Updated: 01/24/2017

Choosing an Airline Dining Rewards Program

Comparing Delta Sky MIles Dining, MileagePlus Dining and AAdvantage Dining

If you frequently travel, either for business or pleasure, you already know that it can be challenging to make the most of your money while still enjoying your trip. Pick the right airline and your experience is relaxing and divine; choose the wrong one, and you may find yourself gazing sadly at your pocketbook. Sound familiar? If so, here’s the good news: flying efficiently and pleasurably is possible, especially if you use your credit card with airline rewards programs to maximize your money. Much as with airlines, no two airline rewards programs are the same, even if they do belong to the same overall rewards network. Make sure you get the most out of your next trip with a few of the most popular travel programs available.

SkyMiles Dining

A component of Delta’s SkyMiles program, SkyMiles Dining doesn’t reward you for the flights you take, but the meals you eat at restaurants along the way. Whether you’re taking the family out for a meal in your home city or looking to refuel once you arrive at your destination, this program has partnerships with hundreds of restaurants offering everything from Chinese food to gourmet sandwiches. When you dine at partner restaurants, you’ll accumulate miles for every dollar you spend that you can later use to fund everything from family vacations to business trips.

SkyMiles Dining has a three-tiered structure that lets you opt in at whatever membership level works best for you. The first tier, Member level, gives you one mile for every $2 you spend while dining. The second tier, Online Member, provides three miles for every $1 you spend. The third and top tier, VIP Member, gives you five miles for every $1 you spend. As you can see, your miles can add up quickly, especially if you’re a foodie or restaurant lover.

Using your SkyMiles points is easy; just log into the Welcome Center and add your debit card or credit card information to the site. Submissions are secure, so you can feel confident giving your information. The SkyMiles program only uses this information to track your purchases and add your miles to your account. When you’re ready to use your points, it’s as easy as logging into Delta.com. You’ll provide your SkyMiles information during the booking process.

One of the credit cards that will allow you to participate in Delta SkyMiles Program is Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express which is available in three levels - Gold, Platinum, and Reserve.

intro purchase APR no intro offerregular APR16.24 - 25.24% (V)
intro BT APR 16.24-25.24% 3% BT fee $5 min
rewards 1-2 miles/$1 +30,000 bonus miles
  • get 30,000 miles bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • get $50 statement credit if you make Delta purchase in the first 3 months
  • 2x miles on Delta purchases
  • 1 mile for $1 on other purchases
excellent required

Gold: $95 annual fee, waived for the first year

Platinum: $195 fee

Reserve: $450 fee

Delta benefits

read review

AAdvantage Dining

This unique program comes from American Airlines. With 6,000,000 members, it’s one of America’s most popular dining rewards programs, perhaps thanks to the fact that it holds partnerships with everything from small mom-and-pop shops to gourmet chocolate candy shops. They also provide an introductory mile bonus to those who join up; the total amount of points granted does change every so often, but is a welcome addition for most diners. The only catch is that you must write a short review for the restaurant on-site once you’ve enjoyed your meal.

AAdvantage Dining has a program structure that is similar to SkyMiles Dining, with a few minor differences. First, all new members receive 1,000 bonus miles if you spend $30 or more during the first 30 days of membership, so it pays to start using your card the minute you get it. The first program tier, “Members,” enjoys one AAdvantage mile per $2 spent, while the second tier, “Online Members,” gets three AAdvantage miles per $1 spent. Much as with Skylines, the top VIP Member tier enjoys five miles for every $1 spent. AAdvantage Dining also offers occasional promotions for spending amounts, specific locations, and specific membership tiers, too.

Signing up for AAdvantage Dining is quick, easy, and free for anyone holding an AAdvantage membership. Just register on the site and provide your account information and you’re ready to go. Just as with SkyMiles, once you’re ready to spend your miles, you need to book your flight via the Advantage Airlines website. Then, provide your AAdvantage Dining account information and indicate that you wish you use your miles towards your flight.

You can start earning AAdvantage miles with CITI AAdvantage card - Gold, Platinum Select or Executive.

intro purchase APR no intro offerregular APR16.24 - 24.24% (V)
intro BT APR no intro offer 3% BT fee $5 min
rewards 1-2x/$1 +50,000
  • get 50,000 miles and 2 Admirals Club One Day Passes after spending $3,000 in 3 months
  • earn 2x miles on American Airlines purchases

 

excellent required

$95 annual fee, waived for the first year

50,000 miles bonus

2 Admirals Club passes bonus

2x miles on AAirlines purchases

read review

MileagePlus Dining

If you fly with United Airlines regularly, MileagePlus Dining might be the program for you. This diner’s rewards card has the same membership structure as both Skylines and AAdvantage, so you’ll earn between one mile for every $2 spent and five miles for every $1 spent, depending on whether you’re a Member, Online Member, or VIP member. MileagePlus awards miles for dining regardless of whether or not you write a review, but does provide significant bonuses regularly to reviewers, making doing so extremely worthwhile.

The rewards network to which MileagePlus Dining is connected is extensive; with over 11,000 individual restaurants partnered, it’s easy to find somewhere to eat in most major cities and towns. There’s plenty of incentive to dine in the first month, too. You can enjoy 1,500 bonus miles when you spend more than $30, and an additional 1,000 over your first and second partnered restaurant visit within your first 30 days of membership.

Eager to take advantage of the sign-up bonus? You can get started right on the website; registration is free. As with the others, you’ll register your credit card and debit card info on the site – no need for a physical card or certificate when you dine. Each time you eat at a participating restaurant MileagePlus will automatically add your points to your account a few weeks later. Book flights using miles right on the United website.

Start earning Mileage Plus miles with United Mileage Plus credit card by Chase Bank.

intro purchase APR no intro offerregular APR16.49 - 23.49% (V)
intro BT APR 16.49-23.49% 5% BT fee $5 min
rewards 1x-2x miles per dollar +30,000 bonus miles
  • earn 2x miles on United purchases
  • 1x regular rate on all other purchases
  • get 30,000 miles bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months 
good credit required

$95 annual fee, waived for the first year

first checked bag free

30,000 miles intro bonus

read review

Review Summary

Foodies, gourmet dining lovers, and sushi aficionados rejoice; it is possible to indulge your travel-loving side and food-loving side all at the same time. With these fantastic reward programs, you may just find yourself saving a significant amount of money, too. Start the process by signing up with the airline you use most often for best results. Do your travel plans change frequently? Perhaps you typically book on the most affordable airline at the time of your booking. If so, it may be in your best interest to sign up for multiple cards and diversify your approach. Just keep in mind that miles only apply to one account at a time.

Best Credit Cards to Participate in Airline Dining Rewards in 2017

Best for Card Pros Cons
exclusive card trim levels  Delta SkyMiles Card Delta airline-specific perks Gold card does not offer Medallion Qualification Miles
big spending Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select 50,000 miles bonus, annual ticket discounts, 10% bonus miles if redeemed for travel 3% foreign trasaction fee
high spending United Mileage Plus by Chase intro bonus and spending bonus annual fee

 

Foodies, gourmet dining lovers, and sushi aficionados rejoice; it is possible to indulge your travel-loving side and food-loving side all at the same time. With these fantastic reward programs, you may just find yourself saving a significant amount of money, too. Start the process by signing up with the airline you use most often for best results. Do your travel plans change frequently? Perhaps you typically book on the most affordable airline at the time of your booking. If so, it may be in your best interest to sign up for multiple cards and diversify your approach. Just keep in mind that miles only apply to one account at a time.

 

Image by Sarah_Ackerman

 



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