Ok, first I want to make clear that I don’t ALWAYS get 12% back when dining out, but I do always get at least 6% and often 12%. The Sapphire reserve card gets me 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for every dollar spent on dining, and those Chase UR points are worth on average $.02 each (although I have received as high as $.046 per point when redeeming through Chase partners like Hyatt and the airline partners). That’s a high fee card though, and it does come with a $450 annual fee which I break down for you here. If that’s too steep there is always the Chase Sapphire Preferred card which only has a $95 annual fee and will earn you 2 Chase UR points per dollar on dining, still a very good 4% reward value. Heave ho Mateys! We must strike every easy target!

The next step is to decide which airline is your preferred rewards target. This will depend on where you regularly fly out of and who offers the most flights for your region of the country. This is also the airline whose co-branded credit card you will want to target first so you can get a great boost to your rewards account with a sign up bonus, get the basic starter status level, and usually also a free checked bag on domestic flights. For us in the Southeast, Delta is our largest carrier and biggest airline at our closest airport, so when signing up at https://www.rewardsnetwork.com/earn/  for the dining program we chose https://skymilesdining.com/   If you prefer American airlines you can earn the same dining rewards at the same restaurants from https://www.aadvantagedining.com/  or if United airlines is your preferred choice there is https://dining.mileageplus.com/. Please note, you can only sign up for one of the programs as they all use the same restaurants. You will register your credit card and frequent flyer number with the program, and whenever your card is used at one of their member restaurants you will automatically get airline miles deposited into your frequent flyer airline miles reward account. Initially you will get 3 miles per dollar spent at a participating restaurant, but once you’ve redeemed at a certain number within a year you will reach ‘VIP’ status and get 5 miles per dollar spent.

Dining on Lionfish in Aruba
Dining on Lionfish in Aruba

I value our Delta Skymiles reward miles at $.012 each based on the normal redemption value we get when booking our free flights. So those 5 miles per dollar equal another $.06 or 6% back, and when combined with the 6% back that I get with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card that’s a total of 12% back in rewards value on every meal, including the tip. 10% back if you are using the lower fee Chase Sapphire Preferred card. This does not include every restaurant, just the ones that are members of their program and it will vary by location. Where we live we have a lot of participating restaurants to choose from including our favorite local Thai/sushi place. When travelling somewhere new I always check for nearby participating restaurants first when looking for a place to eat. Being a successful Point Pirate is about maximizing every opportunity! As the old saying goes, “No prey, no pay!”

Another way to earn bonus dining rewards is with the Yelp cash back program. There was a brief period where we were able to ‘triple dip’ and get yelp and skymiles dining rewards on top of the Chase points, but now if a restaurant is a member of Yelp and Dining rewards you only get one of the bonuses. The Yelp program works the same way, you register your credit card with them and whenever that card is used at a participating restaurant you will get a credit for 5-10% back on your credit card statement. Easy! I’ve even been surprised to see the bonus reward cash back at times when I did not even know I was dining at one of the rewards restaurants!