Best Cash Back Cards for Restaurant Spending!

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UPDATE:   The Chase Sapphire Preferred no longer earns 3X points on the 1st Friday of the month.

Update:   One or more card offers in this post are no longer available.  Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers. 

It feels great to leave your server a generous tip when you secretly know you’re getting cash back by using your credit card!

Best Cash Back Cards For Restaurant Spending

The Bigger the Tip the More Cash Back You’ll Earn With These Cards!

My Favorite Cash Back Cards for Dining

Keep in mind that many nightclubs and bars which serve food are also categorized as restaurants.  Regardless of which card you choose, remember to register with Reward Network so you can also earn miles and points with your next meal!

Best Cash Back Cards For Restaurant Spending

A Full Stomach Doesn’t Have to Leave You With an Empty Wallet!

Here are my favorite cards for getting cash back or statement credits when dining out.

1.   AMEX SimplyCash

Link:   Apply for AMEX SimplyCash

Link:   AMEX SimplyCash Review

With the American Express SimplyCash card you can choose to earn 3% cash back at US restaurants on up to $25,000 in spending per 12 billing cycles from when you 1st opened the card.

You also get 5% cash back at chain restaurants, like Red Robin, The Cheesecake Factory, and Applebee’s, when you buy those gift cards at US office supply stores.

Additional Card Perks:
  • $250 statement credit, if you apply by February 24, 2015September 21, 2015 January 25, 2016 April 27, 2016and spend $5,000 within 6 months.
  • NO annual fee
  • Terms & conditions apply

You’ll only earn 3% cash back on restaurants in the US and you will pay a 2.7% foreign transaction fee.  So this is NOT the best card to use overseas.

2.   Chase Ink Cash

Link:   Chase Ink Cash

Link:   Chase Ink Cash Review

The Chase Ink Cash card gives 2% cash back at restaurants on the first $25,000 spent each card anniversary year.  You can also buy gift cards at office supply stores and earn 5% cash back.

Additional Card Perks:

You will pay a 3% foreign transaction fee if you use this card outside of the US.

3.   Chase Sapphire Preferred

Link:   Chase Sapphire Preferred

Link:   Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Review

You will also earn 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points at restaurants with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.  You can use this for 2% back as a statement credit.  When you use your card on the First Friday of the month you’ll earn 3% cash back at restaurants (until the end of 2015).

Additional Card Perks:
  • 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the 1st 3 months
  • 5,000 points for adding an authorized user who makes 1 purchase within 3 months
  • NO limit on how much cash back you can earn
  • NO foreign transaction fees
  • Annual fee waived the 1st year, then $95

4.   Barclaycard Arrival Plus

Link:   Barclaycard Arrival Plus

Link:   Barclaycard Arrival Plus Review

You earn 2X miles on all purchases, including dining, with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card.  If you redeem for travel purchases of $100+ you will earn a total of 2.1% back.

Additional Card Perks:

Note:   The minimum redemption amount is $100.

5.   Citi DoubleCash

Link:   Citi DoubleCash

Link:   Citi DoubleCash Review

The Citi DoubleCash card will give you 1% cash back on all purchases and another 1% cash back on payments.

Additional Card Perks:
  • NO limit on how much cash back you can earn
  • NO Annual Fee

You will pay a 3% foreign transaction fee with this card.

6.   US Bank Cash+

Link:   US Bank Cash+

Get 5% cash back with the US Bank Cash+ card in 2 categories (includes fast food, but not other restaurants) you choose each quarter.  You will only earn 5% cash back on up to $2,000 in spending each quarter.

Additional Card Perks:
  • 2% cash back on 1 category of your choice each quarter
  • NO annual fee

You will pay a 3% foreign transaction fee with this card.

You have to apply for the US Bank Cash+ at a local branch.  You may be able to call and apply over the phone.

7.   Chase Freedom

Link:   Chase Freedom

Link:   Chase Freedom Review

With the Chase Freedom card, you’ll earn 5% cash back on rotating categories including restaurants each quarter.  You will only earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in spending each quarter.

If restaurants aren’t a category for the quarter, you may still be able to earn 5% cash back at chain restaurants by purchasing gift cards in categories like Lowe’s, Amazon, and gas stations.

Additional Card Perks:

If you use this card outside of the US, you will pay a 3% foreign transaction fee.

8.   Discover It

Link:   Discover It

The Discover It card also gives you 5% cash back on rotating categories including restaurants.  You can earn 5% cash back at chain restaurants when you buy gift cards in other categories such as online shopping, home improvement, and gas stations.

You will only earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in spending each quarter.

Additional Card Perks:
  • NO foreign transaction fees
  • NO annual fee

9.   Fidelity Visa

Link:   Fidelity Visa

You will earn 2% cash back deposited into your Fidelity account anywhere you use the Fidelity Visa card.  This includes restaurants.

Additional Card Perks:
  • NO limit on how much cash back you can earn
  • NO Annual Fee

When you make purchases outside of the US, you will be charged a 2.7% foreign transaction fee.

10.   Chase AARP

Link:   Chase AARP

Thanks to reader, LynnB, for pointing out that the Chase AARP card also deserves a place on this list!

With this card you’ll earn 3% cash back at restaurants.

Additional Card Perks:

  • 10,000 points ($100) when you spend $500 on purchases within the 1st 3 months of opening an account
  • 3% cash back at gas stations
  • NO Annual Fee

This isn’t the best card to use overseas, because you’ll pay a 3% foreign transaction fee.

An AARP account ($16 per year) is required to sign-up for the Chase AARP card.  Although some say you can get the card without entering an AARP number on the application.

While AARP is intended for folks 50 years and older, folks on Flyertalk and Fortune magazine, report that anyone can join an associate member.

Side-by-Side Comparison

Here is a table for easy comparison.

CardCash Back at RestaurantsCash Back Limit Annual FeeForeign Transaction FeeSign-up Bonus
AMEX SimplyCash Plus3% cash back at U.S. restaurants if you choose this as your bonus category• up to $50,000 in spending per 12 billing cyclesNo2.7%Earn up to $500 in statement credits. Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $5,000 or more on qualifying purchases on your Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership and earn an additional $250 statement credit after you spend an additional $10,000 or more on purchases within the 1st year of Card Membership.
Chase Ink Cash2% cash back at restaurants
• up to $25,000 in spending each card anniversary yearNo3%• 30,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points ($300 cash back) when you spend $3,000 within 3 months
Chase Sapphire Preferred• Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwideNo limit- $95 (Introductory annual fee of $0 the 1st year)No• Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

5,000 points when you add an authorized user and they make their 1st purchase within 3 months
Barclaycard Arrival Plus• 2X points (2.1% cash back if redeemed for $100+ travel purchases) on dining and all other purchases
No limit$89 annual fee waived the 1st yearNo• 40,000 Arrival miles ($420 in cash back when you redeem for travel) when you spend $3,000 within 3 months
Citi DoubleCash1% cash back on spending and 1% cash back on paymentsNo limitNo3%No
US Bank Cash+5% cash back at fast food restaurants if you choose this as 1 of your bonus categoriesup to $2,000 in spending each quarterNo3%No
Chase Freedom5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter (sometimes includes restaurants)
• Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate$03%• Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
Discover It5% cash back on rotating categories including restaurants

• Earn 5% cash back at chain restaurants when you buy gift cards in other categories such as online shopping, home improvement, and gas stations.
up to $1,500 in spending each quarterNoNo$50 cash back after your 1st purchase in the 1st 3 months of opening your account
Fidelity Visa2% cash back on all spendingNo limitNo2.7%No
Chase AARP3% cash back on restaurants and at gas stationsNo limitNo3%• 10,000 points ($100 cash back) when you spend $500 within 3 months

Bottom Line

After an amazing meal, you want your head spinning to be caused by a blissful “food coma,” not from the bill!

With AMEX SimplyCash, you can select US restaurants as your 3% category to always get cash back when you dine out.  I use this card when I want cash back on business lunches.

The US Bank Cash+ (only available in-branch) gives you 5% back on up to $2,000 each quarter when you choose fast food as your category.

You can get 2.1% back with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, only if you redeem for travel purchases of $100 or more.

So for personal meals out, I usually reach for my Chase Sapphire Preferred to get 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent at restaurants.

That’s because I like to transfer those points to partner airlines & hotels for Big Travel!  But other folks may prefer using the points for a 2% statement credit instead.

Using any 1 of these cards, you may even be happy to give your server an added tip knowing you’re earning cash back!

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Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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11 responses to “Best Cash Back Cards for Restaurant Spending!

  1. Hi, Thanks for all the great information on your site. I have just one more card to add to your list. For us older folks, there is the Chase AARP credit card that offers 3% cash back at restaurants and gas stations every day.

  2. The Chase AARP is the best no AF card for dining since the Cash+ restaurants category died. It is widely known that anyone can get it (regardless of age) by just leaving the AARP number blank in the application.
    Why would you leave that one out?

  3. subscribe

  4. It’s too bad the Citi Forward with 5x ThankYou points on restaurants is no longer being offered. It’s still my go to card for restaurants, but I was just thinking yesterday about what I would do if Citi ever changed it. For now, I am happy to get 5% cash back or 8% when redeemed for American Airlines flights with Citi Prestige (60% bonus when redeemed for AA flights).

    Good post, though. I’ve bookmarked for the future if/when Citi kills the restaurant category for my grandfathered (and aging) Citi Forward. 🙂

  5. There is another really good card for dining. The Sam’s Club credit card offers 3% back on dining and travel, and 5% back for gas purchases (up to $6,000 per year on gas purchases). 1% for everything else. There is no annual fee, but there is a limitation to awards usage. You only get the rebate once per year and it needs to be spent at Sam’s Club.

  6. I also like the U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards American Express Card, which earns 2 FlexPoints per $1 spent at all restaurants, including fast food restaurants. FlexPoints are worth between 1.33 cents and 2 cents when redeemed for airline tickets, depending on where your ticket price falls in their redemption tiers. So that’s between 2.66% and 4% at restaurants with 3.33% being a reasonable expectation for the average return on your restaurant spending with this card over time.

  7. We tend to eat out a lot, and our Chase Sapphire Preferred has racked up serious points over the years. Between the parking, restaurant, and an evening cocktail, we can amass some solid Ultimate Rewards points in just one night out!

  8. You forgot Citi premier Thank You

  9. My Citi Forward card gives me 5% back on restaurants all the time but I understand they arent issuing any new accounts.

  10. The Citi Foward card is changing from 5x to 2x points at restaurants starting in June 2016. It’s a shame, been using that card for years. Also, the US bank cash+ has restaurants under the 2% category. Surprised no card offers more than 3% back.

  11. What is the highest percentage cash back for restaurants/dining? Not interested in points since cash back is a lot more convenient and appealing