One of the most popular features of business credit cards are the rewards you can accumulate simply by using your card for qualifying purchases. You can earn cash back rewards or free subscriptions for useful business software or services. But in my opinion, the most exciting reward by far are the travel benefits. Free hotel rooms? Discounted flights? Yes, please!
Business cards that carry travel rewards aren't particularly tricky, but there are a few tried-and-true tips that can help you get summer travel benefits from those cards. Since I'm on the road all the time between speaking engagements and conferences, I've managed to accumulate some business card wisdom that I'm happy to share.
1. Cash in peak winter travel for cheaper summer dates.
Some of the busiest travel dates of the year are in November and December, when families and friends spend holidays together. Peak travel = peak prices.
The good news is that peak prices can also mean peak rewards. If you're forced to travel for business when prices are highest, the silver lining is that those rewards you earn—typically accrued at a per-dollar percentage—may be even more valuable if you can apply them for off-peak travel times.
2. Think outside the box.
Of course, you aren't going to get the most bang for your business card buck if you're booking summer travel for popular summer destinations. The best deals can be found where families and other summer vacationers aren't.
Sit down and review your miles and nights before you book your summer travel so you can cash in everything you've earned.
That doesn't necessarily mean you can't ever spend your business card travel rewards at the beach, though. Shop around for shoulder-season rates after kids go back to school if you crave the feeling of your toes in the sand, or simply explore destinations that aren't as popular in hot weather.
3. Take comfort in business and VIP lounges.
One aspect of summer travel that business travelers may find least appealing are the airports stuffed with overtired, whiny children and their similarly overwhelmed parents. Your solace: the peaceful quiet and perks of the lounge your business card buys you access to.
Now, not all business cards provide this heavenly perk, so you may want to search around for ones that do. Free wi-fi, free food and drink and a quiet space away from the hordes of summer travelers… So worth it!
4. Review your business card options.
Not all business cards are created equal and perks can and do change. I do a once-a-year checkup on all my expense categories just to ensure I'm spending my company's money wisely and getting the best deals out there.
Included in this review is a check of new offers from business cards with rewards. Since introductory offers can be particularly lucrative, make sure you survey your choices to make sure your business card delivers tangible travel benefits.
5. Pay close attention to expiration dates.
If you ask me, one of the greatest business card rewards perks is the companion pass, which allows you to get a free or heavily discounted companion airfare for a specified period of time, typically a year.
Yes, you have to spend a significant amount of money to earn the companion pass, but it can be worth big bucks once you do. The key is to ensure you fit as much travel as you can into that discounted period of time.
Likewise with other travel discounts, miles or free nights, you usually have to use points or perks before they expire, or you'll lose them. Sit down and review your miles and nights before you book your summer travel so you can cash in everything you've earned.
6. Resolve to do something fun.
One commitment I make each year is to combine business and personal travel when I can, particularly in the summertime. If you can arrange to schedule meetings for a few days near a seaside resort, then when your family or friends join you when work is over, you've saved yourself a bundle. I double dip—making sure to keep business and personal expenses separate—every chance I get.
I love traveling for business, and what I love even more is that my business credit cards make that travel more affordable.
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