Sunday, February 12, 2006

Don’t Be Afraid to Use Your Credit Card When Dining Out In A Group

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

How many times in your life have you gone out to a restaurant with a group of people–say, four or more–and when it comes time to pay the check, everyone throws some cash on the table. Whether everyone pays for their own food or the bill gets split evenly among everyone, a group meal typically results in a big pile of assorted bills.

If you’re like me, you don’t usually carry a lot of cash in your wallet. When you eat out alone or with one other person, you use your credit card, especially if it’s a reward card that you pay off every month. But when you’ll be going out with several friends or co-workers, you might make a quick trip to the ATM on the way so you can contribute to that pile of cash that inevitably forms at the end of the meal.

Of course, you could pay for your part of the meal with a credit card; but when everyone else is flashing the green stuff, you may feel compelled to do the same. Is it the peer pressure? Is it because of the stigma that comes with being a “credit card user?” Whatever the reason you might have to keep the credit card in your wallet, it’s a bad one. With reward cards like the Citi Professional MasterCard that give 3% back on restaurant transactions and tons of other cards that offer 1% cash back on everything, paying cash at a restaurant is like paying extra sales tax. So forget what other people may think when you break out the plastic to pay for your food. (Oh, and watch out for people who might short-change the pot–there’s one at every company.)

While you’ve got that credit card out, why not put everyone’s bill on it? Just say you don’t have the cash on you and offer to “simplify” things by using your reward credit card to pay the bill. If everyone agrees, pocket that pile of bills on the table and think to yourself that you’ll be getting a percent back of the total bill.

Consider this example. Say you and nine of your friends go out to eat and the final bill is $100 including tip. If your part of the bill is $10 and you use a 3% cash back reward card, you’ll make three bucks if you take the cash pile and put the whole thing on your card. In essence, you’re getting 30% off your own meal. Heck, if you’re really daring and don’t embarrass easily, why not go from table to table at the restaurant offering the same service to unwitting cash-payers?

Now what do you think would happen if a bunch of personal finance bloggers got together at a restaurant? Once thing’s for sure: you would be able to hear the sound of plastic hitting table from outer space.

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