As states crack down on public gatherings, restaurants have adapted their service model to takeout and delivery only. Whether you’re a home chef looking for a night off, a foodie in search of a gourmet meal or someone trying to support local businesses, you can sweeten the deal by earning rewards and rebates on your next takeout or delivery order.
Earn Rewards Through Card-Linked Programs
Several dining reward programs let you earn your choice of airline miles, hotel points or cash back when you order from participating restaurants. There are no membership cards and no paper coupons, making it an easy way to earn a little extra.
To get started, you’ll register your credit or debit cards with the loyalty program of your choice and then use that card to pay for your order. Once you pay with your linked card, your rewards will be deposited into your account—automatically.
Automatic Miles and Points with Rewards Network
Rewards Network is the largest card-linked program with thousands of restaurants nationwide. It provides the infrastructure behind most airline and hotel rewards dining programs, such as United MileagePlus Dining or Marriott’s Eat Around Town.
Any program operated by Rewards Network will include the same selection of restaurants. You can join as many programs as you like, but you can’t use the same credit card on multiple programs. There’s no double dipping on one restaurant bill to earn Delta, JetBlue and Southwest miles all at once.
Earning rewards through Rewards Network is simple and automatic: you’ll enter your credit card information when you join the program. Whenever you use that card to pay for your tab, the rewards are automatically deposited into your account. This “set it and forget it” approach is a great way to earn a little extra from a one-time effort. Since the rewards are calculated off the final bill, tax and tip included, your balance can add up fast.
Regardless of which travel partner you join through, the structure is similar across them all. You’ll earn more miles per dollar spent if you opt in to marketing emails and you can earn at a higher rate if you’re a frequent diner, making 12 or more transactions per year. To hit the higher tier, you might want to register both your card and a partner’s cards to the same dining rewards account.
Normally, you’ll only earn rewards on purchases made directly with the merchant, but for a limited time several of these programs are offering partial rewards if you placed an order through a third-party service (like GrubHub or DoorDash). In that case, your rewards won’t be automatic and you’ll need to save and submit your receipt. Either call the restaurant to place and pay for your order or be prepared for an extra step.
When quarantines are lifted and restaurants re-open for full service, you can continue to earn miles, points or cash through Rewards Network as long as you pay for your bill with a linked card.
Cash Back When You Activate in Advance
Several other programs involve an extra step to “activate” rewards in advance of your purchase. Despite the extra effort, it might still be worth it if you’re ordering from a restaurant unique to their program.
After you link your card(s) to Yelp Cash Back, Groupon+ and MOGL, you must separately activate a specific offer for the restaurant before making a purchase. Additionally, you’ll need to re-activate the offer for every subsequent order. Because of this, you’ll have to be diligent to earn your rewards but it can be worth it: restaurants offer up to 10% cash back on your final bill.
Some restaurants are only one one type of program or the other, so it’s worth registering for multiple platforms. In the rare cases when a restaurant is on a click-to-activate program (like Yelp Cash Back) and an automatic Rewards Network program, you’ll only earn rewards with one or the other.
Earn Rewards When You Order from Third-Party Platforms
Although Rewards Network offers a great way to earn rewards, not all restaurants participate. For a greater selection of restaurants, you can earn a cash rebate when ordering online through third-party providers like GrubHub and Uber Eats.
In order to earn rewards when ordering through these websites, you’ll need to start your purchase through an online shopping portal. From there, you’ll search for your intended ordering platform and click through the portal’s link. The portals earn a commission on your purchase and pass on a portion of those earnings to you in the form of a 2-5% rebate.
Not all shopping portals offer rewards on delivery purchases and not all apps are supported. Currently, TopCashBack offers rebates on GrubHub and Rakuten offers rebates on Uber Eats. Since third-party providers may mark up menu prices and/or add a service charge, you’ll want to double-check that you’re money ahead compared to calling a restaurant directly.
Remember, if you order from a participating Rewards Network restaurant, you can double up on both the shopping portal cash back and dining program rewards by submitting your receipt. Because those rewards are manually processed, your points might not post immediately.
Take Advantage of Card Credits and Offers
When it comes time to pay the bill, which credit card should you use to maximize rewards? There are several cards offering 2, 3 or even 5 points for every dollar spent at restaurants and other dining establishments as part of their normal earnings structure. The best credit cards for delivery depend on your credit score, your preference for rewards points versus cash back and whether you’re willing to pay an annual fee, but there’s something for everyone.
In the past year, several cards have also added dining credits to their included benefits. The American Express® Gold Card offers $10 per month toward GrubHub and Seamless deliveries or direct purchases from The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Shake Shack. Another favorite, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, offers $60 in annual DoorDash credits and a free DoorDash “DashPass” subscription. These benefits are perfect for takeout and delivery.
Targeted offers are another great way to earn statement credits from dining out. Programs like Amex Offers, Bank Amerideals and Chase Offers have limited-time specials where you can earn statement credits. Check your online account to see what offers are available to you. You’ll need to load the deal to your account and then use that card to pay at the restaurant. These offers are usually for nationwide chains, such as discounts at Domino’s.
Most credit card offers work more like coupons than a rewards program. There may be minimum purchase amounts and expiration dates. On the bright side, these statement credits almost always combine with the other rewards. When you qualify for multiple discounts, these deals can offer significant discounts.
By paying with the right credit card—and having it linked to a dining rewards program—a single order might earn credit card rewards, dining program rewards, a cash back shopping rebate and a statement credit on your next billing cycle. Suddenly, you won’t have to feel so guilty about taking a night off from cooking at home.
Don’t Forget to Support Your Local Businesses
Apps like Postmates make their money by charging restaurants a commission on every order they process, which can add up now that pickup and delivery comprise 100% of a restaurant’s business. If your goal is to support local restaurants and ensure they stay in business during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s better to order without a middleman. Some restaurants are also offering discounts and special offers only available when ordering directly.
Be sure to inquire about “no-contact” pick-up and delivery when you place your order. Most restaurants will accept your card number over the phone and then direct you where to find your food so that you can keep a minimum six-foot distance between you and employees or delivery drivers.
In times of economic uncertainty, every little bit helps. By linking your cards to dining programs and keeping your eyes out for discounts, you can boost your points balances and keep a little extra cash in your pocket for the next order.