Labor Day Special: Maximizing Miles and Points with Business Travel
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Labor Day is a celebration of the American worker, and so many of us give so much of our time to our jobs – which can be great and rewarding – but I hope everyone has the opportunity to take it easy over the weekend and relax. In honor of all the toilers out there, I wanted to share some ideas on maximizing your points using corporate cards.
I’m a staunch believer that miles and points earned from corporate travel should be owned by the traveler. Business travel often takes us away from families and loved ones and there should be some sort of points return on that time investment – I mean, salary and benefits are great, but how good does it feel to know that while you’re working, you can earn points that will make your free time that much more rewarding by allowing you to take amazing trips and see wonderful places?
Here are my tips from my time working in corporate America, but please share your own tips and tricks from the road in the comments below.
A lot of folks out there working for big companies are given corporate credit cards. Though some companies have their own branded corporate cards through one bank or another, however, the most common corporate cards out there are from American Express and many companies will allow you to bank the points earned on those cards.
Though some companies have rules prohibiting employees from earning points on their corporate cards, many do not, so it’s worth asking your HR department what the policy is. Then, if you’re cleared to do so, you can pay $75 annually (that’s actually going up to $90 annually starting in October) to link your corporate Amex to your personal Membership Rewards account, and you could be raking in points immediately, like I did while working for Morgan Stanley. Thanks to the recruiting trips I had to take, events I put on my corporate card, dinners with clients and other expenses, I raked in well over 100,000 points a year…without having to spend a dime of my own money. Though doing the expense reports was a pain, it was well worth it for the points. In fact, many co-workers loathed the expenses system so much, I was able to put lots of extra events on my card, which helped the points rain in.
Two things to note: Corporate cards are generally excluded from cardholder promotions and bonuses, so if you can actually put your corporate spending on your own card, you might be able to better take advantage of sign-up and category spending bonuses – just make sure your company pays you back in a timely manner so you’re not stuck floating your payment at the end of each statement! Secondly, even when opening a corporate card, the individual employee often must undergo a credit check, so be prepared for that.
Of course, not all companies have corporate cards, and not all of us work for big companies. Even if you don’t have a major business you can still qualify for business cards though American Express OPEN cards are exclusively for business owners. Most issuers will let you get a business credit card by applying with your own social security number if your business is a sole proprietorship (a business run by one person). Plus, since Amex is going to run a credit check anyway, it should be possible for you to apply for a personal card on the same day if you were considering getting a personal Amex card anyway, so it counts as a single hard credit pull. If you’re putting a lot of business expenses on your personal credit card anyway and getting paid back for them, you should consider getting a separate business credit card to put your work expenses on them – whether you have your own business or work for another. If you own your own small business, then getting a business card is a no-brainer since it will help you keep your business and personal expenses separate.
Though you’ll have an inquiry on your credit, you’ll also be eligible for a sign-up bonus like the Ink Bold’s 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points, or the current Starwood Business Amex‘s 30,000-point bonus (which ends tomorrow!), and then you can maximize lucrative spending category bonuses like the Ink Bold’s 5x earning on office supplies.
Check out my list of the best business cards for earning travel points, miles and cash back, and learn how a business card will affect your credit as well as which ones give cardholders the best bonuses on various categories.
Just remember, many business cards have higher spending requirements, so know what you’re getting yourself into before you sign up. You can check out my post from last week outlining some of the key differences between personal and business credit cards, and then check out my post comparing the Ink Bold with Ultimate Rewards to Chase’s new Ink Plus card to learn about the differences between a charge card and a credit card.
Speaking of category spending bonuses, since corporate and business cards work pretty just like any other credit cards when it comes to charges, you should link them to your airline or hotel of choice’s dining rewards network. That way, you can earn up to 5 miles/points per dollar you spend at participating restaurants. So if you take clients out to dinner a lot – and we all know how quickly those tabs can run up – if you do a little homework ahead of time and pick a restaurant that participates in the dining rewards network, you could literally be earning thousands of points per meal.
Then you can even triple dip by registering for OpenTable Dining Rewards so that when you make a reservation through the program, you earn 100 points (or 1,000 at select restaurants) each time you dine. Then you can redeem points for 1 cent each in denominations of 2,000, 5,000 or 10,000 points for $20, $50 and $100 checks respectively, so all those client dinners mean a chunk of cash-back change for you.
Take your clients out to shows, concerts and events? Audience Rewards works pretty much the same way as OpenTable, but for performances and events, so all the entertaining you do for work could mean lots of free tickets for you.
Earning Points With Meeting Planning
Does your job involve corporate travel and reserving room blocks for you and your colleagues? Or better yet, can you arrange for that to be the case? Then consider registering as a meeting planner with your hotel program of choice so that you can double dip and be earning extra points for hotel stays, achieve elite status faster, and get all kinds of extra perks and benefits thrown in. To find out more, check out posts on how to earn points with meetings, earning hotel elite status through meetings, and how hotels calculate points earned on meetings. It’s a little-talked-about facet of hotel points, but can be a great way to bank tons of bonus miles and get the elite perks and benefits to make your time on the road bearable.
As a former road warrior, I know better than anyone else the personal costs of business travel. The good thing is, there are tons of lucrative ways to maximize your points earning on the travel you do for work, as well as business expenses and costs you need to put on corporate and business cards that mean when it comes time to enjoy those hard-earned points and miles, you can use them to take fantastic trips wherever you want to go.
Those were just my ideas for maximizing your earning on business expenses and travel, but if you have your own, please share below, and happy Labor Day!