Travel Smarts

Pick A Card

Are your entertainment bills going through the roof? Scads of dining cards have emerged recently that deliver deep discounts on dining out. They also aid business travelers in selecting appropriate restaurants in various locales.

Not all dining cards are created equal, however. Some programs include more restaurants in cities where you frequently dine. And some may include a slim range of cuisines, while others have eateries catering to nearly every palate. Terms vary widely.

For example, In Good Taste (800-444-8872) members pay a $48 annual fee, get 25 percent off meals (excluding tax and tip), and receive a plastic card and booklet of approximately 3,000 restaurants nationwide. Similarly, Transmedia (800-422-5090) cardholders pay no annual fee, receive 20 percent off the check (excluding tax and tip), and have a choice of more than 6,500 restaurants.

Worried that discount cards may not impress clients? For a $49.95 annual membership, Dining à la Card (800-833-3463) registers up to three of your credit cards for use at participating restaurants. At month's end, the company mails you a check for 20 percent off the total bill, including food, beverages, tax and tip-and your clients are none the wiser. "Being discreet and saving money is extremely attractive to many business travelers," says Fanette Singer of The Signature Group's Dining à la Card. The downside? It's only good for the first visit to a given restaurant each month.

Most airlines also offer credit card programs that give members frequent-flier mileage for dining at participating restaurants. Whatever method you choose, be sure the plan is flexible enough to meet your business's needs in a variety of travel situations.

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This article was originally published in the August 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Travel Smarts.

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