As we’ve mentioned before on the blog, our family flies a lot, but we earn most of our airline miles without actually setting foot on a plane. Last week we looked at how to get started with frequent flier programs, and we have already discussed using shopping portals to rack up miles and points, so today we will delve into airline dining programs.
The major U.S. carriers all participate in a dining program run by restaurant marketing company Rewards Network. Because it is essentially one program, you can only participate in one airline’s dining program at a time.
How it works:
- Select one dining program in which to participate and complete the sign-up process (we’ve included links above to make it easy). You will often receive a sign-up bonus for doing this.
**Last week, we gave you some homework to help you determine on which airline(s) to collect miles. If you missed the post, you can check it out here.**
- Register your credit cards with the program.
- Eat! Any time you dine at a participating restaurant, you will automatically receive 3 points per dollar spent when you pay with a registered credit card (including tax and tip).
That’s it! It’s that easy!
The airlines are eager for customers to participate in the program, so they frequently offer additional incentives, such as a bonus for signing up if you eat at a participating restaurant within a certain number of days and a 300-point bonus after you earn 1,000 points.
Stacking: In the world of airline miles and points, stacking (i.e. taking advantage of multiple offers simultaneously) is the key to quickly accumulating an impressive points balance. The dining programs make stacking pretty much automatic.
Say, for example, you spend $50 at a participating restaurant. You will receive 150 miles through the dining program ($50 x 3 points per dollar). Many credit cards offer extra points/miles per dollar spent on dining, so if you pay for your dinner with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, for example, which offers 3 points per dollar spent on dining and travel, then you will also earn 150 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (which can be transferred directly to 9 different airlines, including United and Southwest).
In addition, the airlines regularly offer dining program promotions, such as United’s current offer to “earn 1,000 bonus miles by spending $25 or more on your first participating restaurant visit within 30 days” of signing up for the program.
**Please note, promotions change frequently.**
So, with that one restaurant visit, you could earn 150 miles through the dining program, 150 miles through your credit card, and a 1,000 bonus from the airline. Your $50 dinner just translated into 1,300 miles!
Some people go out of their way to dine at participating programs, and that would certainly be worthwhile if you are trying to earn a bonus like the one being offered by United. Most days I feel like I have enough things to keep track of, so I generally leave it up to chance and am often happily surprised when I discover that we have earned points for dining at a restaurant where we planned to eat anyway (as recently happened when my work team went out for lunch and bowling and I put the bill on my credit card; no promotion was in effect at the time and I still earned a 1,000 miles). You can’t argue with earning miles for eating!
Have you picked a dining program? It should only take a minute or two to sign up. Let us know in the comments if you joined! Bon appetit!