Last updated on August 8th, 2022
Want to earn airline miles but can’t bear to part with your favorite credit card? Now you don’t have to. Here is everything you need to know about airline dining programs:
Airline Dining Programs 101
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What Are Airline Dining Programs?
Airline dining programs (also known as dining clubs) are a lesser-known credit card hack that allows you to earn airline miles with any credit card you currently use. These free programs are made up of partnered restaurants, cafes, and other establishments and can earn diners airline miles towards the affiliated airline carrier.
Members earn miles or points similarly to traditional rewards programs where members earn a range of between 1-5 miles per dollar(s) spent at an affiliated restaurant. It may seem too easy to be true – but simply register your credit card with the airline dining program of your choice and watch the rewards roll in.
How to Register for an Airline Dining Program
There are no exceptions to which credit cards are eligible to enroll in a dining program. If you already have an airline card, feel free to double dip and earn even more miles on top of your card’s initial rewards.
Have a credit card from a different or competing airline carrier? You’re welcome to use that too! Just keep in mind that you are only allowed one credit card per program and that attempting to use the same card for several will result in the card being removed from another program, minimizing your returns.
For example, if you first link your Chase Freedom to American Airlines and then later to Delta, you will automatically be un-enrolled from AA’s dining program. Why is this the case? All airline dining programs are administered by a single company, the Rewards Network. However, there is no limit on the number of dining programs that you can enroll in as long as you use a unique credit card for each.
How to Choose Which Dining Program to Sign Up For
As is the case with credit cards, not all dining programs are equal. Fortunately, if you sign up for a dining program that turns out to be less rewarding than you anticipated, you’re not stuck with it. You’re always free to enroll your credit card with a different airline’s program at any time – but these tips will help you nail it the first time.
Choose an Airline You Frequently Fly With
Earning miles through an airline dining program could be slow-goings if you don’t eat out often. To set yourself up for success, think of airline dining programs as a supplementary way to earn miles rather than your main source of scoring free airfare.
Spending $10 a day at lunch should earn you 300 miles (minimum) in the airline program of your choice – a far cry from the first-class, round trip ticket might be hoping your miles will earn you. Since the bulk of your airline mile earnings will come from actual flight purchases (whether you have an airline card or not), think of the miles earned through airline dining programs as a means to bump you up to that next membership tier or to give you just enough to book that one-way ticket.
Consider How Many Restaurants in the Program are Located Near You
Visit the homepage of any airline dining program and search to see what restaurants are near you. This list will show the rating from fellow dining club members, the average price of an entrée, and whether there are any exceptions to earning miles or points.
Find Restaurants You Would Want to Eat At
Last but not least, make sure that the restaurants listed in the program are ones at which you’d actually want to dine. It does you little good if there are dozens of restaurants in your area, but none of them sound appetizing to you. Additionally, dining programs (just like credit cards) offer sign-up bonuses that you must meet within a certain period (typically 30 days).
Which Airlines Offer Dining Programs?
There are seven US airline programs that have various sign-up bonuses and reward rates. Keep in mind that you’ll have to be a registered member of the airline’s loyalty program before signing up for a dining club.
American Airlines – AAdvantage Dining
New Member Bonus: Earn 1,000 bonus miles after spending $25 within the first 30 days of signing up.
Earning Potential: Members are automatically at the basic membership level, where they earn 1X American Airlines AAdvantage mile per dollar spent. To reach the next tier, Select, opt-in to emails and receive 3X AAdvantage miles per dollar spent. The highest tier membership is VIP, which requires 12 qualified transactions per calendar year and will earn 5X AAdvantage miles per dollar spent.
Earn More with AAdvantage Credit Cards: American Airlines currently offers a variety of personal and small business credit cards through Barclays and Citi. All cards offer additional miles with the AAdvantage program:
Alaska Airlines – Alaska Mileage Plan
New Member Bonus: Earn 1,000 bonus miles after spending $30 and writing a review on your experience within the first 30 days of signing up.
Earning Potential: There are three membership levels within the Alaska Airlines dining program: Basic, Select, and VIP. To immediately be eligible for the middle tier, make sure to opt-in to promotional emails. This will automatically boost the mile-earning powers from 1X mile to $2 spent (Basic membership) to 3X miles per $1 spent (Select membership). The VIP level membership offers 5X miles per $1 and is earned after the 12th qualifying purchase within a calendar year (while also being opted-in to emails).
Earn More with Alaska Airlines Credit Cards: Diners looking to maximize their Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles can earn even more with co-branded Alaska Airlines credit cards. Bank OF America currently offers two co-branded Alaska credit cards, both of which earn enhanced miles with every eligible purchase:
Delta Air Lines – SkyMiles Dining
New Member Bonus: Earn up 3,000 bonus miles after spending at least $30 at participating restaurants within the first 30 days: 500 bonus miles for the first restaurant visit, 1,000 miles after the second time dining at an eligible restaurant, and then 1,500 miles for the third visit to any restaurant within the network.
Earning Potential: Basic membership level earns 1X mile per dollar spent. Select level membership requires opting into emails and earns 3X miles per dollar spent. VIP level requires 12 qualified transactions per calendar year offers 5X SkyMiles per dollar spent.
Earn More with Amex SkyMiles Credit Cards: Delta offers several credit cards through American Express. These cards include a no annual fee option, as well as several premium cards that provide lounge access and additional perks:
Hawaiian Airlines – Hawaiian Marketplace
Hawaiian Airlines does not have a decided dining program. Despite this, the airline does offer a Marketplace for members – which provides additional HawaiianMiles on eligible purchases. These partners and merchants include several restaurants and delivery services, allowing HawaiianMiles members to earn additional miles just for eating out at eligible restaurants.
JetBlue Airlines – TrueBlue Dining
New Member Bonus: Earn 500 points in your first 30 days. New accounts earn 500 TrueBlue points for opening an account and spending $25 or more with a registered credit or debit card at a participating restaurant in the first 30 days.
Earning Potential: Members earn a flat rate of 3X TrueBlue points per dollar spent.
Earn More with JetBlue Credit Cards: Diners looking to maximize their TrueBlue points can earn even more with co-branded JetBlue credit cards:
Southwest Airlines – Southwest Rapid Rewards
New Member Bonus: Earn 1,000 Rapid Rewards bonus points after spending at least $25 and writing a review on your experience within the first 30 days of signing up.
Earning Potential: Earn 3X points per dollar spent when opting in to emails; otherwise earn 1X point per 2 dollars spent.
Earn More with Southwest Credit Cards: Diners looking to maximize their Rapid Rewards points can earn even more with co-branded Southwest credit cards from Chase:
Spirit Airlines– Free Spirit Dining
New Member Bonus: Earn 1,000 bonus miles after spending at least $30 and writing a review on your experience within the first 30 days of signing up.
Earning Potential: Basic membership level earns 1X miles per $2 spent. The next tier is Online Member, which requires opting into emails and earns 3X miles per dollar spent. VIP level requires 12 qualified transactions per calendar year earns 5X miles per dollar spent.
Earn Additional Miles with Free Spirit Credit Cards: Free Spirit members can earn even more rewards with one of the airline’s co-branded credit cards. Spirit currently offers four credit cards from Bank of America and Mercury Financial:
United Airlines – MileagePlus Dining
New Member Bonus: Earn 3,000 bonus miles after spending at least $25 within the first 30 days of signing up (and leaving a review).
Earning Potential: Basic membership level earns 1X miles per $2 spent. The next tier is Select, which requires opting into emails and earns 3X miles per dollar spent. VIP level requires 12 qualified transactions per calendar year and receives 5X miles per dollar spent.
Earn More with United Co-Brand Credit Cards: Earn even more United MileagePlus miles through co-branded credit cards from Chase and First Hawaiian Bank:
Airline dining programs are a tremendous commitment-free way to earn miles and points towards your favorite airlines. While these programs alone may not earn you enough points to replace your airline rewards credit card outright – the sign-up bonuses alone could make them worth joining. As long as you don’t mind receiving the occasional email and writing a quick review, you’ll definitely find these programs easy to take advantage of.
Related Article: The Ultimate Guide to Airline Credit Cards
Featured image by Dan Gold / Unsplash