around you see if any are worth a visit. The savings add up fast!

Even better if you can add other deals as you go. With all these methods combined, I never pay full price for dining out – and always get some sort of rebate.

I’ve personally had a great experience and earned a ton of miles and hundreds in cashback over the years. And it’s always fun when you get surprise miles and cash when you didn’t know a restaurant was on the list.

Have you had experiences saving at restaurants? Are there any discounts I missed? 

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post. The opinions of the commenters are not necessarily the opinions of this site.

Comments

  1. Ugh Dosh works at Four Seasons??? The logo is on their website. I just spent a fortune twice for a birthday and mother’s day at their brunch in Beverly Hills. If it were 5% I would have gotten almost $100. Signing up now!

  2. Can you add more than one cc to the Dining program for some reason I thought it was only one.
    Groupon is usually good.

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