By Brian Kelly
Who knew you could rack up loyalty points just by dining out at your favorite restaurants? The dining-rewards arms of most airline and hotel loyalty programs are free and dead-easy to participate in. If you’re already dining out—or planning a big event—you might as well score some points for your next vacation.
Three Easy Steps to Earn Dining-Reward Points
Step 1. Register for a dining rewards program. Each of your credit or debit cards can be registered with one rewards program only, so choose the loyalty account you most want to maximize.
Step 2. Search the dining rewards site for participating restaurants. Most programs feature thousands of eateries, ranging from national chains to neighborhood bistros to formal restaurants.
Step 3. Just pay for meals with the debit or credit card you’ve registered, and automatically earn miles every time you visit a participating restaurant.
That’s it—there are no additional numbers to remember, coupons to print, or cards to carry. Registering only takes a minute, and you’re set to earn. It’s an easy way to earn miles, and one that’s sure to make you jump next time the check comes to the table.
Recommended Dining Rewards Programs
We’ve scouted the programs that offer the best bonuses and most points—see below for a breakdown. Just find the airline or hotel rewards program you want to use below, and click through to sign up:
American Airlines AAdvantage Dining Program: Join and sign-up for the new member bonus by December 31 to earn 1,000 AA miles after completing a review of a restaurant (minimum $30 spent) within 30 days of the meal.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Dining: Join and sign-up for the new member bonus by December 31 to earn a bonus 500 Alaska Airlines miles after spending a minimum of $25 at a single participating vendor within 30 days of registering.
Delta Skymiles Dining: Join and sign-up for the new member bonus by December 31 to earn 1,000 additional Delta Skymiles after spending a combined minimum of $25 at participating vendors (and completing a review of each restaurant) within 30 days of registration. Some members are targeted for the Sweeten the Deal promotion, which gives an extra 3 miles per dollar spent after spending $125 on qualified meals by December 31.
Hilton Hhonors Dining: Join and sign up for the new member bonus by December 31 to earn an additional 1,000 Hhonors points after spending $30 on any combination of meals within 30 days of joining, and completing a review within 30 days dining out.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining: Earn an additional 10 points for every restaurant review you complete within 30 days of dining at a participating restaurant. New member bonus: register and spend $25 on a single meal within the first 60 days and complete a review within 30 days of your meal to receive 300 additional Southwest Rapid Rewards points. There’s also a First Step bonus where you earn an extra 500 miles after your dining-point balance reaches 1,500 miles. You can also earn SW’s thank you bonus which awards an additional 300 points every time a member’s dining points balance reaches 1,000 (not including bonus points). Thank you bonus can be earned repeatedly.
United MileagePlus: Join and sign-up for the welcome bonus by December 31 to earn an additional 1,000 miles after spending $50 at a single participating restaurant within 30 days of joining the MileagePlus dining rewards program.
US Airways Dividend Miles Dining: Join and sign-up for the new member bonus by December 31 to earn 500 miles after spending $25 at a single participating restaurant within 45 days of joining and completing a review. The bonus can be repeated for a total of 1,000 bonus miles. Then take advantage of the Sweeten the Deal bonus by signing up for it and spending $125 at participating restaurants from the time of registration until December 31 to receive an additional 3 miles per dollar spent after completing vendor reviews. A maximum of 375 additional bonus miles can be earned with the Sweeten the Deal bonus.
Fodors.com contributor Brian Kelly is The Points Guy. A former road warrior, he spent years working in recruitment for a major investment bank, traveling over 125,000 miles annually, and spending well over fifty nights a year in hotels. For Brian, getting there is often more than half the fun. His passion for travel and knowledge of the frequent flyer miles and points system has allowed him to fund a luxury travel lifestyle while spending less cash than he would to fly coach and stay in hostels.