Tastecard, Gourmet Society and Hi-Life Diners Club all offer 2-4-1 dining or 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?
Personally I don’t have one right now, but I have in the past, and made some decent savings. So here’s a quick guide to what they do and whether you should bother.
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 three different options which each offer slightly different discounts (even though they’re all owned by the same company):
- Gourmet Society
- Hi-Life Diners Club
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?
Tastecard and Gourmet Society generally offer two for one dining or up to 50% off your food bill. Gourmet Society also offers 25% off the total bill. Which offer you get depends on the restaurant.
Hi-Life has had a bit of a rebrand and now offers 20% off the entire bill, including drinks. In this new form there won’t be any restrictions on using the card, and no need to book – which will make it easier to use the membership, even if the overall discount could be less if you don’t drink.
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, though the new Hi-Life scheme won’t have these.
- 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 Tastecard and Gourmet Society. I’ve been told I can’t use the card on arrival even if the restaurant was empty! Hi-Life 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.
Where can you eat?
You’ll find some restaurants on all three 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 chains too. Pizza Express is exclusive to Tastecard, while there are plenty of others on both TC and GS.
You can check which restaurants are near you through these links.
Which is cheapest?
Never pay full price, which is around £70. Even if you thought you’d use it 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. Then I think it’s decent value.
You can get Gourmet Society as an add-on to an NUS Card for £7. The NUS card itself will cost you £12 – and anyone can get one, even if you’re not a student, thanks to this trick.
Hi-Life is £69.99 a year, and I’ve not spotted any cheaper deals. But it does have a 30-day free trial
You can also choose to pay month by month for each 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. It’s definitely not worth paying extra for the theatre or hotel deals as you can usually find the same or better prices elsewhere, However, most of the deals do tend to include Tastecard+ as standard – but check first.
Gourmet Society only offers extra discounts on cinema tickets, but there’s no extra charge for this.
With these memberships the deal is up to 40% off at Cineworld, Picturehouse and other independent cinemas. This is really good, but as my ultimate guide to ways to save at the movies shows, there are other ways to save – often with bigger discounts.
Will you use it?
You’ve got to be sure you’ll use the membership, or even on offer it won’t be worth the money.
The last time I had a full year of Tastecard I used it just once! In fairness, this is partly because eating out is one of the things I don’t mind paying more for if I have to. With so many options in London I don’t want to eat somewhere just because it’s discounted. I want to eat somewhere I want to eat.
However on our holiday in Scotland earlier this year I bought a month-long pass and used it four times!
I think they can each be really good value – but it mainly depends on two things – 1) the price; and 2) the restaurants near you.
If you have paid around £30 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.