During Restaurant Week, get Amex Credit for Dining Out in New York

Next Monday, January 16, New York is kicking-off its 4-week-long Restaurant Week. As mentioned in my previous post, from Monday through Friday, January 16 to February 10, several restaurants in the city will be offering 3-course fixed-price meals for $24.07 during lunchtime and $35 during dinner.

Just like last year, American Express will be one of the event’s major sponsors – but this time with a much simpler promotion for restaurant guests. If you are an Amex cardholder, you can earn a $20 credit on your next billing statement after dining 3 times at any NYC Restaurant Week participating restaurant. You can mix and match the restaurants as long as they’re on the list. Last year’s promotion required a foursquare account and “synching” your Amex card, but this time all you have to do is sign up on the Restaurant Week/Amex webpage.

This offer is limited to the first 15,000 people who sign up, and each cardholder can only earn one $20 statement credit during the promotion period. Prepaid cards and corporate cards are not eligible for the promotion, nor are payments made through Amex’s “expresspay” feature. But if you are a regular Amex consumer or business card holder, this offer can be a fairly good deal. The minimum spend for your dine out to count for the credit is $24, but if you’re choosing from the Restaurant Week menu you’ve already got that covered. And getting $20 for spending $72 (plus tax) on 3 3-course lunches isn’t bad at all. There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but $20 gets you pretty close to a fourth Restaurant Week one.

AMEX offers $20 for 3 Restaurant Week dines in NY

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Protect Your Money by Checking Your Statements, my experience

To follow up on yesterday’s post, I thought I would add two recent experiences I had that confirm the importance of checking your credit card statements:

Restaurant Bills:  There is a restaurant I’ve been to twice – the latest one quite recently – and that after both times I went, I noticed that my credit card bill was $1 more than what I had signed for once I added tip (I usually write the total amounts on both the restaurant and my copy of the receipt, and make sure to take mine home).  Admittedly, $2 doesn’t amount to that much, but what if it were a restaurant I visited more frequently?  And what if they add $1 to every customer’s receipt?  I doubt I will ever visit that restaurant again, but this experience has taught me to keep my receipts and track the amounts charged to my credit card – just skimming through the bill and verifying that I did in fact eat at that restaurant is not enough to make sure I’m not being overcharged. 

Automatic Payments:  A few months ago I moved and had to transfer my internet and cable service, for which I had automatic payment set up.  I called the company, and was told that they would have to cancel the account linked to my old address and set up a new one with my new address.  As I checked my credit card statement this week, I noticed that there had been no charges from my internet/cable provider in the past three months.  After calling them, I found out that since they had to set up a new account, the automatic payment did not carry over, and my payments were actually overdue!  Of course, I pointed out that I had not been notified that I would be un-enrolled from automatic payment, and the charges were waived.  Nonetheless, even though it was their fault in principle, I bet that if I had gone for many months without paying my bill, they would have been less understanding.

The moral of these anecdotes?  Checking your credit card statements once a month will help you guard your money, enabling you to notice and fight back overcharges and unfair fees.

Earn Points Even When You are not the (Only) One Dining

Has your boss ever asked you to make him/her a dinner reservation? Instead of grumbling under your breath that you didn’t graduate college to be someone else’s personal assistant, next time simply smile and graciously offer to make the reservation. Why? Because with OpenTable, you have the option to make reservations for other diners and earn points when they dine. Just select the box that asks whether you are an administrator and you can begin to compile a list of diners for whom you make reservations.

Another way to earn more points quickly is to set up a buddy system. As mentioned before, Tuesday is our dining out night, but we also have an OpenTable account together so that we can accumulate points faster and share the rewards together. To that end, our shared account is not limited only to making our Tuesday dinner reservations. We use it whenever either one of us has a dining engagement. If you and your group of friends are planning a get-together, offer to make the reservation and nab the points for yourself!

Get the Check and 5% Back

If you have a Discover More card, make sure to sign up for the 5% Cashback Bonus on restaurants going on throughout June.  Discover had a similar bonus event in March (offering 2% cashback), but this time around I did not receive any notifications in the mail or through e-mail and found out only when I logged in to make a payment.

5% cashback is a great deal and can’t easily be found in other credit cards without annual fees (though the Citi Forward gets close for some purchases).  Unfortunately, this deal is limited to a total of $200 spent in restaurants during the month of June, or $10 in cashback.  But if you are dining out (hopefully after making a reservation through OpenTable) or ordering in (don’t forget that delivery food comes from restaurants too!) at any point during the month anyway, be sure to use your Discover Card and get as much of those 10 dollars as you can.

Get More Greens When You Eat Out

Tuesday night is our dining out night. While eating out does not have to be a weekly event for you, if you are going to pick a day, Tuesday should be the day. Fresh fish usually comes in on Tuesdays and Fridays, and a new batch of prepared food is typically made on Tuesdays (see Anthony Bourdain’s article in the New Yorker here).

Regardless of whether you are a foodie, you should always try to make your reservation through OpenTable.com. Sign up for free and for each reservation you make (and actually show up) OpenTable awards you 100 points. Once you accumulate 2000 points, you receive a $20 check from OpenTable, which you can use at any participating restaurant. That works out to getting $1 back each time you have dinner – not much, but wouldn’t it be great to get $20 off a meal every once in a while?

Note: Some restaurants offer 1000 points for tables booked at odd hours, which is like giving you $10 off your meal.