A new report, which analyzed over 3 million conversations that took place on various online mediums, revealed that American's are concerned about overspending on food and considered it a major problem. A study from SunTrust Bank confirmed some of those numbers; 71% of Millennials admit to being short on cash due to dining out and 44% of U.S. households admit they aren't reaching their savings goals due to dining out and entertainment costs.
Have you ever read an article about saving money on dining out, only to realize that the advice amounted to "order less"? I won't insult your intelligence by advising you not to order drinks and to skip dessert any more than I would coach a basketball team by advising them to score more points than the other team.
Thankfully, there are some less obvious, but more realistic ways you can save money on dining expenses and even earn valuable rewards.
Earning Credit Card Rewards From Restaurants
Americans eat out a lot, and there always seems to be at least one restaurant on every street corner. The credit card industry knows this, which is why there are many credit cards on the market that offer bonus rewards for purchases at restaurants. From the industry's perspective, these bonuses make sense because they know that customers who get in the habit of using their card at restaurants will be more likely to use the same card for other purchases as well.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 2x points for all dining and travel expenses. Each of their Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for one cent as cash back, 1.25 cents for travel reservations, or transferred at a one to one ratio to several different airline and hotel programs. Citi has three rewards credit cards - Citi ThankYou Preferred card, Citi ThankYou Premier card, Citi Prestige card- that will earn you double points for purchases made on dining out and entertainment.
Other Ways to Save on Dining Out
One option consumers may not know about is that you can sign up through your credit card for a "mileage dining" program. Several airlines offer miles through these programs, which are actually quite easy to use. Examples include Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Dining, and American Airlines AAdvantage Dining. All you need to do is create an account online and enter the credit card that you use for your dining purchases. Then, you will receive bonus points or miles every time you make a purchase at an eligible restaurant. There is no need to do anything special when you eat out, and you will receive your bonus points or miles based on the charge on your statement.
You can also earn rewards for making a reservation through the Open Table network. Most reservations return 100 points, but they also offer 1,000 point tables at select restaurants. Once you earn 2,000 points you can order a gift certificate for $20, valid at any restaurant that is part of their network.
There are several deal sites that sell valuable restaurant certifications. Restaurant.com has been around for a while, and often sells $25 certificates for $10 or less. Be sure to sign up for their email promotions to receive large discounts. Another favorite is Groupon or Living Social, which offers dining deals on their website, as well as daily deals sent via email. Likewise, Amazon Local has a similar model to the rest.
Finally, it always pays to poke around the restaurant's web site before going out, as many of them offer coupons online, or they will offer a deal in exchange for an action, such as signing up for their newsletter or following them on Facebook.
Dining out is almost always more expensive than staying home, but that doesn't stop most Americans from enjoying the experience. By using credit card rewards and other discounts to save on dining expenses, you can eat out for less than you may have thought.