The Ultimate Guide to Small-Business Travel

Oct 1, 2019

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Small business owners can take advantage of the same strategies that individual award travelers use to save money on flights and hotels, but there are also a number of unique cards and loyalty programs designed specifically for business needs. Today we’re going to explain how to maximize those benefits.

Best Business Credit Cards for Airfare

Business travelers sometimes have less scheduling flexibility than individuals planning a vacation. If a last-minute meeting requires you to book a specific flight, you may find that award space is unavailable. However, there are a few cards that give you exactly that option.

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: Earn up to 75,000 bonus points: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 bonus points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.

Annual fee: $595 (see rates and fees)

Standout benefits: The Business Platinum Card from American Express has a hefty $595 annual fee (see rates and fees), but it comes with perks that offset the annual fee and that help businesses minimize their air travel costs.

  • $200 annual credit for airline incidental fees
  • 35% rebate when paying with points for airfare (terms apply)
  • 5x points on airfare and prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com
  • Priority Pass Select membership, Amex Centurion Lounge access, Delta SkyClub access when flying Delta Plus and access to Airspace and Escape Lounges
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit for application fees

You often get a better redemption value by transferring your Amex Membership Rewards points to airlines, but if you need to be on a specific flight, you can book through Amex Travel and pay with points to get a 35% rebate on all first- and business-class flights, as well as economy flights with your selected airline. You’ll also earn miles on these flights, because they’re booked as cash tickets.

Although the $200 credit on airline incidental fees has gotten harder to use, it’s a great way to avoid fees for checked bags or fees for changing your ticket. The comprehensive lounge access makes your work travel more comfortable.

Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Welcome bonus: Earn 80,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first three months.

Annual fee: $95

Standout benefits: In addition to offering one of the most valuable welcome bonuses on the market right now, the Ink Preferred earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases in the following categories:

  • Travel, including airfare, hotels, rental cars, train tickets and taxis
  • Shipping purchases
  • Internet, cable and phone services
  • Advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines

It gives you access to Chase hotel and airline transfer partners and a 25% bonus when redeeming points through the Ultimate Rewards portal, with a minimum redemption value of 1.25 cents per point and the flexibility to book any seat on any flight.

Related: Best Small Business Credit Card

Cobranded Airline Credit Cards

Both cards mentioned above are the best options for businesses with flexible travel needs. However, you might want benefits specific to a single airline depending on where you’re located. If your company frequently books employee travel, you can save hundreds of dollars annually in checked-bag fees if you have the right airline credit cards. For example, all three Delta business credit cards offer a first checked bag free for you and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation, and two of the cards are offering limited-time elevated welcome offers.

Best Business Credit Cards for Hotels

Business travelers need hotels where they can conduct business away from home. Free nights, bonus points and elite status are all great ways to make work travel more enjoyable and less stressful. In fact, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express leads in this category and offers automatic Hilton and Marriott Gold elite status. Here are a few other cards to consider as well:

Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

(Photo by Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: 125,000 Hilton Honors points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 3 months.

Annual fee: $95 (see rates and fees)

Standout benefits: If you take advantage of the welcome bonus on the Hilton Honors business card, you’ll enjoy automatic Hilton Gold elite status and the ability to upgrade to Diamond by spending $40,000 a year on the card. Along the way, you’ll earn a free-weekend-night certificate after spending $15,000 and another after spending $60,000. The card comes with 10 free Priority Pass visits per year, and earns 12x points on Hilton purchases, 6x on the categories listed below and 3x on everything else. The 6x categories are:

  • US gas stations
  • Wireless phone services purchased from US providers
  • US shipping purchases
  • US restaurants
  • Flights booked directly through the Amex portal
  • Car rentals booked directly through select car rental companies

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card

Welcome bonus: 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.

Annual fee: $125 (see rates and fees)

Standout benefits: The perk that’s going to help your bottom line the most is free hotel nights. The Marriott Bonvoy Business card offers one free night worth up to 35,000 points on your account anniversary and the ability to earn a second by spending $60,000 a year. The card also comes with automatic Silver elite status and the ability to upgrade to Gold by spending $35,000 a year. You’ll earn 6x points on Marriott purchases, 4x at US restaurants, US gas stations, wireless phone services purchased directly from US service providers and on US purchases for shipping, plus 2x on everything else.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

Annual fee: $95 (waived first year)

Standout benefits: This is the only card on the list that isn’t strictly a business card, but a Venture card can be good for your business if you frequently stay in hotels and aren’t loyal to a single chain. The card offers a simple yet rewarding 2x miles per dollar spent on all purchases, with one key exception. You’ll earn 10x miles at hotels.com when you book at hotels.com/venture and pay with your Venture card, a 14% return based on TPG valuations (ends Jan. 31, 2020).

You can stack that with the hotels.com loyalty program of one free night for every 10 paid nights, giving you an effective return of 24% on all your hotel expenses. The Venture card also lets you pick between transferring your miles to one of 14 airline partners or using them to erase eligible travel purchases from your billing statement at a fixed rate of one cent each.

Related: Best Hotel Credit Card

How to Save Even More Money as a Small Business

As a small business owner, you’re eligible for the same frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs as individuals, but there are other unique options you can take advantage of to double- or triple-dip on your points earnings. The major US airlines offer business rewards programs — such as American Airlines Business Extra — that let you earn free flights, upgrade certificates, lounge access and more. Your employees will still earn miles in their individual AAdvantage accounts, but this additional program makes each flight you take with American that much more rewarding.

Many hotel chains give you special rates if you’re booking a large room block or conference rooms. For example, Marriott lets you earn up to 60,000 points on eligible meeting expenses and gives you bonus elite-night credits for booking additional rooms. Note that you must book special rates with Marriott’s events team to be eligible for this.

If your business is large enough, you may be able to negotiate corporate discount rates directly with the airline or hotel. Obviously, the more spending power you bring to the table, the better the results.

Bottom Line

In many ways small business owners are incredibly lucky. They enjoy the same perks and can use the same strategies that individual cardholders employ when it comes to award travel, but there are a number of credit cards, loyalty programs and unique benefits designed specifically for small business. By picking the right credit card combination and leveraging all the available programs, small businesses have many tools to minimize travel costs.

For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Business Amex card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex card, click here.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.49% - 24.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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