OpenTable is About to Devalue: Redeem Your Points Now

Opentable is an online service for making restaurant reservations. It’s the market leader in the space, you can search for a specific restaurant and make a booking or search an area and find restaurants that have availability for when you’d like to eat, near where you want to eat, and for the number of people in your party.

They offer loyalty points, most of the time you earn 100 points for a booking, that’s worth $1 because 2000 points can be redeemed for a $20 gift certificate.

OpenTable is About to Devalue

Up until now you’ve always been able to get a $20 certificate that could be used as payment at almost any restaurant that uses OpenTable for reservations. You just hand the certificate over when you get the bill (along with your credit card for the balance, assuming the bill is for more than the value of the certificate).

That’s no longer how it is going to work. Starting August 25 you will get a gift card where you have to specify the single restaurant where it will be valid. (HT: Toqueville)

As of Aug 25th dining cheques will no longer be issued. Instead you can opt for either an OpenTable Dining Rewards Gift, a program we are actively expanding, or an Amazon Gift Card to redeem your points. More information about the Amazon Gift Cards will be coming out soon! We are also looking into other options for redeeming your points as well.

When you redeem your OpenTable points you will receive an email (it takes about an hour).

That will let you go to a website to choose the restaurant for which you want a gift check.

Your redemption choices are limited. A search of OpenTable shows over 50 restaurants in downtown Austin where I can make reservations tonight, but only 13 restaurants in downtown Austin where I can redeem points for gift cards.

Redeem your points now before the August 25th changeover where US members will no longer be able to get gift checks redeemable almost anywhere.

Continue to game OpenTable

1000 Point Restaurants

Some restaurants offer 1000 points instead of 100 for making a booking — often it’s new or struggling restaurants, they’re willing to incentivize the visit. The idea is you might see they’re more rewarding and decide to book them instead of a competitor.

Interestingly, some restaurants use Opentable to manage their own website’s online bookings. But if you visit those restaurants’ websites first, cookies may get left on your computer that interfere with points. (If you make your reservation through Opentable, but starting at the restaurant’s website, there’s usually no points-earning).

And with 1000 point restaurants, you usually only see the 1000 point offer if you are searching for restaurants in a neighborhood — if you search for the restaurant directly it will usually just show 100 points (since they don’t need to incentivize you to choose them, the idea being you likely already have chosen them).

Make Reservations at Restaurants You’re Headed to Anyway

I have the Opentable app on my phone (and before I had an Android phone, would visit the Opentable mobile website on my Blackberry). Walking to a restaurant I might make a reservation, even if I know the place is empty. Not planning ahead, but I still want to capture the points. And of course the points are stackable with other restaurant rewards such as Rewards Network, the company which manages the dining programs associated with airline and hotel chains (which I still insist on calling iDine, though at least got beyond referring to it as Transmedia..).

Earn OpenTable Points For Your Free Hotel Breakfast

Many hotel restaurants offer Opentable points. Even if you get free breakfast in the restaurant as a loyalty program member or because of your room rate, you can make an OpenTable booking at the hotel restaurant and earn points for your free/included breakfast.

Don’t Rely Exclusively On OpenTable for Your Reservations

Opentable doesn’t have access to all tables at all restaurants. Some restaurants ‘block’ key times from being booked via Opentable, I have to imagine it’s because it costs them money (to pay to Opentable) to take reservations that way, and they expect to be able to fill their seats without bringing in reservations through this channel. So you need to call the restaurant.

Make the reservation for an earlier time, ring up the restaurant to change the time to the one you want that’s restricted to direct booking. You’ll still get the points if the restaurant changes the reservation time (because it was still made through OpenYable) but not if they cancel the reservation and make a new one.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Thanks for the heads up. Wouldn’t you think Opentable might let us loyal customers know this by now? Another crummy change in a program which in the end screws the loyal customer. I’m so sick of this it makes me want to quit every loyalty program.

  2. By the way, the Opentable certificates are actual checks that you can deposit into your bank account. No need to use at a restaurant….

  3. If the Amazon option is for a pure gift card, then I would consider this an upgrade rather than a devalue. We rely heavily enough on Amazon that an Amazon gift card is essentially pure cash-back.

  4. Just cashed out $80. Not sure why I was hoarding them. I guess I wanted one $100 check for a big, festive meal instead of four $20 checks. But that doesn’t really make any sense. Another thumbs down to revenue redemptions — they don’t incentivize hoarding! What if a lot of points got you El Bulli?

  5. Well like everyone else, I just cashed out my $200 reward. Not sure what I was waiting for but this was the kick I needed to do it.

  6. Like others… I am cashing out now. Was saving up to get a $100, but like others say… it doesn’t really make sense to hoard.

  7. “Make the reservation for an earlier time, ring up the restaurant to change the time to the one you want that’s restricted to direct booking. You’ll still get the points if the restaurant changes the reservation time (because it was still made through OpenYable) but not if they cancel the reservation and make a new one.”

    don’t bank on this. i’ve tried this trick, and never got my points. i’ve had more luck keeping the original reservation but showing up late (of course, YMMV as to how late you can be).

  8. Just tried redeeming a $20 check before it expired. Two Open Table restaurants refused to accept it. Ouch! How embarrassing! I’m done with Open Table!

  9. I have booked hundreds of restaurants and haven’t even received 20. I thought that none of mine qualified, not that cookies were left. I can’t believe that I never received anything.

    Open table really sucks in my books! I have used them for four years now and nothing!!

  10. On this new points redemption method, we don’t go to any of the ‘participating restaurants’ that are listed. What happened to the former method of redeeming at any OpenTable location ? That’s how one gets the points to begin with! It makes no sense that points are earned at many restaurants, but can only be redeemed at a few.

  11. Yes I’m annoyed by this policy change too. The number of restaurants in Denver which accept the rewards is quite low compared to the pool of restaurants which use OpenTable. I suspect OT doesn’t make it financially easy for restaurants to accept the rewards.

    Anyone know the real story on this?

  12. Nothing in New Jersey. Their website is lousy. I tried to modify a reservation from 2 to 3 people yesterday and it refused to do it. It took a lot of effort.

  13. Just learned about the new open table dining certificate policy and agree it is awful. Even though my restaurant of choice was not listed they said they would happily take the dining certificate but open table refused. I have been a loyal open table customer but that has come to an end.

  14. Please make every restaurant in Open Table take the points or do not include them
    It has become too difficult to participate in your new system
    Please make it easier to find the restaurants that give 1,000 points
    The old system was so much better
    You have a good program; don’t ruin it!

  15. I’ve been asleep – the devalue is real – becoming less and less valuable based on what I’ve been reading how difficult it is to even use. Like the airlines – I have choice – after tonights OT reservation – my use of this service will be secondary in my choice.

  16. To add insult to injury…if you do not use the reward at the intended restaurant it will not be re-issued for another. I made the mistake of claiming a reward for a restaurant while on vacation (nowhere near my home) and forgot to use the reward. My fault (too much good wine). So no problem. I figure I can simply assign the reward to another restaurant near my home. Well guess what? Can someone explain the inflexibility at Opentable?

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