Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Strategy For Maximizing Dining Program New-Member Bonuses

I'm guilty as charged when it comes to dining out too much. Luckily my inner bargainista follows every one of my moves as I eat on the go (I'm always the one with the coupon, the Groupon, or some other snazzy money-saving tactic to help keep the cost low).

Along with finding the best bang for my buck, I'm always looking for ways to maximize my points and miles earning-potential which each dining experience.

If you're like me, who enjoys dining out as much as I do, then you probably already know that Dining Programs are a great way to earn miles and points rather quickly; all you have to do in return to receive the miles or points is complete a short review about your dining experience.

 I'd love to share a few of the strategies I've learned and implemented along the way to fully take advantage of the new-member bonuses that these programs offer.

  • Register For All of the Dining Programs: Take a look at the list of programs below along with their earning potential and new-member bonuses. If you're not yet a member of the respective loyalty program, I recommend creating the accounts as you go along and register for each dining program (example: register for a US Airways Dividend Miles account and then go ahead and register for US Airways Dividends Dining program). You may keep track of all of your frequent flyer/points accounts using Award Wallet, which is a total life saver that I swear by. Do note that one single credit card can only be linked to one dining rewards account at a time. You have the option of registering multiple cards, but each credit card could only be active on one account at a time (to eliminate miles/points double-dipping).

  • Pay With a Registered Mileage-Earning Credit Card(s): Well, that's a basic. Personally, I use my Chase Sapphire Preferred card which earns me 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on dining. I then transfer my UR points to partner airline miles and hotel points.

  • Register Many Cards to Many Accounts: After you've registered for your dining programs, go ahead and link a credit card to your accounts. To quickly get the new-member bonus miles or points for all of your registered programs, I recommend linking a different credit card with each program for the time being. For example: you can link your AMEX to your U.S. Airways Dividend Dining Program and link your Chase Sapphire Preferred to your United Mileage Plus Dining Program. Once your new-member points or miles bonus for that program have successfully posted (usually 3-5 days after your dine and complete review), you can deactivate it from the respective dining program and link up that credit card to another program.

  • Pick-Up the Tab: Remember that you can only earn points and miles through the dining programs at participating restaurants, so be sure to log in and check the database to see if the place you are dining is part of the program. If it is, you're in the clear to quickly start earning your miles and points. If you are dining out with friends or a spouse, offer to pick up the tab using your registered card. If you're splitting the bill, have them pay you cash for their share (unless you are super generous). Remember that tax and tip count as well.

  • Split the Bill With Yourself: This was my favorite way to knock out a few new-member bonuses. I'll explain this one using a true-to-life story to debunk any confusion. Kevin and I had a date night a few months ago. The place we chose was [co-incidentally] part of the Rewards Network Dining Programs (yay). Since I knew we'd probably be spending over $75 for dinner that night, I did make sure to register 3 of my credit cards with different programs (one with American Airlines, one with Priority Club, and one with Hilton). Our total bill came to $88 after tax, so I asked the waitress if she could split the bill onto 3 separate cards: $30 on the card linked to my American Airlines AAdvantage Dining Program, $25 on the card linked to my Priority Club Dining Program, and the remaining was put on my card linked to the Hilton HHonors Dining Program. So there it was, I killed 3 birds with one stone. The only downfall was that I had to review the restaurant 3 times to receive the points since each charge looks like a separate dine in the eyes of the programs.

  • Buy Gift Cards: If one of your favorite restaurants happens to be a participating restaurant in the Rewards Networks dining programs, go ahead and buy a gift card to the restaurant if you know you'll be eating there soon enough anyway. Did I also mention that restaurant gift cards are also great gifts to give to friends and family for an upcoming occasion such as a birthday or anniversary? My favorite Italian lunch spot with Mom just so happens to be a part of the Rewards Network dining programs, so I went ahead and bought a $50 gift card there to get my United Mileage Plus 1000 mile bonus. Not only do I have my bonus miles, but I now have more prepaid lunch dates with Mom. Win-Win in my eyes. :)

  • Pick a Favorite: So all your hard work is done, and you've earned your new-member bonuses. Now pick a favorite (or two) and link your most valuable points or miles-earning credit cards to those accounts and continue to dine as is in your normal patterns! My favorite program is U.S. Airways Dividends Dining and United Mileage Plus Dining because both airlines are my preferred carriers.

A List Of Point and Mile-Earning Dining Programs:

Alaska Airlines – Up to 5 miles per dollar spent + 500 bonus miles if you spend $25+ in a single dine and complete a review within 30 days of registering (the review only takes a minute or two).
American Airlines - Up to 5 miles per dollar spent + 1000 bonus miles if you spend $30+ in a single dine and complete a review within 30 days.
Delta Airlines - Up to 5 miles per dollar spent + 1000 bonus miles if you spend $25+ in a single dine and complete a review within 30 days.
Hilton Hotels - Up to  8 points per dollar spent + 1000 bonus points if you spend $30+ in a single dine and complete a review within 30 days.
Priority Club Hotels - Up to 8 points per dollar spent + 500 bonus points if you spend $25+ in a single dine and complete a review within 45 days.
Southwest Airlines - Up to 3 miles per dollar spent + 300 bonus miles if you spend $25+ in a single dine and complete a review within 60 days.  You’ll also receive 500 bonus miles after you earn 1500 miles through dining.
United Airlines -  Up to 5 miles per dollar spent + 1000 bonus miles if you spend $50+ in a single dine and complete a review within 30 days.
US Airways - Up to 5 miles per dollar spent + 500 bonus miles if you spend $25+ in a single dine and complete a review within 45 days of registering or 1000 miles if you complete two dines within 45 days.

Hat Tip to New Girl in the Air for compiling the list of dining program offers.

Feel free to share your dining program stories and strategies as well!


  1. These 1000 point bonus offerings, from what I have seen, required that you sign up for the particular bonus by Dec 31, 2011, and complete them by a certain time..30-45 days depending on the plan. I just signed up for Priority Club Rewards Network dining program. The 1000 point bonus with a review is now gone.

  2. @cparrish: oh no! sorry to see that some of the bonus point offers are no longer available... but I do know that they frequently run these promotions in cycles. I wouldn't be surprised to see the point bonuses return in a month or two. I'll keep my eyes open :) thanks for reading!