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Are Dining Miles Back on the Menu?

Are Dining Miles Back on the Menu?

For several years I have been publicly bemoaning the atrophy of what was once a reliable and generous source of frequent flyer miles, the dining miles programs operated by Rewards Network linked to most major airline and hotel programs.

In the programs’ heyday, active members could earn 10 miles per $1 spent at thousands of participating restaurants, and even more during frequent bonus-mile promotions.

Now the maximum payout is five miles per $1, and promotions are few and far between.

Disloyalty in the form of poor payouts breeds disloyalty in the form of reduced participation. I’m a case in point.

During one especially lucrative year, 2008, I earned enough miles for a free domestic award ticket solely by racking up dining miles. My year-to-date earnings for 2012, by contrast, total a measly 137. The program has fallen so far off my radar that I haven’t even taken the time to register my newest credit cards to earn miles.

Perhaps I’m not alone. And perhaps our collective indifference has been noted by those whose jobs depend on keeping dining miles programs alive and well.

Because in yesterday’s cache of email, I received a note from the AAdvantage Dining Program with the subject line, "The 10,000 AAdvantage bonus mile celebration starts now." The offer:

Register for the 10,000 Reasons to Party Bonus and you’ll earn 1,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles each time you spend a combined total of $250 at participating restaurants and complete dining reviews within 30 days through December 31, 2012. The offer can be earned up to 10 times, for a total of 10,000 bonus miles.

That’s more like it!

I’ve since been advised that there are similar offers in effect for members of the Alaska Airlines, Delta, and United dining programs. All the offers are targeted, and may have different bonuses and promotion periods.

If you’re a member of any of these programs (or possibly others that I’m not yet aware of), be on the lookout for an email advising that you’ve been selected to earn the bonus. Click on the link in the email to register and have at it.

For myself, I registered for the bonus and will update my account to include all my current credit cards. More importantly, I will be looking for participating restaurants when lunchtime rolls around.

Reader Reality Check

Are dining miles a regular part of your mile-earning regimen?

If you’ve lost interest, is this offer enough to revive your interest in dining miles?

Other Posts of Interest

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  • Jess

    I would point out that you can earn up to 15% CASH (tiered, starting at 5%) if you simply join Rewards Network, and circumvent the airlines.

    I have no connection, otherthan being a satisfied member.

  • Niel

    When iDIne first started (as Transmedia), it was a free program that gave 20-25% cash back on their restaurants. Then, it became a program with an annual fee ($49, I think). The airline versions were born–they were free, and gave 10 miles/dollar. A few years later came the insult–an e-mail stating, “Good News! We’re changing the programs to a 1-3-5 format.” I guess it mirrors the airlines and hotels when they send e-mails stating, “Congratulations! We’ve raised redemption rates.”

  • Sharon A.

    I took advantage of every generous promotion that has come through idine. I probably earned a couple domestic r/t thanks to the bonuses. But, like you I have let it slip because the most I can get is 3 miles per $1 instead of the generous 10 miles offered in the past. It was worth it then to make sure I ate out 10/12 times a year to keep up the bonus. I was excited to see the promotion you mentioned , but alas, it wasn’t offered to me. I hope they do and I wish they had better restaurant choices.

  • GW

    The 20% discount in cash or 10 airline miles per dollar slipped dramatically over the past years.
    Where I dine made their serious mistake/miscalculation is that they no longer were compelling once they dropped their value proposistion.There were simply to many other ways to earn miles or for that matter cash back especially during the recession which was the worst time to cut back!Ten years ago that wasn’t the case.Add to the fact that not many great establishments are a part of the program
    Only the miles made up for some of the mediocre or lousy meals.There are some good establishments too but they are in the minority
    Most in the program are failing establishments who received loans to stay in business.
    I went from 10,000 dollars spending per year
    to hundreds.I lost interest in the program.
    Which leads to the next problem. Its unlikely I’ll return as a fully engaged member again as I am on to other programs/gift cards/credit card schemes,promotions that reward me with better restaurants/incentives with far more interest and higher quality offerings

  • Don

    Our problem is that we no longer have any places in the Grand Valley, (Grand Junction) area of Colorado, that participate.

  • Kevin M

    Like Don above, my issue with the program is lack of availability. I realize that some cities have more options, but here in the largest city in Louisiana, there are only 11 listings, three of which are not even in the city. Of the remaining 8, two are Cici’s Pizza outlets; one is a bar, one is a different pizza place, one is a sushi bar, two are branches of a local Cajun restaurant, and one is a local Mexican place. Hardly an inspiring set of choices for regular use.

    Back in the “old days”, we had 30 or so choices, including many of my local favorites. I would have accepted the cutback from 10 to 5 miles per dollar spent if the choices hadn’t also been curtailed so dramatically.

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