Earn Travel Miles and Points for Dining Out!

Written by on February 28, 2017 in Miles and Points

How’s this for an easy way to earn travel miles and points? Many major airlines and hotels offer miles or points by rewarding you for eating at restaurants participating in their dining-for-points programs.

Pretty tasty, right?

Even if you’re new to collecting miles and points, dining for miles is an easy (and fun!) method to jumpstart your journey.

Enjoying Pedlar's Fork happy hour in Calabasas -- while earning Delta SkyMiles with Delta's dining program

Earning miles while enjoying happy hour nosh at the Pedlar’s Fork in Calabasas, California!

How Does It Work?

Each time you pay with a credit card (or debit card…) registered in an airline or hotel’s dining program, you earn a certain amount of points for each dollar spent.  Here’s how to eat your way to some extra miles and points:

1) Sign Up for an Airline or Hotel Dining Rewards Program

You’ll find links to a bunch of them at the bottom of this post. Sign up for as many as you wish — but keep in mind that concentrating your efforts on one airline or hotel will earn you free or discounted travel faster than scattering spend across a bunch of airlines or hotels.

2) Register Your Credit Card Numbers

Registering credit cards for dining for travel points and miles programs.You can register the same credit card number for only one dining program administered through Rewards Network (the group administering dining programs for many major airlines and hotels). In other words, if you’re trying to earn points with Delta and Hilton, you must decide which credit card will be registered in which program.

(A data point I discovered is that a maximum of 12 credit cards can be registered to an account.)

One way to earn points in two programs is to sign up program A but register a card earning points for program B.

For example, one of my relatives loves Marriott hotels and Southwest Airlines. He uses his Marriott Rewards credit card to pay for dining purchases at Rapid Rewards Dining restaurants.

A good way to load up on miles is to register a card offering bonuses for restaurant purchases (think 2x per dollar spent on cards such as the IHG RewardsClub Select from Chase, the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve cards, the Hyatt Gold Passport card, the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card, etc.)

3) Search for Participating Restaurants in Your Area

Not every restaurant participates in dining for miles programs (darn it!). Similar to shopping portals, you may not find your absolute favorites on the list. But this is a wonderful excuse to visit new eateries, bars and clubs. (And to order dessert!)

When you’re traveling, remember to check for participating dining for miles locations in cities you visit. We’ve discovered some restaurants located near or actually in hotels/resorts at which we’ve stayed.

4) Pay the Bill – Using a Credit Card You Registered

Points/miles should show up in your account within a few weeks – similar to earning miles and points through online shopping portals. If your favorite restaurant doesn’t participate in the dining-for-points program, suggest it to the owner or general manager. Tell her that legions of frequent travelers would love to start visiting – and become loyal diners at the restaurant.

How Many Points Can You Earn?

Unless you regularly treat your extended family and all their friends to a meal at a Bobby Flay or Thomas Keller restaurant, dining out itself won’t send you on free trips or put you in presidential suites. But dining-for-miles programs certainly help pad your mileage balance — and every little bit counts.

Most dining-for-miles (or points) programs award you between one point/two dollars spent and five points per dollar spent. That’s fairly wide range — but getting from the low end to the high is fairly easy.

Point awards vary from program to program. But we’ll use Delta’s SkyMiles Dining as an example:

  • For being a member, you receive one point per two dollars spent (1 pt/$2).
  • Agreeing to receive the dining program’s emails (generally referred to as being an “online member”) entitles you to two points/dollar spent (2 pts/$1).
  • You become a “VIP member” after 12 visits — and start earning five points per dollar 5 pts/$1).

To put this into perspective: a Delta SkyMiles Dining VIP member earns more frequent flyer miles on $150 dinner tab than he does (assuming he doesn’t hold Delta elite status) through a $130 Delta airfare  — regardless of destination or miles flown.

You might earn the same amount of miles dining as you can actually flying on a plane!

Dining out may earn you as many Delta SkyMiles as actually taking a trip!
(Photo ©iStock.com/Boarding1Now )


Some programs offer signup bonuses — such as 1000 bonus points after spending $25 or more during three separate visits over the course of your first three months in the program.

Buying my in-laws and a friend dinner at Buca di Beppo earned me 1200 miles.  And if you’re with a big group, offer to put the meal on your card and have everyone give you cash. That small extra effort once netted me almost 2000 miles at just one dinner.

Is It Safe?

I know “register your credit card numbers” sounds scary and ripe for identity theft. The only portion of a credit credit card that’s required is its 16-digit number (or 15-digit number, if it’s American Express). You do not include a card’s expiration date or three-digit code (or four-digit code — again those Amex people switching it up!). I’ve never heard of anyone’s identity being stolen because of their participation in this program. Plus, the airlines and hotels would have a public relations nightmare if anything like that happened and, therefore, probably wouldn’t bother risking anything like that in the first place.

Your Dining for Miles and Points Experiences

Do you dine for miles or points? Has it changed your dining habits? Have you found any new restaurants because of dining for miles or points? Tell us in the comments section below!

Airline Dining Programs

Alaska Airlines – Mileage Plan Dining

American Airlines – AAdvantage Dining

Delta Airlines – SkyMiles Dining

Southwest Airlines – Rapid Rewards Dining

Spirit Airlines – Free Spirit Dining

United Airlines – MileagePlus Dining

Virgin America – Elevate via MOGL

Hotel Dining Programs

Hilton Hotels – Hilton HHonors Dining

IHG Hotels – IHG Rewards Club Dine & Earn

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About the Author

About the Author: Chris Carley is a writer, media consultant, voice over artist, dog owner, husband, and recently became a dad! He loves talking all things points and miles. You'll likely find him in an airport lounge while on a trip that involves the most circuitous route possible leading to his ultimate destination. .


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