Travel a lot? Eat for (almost) free!

By Taylor Banks

Cheesecake from Harold's So if it's not already obvious, I'm pretty awful at keeping up with the blogosphere. At approximately one post per quarter, I haven't given my readers (all three of you?) much to follow. But every once in a while, I get a harebrained idea for a topic and manage to brain-dump for just long enough to produce a readable, if occasionally interesting, post.

For those who know me, you'll know that I travel quite a lot. It's only July, and I'm already Platinum on Delta and Diamond on Hilton for the year, so suffice it say, I spend a lot of time away from home. [sigh]

Traveling a lot generally means eating out a lot, and I've managed to hone a few techniques to both reduce my dining expenditures and generate occasional rewards. Specifically, I'm a member of two services that have proven to be quite effective at saving me money eating out. While I don't want this article to appear to be a blatant marketing pitch for either service, I figure I would be remiss not to share this tip.

Over time, I've come to really appreciate RewardsNetwork (formerly iDine). The basic premise behind the service is that within most major cities, they have a handful of restaurants that offer “dining rewards” in the form of cash back on purchases. Although the rewards vary by restaurant, there are numerous restaurants in most major metropolitan areas that offer as much as 10% – 20% back on purchases, and that's after tax and tip!

In addition to RewardsNetwork, I've also begun to really leverage OpenTable within and around my own home city as well as while out of town. If you are not already familiar with OpenTable, it's primary function is as an online reservation service, allowing you to pre-book reservations at a wide variety of restaurants, and features the ability to invite guests, add reservations to Outlook or iCal, etc. Furthermore, when dining at restaurants booked through OpenTable, you receive dining “points” which ultimately add up to enough value to produce cash-value dining certificates as rewards. Basically, 10,000 points gets you a $100 gift certificate at any restaurant that uses OpenTable (and there are quite a lot of them).

The kicker here is that there are several restaurants within major cities that are members of both RewardsNetwork and OpenTable, which means you can get as much as 20% cash back for dining, plus as many as 1,000 points for making a reservation, which essentially translates into 20% of your total bill plus $10 towards future meal purchases. All in all, it's an easy and effective way to not only save money, but earn yourself some free meals at any of hundreds of very nice restaurants in your own home town.

Hope this tip proves useful for some of you! And for those of you that are members of either TripIt or Dopplr, maybe I'll see you at dinner sometime!


I neglected to mention that when dining at RewardsNetwork / OpenTable restaurants, I always use a rewards credit card, generating me additional points, cash and/or miles for all of my restaurant purchases.


About the Author

Taylor Banks is an entrepreneur who travels full-time in an RV with his wife, Beth, and their dog, Sedona. Taylor's background is in computer, network and information security and privacy, but he now also runs several e-commerce sites and chairs a mastermind group that provides mentorship to other entrepreneurs who want to achieve location and financial independence with passive income provided by lifestyle businesses.

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