Many travel companies like Southwest, Hilton, and JetBlue offer a dining program that will allow you to earn points when you eat out. These aren’t the points you typically earn with your credit card spending, these are extra points. And, they don’t need to be tied to a certain type of credit card, you can use any credit card. You could set up a cash back credit card, for instance, on the Hilton HHonors dining program.
All you have to do is sign up for the program, register a particular card, then eat at the list of restaurants they provide in your area. You’ll earn a certain number of points per dollar you spend. It’s actually that simple.
The catch? Probably the only “catch” worth mentioning is that the restaurants are typically independent, which means you won’t find P.F Chang’s or Chili’s or possibly any other restaurant that exists outside of your community. If you like to explore new places, you’ll probably really benefit from these programs. If you like to play it safe and eat at chain restaurants, this probably won’t help you much.
Two Dining Programs for Disney
Among the many dining programs out there, here are two that we think are particularly worth considering for Disney travel.
Hilton just announced a 2,000 point sign up bonus for new members to its dining program. It requires creating your profile with the credit card you plan to use, opting in for emails, spending $25 at one of the restaurants on the list, then writing a review within 30 days. The 2,000 points you’ll earn as a result are worth about $12 toward a stay at a Hilton hotel based on the value we give Hilton HHonors points (0.6 cents each).
Then, you can earn ongoing points for all future meals. You’ll earn them at various rates based on the tier you fall into. By opting in on their emails, it puts you into the middle tier, which will earn five points per dollar spent at their list of restaurants. This comes out to about three cents per dollar spent in Hilton HHonors points. If you do this 12 times or more in a calendar year, you get bumped up to the next tier which earns you eight points per dollar spent (eight points are worth about 4.8 cents).
Rapid Rewards Dining
Southwest Airlines offers a similar sign up bonus to what Hilton offers. Sign up for the program, spend $25 or more on the card you link, then fill out the survey within 30 days. Do that and you’ll earn 500 Rapid Rewards, which is worth about $8 in points (1.6 cents per point).
The program earns a flat three Rapids Rewards per dollar spent; those three points are worth a little less than five cents total. Spend $20 a restaurant and you’ve earn about $1 worth of Rapid Rewards. You also earn an additional 10 points for every review you complete.
Southwest also offers a few periodic bonuses. Once you’ve earned 1,500 points through any combination of dining and reviews, you earn an additional 500 points. For every 1,000 points you earn after that, you’ll get a 300 point bonus.
To give an example of what you could earn from these periodic bonuses and reviews, here’s an example: If you ate out 20 times over the course of a year at any of these restaurants, spending $40 each time and filling out a review, you’d spend $800 and earn 3,900 Rapid Rewards worth about $62. This means you’ve earned about 7.75% of each dollar you spent back in the form of points.
This would be in addition to the points you earned on the credit card itself. You can register up to five credit cards for the program. If you paired this the Discover it Cash Card during the restaurant bonus quarter, you could earn another 10% cash back. It can really start to add up with the right strategy.
Our opinion is that you should register any of your credit cards you use for dining out with one of these programs. At the very least you might accidentally earn some points when you happen to eat a restaurant that is part of this program. We’ve earned some points this way.
Is it worth changing your dining habits for these programs? Probably not.