The process I’m about to show you may prove to be a little time-consuming at start, but once you get it down you’ll be taking a large dent out of your restaurant expenses without wasting much time or energy.
I’m going to show you how you can guarantee a huge savings of up to 25% each time you go to your favorite restaurant.
This method does not involve searching for the deals or coupons on the web and can be done nearly 100% of the time that you eat out. The only downside is that this method will most unlikely work for restaurants that are known only on a smaller scale. Larger name restaurants – such as Red Robin, Olive Garden, etc. – will almost always work using the steps outlined in this guide.
These steps may not make sense if you take them out of order or if you stop reading halfway through, so please finish reading this article before making an informed decision as to whether these steps will work for you and follow them to the T.
Before we continue to step one, we are going to say that we spend $1,000 at Olive Garden per month as our example. Let’s begin.
1. Get a Cash Back Credit Card
The first thing we need to do is apply for a cash back credit card. The card that we want to use has to give us the highest amount of cash back on all purchases. The best card that does this is the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express Card.
This card offers cash back as high as 2% with no annual fee. Currently there’s even a sign-up bonus for $50 in cash after spending $500 in 60 days. Let’s take a look at what this card has to offer:
- No Annual Fee
- 5,000 points after spending $500 in 60 days, which is eligible for $50 in cash back
- 2 points for every $1 dollar spent – After spending $2,500 get $50 back
- No limits on rewards
- Travel assistance including damage and rental insurance
- Customer service available 24-hours of the day
This card will become essential in helping us getting that tiny bit of extra percentage back on dining out. Other cash back cards with a 2% cash back rate aren’t quite as effective, and we’ll see why in the next step. We also recommend the Citi Double Cash Card as an alternative choice.
2. Purchase a $1,000 American Express Gift Card
The next step we want to take is purchase an American Express Gift Card using our new 2% cash back Fidelity card. However, there are some precautions you need to take before making this purchase. Here we have broken it down into 3 basic steps that will need to be taken.
1. We are going to want to use a shopping portal to purchase the American Express Gift Card. First go to cashbackmonitor.com and type in “American Express” in the search box. Look for the shopping portal that gives us the highest amount of cash back.
From the image above, we can see that using the portal BeFrugal.com will give us 1.5% back on our purchase on American Express gift cards given that we go through them. Go ahead and click on the link.
2. If you don’t have an account already, sign up at BeFrugal.com. Once you are there and logged-in, type in American Express in the search box. You will see an option for American Express Personal and Business Gift Cards. Go ahead and click on either one of them and you will be redirected to the AMEX purchase page.
3. Now that you are on the American Express Gift Card page through BeFrugal, you’ll be given an additional 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Go ahead and proceed with purchasing a $1,000 gift card, but you must purchase it with the 2% cash back American Express Fidelity Investment card that we mentioned above.
There is a processing and shipping fee, but if you search online you can usually find promo codes for free shipping, especially during the holiday season. Currently the code FPHURRY will work until 12/17/14 for free shipping on all American Express Gift Cards.
By purchasing our gift card through BeFrugal, we redeem 1.5% in cash back along with an additional 2% cash back by using our Fidelity Card to make the purchase. Since there is a small processing charge on the card, our total cash back will come out to be slightly less at 3.49%, which is a negligible difference for our calculations.
I highly advise purchasing in large denominations as the purchasing charge and the shipping fee are fixed prices; they won’t change if you purchase a gift card with a lower value.
At a 3.5% discount we’ve already saved $35 dollars. Let’s see how we can save even more. The 1.5% we earned from BeFrugal.com will be credited to the account you made. A check will be mailed to you or sent to your PayPal once the purchase is confirmed.
Caution: If you’re thinking of using the 2% cash back Double Rewards Car by Citi, think again. This card will charge you a cash advance fee when buying American Express gift cards. You might actually end up losing money.
3. Purchase the Restaurant Gift Card
Now that we’ve ordered our American Express Gift Card and have waited a few days to receive it, we can begin with step 3. This step allows you to buy restaurant gift cards at an extreme discount. We’ve also broken this down into 4 sub-steps:
1. Go to Gift Card Granny. This site allows you to search for gift cards with the highest discount. Once there, search for your favorite restaurant using the search box. In our case, we’re going to want to look for Olive Garden.
We see that Cardpool gives us the highest discount at 15% off. We’re going to want to remember this name. Sometimes you may see discounts as high as 30% from Ebay, but take note that these cards are in an ongoing auction and that prices may change.
These gift cards are safe and most sites have a guarantee when you make a purchase. You can check Cardpool’s terms of service here.
2. Since we know that Cardpool offers the highest discount for Olive Garden gift cards, we’re going to want to check back with our old friend cashbackmonitor.com. We want to see if we can get any discount from Cardpool by going through a shopping portal. A quick search shows us that we can.
In this case, BeFrugal.com wins again with the highest amount in cash back, so we go to the BeFrugal website for Cardpool. By going through them, we can obtain an additional 2% off on our purchase.
4. Purchase the Gift Card at a Discount
Gift Card sites like Cardpool offer huge discounts on restaurants, so it is important to always check through them first.
Just like we did before, we’re going to want to type in Cardpool on the BeFrugal website and go their their portal to earn an additional 2% cash back.
Click through the link and you’ll be redirected to the Cardpool website to purchase your gift card.
Now that we are on the Cardpool page, click on the “buy gift cards” button and search for the Olive Garden in the search box and you should be presented with multiple gift card options.
Currently, we see that there’s only five cards available. This number will change when Cardpool restocks their Olive Garden Gift Cards. For simplicity, we’re going to assume that we are able purchase $1,150 in gift cards to Olive Garden for $1,000 dollars. This is equivalent to 15% off. Of course, you can always mix and match and buy gift cards for different restaurants.
Important: When you make this purchase be sure to use the American Express Gift Card that you obtained in the mail from the steps above or you won’t be getting an additional 3.5% off.
Wait a few days and receive your Olive Garden Gift Cards. Cardpool offers free shipping so there’s no need to charge anything extra.
Let’s do a wrap-up of the steps we took to see how much we saved on our $1,000 dollars spent:
- We save 3.5% from purchasing the American Express Gift Card by using the Fidelity Card and BeFrugal to purchase the American Express Gift Card
- We find out that Cardpool offers the best discount on Olive Garden Cards. By going to the BeFrugal page, we can get an additional 2% back.
- By purchasing the gift card on the Cardpool page with our American Express Gift Card, we are getting $1,150 dollars in gift cards for a purchase price of only $1,000.
We end up getting a total of 20.5% off of our restaurant purchase for a savings of $205.
The amount we save will of course vary depending on the restaurant and gift cards available at the time. Again, I want to reiterate that it’s extremely important to follow these steps in order for them to be the most effective.
For additional discounts, check your restaurant’s webpage and see what specials they have to offer. Often times you can complete surveys and get a free meal. For everything else, there’s Frugal For Less. Please feel free to let us know your experience when trying to save at restaurants in the comments below. Thanks for reading!