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Small Business Owners: Getting Started with Points and Miles

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – The Plum Card from American Express OPEN, The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express OPEN, The Enhanced Business Platinum from American Express OPEN

In Points Intervention, I help people get their awards earning on track. In the episodes below, I worked with a small-business owner, helping her to maximize points and miles to get the best return for her business.

My first Points Intervention was with small-business expert Carissa Reiniger. Carissa’s company, Silver Lining Limited, works with small businesses that bring in $100,000 to $2 million annually to help them increase revenue and profits. While Carissa is clearly very knowledgeable about helping companies grow, she hadn’t been focusing on her own behind-the-scenes operation by using her frequent travel and purchases to her best advantage.

I filmed a total of seven episodes with Carissa, in which we talked about every aspect of her business’s spending habits and travel plans, and how to think of miles and points as profit. Here’s a roundup of my recommendations for Carissa, and for all small-business owners.

Episode 1: How To Start Earning

In our first episode, I learned that while Carissa has Platinum status with American Airlines, she has no enrollment or points earnings for car rentals or hotels, both of which she uses 50-plus times a year. And on top of that, not only did she not have a credit card, but she didn’t even know what her American credit profile looks like (she is Canadian, and her partner is Australian).

So obviously, Carissa’s first step is to start building her credit score by getting a credit card. I recommended that she start with just one card from one of the big banks, such as American Express or Chase, the latter of which is currently offering a 60,000-point bonus with the Ink Plus Business card after you spend $5,000 within the first three months.

Episode 2: Maximizing Your Miles

In this episode, I discovered a major oversight. The good news was that Carissa was enrolled in the American Airlines Business Extra program, which allows her employees to earn two Business Extra points for every $10 spent on eligible fares with American or any codeshare partner; and they can also earn individual AAdvantage miles at the same time. The bad news? She had never given her Business Extra number to her employees!

After I recovered from shock, I told her to buy her flights using a points-earning credit card, take advantage of credit card sign-up bonuses and give her employees the account number to earn Business Extra points when they book company travel.

I also let her know that with the Citi AAdvantage Executive credit card, she will earn 10,000 AAdvantage elite-qualifying miles once she reaches $40,000 in spending in a calendar year. That level of spending will be easy for her, and those miles will be put to good use down the line.

Episode 3: Choosing the Best Transferable Points Program

I recommended three loyalty programs and three business cards to Carissa in this episode, all with a focus on flexible and transferable points:
  1. American Express Membership Rewards is one of my favorites programs because there are 20 different transfer partners, including hotels and airlines. The Amex Business Platinum card comes with a sign-up bonus of 40,000 Membership Rewards when you spend $5,000 in the first three months and earns you 1 Membership Reward point for each dollar spent, while offering a ton of other great benefits.
  2. The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express is a great way to give your Starpoints balance a boost since it has a current sign-up offer of 25,000 points – after $5,000 spent within the first three months.
  3. The Chase Ultimate Rewards program has 11 different transfer partners that can give you a ton of great value. The Ink Plus card is a top pick for earning Ultimate Rewards points because in addition to its 60,000-point signup bonus after $5,000 spent within the first 3 months, you’ll earn 5 points per dollar spent on all office supplies, internet, phone and cable TV services.

Episode 4: Personal vs. Business Credit Card

The main takeaway from this episode is that Carissa should start with one card and use it for a few months, then apply for another card three to six months later. I also told her that it’s crucial to pay the balances every month, because the most important factors in building up her credit score will be her payment history and her debt-to-credit ratio.

The cards we talked about for her include:

  • American Express OPEN cards such as The Enhanced Business Platinum, Enhanced Business Rewards Gold and Plum come with a savings benefit that offers either a 5% discount or two additional Membership Rewards points for each eligible dollar spent at participating OPEN Savings merchants including Hyatt, Hertz, FedEx and more.
  • American Express Business Gold Rewards is a solid card that earns points which can be transferred to a number of different partners and is currently offering 25,000 points after $5,000 spent within the first three months.
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express would also be a great choice for Carissa because she flies American and stays in hotels quite often, and she can use SPG points for both.

Episode 5: Maximizing Hotel Stays

Carissa stays in hotels a lot, and could have been upgrading this whole time, so we got that ball rolling by talking about hotel loyalty programs. Obviously, coverage is going to be a big factor when it comes to business travel; it’s no use having a loyalty program if you’re never in a city that has that hotel! Marriott and Hilton have fairly big footprints, and while Starwood Preferred Guest’s is smaller, the elite program is one of the strongest out there.

I recommended Starwood Preferred for its various levels of Platinum elite status, which you can earn faster by using the SPG American Express and its business version. For mid-tier elite status with perks such as club lounge access and free breakfast, I’d suggest Hilton Gold status, which is an automatic benefit for cardholders of the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve and Hilton Surpass American Express.

Episode 6: Status Match and Challenge

This was a juicy episode, as we got into some advanced techniques that Carissa can use to leverage her purchasing power when it comes to airlines.

We talked about doing a status match or challenge in case she decides, for example, that she wants to switch airlines. My recommendation is that travelers figure out which airline they want to fly — which has the best routes, the best partners, etc. — and then contact them directly. Basically, all you have to do is call an airline and explain that you’d like to move your elite status over there. They’ll give you options; status matches and challenges are explained in greater detail in our latest rundown.

Episode 7: Create a Points and Miles Action Plan

The takeaway from our final episode is that small business owners should think of miles and points and loyalty as profit. These can absolutely increase your bottom line; redeeming points instead of shelling out $1,000 for that last-minute flight to a business meeting will remind you that it’s actually an investment.

If you or your small business needs a Points Intervention, be sure to email

Ink Plus® Business Credit Card

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  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 5 points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year
  • Earn 2 points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • $95 Annual Fee
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 15.49%-19.49% Variable $95 0% Excellent Credit