Getting Started Guide: Part 9–Earn points by dining out 4

The beginner’s guide to traveling for (almost) free on miles and points:
1. Set travel goals
2. Check your credit
3. Sign up for rewards programs
4. Manage your miles and credit cards
5. Sign up for a rewards earning credit card
6. Shift your everyday spend to credit cards
7. Meet the minimum spending requirements
8. Maximize bonuses and promotions
9. Earn points by dining and shopping
10. Redeem points and miles for free travel
By now you know there’s plenty of ways to earn miles without actual butt-in-seat flying or head-on-pillow hotel staying. The obvious answer is credit card sign-ups, but you can also earn points by shifting all your spend to those cards, paying attention to category bonuses on cards and taking advantage of various promotions. Today I’ll cover two more ways you can earn extra points: dining out and shopping online. These both require an extra step or two and a bit of your time, but can be well worth the additional money saved and miles earned!

Dining Out

We are both big foodies but eat most of our meals at home because I love to cook and eating out can be expensive. But, if we’re going to eat at a restaurant, I always make sure we find the best deals and earn the most points possible! The first thing that I do is always be sure to use a credit card that earns a bonus on dining, such as the Chase Sapphire. This quarter, we’re using the Chase Freedom since restaurants earn 5x points.One of the best ways to earn bonus points or miles is by signing up with the Dining Rewards Network with the hotel or airline of your choice, and registering rewarding earning credit cards, preferably those that earn a bonus on dining. Bonuses for these programs come and go and range between 300 to 2,500 points after your first dine and completed review, and then additional miles each time you use your registered card at participating locations.

Step 1: Enroll in a dining program. I suggest waiting until there’s a bonus close to 1,000 points, since you’ll only be able to sign up for each program once. Links for current best promos listed below.

Step 2: Spend the minimum amount (usually $25-$40) within 30 days at a participating restaurant.

Step 3: Complete your review within 30 days of dining. The link will be emailed to you and only takes a minute or two.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining:  Limited time increase from 300 to 1,000 Rapid Rewards points, though it may be targeted. Make sure the link says 1,000 miles after spending $25 in 30 days before registering. Expires June 8, 2014.

American Airlines AAdvantage Dining: Current bonus of 1,000 AAdvantage miles after you spend $30 on your first dine. Expires Dec. 31, 2014.

United’s Mileage Plus Dining: Current bonus of 1,000 Mileage Plus award miles after you spend $30 on your first dine. Expires Dec. 31, 2014.

US Airways Dividend Miles Dining: Current bonus of 1,000 Dividend Miles after you spend $30 on your first dine. Expires Dec. 31, 2014.

Delta’s SkyMiles Dining: Current bonus of 2,000 Skymiles after you spend $30 on your first dine. Expires Dec. 31, 2014.


Points High Tip: Search the list of participating restaurants and verify that you’ll be able to hit the minimum spend within 30 days before registering for the promotion. Sadly I have “wasted” several bonus offers by registering then not dining out in time, or not hitting the minimum amount, etc., and have tried to re-register and they will not let you if you’re already a member, as these bonus offers are for new members only.

Other ways to save money by eating out include giftcards, searching for coupons online before heading out, choosing restaurants with current Amex Sync offers, and signing up for restaurant loyalty programs. Most of these restaurants offer something along the lines of a free appetizer for signing up, and a free treat on your birthday as well!

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