Dining out for miles

Just as you can earn extra miles on top of whatever you spend through online shopping, you can also do so through one of Rewards Network‘s dining programs, which are associated with specific airlines. Focus on which airline(s) you want to increase your mileage account at and register for their dining accounts (sometimes there are bonus miles to be had just by signing up. Have your mileage account number handy. Currently you can receive 1000 miles as a sign-up bonus):

AAdvantage Dining

MileagePlus Dining

SkyMiles Dining

Dividend Miles Dining

All you have to do is eat at a restaurant on a dining program’s list and pay with a registered credit card. You can register up to five credit cards, but be aware that since these programs are all run by Rewards Network, you can’t register the same card in two different dining programs. Therefore, I have my Chase Sapphire Preferred registered with MileagePlus dining, so I can’t go and register it with AAdvantage Dining.

After the payment is processed a few days after you dine, you’ll receive an email from the dining program telling you to fill out a review. Fill it out. It’s short and multiple choice. About a week or so after that, your miles should post to your mileage account.

A surprising number of restaurants are part of the dining program and they’re not just crap ones. I take advantage of getting extra miles by defaulting to dining program restaurants in my neighborhood, but I’ve also been surprised by receiving miles for going to places I just plain wanted to go to and didn’t realize they were part of the program. For example:

1. Tiki’s Bar and Grill by Waikiki Beach. Okay, there was a certain amount of shame involved in my coming here, but I had a strange and powerful urge to drink something fruity out of a snarling head that was likely to cause much intoxication. And so I did.

sometimes tourists get a little wild at Tiki's

2. Lulu’s Lahaina Surf Club and Grill on Maui. They had some great happy hour specials and I was so depressed after eating at Aloha Mixed Plate (They serve their lomilomi salmon in tiny little thimble-sized containers! There was barely any mac salad! They gave a tiny spoonful of poi! The ono was dry!) that I needed several beers. Getting several miles helped, too.

Mixed plates at Aloha Mixed Plate in Lahaina.

3. McGarry’s Pub in Midtown Manhattan. The Neurotic Nerd and I were waiting in the rain for the megabus. It didn’t come. I needed to pee. Solution: We went to the nearest bar. We ordered two shots of vodka. And then a few days later, I got an email telling me I earned United miles.

Anyway there are plenty of restaurants that are registered with the network and I was quite upset at first that some I went to frequently were. All this time I could have been earning extra miles. Plug in your zip code or whatever city you’re traveling to into the search box and a list of nearby restaurants will pop up. There is also an app you can download to search for restaurants while you’re on the move. Bonus points for you (literally) if you can organize a school or conference dinner at a registered restaurant, for which you can put on your registered card and will be reimbursed for. (I did this. It was a huge bill that also helped me make a minimum spend. I got a boatload of United miles.)

How many miles can you earn? You get 3 miles per dollar spent (that’s including tip, tax, etc) as an online member and 5 as a VIP member (after you’ve completed 12 dines in a calendar year).

You may be thinking, oh Flying Nerd, that is a heck of a lot of dines to get to VIP status. Yikes. But worry not! I made it to VIP status faster by simply splitting the check between 2 cards that were both registered under the same account. So if you split the check two ways each time you dine, you’ll make it to VIP status in 6 dines. I guess you could be a jerk and split a check onto three registered cards, but I am not a jerk. “Dine” simply means transaction — that includes a single drink at a registered establishment. Get drinks at the bar. Settle up. Then sit down at dinner, split the check, etc.

There are always ways to earn bonuses in addition to this basic miles earning, you just have to register for them. Once registered for the program, you’ll either get an email about bonuses or you can log into your account and click on the bonuses tab at the top of your screen. Right now, the Sweeten the Deal bonus is running until the end of the year. After you spent $125 at program restaurants, you’ll receive an extra 3 miles for each of those dollars. So if you’re a VIP member, that means 8 miles per dollar spent.

Last week, we went to our usual BYOB pizzeria and split the check, which meant I finally made it to $125 to qualify for the Sweeten the Deal bonus for my MileagePlus Dining account and the boyfriend was closer to making the $50 spend required for his 1000 mile sign-up bonus for his MileagePlus Dining account. The only unfortunate aspect to this was that we ran out of wine and respectable craft beer to take along to dinner and I had to sheepishly smuggle in some errant PBRs in my purse and pour them into our glasses when the server wasn’t looking. Oh yeah and when I tried to fill out our separate online reviews, I forgot the password I had set up with his account, entered the wrong one too many times, got his account locked and then unsuccessfully tried to impersonate him on the phone with MileagePlus Dining. Lesson here: add self as authorized user to every account you to control.

One Comment on “Dining out for miles”

  1. […] 3. Dining out, having registered for an airline-associated dining program. See explanation here. […]

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