We don't eat out very often but when we do, I make sure we maximize our passive cashback rewards.
I call them passive because they're rewards where I don't have to do anything and I get it.
I don't have to check in on an app, I don't have to print out a coupon, and I don't need to photograph a receipt or jump through hoops.
Now, I see nothing wrong with taking photos, checking in, and all that (I do it frequently whenever we use grocery store apps); I just really like it when I can set something up once and get paid forever.
Fortunately, there's a whole new world of offers that do just that — they're called “card-linked offers.”
How Do They Work?
You sign up with a program and “link” your credit cards. When the restaurant reports a transaction with your credit card, you earn rewards. (You won't earn rewards if you pay cash since there's no way to link that transaction to you)
The companies that link the transactions together are called card-linked offers platforms. There aren't too many of these but the most well known is called Empyr, owned by Mogl.
The ones we use are:
- Yelp Cash Back
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining (it's the simplest way to earn RR points without doing anything extra!)
- Our credit card's cash back rewards
Can You Double Dip?
And yes, you can double dip. You can earn from one of these card-linked programs and your credit card.
The trick is knowing the card linked partner reviewing the transactions and issuing cashback. If they are different, you can get cash back from multiple sources.
You can't double-dip when the partner behind the scenes is the same. In this case, Yelp and Swagbucks Local have partnered with Empyr so you can't link the same card to both platforms. Empyr powers a bunch of programs (listed below).
Can You Triple Dip?
Maybe… years ago, we were triple dipping with Yelp, Rapid Rewards, and then our credit card cashback rewards.
For example, here is an email from Yelp where we got cashback from picking up takeout from Maiwand Kabob. We also picked up 15 Rapid Reward points from Southwest Dining.
On a roughly $30 bill, we're earning $3 in cashback on our credit card, $3 from Yelp Cash Back, and then 15 RR points (worth about a quarter).
Sadly, in late 2017, Yelp updated its terms of service that made it so you couldn't earn from two programs. You have to remove yourself from another program to get Yelp rewards. The programs that are ineligible are (with links to remove the card):
- AA Advantage
- Alaska Mileage Rewards
- Club O
- Delta SkyMiles
- Fuel Rewards
- Hilton Honors
- IHG Dining Rewards
- Mileage Plus United
- Orbitz Dining Rewards
- Shop Your Way
- Southwest Dining Rewards
- Spirit Airlines Rewards
- True Blue Dining (JetBlue)
If you are signed up, Yelp will email you to say you won't get the cashback. The triple-dipping days are gone, sadly.
Step 1. Get a Good Credit Card
All of these reward programs require you to link your credit card to an account. I use just two or three cards so I link all of them up.
None of my cards give an especially higher cashback rate for restaurants but there are some like Chase Sapphire Preferred, that will give you 2x points at restaurants. The Capital One Savor Card will give you 4% cashback on dining and entertainment.
To really juice up your rewards, you'll want to get one of those higher-rate cards. Otherwise, any will do.
Step 2. Sign Up For a Program
In my research, the reward structure is identical across all partners affiliated with the same card-linked offer provider. So the cash back you earn on Mogl, Yelp, and Swagbucks will be the same. Pick the one that's easiest for you.
- Yelp Cashback
Microsoft Earn(ending March 5, 2017) LivingSocial’s Restaurant Plus– shut down mid-2017
- Coupon.com’s rewards program (not for restaurants though)
- Swagbucks Local
- Rewards Network (direct)
- Search for “airline”+dining rewards — to find the one that matches your airline. They have a program for Alaska, American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United.
- Upromise Restaurants
If you're willing to do some extra work, there are some credit card issuers that will also have restaurant-related offers you have to activate.
In the case of American Express, you log into your account and look under Amex Offers and Benefits:
I have to activate the offer (this was a while ago so you might not see this) and then spend $75+ a China Chilcano by Jose Andres to get a $25 statement credit. It's not passive and I usually don't remember to do this (or find a match) — but it's another way to get even more off your purchase if the offers overlap.
Finally, if you do go out to eat, and you have kids, remember many restaurants have programs where kids eat free with your paid entree!