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When airline and hotel loyalty programs first started, the only way you could earn miles and points was to actually take flights or stay at hotels. Today, you can earn points and miles without ever having to step foot on an airplane or in a hotel. From credit cards to online shopping, even dining out at restaurants and more, you can earn travel rewards that will put you well on your way toward free travel.

One of our favorite ways to earn travel rewards is through dining rewards programs. With them, you can get rewarded in your favorite airline or hotel loyalty program for dining out at participating restaurants in your area. Best of all, practically every major hotel and airline loyalty program has one of these dining rewards programs, making it easy to earn extra rewards quickly for your next trip.

Here’s your complete guide to maximizing airline and hotel dining rewards programs and earning more travel rewards quickly on each meal.

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How dining rewards programs work

Dining rewards programs are pretty straightforward: You sign up and register one or more credit cards with the airline or hotel loyalty program of your choice. Then, you’ll earn bonus rewards whenever you dine at a participating restaurant using the registered card. Some programs offer extra points when you complete a review or opt in to receive email notifications. If you’re a frequent diner, you’ll be upgraded to VIP status and become eligible for even more rewards.

Most of the programs offer bonus points when you complete a certain amount of spending within the first 30 days of joining — think of it like a sign-up bonus. Once you register and complete the required meals out, you’ll be rewarded with even more points or miles.

Because the airlines and hotels use the same service to run their programs, you can’t register the same credit card with more than one program. For example, you can’t use your American Express® Gold Card with both the Delta SkyMiles Dining and American AAdvantage Dining programs. If you do, the first program you registered your card with will automatically remove it from your profile.

The great thing about dining rewards programs is that the points you earn are in addition to the rewards you’ll earn from your credit card. So, for example, not only will you earn miles with United Airlines from the United MileagePlus Dining program, but you’ll also earn American Express Membership Rewards points from using your Amex Gold Card to pay for the meal. Getting a card that earns extra points on dining is a great way to double-dip for additional rewards.

Double-dip on your earnings by using a card that earns bonus points for dining.

Which airlines and hotels have dining rewards programs?

Nearly all the major airline and hotel loyalty programs have their own dining rewards programs. You’ll earn bonus points or miles without much effort beyond creating an account and registering your credit card.

With American Airlines, the points you earn even count toward AAdvantage elite status. So, you could very well eat your way to top-tier AAdvantage Executive Platinum status if you play your cards right (though you would have to spend a significant amount of money dining out to do so!). Similarly, Southwest Rapid Rewards dining points will count toward earning the Companion Pass.

Here’s a look at all of the airline and hotel dining rewards programs available, along with their sign-up bonuses and earn rates.

American AAdvantage Dining

  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 1,000 bonus AAdvantage miles after spending $25 and writing a review within 30 days of joining.
  • How much will I earn? Earn from 1 mile to 5 miles per dollar spent at participating restaurants when using your registered card.

Alaska Mileage Plan Dining

  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 1,000 bonus miles after spending $30 and writing a review within 30 days of your first visit.
  • How much will I earn? Earn 0.5 miles to 5 miles per dollar spent at participating restaurants and using your registered card.

Delta SkyMiles Dining

  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 1,000 bonus miles after spending $30 and writing a review within 30 days of your first visit.
  • How much will I earn? Earn 0.5 miles to 1 mile per dollar spent at participating restaurants and using your registered card.

Free Spirit Dining

  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 1,000 bonus points after spending $30 and writing a review within 30 days.
  • How much will I earn? Earn 1 point to 5 points per dollar spent at participating restaurants and using your registered card.

Hilton Honors Dining

  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 1,000 bonus points after spending $25 and writing a review within the first 30 days.
  • How much will I earn? Earn 2 points to 8 points per dollar spent at participating restaurants and using your registered card.

IHG Rewards Club Dining

  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 1,000 bonus points after spending $30 and writing a review within 30 days.
  • How much will I earn? Earn 1 point to 8 points per dollar spent at participating restaurants and using your registered card.

JetBlue TrueBlue Dining

  • Sign-up bonus: None
  • How much will I earn? Earn 3 points per dollar spent at participating restaurants and using your registered card.

Marriott Eat Around Town

  • Sign-up bonus: Earn up to 6,000 bonus in your first 60 days — 1,000 bonus points in the first time you spend $30 or more, 2,000 bonus points the second time you spend $30 or more and 3,000 bonus points the third time you spend $30 or more. Completing an online review is required within 30 days of each restaurant visit.
  • How much will I earn? Earn 4 points to 6 points per dollar spent at participating restaurants and using your registered card.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining

  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 1,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $25 and writing a review within 30 days.
  • How much will I earn? Earn 0.5 points to 3 points per dollar spent at participating restaurants and using your registered card.

United MileagePlus Dining

  • Sign-up bonus: Earn up to 3,000 bonus miles after spending $25 and writing a review within 30 days.
  • How much will I earn? Earn 0.5 miles to 5 miles per dollar spent at participating restaurants with your registered card.
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Best credit cards to use with a dining rewards program

When determining which are the best credit cards to use with a dining rewards program, you want to prioritize using those that earn bonus points on dining. You can register as many credit cards as you want with a single dining rewards program, but you can’t register the same card with multiple programs.

If you’re in the market for a credit card that earns bonus points on dining, the following are some good options.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Current sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months.
  • Bonus points for dining: 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out (after $300 annual travel credit is used).

American Express® Gold Card

  • Current welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first six months.
  • Bonus points for dining: 4x points at restaurants worldwide, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Current sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within the first three months.
  • Bonus points for dining: 3x on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

  • Current welcome bonus: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $4,000 in the first three months.
  • Bonus points for dining: 7x points at U.S. restaurants, including takeout and delivery.

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card

  • Current welcome bonus: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors points after spending $2,000 in the first three months.
  • Bonus points for dining: 6x points at U.S. restaurants, including takeout and delivery.

Capital One® Savor Rewards Credit Card

  • Current sign-up bonus: Earn $300 after spending $3,000 within the first three months.
  • Bonus points for dining: 4% cash back on dining.

Citi Premier® Card

  • Current sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 Citi ThankYou points after spending $4,000 in the first three months.
  • Bonus points for dining: 3x points per dollar at restaurants.
With the Amex Gold, you'll earn bonus points on dining.

How many points can you earn?

Dining rewards programs are so valuable because the earning potential is uncapped. Depending on the airline or hotel partner, you can earn between 0.5 points to 8 points per dollar spent. In addition, most programs offer a welcome bonus of 1,000 points to 6,000 points — and sometimes more! — when you spend a certain amount within the first month of joining. Best of all, there is no maximum number of points you can earn.

How many dining rewards programs can you join?

You can join as many dining rewards programs as you want. But because they’re all part of the same network, you can’t register the same card with multiple programs. If you have multiple credit cards, you can split them between different programs to ensure you never miss out on bonus points when dining out.

Can you earn dining rewards for takeout?

You can earn dining rewards for ordering takeout or dining in, though it depends on the dining establishment. Not all restaurants offer this option, but you can search for restaurants ahead of time to determine whether you’ll earn points on your takeout order.

What’s the best dining rewards program?

The best dining rewards program really depends on which loyalty program you prefer. If you’re trying to make progress towards elite status with American Airlines, then the AAdvantage Dining Program is the best for you. If you want to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, then go with Rapid Rewards Dining. Ultimately, each traveler’s goals and needs will vary. If you live in a city that is dominated by one airline — Atlanta with Delta Air Lines, for example — it could be a good idea to accrue miles in the SkyMiles program for the range of options out of your home airport.

The bottom line

Airline and hotel dining rewards programs are an easy way to earn bonus miles and points to use toward free travel. When it comes to travel rewards, earning your rewards is an important first step toward redeeming for free travel. Whether you’re looking for business-class flights around the world or a terrific hotel suite for your honeymoon, travel rewards are a good way to achieve travel experiences that would otherwise be out of reach.

Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards of 2022.

All information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card has been collected independently by CNN. The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card is no longer available through CNN.