Everything You Need to Know How to Earn Miles With Airline Dining Programs

Top view of various tasty italian dishes and drinks on wooden rustic table at restaurant

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Did you know you can earn lots of miles without flying? Here’s everything you need to know about how to earn miles with airline dining programs.

The fastest way to earn thousands of miles without flying is by getting a big welcome offer on a new travel rewards credit card.

But not everyone wants to or can get a credit card. Whether it’s because you’re 5/24, have opened too many cards, your credit score isn’t high enough, have credit card debt, or prefer not to use a credit card.

You can earn lots of frequent flyer miles without flying and without opening a new credit card.

Simply by doing something you’re already doing.

Without spending extra money.

Or needing to meet minimum spending.

In fact, there’s no required spending at all.

You spend what you want, when you want, and where you want and you earn miles.

It’s that easy.

Keep reading to learn more about the airline dining programs and how to use the iDine Rewards Network to earn airline miles for free flights.

Everything You Need to Know How to Earn Miles With Airline Dining Programs

I admit. I’m obsessed with earning miles and points.

Since our trip to Tahiti and Australia in 1994, I’ve been on a mission to earn as many miles and points as possible.

Without having to spend money.

Thanks to restaurant rewards I don’t have to.

And neither do you.

You don’t have to fly.

No coupons needed.

You don’t have to do anything except eat at participating rewards restaurants.

Easy.

Simple.

The way earning frequent flyer miles should be.

iDine Rewards Network

table at summer terrace cafe

I LOVE the iDine Rewards Network! It’s one of the ways I earn thousands of miles every year and you can too.

The iDine Rewards Network is an easy way to earn airline miles without any effort.

A simple three-step process and you’re on your way to earning frequent flyer miles without stepping foot on a plane:

Step 1. Join an airline dining program
Step 2. Register your credit card or debit card
Step 3. Dine at a participating restaurant

Most miles post to your airline loyalty account within a few business days days.

Pro-tip: You do not have to pay with an airline credit card. You can use any credit card or debit card and earn miles with your favorite airline.

When eating out at home and traveling I always look for iDine restaurants. You’ll be surprised at how many restaurants participate.

Rewards Network partners with over 11,000 restaurants in the United States. From fine dining to fast-food restaurants, from coffee shops to casual eateries, you can find any type of food through the Rewards Network establishment.

There are some airport restaurants belong to the dining program.

So if you don’t have free airport lounge access with your credit card, know the tricks to get into an airport lounge, or bought a cheap First Class or Business Class ticket, you can earn miles while hanging out in the terminal.

Because Rewards network manages the airline dining programs, the same restaurants belong to all the programs.

So regardless of which airline restaurant program you join, you have access to the same restaurants.

Pro-tip: Bars, breweries, nightclubs take part in Rewards Network. So that pint or cocktail can get you that much closer to a free seat on your next flight.

A recent survey shows that people in the US eat out 2 to 3 times a week.

If you spend $100 each time you dine at a participating rewards restaurant you can earn up to 500 airline miles.

You’ll earn even more miles if there’s a bonus offer.

Pro-tip: You earn miles on tax and gratuity! So be generous, tip well.

No Coupons Required

When you eat at a Rewards Network restaurants there are no coupons required to earn your miles.

It’s introvert-friendly. So if you’re like me and don’t like to make a fuss or draw attention to yourself, dining with iDine is awesome.

Because it’s completely incognito. You don’t have to say anything to your server. No one at the restaurant will know you’re earning miles.

You order, eat, and pay.

In a few days, the frequent flyer miles post to your account.

The Most Important Thing to Know

very important

Earning miles by eating at participating airline dining program restaurants is an easy way to earn miles.

You can join all the programs or just a few. Register one card or many cards.

But there is a single most important thing to know.

You can’t register the same card with different programs. Because you won’t earn miles.

This means if you register your Chase Sapphire Reserve with the American Airlines AAdvantage dining program, you can’t also register it with the Southwest Rapid Rewards dining program.

You can take part in both programs. You just can’t use the same credit card or debit card to earn miles in both programs.

The airline dining rewards programs let you register any card.

But you won’t get miles if you’ve linked the same card to another airline’s restaurant program.

They won’t notify or tell you that you’ve added a card with a different account. They just don’t award you any miles for your dine.

Pro-tip: So you should keep track of which dining rewards program you’ve registered each card.

There’s a column in my credit card tracker spreadsheet that keeps track of which airline dining program I’ve registered each card.

How to Travel Hack Airline Dining Programs

Dining more often means you earn more points but that doesn’t mean you have to spend more money.

Maximize your miles and points the easy way.

You can be an expert and travel hack airline dining programs with these simple tricks.

If you’re not interested in learning how to get the most miles every time you eat at restaurants, you can skip this section. Scroll down past all the ways to travel hack the Rewards Network dining program to learn how many miles you earn from each dining program.

But do you really want to leave miles on the table?

I didn’t think so. 🙂

Split the Check

One of my favorite travel hacks to earn lots of frequent flyer miles from airline dining programs is to split the check.

Most people think of splitting the check as in sharing the bill with someone else.

When eating at airline dining programs, it means more miles.

Because you get more dines and possible bonus points. Scroll down to learn how to earn extra points.

With most airline programs, you earn more miles after 12 dines in a calendar year. But you don’t have to eat out once a month.

The airline dining programs count a dine (or visit) as one check.

Splitting the check gives you two or more dines from a single visit.

If your bill comes to $50, you can split the bill into two equal payments of $25 each. This gives you two dines.

Or you can split the check into four equal payments of $12.50 and get four dines.

An easy way to split the check at participating fast food restaurants is to order your food on one ticket. Then order your drink separately.

Pro-tip: When you split the check you can pay with the same credit card or debit card, an authorized user card, or use a different card.

Use a Card With a Restaurant Bonus

Travel hack your favorite airline dining program when you use a card with a restaurant bonus.

Double dip and earn points while earning airline miles at restaurants.

By using a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, American Express Gold, or Capital One(R) SavorOne(SM) Cash Rewards Credit Card (learn more about this card) that gives bonus points at restaurants, you’ll earn extra points.

Here’s how to maximize dining benefits with the Amex Gold card.

Pro-tip: Some airline cards like the Citi AAdvantage card earn 2x miles for every $1 spent at restaurants.

So if you spend $100 at a rewards restaurant and are a VIP member with AA Dining, you’ll earn 1,000 miles when you pay with your card.

Combine Other Offers

Another way to travel hack airline dining programs is to combine other offers to triple dip, get new enrollment bonuses, and high point offers.

Triple Dip

Here’s how to triple dip to get more miles and points on each dine.

Some credit card companies like Chase credit cards and American Express credit cards offer bonus points every month when you pay with your card at select merchants.

When an iDine restaurant is a Chase Offer or Amex Offer, you can triple dip. You’ll earn miles from eating at the Rewards Network restaurant. Double dip and use your restaurant category bonus card. Finally triple dip by earning extra points.

Pro-tip: Check each of your cards because they may have different bonus offers.

New Enrollment Bonuses

The airline dining programs offer new enrollment bonuses to new members.

New enrollment bonuses are usually offered at the beginning and end of the year. But sometimes they give new member bonuses throughout the year.

Pro-tip: If you haven’t signed up for any dining rewards programs, stagger our signups.

Instead of enrolling in all the airline dining programs at the same time, sign up with one or two. Then join a few later in the year.

Airline Dining Programs

Most of the US airlines participate in the iDine Rewards Network program. So it’s easy to earn lots of miles with many airlines without flying.

Here are the details about earning frequent flyer miles with your favorite airline while you eat.

All the airline dining programs except JetBlue and Southwest offer three levels of members: Basic, Select (or Online), and VIP.

The number of miles earned for each dollar spent depends on your membership level.

Pro-tip: You can travel hack your way to a VIP membership in airline dining programs. If you’ve scrolled past that section, you may want to go back and read it.

Back in the 90’s and before travel hacking became more well-known you could earn 10 miles per dollar spent.

It was glorious! We earned tens of thousands of miles for dining out.

There were a lot more participating restaurants back then. And with the advanced search function, it was easy to find restaurants with extra bonus offers.

Now that airline dining programs’ websites are mobile-friendly, it’s harder.

But you can still earn lots of miles without much effort.

Pro-tip: To earn miles with airline dining programs you need to have an airline frequent flyer account.

1. Alaska Airlines 

It can hard to earn lots of Alaska Airlines miles because they only have two travel rewards credit cards.

That’s where Rewards Network comes in, giving you a way to earn miles in Alaska Airlines MileagePlan.

With Alaska MileagePlan Dining you’ll earn:

  • Basic members who’ve opted out of emails earn 1 mile per $2 spent
  • Select (Online) members who opt-in in for emails earn 3 miles per $1 spent
  • VIP members who opt-in for emails and have 12 dines a calendar year earn 5 miles per $1 spent

Pro-tip: You can earn 1000 bonus miles when you spend $30 in your first 30 days of membership. Remember to opt-in for emails with a valid email address and complete an online review to get your extra miles.

No worries. The online review is 10 easy, short multiple-choice questions.

Pro-tip: Alaska MileagePlan Dining website still offers the Advance search function.

2. American Airlines 

American Airlines’s dining program is the most generous of all the airline dining programs.

Because you earn American Airlines miles for every dollar spent at participating restaurants.

And you don’t have to complete a review. 🙂

As an AAdvantage Dining member you’ll earn:

  • Basic members who’ve opted out of emails earn 1 mile per $1 spent
  • Select members who opt-in in to receive emails earn 3 miles per $1 spent
  • VIP members who opt-in for emails and have 12 dines a year earn 5 miles per $1 spent

Pro-tip: New members earn 1,000 bonus miles when you spend $25 in the first 30 days of joining. Unlike the Alaska dining program you don’t have to opt-in for emails or write a review.

3. Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines’s dining program is like the Alaska Airlines MileagePlan. There are three levels and basic members only earn 1 mile for every $2 spent.

With SkyMiles Dining you’ll earn:

  • Basic members who’ve opted out of emails earn 1 mile for every $2 spent
  • Select members who opt-in in for emails earn 3 miles for each $1 spent
  • VIP members who opt-in for emails and have 12 dines a calendar year earn 5 miles for every $1 spent

Pro-tip: You can earn up to 3,000 bonus miles as a new Skymiles Dining member in your first 30 days.

You’ll earn 500 bonus miles after spending $30. SkyMiles Medallion members get 1,000 miles.

Visit a second restaurant and spend another $30 to earn 1,000 more bonus miles. If your bill is more than $60 on your first visit, you can use the split the check travel hack to qualify to get the second restaurant/dine bonus.

Earn an extra 1,500 bonus miles after spending $30 at a third participating restaurant.

To get the bonus miles you have to complete an online review within 30 days of each dine.

4. JetBlue Airlines

JetBlue’s TrueBlue Dining program is the simplest of all the airline dining programs.

As a TrueBlue Dining member, you earn 3 points per $1 spent when you opt-in and join.

There aren’t any surveys to complete. But they don’t offer a new member bonus. 🙁

5. Southwest Airlines

The Southwest Airlines dining program is an easy way to earn Southwest points without flying.

Points earned at participating restaurants count towards earning your Southwest Companion Pass.

So if you already have a Southwest credit card like the Southwest Premier card or Southwest Premier Business card, going out to eat can help you get you closer to that Companion Pass.

As a Rapid Rewards Dining member, you’ll earn 1 point every $2 spent if you opt-out of emails or 3 points every $1 spent when you opt-in for emails.

Pro-tip: Like the Alaska Airlines dining rewards program, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining website offers an Advance search function to quickly find rewards restaurants.

Bonus Offers

Southwest gives you lots of opportunities to earn bonus points. But these extra bonus points don’t count towards the Companion Pass. 🙁

First Step Bonus

The First Step Bonus gives you 500 bonus points after you earn 1,500 points from dining.

Thank You Bonus

With the Thank You bonus you earn 300 bonus points every time you accrue 1,000 points from dining.

Review bonus

The Review bonus awards you with 10 bonus points every time you complete a review.

Pro-tip: New members can earn 1,000 bonus points in your first 30 days when you spend $25 at a participating restaurant and complete an online review.

6. Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines also has a dining program with three membership levels.

With Free Spirit Dining you’ll earn:

  • Basic members who’ve opted out of emails earn 1 mile per $2 spent
  • Online members who opt-in in to receive emails earn 3 miles per $1 spent
  • VIP members who opt-in for emails and have 12 dines a calendar year earn 5 miles per $1 spent

Pro-tip: You can earn 1000 bonus miles after spending $30 in your first 30 days, opt-in for emails with a valid email address, and complete an online review to get your extra miles.

Their website also has an Advanced Search button. 

7. United Airlines

The United Airlines dining program is very similar to Delta’s dining program. But you don’t have to complete a review.

As a United MileagePlus Dining members you get:

  • Basic members who’ve opted out of emails earn 1 mile for every $2 spent
  • Select members who opt-in in for emails earn 3 miles for each $1 spent
  • VIP members who opt-in for emails and have 12 dines a year earn 5 miles for every $1 spent

Pro-tip: You can earn up to 3,000 bonus miles as a new United MileagePlus Dining member in your first 30 days.

You’ll earn 1,000 bonus miles after spending $25. MileagePlus credit cardholders (United Mileage Plus Explorer, United MileagePlus Explorer Business, and United MileagePlus Club Business) and Premier members earn an extra 500 miles.

Earn 500 bonus miles when you spend another $25 at up to three more participating restaurants. Use the split the check travel hack to qualify to get the extra 500 bonus miles for more restaurant/dines.

Conclusion

You can earn lots of airline miles without flying when you eat at airline dining program restaurants.

No coupons or discount codes are needed. You don’t need to know the secret handshake. 

Join an airline dining program. Register your credit card or debit card. Dine at a participating restaurant.

Miles post quickly, usually within a few business days.

But you won’t earn miles if your card is registered to rewards restaurants. So be sure to keep track of which programs you’ve added each credit card.

The number of miles earned depends on your level within the program. You get the most miles after you’ve visited 12 restaurants or had 12 dines. 

You can travel hack your way to more miles when you split the check, use a card with a restaurant bonus like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, American Express Gold, or Capital One(R) SavorOne(SM) Cash Rewards Credit Card (learn more about this card).

Remember to check for new member bonuses.

I’m a member of several airline dining programs. But my favorites are Alaska MileagePlan Dining, AAdvantage Dining, and Rapid Rewards Dining. 

What are your favorite airline dining programs?

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Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for beginning travel hackers. It is the first card you should get to start traveling for free because the welcome offer is 60,000 points (after spending $4,000 in the first three months).
 
My favorite perks about this card are earning 2X points on travel and dining, no foreign transaction fees, and transferring points to 13 airline and hotel partners like Hyatt, United, and Southwest.
 

Debra Schroeder

Debra is a former 12-year travel industry executive and has traveled the world using airline miles and credit card points since 1994. She'll teach you the secrets of traveling well for less.

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9 Comments

  • The below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
  • Danik January 5, 2020 at 3:04 am

    I am really thinking that I should have started to collect air miles years ago. I don’t collect them but after reading a few posts of yours recently (and now that my family is getting bigger), this is probably one thing I should start doing (so probably look around later this week for programs similar to this in the UK). Didn’t know about splitting the check, and I can see why you do it and sounds like a great way to building up the miles. Knowing me, I would have just paid the bill in one hit. 😛

  • Elizabeth January 5, 2020 at 8:56 pm

    How did I not know about this before???? I have always loved earning points on credit cards and signing up for rewards memberships. I’m so excited by this, because I eat out all the time. Yay!!! Thanks for sharing and all the tips like not signing up with the same credit card more than once.

  • Cecilia January 6, 2020 at 5:43 pm

    I have the Visa Travel Rewards. There is no annual fee, but we definitely dont get as many benefits like points for dining out. I’ll have to check into some of these airline dining programs that you mentioned. I’m all for travel hacks!

  • Yukti Agrawal January 6, 2020 at 8:54 pm

    It is very interesting to know about earning miles With Airline Dining Programs as to get airline points without flying is really useful. I never came across such programs but I would not really look into my region. It would be great to dine at participating restaurants and gain some credits in our frequent flying cards. I guess these services are offered in USA by their national carriers and it would be nice that other airlines too offer such programs all over the world.

  • Ami Bhat January 8, 2020 at 4:34 am

    Now that is something I never considered. In fact, after this I have to check if there are such programs here. I would love to earn miles while I eat. Great tips on how to earn better miles by splitting your bills. I suppose I would have never thought of that. Very helpful post.

  • sherianne January 8, 2020 at 5:20 am

    You are so good at all this but it makes my head spin! It sounds like Southwest is out because I don’t care about companion passes. I like Jetblue and their fares are often the best I find to US locations so it sounds like I should register with them. Love the tip to split the check and wish I could hop to the airport every day for lunch!

  • Mike January 8, 2020 at 2:10 pm

    Thanks for the kick in the pants. We don’t eat out too often, but this is a no brainer, i mean leaving points on the table if you don’t right. hahaahh. Just registered my card with Southwest Dining. Thanks again! Great and informative post!

  • Manjulika Pramod January 8, 2020 at 11:23 pm

    I think Indian Airlines still don’t provide much of these dining programs but now I will keep an eye for such offers. I am not much into miles and points but my husband loves to apply for different cards and keeps a check on scores. You have suggested some great tips for bill sharing.

  • Jackie January 9, 2020 at 5:50 pm

    This was completely mind-blowing for me! I’m not a big credit card user and felt a bit like I was missing out on travel points. But this gives me new hope! I will be trying out this iDine strategy and perhaps working my way towards some extra flight points. Woohoo!! Thanks for sharing these really helpful tips and simplifying something that I’ve found confusing in the past. Much appreciated!

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