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5 ways foodies can get more from credit cards

By , CardRatings contributor
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CreditCardRestaurantFoodies often drop some serious cash on the highest-quality specialty ingredients and meals at the finest restaurants in town. But, did you know that epicureans can actually boost their foodie budgets with smart credit card usage? And, according to the rewards experts, they can not only save on food they were going to buy anyway, they can also earn bonus meals and treats as well.

It isn't as simple as applying for a rewards card and using it mindlessly, though. In reality, there are several specific strategies that work best for foodies who won't settle for less than the maximum results. Want to hear more? Here are five simple-to-follow tips for food-lovers who are desperate to bump up their budget for consumables.

Earn cash back on groceries, including fancy fare

Earning cash-back rewards on groceries with a rewards card is simple, with some cards offering higher cash-back rates specifically for grocery store purchases. For example, those with a Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express earn 3 percent cash back on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) at U.S. supermarkets, 2% at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1% on  other purchases. Terms apply. No quarterly enrollment is required, you can earn the same great reward categories year-round. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars which can be redeemed as a statement credit or for gift cards or merchandise. No annual fee. 

"Hang on to that cash and use it for your next fine dining experience," says credit card expert and author Beverly Harzog. Or, if you'd rather do the cooking, simply use it to purchase more fancy foods at your favorite store.

Take advantage of quarterly bonus categories

Certain cards, like the Chase Freedom®, also allow cardholders to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months like gas stations, restaurants, and wholesale clubs. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. So don't take these deals lightly.

"Set up reminders so you don't miss out on this opportunity," Harzog suggests. Or write it on your calendar. That way, you don't forget.

Watch out for discounts

"American Express frequently offers cardholders discounts for dining at certain establishments. These offers vary by customer, but normally involve a national restaurant chain," notes Ariana Arghandewal, credit card rewards expert and author of PointChaser.com.

Discounts are also available to Visa Signature cardholders who keep an eye out for deals, Arghandewal points out.

Another tip: You have to stay informed when it comes to all of the discounts your favorite rewards card qualifies you for. Otherwise, you're doomed to miss out.

Get creative with gift cards

Of course, discounts aren't the only way food-lovers can save, says Arghandewal. Getting creative with gift cards is another way to save money on restaurant dining and earn extra reward points in one fell swoop.

"For example, Staples sells gift cards from the major restaurant chains. If you have an Ink Business CashSMCredit Card then buying a gift card from an office supply store like Staples earns you 5 percent cash back rather than the standard 1 percent," she suggests. "For those who enjoy dining out, these savings can really add up over time."

That's not the only role gift cards play when it comes to those dining experiences. As Harzog points out, you also can also use rewards points you've accumulated and redeem the points for restaurant gift cards.

"Just be sure you understand how your rewards program works so you'll know how to get the best value when it comes to redemption options," she warns.

Join a dining rewards program

Beyond these options, there are certain programs that can take the savings up a notch. Rick Ingersoll, the writer and credit card expert behind FrugalTravelGuy.com, also suggests seeking out and joining a dining rewards club offered by one of the major card issuers. According to Ingersoll, combining your high bonus earning credit card with one of these programs can be a great way to boost your rewards and make room to splurge. And the rewards increase exponentially for customers who dine out frequently, says Ingersoll.

"The more often you dine in a member restaurant, the higher your level of participation and the corresponding rewards increase as well," he explained. "I've earned as high as 12 miles per dollar combining the rewards credit card with the Rewards Dining Network."

As you can see, there are more than a few ways you can save on food and dining if you're willing to do the research. On the other hand, it's important to have fun with it, too. If one strategy isn't producing the results you want, simply move on to the next until you find the perfect way to save on your obsession with all things tasty. It might take a while, but you'll eventually fall into a pattern that requires minimal effort, yet produces plenty of results.

And remember, the culinary world may be scrumptious, but there's nothing more satisfying than saving money on your favorite fares.

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