When you think of rewards credit cards, you most likely think of airplanes
. But many rewards can be found across the country at places near you in the form of dining rewards. Not only can you earn points toward free meals but you can find 2 for 1 dining specials, discounts, and plenty more at hundreds of participating restaurants.
There are also credit cards
that focus primarily on dining, providing double to even triple points whenever you eat out. And dining credit cards also provide points when you shop for groceries or have food delivered.
But even restaurants have dining rewards programs, providing you with more freebies. Here, take a look at where you can score free food – because who doesn't love free stuff?
Dine-in restaurant loyalty programs
TGI Fridays Rewards
Sure it's an American chain but for decent American food you can get for free, why not, right? Enroll in Friday Rewards and you instantly earn a free appetizer or dessert. Then for every $1 you spend you'll earn a point, which follows this point system:
- 50 points = a free dessert
- 80 points = a free sandwich or burger
- 90 points = a free select burger
- 100 points = free chicken, salad, or select entree or $8 off a food purchase
- 150 points = free ribs or steak entree
Applebee’s Most Valuable Neighbor
A similar American chain restaurant, you'll find Applebee’s rewards easy to navigate. Every time you earn 75 points you can redeem them for a free appetizer or wait until they double for a free entree.
In a place that is all about a laidback lifestyle, some island food, and fruity concoctions, it prides itself on not making you wait for rewards. Instead of racking up points, you can get immediate benefits, perks, and "value-adds" when staying at the properties. Alas, it's all about points at the restaurants. Still, you'll earn 1:1 rewards, and every time you hit $150 points you'll receive a $10 reward. Pretty simple.
Buffalo Wild Wings' Blazin' Rewards
You can join the "herd" who love watching sports and eating wings through the Blazin' Rewards program at this nationwide chain. Not only do you get free wings for your birthday and points toward free food, but you can also even win tickets and VIP Experiences. You earn points every time you check in to the restaurant, 100 points for every eligible $10 you spend and can earn up too250 points per week. Every fifth lunch you have at the restaurant also provides 300 bonus points.
P.F. Chang’s Rewards
If you are looking for Asian Fusion, P.F. Chang’s is a nationwide chain that delivers. If you sign up for the loyalty program you will receive 1,000 bonus points. Then, every time you spend $1 at the restaurant, earn 10 points. The only negative to the program is you only have 60 days to use the rewards or they expire but considering it takes $200 to earn a free entree (2,000 points), go out with friends and use your rewards card to collect the points!
You'll have more variety using Dine rewards, which is a loyalty program for Bonefish Grill, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse, and Outback Steakhouse. Dine at any one of the restaurants, spending at least $20, and get 50% off on your fourth meal (up to $40 worth at Fleming's and $20 at the others). There is no limit to how many rewards you may receive you dine at each one over and over again and score the free meals.
If you love the pizza – Barbecue Chicken Pizza, anyone? – California Pizza Kitchen’s CPK Rewards will give you 1 point for every $1 you spend on food. Every time you earn 75 points you'll receive a $5 reward. Plus, you’ll still earn a free small plate when you enroll.
There are four membership tiers, so the more you dine out, the more elite you become with bigger awards.
- Palm Members: New members begin as Palm Members, You'll get that free small plate as well as a free birthday dessert.
- VIP Members: Hit 150 points and become a VIP, with all of the freebies as well as a free birthday entree. Plus, you have ops to earn bonus point events throughout the year.
- Diamond Members: Once you hit 350 points you will also get a free entree for your “half birthday” entree. You'll also receive double points throughout your birthday month for more rewards.
- Elite Members: If you dine out enough and reach 1,000 points, you will get a free meal for yourself and three friends. And you get to jump the line if there is ever a line.
Fast food loyalty programs
Using Starbucks Rewards you can earn stars on every purchase at the rate of 2 stars per $1 spent. Watch for Double Star Day and Bonus Stars for faster rewards. You're already drinking Starbucks coffee so if you're not enrolled in the program, you are wasting your money. The stars can be used as follows:
- Free refills on coffee or tea while dining in-store (perfect if you are using the WiFi and doing some work)
- A free birthday drink or food item
- 25 stars = a customized drink
- 50 stars = a brewed hot coffee, hot tea, or bakery item
- 150 stars = a handcrafted drink, hot breakfast, or parfait
- 200 stars = a sandwich, protein box, or a salad
Dunkin's DD Perks
If you're in New England or prefer Dunkin' for your coffee, you'll want the Perks card. For every 200 points, you can have a free beverage – and those are earned 5 to 1 spent. Bonus points are available and if you use your app you can also order ahead and have your coffee waiting for you when you arrive.
Addicted to Chick-fil-A's chicken sandwiches? Then join its rewards program on the mobile app and every time you order through the app or scan a QR code at the restaurant, you'll earn points – 10 for every $1 you spend. When you reach 1,000 points, you'll become a Silver member and earn an additional point per dollar. If you love your waffle fries and hit 5,000 points, you'll be a Red member and getting 12 points per $1. No matter your status, you'll also get birthday rewards.
Like your burrito bowls for lunch? Then enroll in the rewards program and receive 10 points for every $1 you spend. It'll take a bit to earn your free entree – 1250 points – but since you're already eating there, might as well! Plus, you can earn extra points on bonus days, participate in challenges to get points quicker and collect 100 points if you break from routine and try something new.
If you are getting your burger fix from Wendy's, you can earn 10 points for every $1 you spend using Wendy's mobile app to order online or in-store with a QR code. Points unlock rewards you can pick and choose from – don't want the reward? Wait to see the next one you earn.
While you won't get a free entree using a credit card, you can still earn rewards when you eat out or buy groceries with a credit card. Here are a few of the best deals:
- Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card will give you 4% cash back on all of your dining expenses. (Entertainment too.) You'll earn 2% at the grocery store with this Capital One MasterCard that comes with a $95 annual fee.
- American Express Gold Card will give you 4 points per $1 when dining out or buying groceries. Although the Amex card comes with a $250 annual fee you do get a $120 annual dining credit so it's more like $130. The points you collect here can be used on travel or shopping.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa works similarly on dining points but with 3 points for every $1. Notoriously the best travel rewards card, Chase Sapphire comes with a $550 annual fee but also provides $300 travel credit every year so it's more like $250 a year and comes with a big bonus and high rewards.
Some airlines combine their mileage programs with dining so you can also earn free travel every time you takeout, have food delivered, or dine out. Often, all you need to do is link your credit or debit card to your free rewards account to earn points.
Using the airline websites, you can see restaurants near you that are offering points. A few include:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining will give you a point for each dollar, as well as 500 bonus points once you hit 1,500 points dining on the program for the first time.
- United MileagePlus Dining works like Rapid Rewards but its bonus is a VIP membership once you dine at 11 participating restaurants. As a United MileagePlus VIP you will earn 5 miles for every dollar.
- American Airlines AAdvantage Dining is the most basic of the airline programs, offering 1 mile per $1 spent without any bonuses. Although, if you use the Citi Advantage Platinum Select Card you can earn 2 more points per dollar.
- Delta SkyMiles Dining will give your rewards points for dining too with a VIP program that matches United's. You can earn 3,000 bonus miles in your first 30 days using the program.
The bottom line
You're going to eat out and you're going to go to the grocery store. Why not enroll in the free programs and earn a little something extra.