Unless you’re a road warrior with elite status, chances are you earn more points and miles through credit card spend rather than actually flying. Hopefully, you have one or two credit cards in your wallet that earn bonus points on dining, but there could be extra points you’re leaving on the table. In the points and miles hobby, the art of stacking is an advanced skill to accelerate your points earning potential, and it might even save you money.
We’ll break down the different ways to earn points each time you go out to eat, but let’s start with an everyday example to explain stacking. If you go to the drugstore to buy some toothpaste, and you have a coupon, that’s one way to save. But if you’re also a savvy points collector you can earn 5X the points on your Chase Freedom credit card since drugstores are this quarter’s category bonus. Not only are you saving money with your coupon, you’re also earning extra points by using the right credit card for the purchase. That’s a simple stack.
The following method of extreme stacking on dining does take some leg work, but the payoff can be quite lucrative – both in money saved and points earned. Read on for a step-by-step guide to maximize the points you earn when dining out.
Start by Enrolling in a Dining Program
American’s AAdvantage, Delta’s SkyMiles and United’s MileagePlus are just a few of the major travel loyalty programs that participate in a dining network. Each has a separate website to create an account, link your credit cards and loyalty account number, and if you spend money at a restaurant in their network, your points or miles will be automatically deposited to your chosen loyalty account. Every airline and hotel that participates uses the same Rewards Network platform, so you can’t sign up for multiple programs and earn points simultaneously, but each network features the same restaurants. Once enrolled, you can search their site for restaurants that are members of these programs and you can pick the program you want to accrue miles in.
You’re probably familiar with Groupon, Living Social, or other similar websites that offer deals on stores and restaurants by buying a coupon in advance and using it toward a discount on your purchase. This is the next move in your stack. Open two browser windows so you can search simultaneously your dining network and Groupon (or whatever site you choose) to find a restaurant that is on both websites so you can get a discount and earn miles.
Use a Shopping Portal
Before you buy your Groupon though, you should go through a shopping portal to maximize the miles earned. Open a third browser and visit your favorite shopping portal for earning airline miles. (I go an extra step and use cashbackmonitor.com to find which portal offers the highest bonuses). Next, on the portal site, search for Groupon, and use their link to relaunch Groupon.com (or whichever coupon purchase site you use) in another browser window. Now you’re ready to complete your purchase with the credit card of your choice, which is hopefully affiliated with a reward program so you get those points or miles as well.
Make a Reservation on Open Table
But we’re not done yet. You can also join a reservation program that offers its own rewards. For example Open Table is a great way to make restaurant reservations quickly and easily, and they offer their own loyalty program as well. You’ll earn between 100 and 1,000 points for every successful reservation you complete. Those points can be used for a gift certificate at a restaurant in the Open Table program. Best of all, it’s free!
Putting It All Together
So to recap: find a restaurant that participates in your chosen dining program that offers a Groupon, and that you can make a reservations for using Open Table. Make sure to use a shopping portal before you buy your Groupon. Decide when you’re going out to eat and book the reservation through Open Table. Finally when it’s time to dine out, check in with the host or hostess, use your Groupon to save on your meal, pay with a credit card that earns bonus points on dining, and voila, you’re a stacking champion!
Adding Up the Potential
Here’s a real life example of a restaurant I visited in the Lower East Side in Manhattan.
1. My fiancé and I decided to go to the restaurant VSPOT and confirmed they participate in AAdvantage Dining.
2. Next, I searched cashbackmonitor.com and found the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal is offering an extra 4 points/dollar on Groupon purchases. I logged onto ultimaterewards.com, navigated to the shopping area, searched for Groupon, and clicked their link to launch Groupon.com.
3. From there, I found a VSPOT deal for $35 that can be redeemed for $58 worth of food. Note that with Ultimate Rewards’ portal, Chase requires you to use an Ultimate Rewards credit card to earn the bonus, so I used my Freedom Unlimited.
4. I like to use the Open Table app on my phone to make reservations, so that’s how I booked the reservation.
5. When the night came to visit VSPOT, I checked in with the hostess to confirm my reservation, used the Groupon to pay for part of the meal, then my fiancé put the balance of our bill on her Chase Sapphire Reserve.
In total, our bill came to $34.31 after tax, tip, and the Groupon discount, and we earned the following points:
1. From AAdvantage Dining, my fiancé earned 3X on the $34.41 we paid at the restaurant for a total of 103 American miles.
2. I earned 140 Ultimate Rewards points from paying for the Groupon through the UR shopping portal.
3. I paid for the Groupon with my Freedom Unlimited, so I earned 52.5 Ultimate Reward points on the $35 purchase.
4. Through Open Table, I earned 100 Open Table points worth $1 toward a future gift certificate.
5. Lastly, my fiancé earned 103 Ultimate Reward points for paying our bill of $34.41 with her Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Grand total spent: $69.41 (restaurant tab of 34.41 plus the Groupon cost of $35)
Points earned: 295.5 Ultimate Reward points, 103 American miles and 100 Open Table Points.
It’s possible your restaurant of choice doesn’t participate in a dining program, work with Groupon or use Open Table, but the potential is certainly there. And it’s always a fun adventure checking out new restaurants. Happy dining!