Dining cards compared – are they worth it?

Tastecard, Dine, Meerkat Meals, Gourmet Society and Hi-Life Diners Club all offer 2-4-1 dining or up to 50% off your meal. They sound great – but are they worth shelling out for?

You know me, I’m always looking for deals and discounts, and dining cards seem like a fantastic way to save some cash when eating out. But could you just be paying for something you don’t really need?

Rather than review them individually, I’ve compared what you get with each of the options and shared not just how much they cost, but whether they represent good value for money.

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Scroll down the page to find the lowest prices for each of the cards.

How do they work?

Sign up to one of these memberships and you’ll have access to discounts at thousands of restaurants in the UK. There are currently a few different options which each offer slightly different discounts.

  • Tastecard
  • Meerkat Meals
  • Dine
  • Gourmet Society
  • Hi-Life Diners Club
  • Table Now

You’ll either be sent a physical card to put in your wallet or a digital card you access via an app on your phone.

Some restaurants require you to book in advance, but plenty allow you to just turn up. Let them know you’ve got one of these cards, present it when you ask for the bill, and you should get the money off your meal. Easy.

What discounts are available?

The offers used to be quite different, but now they are pretty similar. If there’s more than one type of deal it often depends on the individual restaurant which one applies.

  • Tastecard: 2 for 1 or 50% off
  • Dine: 2 for 1, 50% off or 25% off total bill
  • Meerkat Meals: 2 for 1 on starters, mains and desserts
  • Gourmet Society: 25% off the whole bill including drinks, two for one meals or 50% off food
  • Hi-Life: 20% off the whole bill
  • Table Now: 25% or 30% off the total bill, 30% or 50% off food, or 2 for 1

Anything to watch out for?

A few things you need to be aware of:

  • There are often exclusions on weekends, and some restaurants don’t let you use the card in December
  • Many restaurants have a limit of two people per card, though some let you use more than one card on a table.
  • You might also have to book in advance with most cards – I’ve been told I can’t use the card on arrival even if the restaurant was empty! Hi-Life is the only one the explicitly says you don’t need to book.
  • They will auto-renew! Make sure you cancel soon after you buy the card to avoid this as full-price is often (though not always) a rip-off. You’ll still be able to use it for the length of your membership and you can then look for a better deal if you choose to renew.
  • I’ve had restaurants I’ve visited tell me they’re no longer accepting the cards, even though they’re still listed, so it’s worth checking before you turn up.

> How to cancel a Tastecard membership

Where can you eat?

You’ll find some restaurants on all or most of the memberships, while others will only be on one.

Ultimately, which is best comes down to where you live and the type of place you want to eat. So if your local fave you often eat at is only with one membership, then that’s possibly the best for you.

There are plenty of chains too. Pizza Express, Dominos, Frankie and Benny’s and others all appear on one or more.

You can check which restaurants are near you through these links.

What free trials are there?

Half of the memberships offer free or £1 trials, with periods ranging from 30-days up to 90-days. Seeing as so many of the restaurants and offers are similar across the different memberships you could easily get six or seven months of savings for just a few quid. Typical offers include:

  • 90 days Tastecard for £1
  • 90 days Gourmet Society for £1
  • 30 days Hi-Life

> Check out the latest Tastecard and other dining card deals

Which is cheapest?

A year of Meerkat Meals can be picked up for around £1 using a simple little trick – and you get Meerkat Movies too. The downside is you can only use it Sunday through to Thursday.

Dine is also given away free to anyone who has a mobile phone SIM from Three. You just need to log in to the Wuntu app. 

With the others an annual membership is likely to be the most cost-effective. Never pay full price, which is around £70. Even if you thought you’d use your membership enough to make this money back, you don’t need to.

There are so many deals throughout the year that you shouldn’t have to pay more than £39.99 for Gourmet Society or Tastecard. However, I’d hold off until you see an offer for £30 or £35. 

TableNow is newer and I’ve not tested it out, but it does have a great Pay as you dine option. So there’s no membership commitment but you pay £2.50 each time you want to use it.

At the top end of the scale, Hi-Life is £69.99 a year, and I’ve not spotted any cheaper deals. 

You can also choose to pay month by month for some of the memberships, which works out more expensive over a year, but possibly cheaper if you only need it a few times a year.

What extras can you get?

You can add on Tastecard+ which has more discounts on cinema tickets, hotels and days out. However, most of the deals do tend to include Tastecard+ as standard – but check first. I think it’s exactly the same offering for Gourmet Society Plus.

With Tastecard the cinema ticket deal is up to 40% off at Cineworld, Odeon, Vue, Showcase, Picturehouse, Empire and The Light. This is pretty good, but as my ultimate guide to ways to save at the movies shows, there are other ways to save – often with bigger discounts. And you have to be careful that your local cinema doesn’t have an offer on that beats this.

Dine also offers similar discounts on cinema tickets but only at Vue, Odeon, Showcase, The Light and some smaller chains.

All three have extra offers, such as days out and theatre tickets – though from the ones I looked at I think you can find better deals elsewhere.

My verdict

I think they can each be really good value – but it mainly depends on three things:

The price

If you have paid around £30 to £35 you only need to eat out two or three times to break even. As long as you’d do that anyway, it’s a no-lose situation and you will start saving afterwards. If you think you’ll use the cinema discounts too, then even better.

The restaurants near you

It’s always worth checking what’s available near where you live and work as these are the places you’re more likely to visit – and then check if there are other savings you can get for free. Pizza Express for example is the kind of place you can almost always save money at via a vouchercode site.

Will you actually use it?

I found that when I lived in London there were so many quality restaurants I wanted to eat at that I rarely used my membership cards. I’d rather enjoy my meal or try something new than go somewhere simply because there was 50% off.

Even now I live in Yorkshire, I’ve had a Meerkat Meals pass for the last year and I’ve not used it once. Dine launched on Three just a month or so ago, and I’ve not used that either!! 

So I’d recommend taking out the trials to see just how much you will use one. If it’s not much, then you know these might not be for you. And you’ve always got the option with most to take out a monthly membership. Though your savings per meal will be less, you’ll be better off in the long run.

But of course, if your fave place to eat is listed then these can be brilliant ways to spend less when eating out. 

Do try, if you can, do support local restaurants though over the chains. So many are shutting their doors that our support can make a big difference.

> Find the latest offers for a Tastecard, Gourmet Society or Hi-Life trial 

 

Free Tastecard & Gourmet Society trials & offers (May 2021)

21 thoughts on “Dining cards compared – are they worth it?

  1. My boyfriend and I use Meerkat Meals all the time and, with the £1 trick, it’s fantastic. We must’ve saved at least £100 over the year, if not more. I might total it up next year to check!

    With Meerkat Meals there’s also no way of auto renewing so no danger of paying more than you want to.

    Great tip! Thanks, Andy!

  2. I got a free Dine card when I bought car insurance through one of the comparison sites.Did not know about until after I ourchased the insurance (which is fine btw) looked up reviews on Trustpilot which is swamped with complaints about restaurants being listed who have never agreed anything with and sometimes have never heard of Dine. Says it all really.I do not know about the other cards but seems unlikely they are much different.I would not pay anything for one of these cards

  3. it is jot worth it they will come you out of money when u ask to cancel your subscription they take the money any way. then say you did not send an email when u know you did

  4. If you are getting a deal on a Gourmet card you write expiry date on your wall calendar and make sure you cancel before the expiry date. These companies make their money from people forgetting to cancel. How many people actually go and buy a Gourmet card for 80 quid. You put your doctor and dentist appointments on a calendar . Do the same with card cancellations . Its your own fault if you dont.

  5. I signed up for a 3 month free trial on O2 Priority but ended up not using it, didn’t download the app and didn’t receive a card. I was billed today for the full membership and i stupidly thought they can be reasonable and understand that i did not use it at all and i did not intend to continue with the membership and receive a refund. They cancelled the membership but didn’t want to give me a refund. The first person i spoke to said he could either give me a £10 refund or have their escalation team give me a call and that they had the authority to issue a full refund. I’ve asked for the escalation team to call and when they did they said £10 was the only refund i could get. I know i’m in the wrong, i was just hoping they would be reasonable – all they gained is £30 and an unhappy potential customer who might have considered membership at some point in the future had it not been for this unpleasant experience. They should have at least emailed me a few days before…

  6. No, they steal money from your account without permission to renew

    1. They don’t steal. Make sure you know the T&Cs. It’s not rocket science.

  7. They set up a system with a £! trial membership, take your card details and then bill you for a year’s membership when the trial is up without any notice. They claim that they have sent you a reminder but I didn’t get it. They also make sure that they have a disclaimer in their small print that non arrival of a reminder does not constitute grounds for a refund so they’re covered. I find this behaviour although obviously legal is very shaky practice and does not engender any goodwill towards the company.
    I’d also add that the reason I wanted to cancel was because restaurants I tried denied knowledge of being a member of their discount scheme. This company does not act in good faith towards their customers, avoid!

    1. Hi Steve, yes I’ve heard similar stories before – that’s why it’s so important people make a note to cancel. You should be able to cancel when you get the card and it still be valid for the trial period.

  8. I am extremely unhappy about the fact that they automatically renewed my membership, i have had the card for two years and never used it, i simply do not eat at the kind of places they sponsored. They claimed i had to agree to automatic renewal when i least renewed, but this clearly was not displayed clearly anywhere as i am one of the people who never accept automatic renewals on anything at all, not advertising from third parties, etc..
    This kind of behaviour is disgusting and extremely shifty. I regret ever had contacted them. Be very careful please!!
    ii

    1. Yes, it’s a common catch with services like this – then they don’t make it easy for you to unsubscribe. I’ve got a trial card at the mo, so when I come around to cancelling I’ll write a guide to help people. The most important thing is of course to make a note in your diary at least a month before the card is due to expire.

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  12. we use the Taste Card at least once a week as our favourite restaurants are Zizzis, Prezzo and Ask. ? so fir us its a win win ???

    1. That’s great. I hope you manage to get the card at a bargain price!

      1. I have had a tastecard for nearly 4 years (gift via my utility provider for the year 2, but bought at a discount for year 1). Year 3 came via an offer through my employer for a better than half price cost and a 15, not 12 month subscription. I’ve also had a gourmet card free for a year via my utility supplier. So I’m pretty au fait with them.

        I live in London and often use them, generally in the same few chain restaurants ahead of a trip to the theatre etc, when you want a bite to eat quite quickly. I’ve saved a fortune. Last week 8 of us ate at a pizza express, with starters, mains and desserts and a couple of drinks each and we got 25% off the total bill and saved £79 with the gourmet card.

        If there’s just 2 of us dining I tend to use the tastecard as it is generally 2-4-1 on food, so the saving is bigger.

        All of my cards will renew at the higher rate if I don’t cancel them. So I put a reminder in my calendar for 10 working days before they expire. If I haven’t had a freebie replacement or a good discount offer from them before that date, I cancel.

        All the talk of people being cheated and companies sneaking renewals on the sly is nonsense. They are bound by the financial rules. Your agreement is set out when you sign up. If you don’t pay attention to it, that’s not their fault. If you sign up to a 3 month deal and then full price renewal, the only person who is responsible for cancelling the card is you. If you think that you can just send an email to cancel and don’t read the rules, which might say you need to do it via the website, or call them, then that’s your problem for assuming and not checking.

        It’s a pain, but all you need to do is remind yourself to cancel and make a note of what that involves. Take 2 minutes when you sign up to note the details downand set a reminder and you won’t fall foul. Not sure why people think that someone else is going to look out for them once they’ve signed an agreement which lays out their responsibilities?

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  14. Be careful with the Gourmet Society add on to the NUS card, it does not include the full 6,500 restaurants. The NUS site says 5,000+ and you have to access the restaurant and book via the NUS site, not the Gourmet Society site. I know the TableTable chain is not included with the NUS Gourmet Society add on, I would also doubt you would also get the Gourmet Society cinema offers. That said the NUS card has it’s own Odeon cinema discount. A Gourmet Society card also obtained via the free Club Lloyds bank account if you can move £1,500 a month into it.

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