6 Best Credit Cards for Restaurants in 2024

By Heidi Unrau | Published on 03 Jan 2024

Credit Cards for Restaurants
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    If you’re a foodie and not using one of the best credit cards for restaurants, you’re eating too much inflation and not enough free money. The right credit card for restaurant lovers can help portion control those prices and supersize your rewards like points, cash back, and travel miles. That means an extra side of dip can earn you a free trip and other awesome perks. Here are a few of my favourite credit cards for restaurants. However, some are subject to annual fees, minimum spend amounts, and other terms and conditions. Always do your research and compare credit cards to find the best one for you. Take a bite out of inflation, and bon appetite!

    Credit cards
    Best for
    No-Fee Cash Back
    Foodies & Travel Lovers
    Cash Back at Almost Any Restaurant
    Customizable Cash Back Categories
    Households & Investors

    Neo Credit: Best for No-Fee Cash Back

    [Offer productType=”CreditCard” api_id=”60fed96813fd2f260ff90748″]

    I believe that the Neo Credit Card is one of the best cash back credit cards on the market, and the best no-fee credit card for restaurants. Neo has partnered with over 10,000+ merchants across the country, allowing you to earn an average of 5% cash back. On top of that, you can earn up to 15% cash back (sometimes more) on every first purchase you make at a Neo partner.

    Their partner restaurant line-up is extensive and includes local hidden gems you probably don’t know about. Neo helped me discover my new favourite restaurant in Winnipeg. Plus, I feel good about supporting a small local business over a massive chain. They’ve also partnered with national favourites like Boston Pizza, Earls Kitchen & Bar, Chop Steakhouse & Bar, Second Cup Cafe, and countless more.

    On top of that, you can add a Food & Drink rewards package to your card for just $1.99 per month, and cancel it anytime. This rewards package gives you 1.25x more cash back at partner restaurants, bars, cafes, and food delivery partners like Skip The Dishes.

    Neo Credit is one of the best credit cards for restaurants and helps you discover hidden local gems

    Next, Neo is more than a credit card, it’s a digital bank account that earns 2.25% interest on your balance, no monthly account fees, and free unlimited daily banking transactions. Cash back is added to your rewards balance almost instantly, can be cashed out anytime, and there is no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn. If you love free money, deposit your cash back rewards into your Neo Money Account where it earns 2.25% interest – way higher than anything the big banks offer.

    While the base cash back rate is just 0.5%, you can use the app the find partners and bonus cash back offers near you. By shopping strategically, you can earn an average of 5% cash back or more. However, if your average monthly cash back rate dips below 0.5%, Neo will top you up thanks to their minimum cash back guarantee.

    To learn more, check out our full review of the Neo Credit card and find out why we think it’s one of the best credit cards in Canada too.

    Eligibility requirementsDescription
    Credit score (estimated)Fair (600 or more)
    Minimum incomeNone
    OtherYou are a Canadian resident, have a Canadian photo ID and are the age of majority in the province or territory where you live.

    American Express Cobalt Card: Best for Foodies & Travel Lovers

    [Offer productType=”CreditCard” api_id=”5f46aebc4726ce7207266a75″]

    The American Express Cobalt Card is the best overall credit card for restaurants and all things food, especially if you also love to travel. But it comes with a fee of $12.99 per month, which works out to a hefty $155.88 per year. So why is it at the bottom of our list? Two reasons:

    Other than the fee, this card is a foodie’s dream that will land you 5x the points on purchases made at dine-in restaurants, fast food establishments, quick service restaurants, drinking establishments, and cafes. Not only that, but the AMEX Cobalt Card recently landed on our list of best credit cards for groceries, bagging you the same 5x the points on purchases at eligible grocery stores and grocery delivery services like Instacart

    The aggressive 5 points per $1 on dining and groceries applies to the first $2,500 spent in those food & dining categories each month. If you exceed the $2,500 monthly maximum, the earn rate drops down to 1 point per $1. Once you factor in the price of groceries, that’s kind of a low spending cap, especially for families.

    With the  American Express Cobalt Card, you also earn 3x the points on eligible streaming subscriptions like Netflix and Spotify, and 2x the points on eligible gas, transportation, and rideshare services. All other card purchases earn 1 point per $1.

    So what are all those points actually worth? Well, if you strategically use them for travel expenses they translate into a pretty massive return on your food expenses. You’ll get the best redemption value on your points if you transfer them to the Aeroplan Program with Air Canada, then book your travel from there. 

    Your points transfer at a 1-to-1 ratio and can be worth up to $0.02 per point on travel booking and related expenses. That makes the return on your food purchases anywhere from 7% to 10% in dollar value through Aeroplan Points. No matter how you choose to redeem your points, even the lowest redemption value nets you a return of no less than 5% on your dining and grocery purchases. Other ways to cash in on your AMEX points include, but are not limited to: Amazon.ca, gift cards, merchandise, statement credits, and more.

    Eligibility requirementsDescription
    Credit score (estimated)Good/Very Good (660 or more)
    Minimum incomeNone
    OtherYou are a Canadian resident, the age of majority in the province or territory where you live, and have a Canadian credit file.

    Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa: Best for Cash Back

    [Offer productType=“CreditCard” api_id=“61a1344886fe7e29f7ee241c”]

    Coming in a close second is the Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa. I haven’t seen this one mentioned very often, which is a bummer for the foodies scoping out the best credit cards for restaurants. The Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa is a no-fee card that offers an impressive 4% cash back rate at merchants coded as Restaurants, Eating Places, and Drinking Places by Visa. That means you don’t have to worry about gamifying your purchases among “partners”. You earn the same incredible cash back rate at pretty much any eating and drinking establishment you want.

    On the downside, there is a spending cap on the 4% earn rate. You only earn 4% cash back on the first $5,000 you spend each year at eligible restaurants, cafes, bars, nightclubs, discotheques, and more. After that, it drops to 0.5% cash back until your spending cap resets the following year.

    Other perks include 1.5% cash back on the first $15,000 you spend per year at eligible grocery stores, gas stations, and pharmacies as well as on pre-authorized bill payments. Once you hit the maximum annual spend, the rate drops to 0.5% cash back until it resets the following year.

    There is no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn. The downside is you can’t redeem them whenever you want. Your cash back rewards accumulate each month and are paid out once a year as a credit on your statement. But no annual fee and a 4% cash back rate is totally worth the wait in my opinion.

    The Simplii Financial Cash Back Visa is especially great for those who are new to Canada and students. If you fall into either of those categories, there are different eligibility requirements for you, making the card more accessible to those with a limited credit history. On the application page, click the blue link “New to Canada or a Student?” Then apply under the “New to Canada Offer” or the “Studen Banking Offer.” 

    Eligibility requirementsDescription
    Credit score (estimated)Good (660 or more)
    Minimum income$15,000 household
    OtherYou are a Canadian resident (excluding Quebec), have a Canadian photo ID, are the age of majority in the province or territory where you live, and have not declared bankruptcy in the last 7 years.

    Tangerine World Mastercard: Best for Customizable Cash Back Categories

    [Offer productType=”CreditCard” api_id=”5f344d1b92ec22115033b303″]

    The Tangerine World Mastercard has slipped down the list of best credit cards for restaurants but still packs a punch for those who love any food they didn’t have to make. This no-fee cash back card offers 2% cash back on up to 3 purchase categories of your choice. And there are no spending maximums on those categories to worry about either. All other Tangerine World Mastercard purchases earn a lacklustre 0.5% cash back.

    On the upside, there is no limit on the amount of cash back you can earn and the money is credited to your statement every month. You don’t have to wait a year for it, and there is no minimum redemption amount. Normally, you only earn 2% cash back in 2 purchase categories. But if you open a Tangerine Savings Account and have your cash back balance deposited there, you get to choose a 3rd category for 2% cash back.

    this credit card for restaurants lets you customize your cash back categories

    The Tangerine World Mastercard gives you total control to choose your cash back categories based on your unique spending habits. You can even change your 2% cash back categories up each month to flex and align with your changing needs. I especially love this card because there’s no complicated mental math or points conversion charts to worry about. You know you’re going to get 2% back in cold hard cash every month. Once the money hits your Tangerine account, you can spend it however you want, making the Tangerine World Mastercard another one of the best cash back credit cards in Canada

    Eligibility requirementsDescription
    Credit score (estimated)Good (660 or higher)
    Minimum income$60,000 in personal income or $100,000 for the household or total balances of $250,000 or more in Tangerine accounts
    OtherBe a resident of Canada and have reached the age of majority in your province or territory of residence. Be clear of bankruptcies over the past 7 years.

    Scotiabank Gold American Express: Best for No FX Fees

    [Offer productType=”CreditCard” api_id=”5f32aa0a63ae8636997fa6a7″]

    The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card is another beloved credit card for restaurants and also one of the best travel rewards credit cards. You earn 5 Scene+ Points per dollar on eats and drinks like sit-down restaurants, fast food joints, drinking establishments, food subscription boxes like Hello Fresh, and delivery services like SkipThe Dishes.

    But you’ll earn the highest rate of 6 points per dollar at eligible grocery stores and on entertainment purchases like Cineplex movie tickets! After all, dinner without a movie is like macaroni without cheese. You also get 3 points per dollar on eligible gas and transportation purchases, which include public transit and rideshares like Uber, as well as on eligible streaming services.

    Having said that, there is a total spending cap across all purchase categories combined. You only earn those points on the first $50,000 of annual spending across all the rewards categories combined. Once you exceed the maximum spend, the earn rate drops to 1 point per $1. 

    Scene+ points don’t have quite the same redemption value as some other travel rewards cards, but the total annual spend limit is much higher than the next closest competitor. That gives you the opportunity to earn more points towards the stuff you actually want. Scene+ Points can be redeemed for travel, movie tickets, merchandise, and more.

    You’ll get the best redemption value when points are redeemed for travel, which you can do through any carrier or provider you want. That translates to a 5% return on your food purchases when you cash those points in for your next getaway. Plus, you’ll love not paying any additional foreign transaction fees when travelling and spending abroad.

    Card Hack: UberEats is classified as a travel service. That means you can use your points to have your favourite dish delivered right to your door without giving up that lip-smacking 5% return – basically a 5% discount on your food.

    Keep in mind, any money spent on UberEats will not earn the same 5 points per $1 because it won’t be categorized as a restaurant purchase. But if you didn’t have to put on pants and leave the house, I call it a win!   

    The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card does not charge any foreign transaction fees, making it one of the best credit cards without foreign transaction fees too.

    Eligibility requirementsDescription
    Credit score (estimated)Good (700 or more)
    Minimum incomeNone
    OtherYou are a Canadian resident and are the age of majority in the province or territory where you live.

    Minimum credit limit of $5,000.

    BMO Eclipse Visa Infinite: Best for Households & Investors

    [Offer productType=”CreditCard” api_id=”5ff3e0a918430b1206c2fae4″]

    The BMO Eclipse Visa Infinite Card is a great credit card for restaurants This card will also give you 5 points per $1 spent at eligible dining establishments, grocery stores, gas stations, and on transportation. All other card purchases earn 1 point per $1. A standout feature is that you’ll earn 10% more points when you add an authorized user. Both you and your authorized user benefit from this 10% reward bonus. That makes this restaurant credit card perfect for couples and households who want to maximize their points.

    On the downside, the earn rate of 5 points per $1 is applied to the first $50,000 of annual card purchases combined across the accelerated reward categories. If you exceed the annual spend threshold, the earn rate drops down to 1 point per $1. Now, the redemption value of your BMO Rewards is not as high as the other cards, but that’s ok. BMO makes up for it with my favourite redemption feature ever – the ability to use free money to make more free money. Cha-ching!

    You get the best redemption value when points are used for travel. But in my opinion, the best way to redeem your cash back is to have it deposited into your BMO Investorline account. Investing that money wisely will generate returns and effectively increase the value of those points over the long run. Don’t believe me? Historically, the stock market has provided a 7% average rate of return over the last 20 years. 

    Let’s pretend you hit that $50,000 spending limit for the accelerated points categories, and earned 5 points on every single dollar. You would end up with at least 250,000 points worth roughly $1,500 in cash back to invest within your BMO Investorline account. Assuming an average rate of return of 7%, over the next 10 years that $1,500 could be worth about $3,000. Of course, actual market returns fluctuate from year to year. 

    The next best way to redeem your BMO Rewards is for travel expenses. The downside is that you can only redeem points for travel through the BMO Rewards in-house travel agency, which can restrict your travel options. You can also redeem your points as a credit on your statement, or for gift cards and merchandise through the BMO Rewards website. However, that will net you the lowest rate of return on your purchases because the points redemption value is lower, and the value of your points varies across BMO partner retailers too. 

    Eligibility requirementsDescription
    Credit score (estimated)Good (660 or more)
    Minimum income$60,000 personal, $100,000 household income, or $15,000 annual card spend
    OtherYou are a Canadian resident, the age of majority in the province or territory where you live, and have not declared bankruptcy in the last 7 years.

    Special Shout Out: KOHO Prepaid Mastercard for Poor Credit or No Credit

    [Offer productType=”CreditCard” api_id=”637cf8206bbb7962c19ae225″]

    Maybe you like the idea of a credit card more than you actually like credit cards. For the debt-wary, new to credit, or those with bad credit, you don’t have to miss out on rewards at your favourite eateries. The KOHO Prepaid Mastercard has your back when you open a KOHO account.

    To use the card, you load it with your own money. It doesn’t require a credit check, it won’t affect your credit score, and you’ll never owe a balance or pay interest. You can earn up to 2% cash back on dining, drinking, groceries, and transportation when you subscribe to the Extra Plan ($9/month) or the Everything Plan ($19/month).

    Plus, KOHO has partnered with merchants across Canada to give you up to 50% extra cash (the average is 5%) back when you shop with them. Some restaurants in their partner program include Harvey’s, DoorDash, Chef’s Plate, Baskin Robbins, and more! 

    Here’s an example: Baskin Robbins is an ice cream shop partnered with KOHO. They offer you a bonus 5% cash back when you make a purchase with your KOHO card. As a KOHO Extra member, when you buy a hot-fudge sundae at Baskin Robbins with your KOHO card, you’ll actually get 7% cash back! (2% + 5% = 7%). 

    Cash back is earned instantly, deposited into your spendable account within 1-2 business days, and there is no limit on the amount of cash back you can earn. Once it hits your account, you can do whatever you want with it. Spend it, save it, transfer it to another account, it’s up to you.

    But if you save it, you’ll earn up to 5% interest on the balance. That’s one of the highest savings interest rates in Canada right now. Not to mention, KOHO is an incredible neobank that offers virtually free daily banking services, creative features, and extra perks not offered by regular banks.

    Eligibility requirementsDescription
    Credit score (estimated)None
    Minimum incomeNone
    OtherBe a permanent resident or Canadian citizen and have reached the age of majority in your province or territory of residence.

    FAQs

    Which credit card is best for restaurants?

    The American Express Cobalt Card is the best overall credit card for restaurants. It offers a high reward rate, giving cardholders 5x the points on purchases made at dine-in restaurants, fast food establishments, quick service restaurants, and various drinking establishments. However, it is more difficult to qualify for and not as widely accepted as Visa and Mastercard. For that reason, Neo Credit is the best credit card for restaurants because of its countless bonus cash back opportunities and it’s one of the easiest credit cards to qualify for.

    Are bars considered restaurants for credit cards?

    For many credit cards, bars are often categorized alongside restaurants, especially if the primary business is serving food. In most cases, drinking establishments are explicitly included in the food & dining category that earns rewards, indicating that bars would be considered in the same category as restaurants for rewards purposes. However, this can vary by card issuer, so it’s always best to check the terms and conditions of the specific credit card.

    Do coffee shops count as restaurants for credit cards?

    Yes, coffee shops are typically classified under the same category as restaurants for credit card reward purposes. In most cases, cafes are specifically mentioned as a type of establishment where cardholders can earn increased points, suggesting that coffee shops count as restaurants in the context of earning rewards. However, this can vary by card issuer, so it’s always best to check the terms and conditions of the specific credit card.

    Can restaurants charge extra for using a credit card?

    Yes, restaurants can charge an extra fee for using a credit card, known as a credit card surcharge. These surcharges are meant to cover the processing fees that credit card companies charge merchants. These surcharges are regulated, but in Quebec, they are completely prohibited. It’s advisable for customers to be aware of the rules in their specific location.

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    Heidi Unrau is a senior finance journalist at Hardbacon. She studied Economics at the University of Winnipeg, where she fell in love with all-things-finance. At 25, she kicked-off her financial career in retail banking as a teller. She quickly progressed to become a Credit Analyst and then Private Lender. This hands-on industry experience uniquely positions her to provide expert insight on loans, credit scores, credit cards, debt, and banking services. She has been featured in publications such as WealthRocket, Scary Mommy, Credello, and Plooto. When she's not chasing after her two little boys, you'll find her hiding in the car listening to the Freakonomics podcast, or binge-watching financial crime documentaries with a bowl of ice cream. Fun Fact: Heidi has lived in five different provinces across Canada and her blood type is coffee.