We always appreciate a double-dip opportunity that allows you to earn extra rewards without much extra effort.
Restaurant review site Yelp has just launched a card-linked dining program that promises to do just that. It’s called Yelp Cash Back, and it lets users get extra cash back (up to 10 percent) at certain restaurants on top of any rewards they’d earn from their credit cards programs.
We looked into the fine print so you can decide whether it’s worth signing up for.
As with other card-linked offer programs, Yelp Cash back starts with linking a card. You can do so via this page or via Yelp’s app.
You can link as many debit and credit cards as you desire, but note this important caveat in the fine print:
Yelp’s program is powered by Empyr, whose parent company is Mogl. The company also runs Living Social’s card-linked dining rewards program (RestaurantsPlus). So, if you happen to use both Yelp Cash Back and RestaurantsPlus you’ll have to choose separate cards for each.
When you dine at a participating restaurant and pay with a linked card, you’ll get cash back automatically (via a credit to the linked card). However, Yelp may institute a minimum of $10 worth of accumulated credits before they show up on your account. There’s also a cap of $200 for each transaction purchase. So, if you are supposed to get 10 percent back at a particular restaurant and you take everyone you know out to dinner and rack up a $3,000 bill, you’ll only get $200 in cash back.
Not all restaurants on Yelp participate in the program. To find those near you that do (and how much cash back, they reward), type “cash back” into the Yelp search bar.
A search for participating merchants in Austin, Texas, yielded several pages of restaurants, most offering 7 percent cash back:
Worth signing up for?
Beyond that, Yelp Cash Back is relatively low-maintenance once you set it up. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it program that will funnel cash-back rebates to your linked card. True, you need to make sure you eat at participating restaurants. But if you, like so many, already default to Yelp reviews to determine where you’re going to eat, finding participating restaurants won’t require much extra work (they’re clearly marked in Yelp’s search results).
We did a quick survey of small towns to see if they were represented in the Yelp Cash Back program, and they were. So even if you don’t live in a large urban area, you can still cash in.
Living Social offers a similar program that offers potentially greater returns (up to 30 percent off, compared to the up to 10 percent off Yelp Cash Back offers). However, it’s far more limited – only five cities participate (Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco) as of Dec. 2016.
You can employ two main strategies with Yelp Cash Back:
1. Use a card that doesn’t already earn rewards: If your credit isn’t good enough to qualify for a rewards card, Yelp Cash back lets you earn a little something on dining with your other cards – your debit card, for example, a plain-vanilla low-interest card or a credit-building card.
2. Boost rewards on a card already earning rewards: If you’re chasing a sign-up bonus or maximizing rewards cards, you probably don’t want to dilute your efforts by linking a random debit card with Yelp’s program. Instead, you might use a card that earns rewards on groceries and gas (like the Blue Cash cards from American Express, a CreditCardForum advertising partner) and use Yelp’s program as an unofficial “dining” category.
Or, you might use a card that already earns extra points at restaurants (such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve) and double down on the dining rewards.
Updated Dec. 14, 2016