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Restaurants Collect Credit Cards to Stop Dine and Dash

Some restaurants want patrons to hand over their credit card before they even get a table, just to make sure the customers don’t bolt without paying for dinner, a crime known as Dine and Dash. Those customers could be putting their credit in danger.

First there was the automatic tipping controversy in which some restaurants decided to begin adding a gratuity on their own to diners’ bills regardless of how many people were eating — even with parties of one — to combat customers who refused to leave a tip on their own.

Now, some Charlotte restaurants are taking credit cards before a meal to prevent customers from pulling a Dine and Dash — leaving without paying for their food.

A while back, I visited a Ryan’s Steakhouse in Charleston: for years now, Ryan’s has had customers order their food and pay first, and then be shown to their table. Golden Corral, a buffet-style restaurant has a similar policy: you pay for the buffet, then you are escorted to a table and told to enjoy whatever you like from the various buffets.

I don’t have a problem with either case, because I know what I’m getting and paying at the point that I hand them my credit card. They ring up the total right there in front of me and immediately return my credit card. In short, there is never a time at which I don’t see what they’re doing with my card.

If I walked in to a restaurant that wanted my credit card upfront and their idea was to just hold on to it until after I had eaten, I’d turn around and walk out the door. I’m not handing a server my credit card and then wondering for the next half-hour or so about how many people may have access to that card while I’m eating. And worse, worrying about whether they’re taking advantage of that access without me realizing it.

Recently, I received calls from two of my credit cards alerting me to the fact that charges they consider fraudulent had appeared on my credit card statement. In one case, someone had charged $75 in gasoline and then had gone to a California Target store and made several purchases. While I was on the phone with their fraud department, that unknown shopper attempted to purchase a $500 Target gift card.

I inquired, upon learning this detail from the fraud operator, whether ordering the store’s security to walk up to the cash register and shoot the person might be an option. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

They had me fill out an affidavit to confirm that I wasn’t in California and wasn’t authorizing the charges in question, and immediately refunded the charges they already knew were fake and issued me a new card with a new account number.

In any case, no one is sure how someone on the other side of the country could have gotten my credit card number, but the fraud operator told me that they literally deal with this all day, every day. This is why, if you aren’t already doing so, you should check your credit card statement every month!

But this very problem is what makes me so adamant that I’m not handing my card over to someone if it’s not going to be used at that moment to pay a specific amount and can then be returned to me immediately.

The longer the card is out of my possession and out of my sight, the greater the danger that someone could use it fraudulently, and I wouldn’t necessarily know it had happened until it was too late. Even though most credit card fraud departments have become good at spotting problems, why invite the possibility of this kind of inconvenience?

If I really wanted to eat there, I’d order in advance and pay. But handing over my card just to allow someone to hang on to it (and hope that they’re doing so in a secure manner)? No, thanks…there are other places to eat.

Your Turn:

How do you feel about this new policy? Would you be as willing to hand over your credit card before being seated?


  1. patricksplace not a restaurant I’ll pay with a 2nd visit. A sit-down restaurant is like a relationship: No customer trust = No coming back

  2. I’ve had my credit card information stolen twice. Both times I was still in possession of my card. Thank goodness the credit card company caught it. Knowing how easy it is to have that happen, and what a pain in the backside it is to clear all of that up, there is no way I would give it to them to hold. Perhaps if they wanted to swipe a deposit – say half the average cost for a party of my size – I might agree. Otherwise, I would leave.

  3. No way am I handing over my credit card like that and I would not prepay for a meal either except like Golden Corral where you do not leave a tip and it is one price.

  4. I agree with you on this one!  There is no way I’m handing over a credit card like that!  What if they used it for the wrong table’s bill or something?  What if an unscrupulous employee was collecting names and card numbers and selling them?  There are so many possibilities that something could go wrong!  
    I wonder if the number of people who run out on their bills has increased or something.  This seems like an extreme reaction even if it has.  You’d think there would be a better way to try to eliminate this problem.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.