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- American Express
- There are several cards with bonus rewards for purchases at restaurants and grocery stores. These can be worth a lot more than the base 1% cash back or 1x reward point per dollar offered by many cards.
- American Express refreshed the American Express® Gold Card last year with new benefits including an unlimited 4x points per dollar at US restaurants and 4x points per dollar on US supermarkets up to $25,000 per year.
- Other top cards for dining include the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card for cash back and Chase Sapphire family of cards, which all offer bonus rewards on dining and other purchases.
I carry five cards in my wallet to maximize the rewards I earn everywhere I go, but there’s one card that tends to get used more than any other. That’s my American Express Gold Card. While it doesn’t give me the lounge access of my most premium card, it gives me a huge heap of points where I spend most.
A study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average household spends $7,023 per year on food. Of that, about 60% is for food at home and 40% goes to dining out. This is one of my biggest spending categories outside of housing and health insurance. That’s why I’m always focused on getting the best rewards for everything I eat.
Earn the maximum rewards for each purchase
Of the many cards I use, I typically earn anywhere from 1.5 points to 5 points per dollar for all purchases. These are split between the American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards programs.
Ever since its major update in 2018, American Express Gold Card offers arguably the best rewards for food and dining of any card out there. Its 4x points per dollar at US restaurants and 4x points per dollar at US supermarkets up to $25,000 per year are unbeatable for travel rewards.
The only place I ever earn more is my Chase Freedom card. But with rotating categories every three months and a $1,500 quarterly limit, you can’t beat it consistently. But unlike that Chase card, the American Express Gold Card has a substantial annual fee.
Weighing the cost of the annual fee
AmEx Gold comes with a $250 annual fee. This price tag isn’t as high as the ultra-premium The Platinum Card® from American Express or Chase Sapphire Reserve, but it is higher than most people encounter on a regular basis.
According to The Points Guy, American Express Membership Rewards points are worth two cents each. To make up $250 per year from those points alone, you have to earn 5,000 points per year. If you only use the card for supermarkets and restaurants in the US, that’s just $1,250 per year to come out ahead.
If you spend $7,000 per year like the average American household, you’ll bring in 28,000 points. That’s worth $560 at the two cents per point valuation. When transferred to a partner airline at a 1:1 ratio, that should be enough for a free rewards flight plus some more left over.
In addition to the US restaurant and US supermarket rewards, the card offers credits worth up to $220 per year on some airline and dining purchases, 3x points per dollar on airline purchases and flights booked at AmEx Travel, and other useful benefits.
Other top cards for dining
The Gold Card is great, but it isn’t perfect for everyone. If you want to carry just one premium rewards card, it should probably be the Chase Sapphire Reserve. If you prefer cash back over travel, Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card is a good option.
Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 3x points per dollar on dining and travel purchases and includes a valuable Priority Pass Select membership for access to premium airport lounges. Compared to the Gold card, it is a little short on dining purchases and misses the grocery benefit. But it has a larger $450 annual fee.
Savor is a cash back card with a $95 annual fee, waived the first year. It offers 4% back on dining and entertainment purchases, 2% at grocery stores, and 1% everywhere else.
Don’t settle for second rate rewards
Big annual fees can be intimidating, but as long as you pay off the cards in full each month and always pay on time, it’s easy to see how the rewards can be far more valuable than the cost. If you know what rewards you care about most and understand your spending habits, you can get the best return on every dollar you spend.