Eating Your Way to Points & Miles for Free Travel

While credit card sign-ups are by far my favorite way to earn points and miles, there are other means by which you can amass valuable reward currencies…

I present to you, Dining Programs!

With Dining Programs, you earn points and miles just by eating (and using your associated credit card, of course), which happens to be one of my favorite things to do!

Food - AYP Post
Just think – your decisions here…
…can lead you here!

I first mentioned Dining Programs as a type of non-credit card earning option a couple of weeks ago, but wanted to dive a bit deeper into what all they entail and what all they have to offer.

The Dining Programs that I typically use are all members of the Rewards Network. This network is a collection of various partners (including American Airlines, Delta, United, Southwest, Hilton, and many others) that offer rewards (points, miles or other) for every dollar you spend at your favorite restaurants, bars, and clubs.

Here’s a short list of participating airlines and hotels in the Rewards Network:

Dining Programs
The programs above are all a part of the Rewards Network, which means you can earn extra bonus points and miles with each of these partners when you dine!

A great aspect of the Rewards Network is that you are not limited to a single dining program and can sign-up separately with each individual partner that you are interested in earning rewards through! So feel free to sign-up for multiple programs to earn multiple sign-up bonuses.

One thing to note is that each of your credit cards can only be associated with one program at a time, so just use different credit cards if you sign-up with multiple programs.

AYP Mals CC pic
Multiple cards means multiple dining programs and opportunities to earn while you eat!

With each individual Dining Program in the network, there are two earning options that I suggest you take full advantage of: the initial sign-up bonus, and the ongoing spending bonuses.

Initial Sign-Up Bonuses –

Similar to credit cards, the most rewarding and lucrative aspect is the initial sign-up bonus! While the initial sign-up bonuses are much lower than your typical credit card sign-up bonus, they are simple and easy to earn! The typical initial sign-up bonus for a Dining Program will earn you anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 points or miles, which may not seem like much, but can be just the little boost you need to reach the amount needed for a redemption!

AA dining bonus - ayp
Here is the current sign-up bonus offering for American Airlines AAdvantage Dining Program – an easy 1,000 miles to boost your mileage account!

In most cases, in order to earn the full bonus you will need to complete the following:

  1. Create an account with a Rewards Network Dining Program Member
  2. Complete the sign-up by linking an associated credit card to your account
  3. “Dine” or spend a certain amount (normally $30) at a qualifying restaurant within a certain period (normally 30 days after initial sign-up)
  4. Complete the online review of your dine within a certain period (normally 30 days after your dine)

Note: Only certain restaurants participate in each of the Dining Programs so make sure to utilize the “restaurant search” for each program in order to find participating locations near you.

I took a quick look and here are some current initial sign-up promotions going on:

  • American Airlines AAdvantage Dining – up to 1,000 AAdvantage Miles
  • United MileagePlus Dining – up to 3,500 MileagePlus Miles
  • Delta SkyMiles Dining – up to 3,000 SkyMiles
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining – up to 750 Rapid Rewards Points

Just to name a few!

The easiest way to earn the points here is by creating an account, linking a credit card, and then purchasing a gift card at a participating restaurant location. Personally, the locations near me are limited and most do not interest me, except for my favorite coffee joint down the street! After completing a sign-up I will head down to the coffee shop, buy a $30 gift card, earn bonus miles, and then use the gift card over the course of the following month or so! That is some easy points/miles earning!

Coffee Pic - Ayp post.jpg
My coffee purchases can earn me (and you!) serious bonus points!

Ongoing Restaurant Spending –

Following the initial sign-up bonus, it is possible to earn bonus points for every $1 spent at a participating restaurant location. The actual bonus per $1 will vary for each program, and will vary by your “member status” (which is based on your number of qualifying dines).

American Airlines AAdvantage Dining Membership Chart is a good example:

AA dining chart - ayp
As the AAdvantage Dining Membership chart indicates, the more often you dine, the higher your membership level and earning potential!

While I earn the majority of my point and miles on the initial sign-up, it never hurts to earn a few extra here and there! There have been times where I didn’t even realize I was at a participating restaurant yet I earned extra points by paying with a credit card that was associated with a dining program. Remember, every point counts!

Restaurant - AYP post
Each dine out has the potential to earn you points! And this is in addition to points earned on cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred that offer 2x points on dining!

Final Thought –

These point and mile bonuses may not sound like much, but they may be that extra little boost that you need to book award redemptions. In the points game, literally every point and every mile counts, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem! There have been so many times that I have had redemption in mind, but am just 500-1,000 points short of what I need…

If you have any additional questions on dining programs or other non-credit card earning options then feel free to email me at

Eat Up and Happy Free Travels!


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