How two can eat out for £5ish

Have you got an Amex credit card and a Tastecard? Do you fancy a romantic meal for two (or even one) for about a fiver?  Try this nifty trick to eat out at independent restaurants for bargain prices.

Amex is currently running a ‘Shop Small’ promotion, ending on Sunday 21 December, paying you £5 cashback when you spend at least £10 in an independent business. When I saw that this promotion included independent restaurants (large chain restaurants are not included), I started thinking of ways to use this to eat out for less.

American Express, which bears the cost of the £5 cashback, is running this campaign primarily to encourage more small businesses to sign up as Amex merchants. It costs more for businesses to process an Amex than a Visa or Mastercard transaction – which is why a lot of businesses don’t accept it.

How do I do this?

First you’ll have to register your Amex on the Shop Small page. The form only requires your name, card number and email address.

For the next part of the trick you’ll need a Tastecard which lets you get two-for-one or 50% off discounts at loads of restaurants. If you already have one, great. If you don’t then you can apply for a free 60-day trial. The trial card should take about seven working days  to arrive, however you can access the trial instantly after signing up by registering for the Tastecard app with your membership number. If you don’t have a smartphone bear in mind that the trial card can take up to 28 days to arrive – so you’d miss out on this trick.

Now what?

With your Amex and Tastecard handy, next check to see if the restaurant you want to visit is signed up both to the Amex Shop Small scheme and to Tastecard. Just input your postcode into the Amex map and filter by ‘Dining’ to see what restaurants are near you. Next, compare this to Tastecard’s own map search to find restaurants signed up to both schemes. A lot of restaurants don’t accept Tastecard in December – so make sure you filter out this option.

I work in central London so obviously found loads of restaurants signed up to both schemes. But I tried out a few random postcodes around the country and didn’t have any problem finding restaurants signed up to both.

I’ve chosen where I want to eat – how do I get it for a fiver?

Simply book your chosen restaurant – making sure you mention you have a Tastecard when you book. Bear in mind that some restaurants will exclude Friday and Saturday evenings.

When you’re at the restaurant you could theoretically order a meal for two with the total cost coming to £20ish excluding drinks (drink tap water if you want to be extra-MoneySaving). Using the Tastecard (two-for-one or 50%) will bring the cost down to £10ish. Then just pay using your Amex to earn your £5 cashback. Obviously don’t let it prevent you tipping as you normally would.

I found that near MSE Towers I could go with a friend to Franco’s Ristorante Pizzeria and order a pizza each normally costing £10.50. Applying the Tastecard and then paying by Amex would bring the cost down to £5.50 (excluding tip), assuming we both drank tap water.

Or if we preferred a curry we could go to the Strand Tandoori and order a meal for £20, assuming we shared a rice. Applying the Tastecard and then paying by Amex would bring the cost down to £5 (excluding tip).

There you have it – with a tiny bit of work two of you could eat out at an independent restaurant for just £5ish!

How often can I do this?

Amex will let you earn the £5 cashback once per small business. So theoretically you could try this at every independent restaurant that’s part of the scheme in your area. Don’t forget that the cashback will take time to appear on your card – anything from three days up to 12 weeks.

Anything else?

If you don’t already have an Amex, then it’s probably not a great idea to apply for one for the sole purpose of using this promotion. Not least because your card’s unlikely to arrive before the promotion ends. But if anyone you know has one then this could be a good way to get in their good books just in time for Christmas.