Unless you live under a rock (apologies to all the earthworms reading this blog), you’re probably familiar with Restaurants.com. I’ve used them in the past, and I know we’ve discussed how they work several times here on Financial Highway. Now, a group in south Florida is upping the ante on the idea of selling discount restaurant gift certificates to the masses – and giving back to their community at the same time.

The venture is called Charity Dine. Right now, it’s only available in three Miami-area markets – Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade County. Still, Charity Dine has already been featured on CBS and NBC, and has the backing of the Better Business Bureau; in other words, this organization is legit.

It works very similarly to Restaurants.com. You can shop online for discounted restaurant gift certificates. Usually, the gift certificates are 60 percent off face value, although you can also buy the “Freedom Plan,” which lets you buy one gift certificate a day for a month for just $70. So let’s say you buy a $50 gift certificate to Miami hot spot EOS. It’ll only cost you $20, which is already a pretty good deal.

But Charity Dine does one better. The website donates 10 percent of your gift certificate purchase price to a charity of your choice. The charities include:

  • Diabetes Research Institute
  • Autism Speaks
  • Susan G. Komen for the Cure
  • American Lung Association
  • Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
  • Girl Scouts of America

Additionally, each month there’s a different featured charity. If you select this charity, Charity Dine will donate 20 percent of your gift certificate’s purchase price. So instead of donating $2, they’ll donate $4.

What if you don’t live in south Florida? Although Charity Dine hasn’t expanded beyond the Miami metro area yet, you can still order these gift certificates to use on your next vacation to South Beach.

A word to the wise: just as with Restaurants.com, be sure to read the fine print before purchasing any of these gift certificates. In most cases, you’ll be required to make a minimum purchase (pre-gratuity, often not including any alcoholic beverages) in order to nab the discount. For example, you need to make a minimum $100 purchase in order to use the $50 gift certificate to EOS; gift certificates with a smaller face value have smaller minimum purchase requirements as well.

Reader, have you ever used Charity Dine, or know of other local restaurant gift certificate programs that benefit charities in your area?

**Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored by, nor in any way affiliated with, Charity Dine. The views expressed in this post are based on my own experiences and opinions.