Credit cards can be nifty utensils for any business, providing ready access to financing while also tracking spending to support financial management. And the best business travel credit cards can go one better by supplying valuable benefits including discounts, perks and even cash.
Business owners are attractive customers for financial institutions. They also tend to travel a lot. So banks and other card issuers have introduced a large number of business travel credit cards to attract their patronage.
Choices are good, of course. But the wide variety of features and benefits complicates the task of picking the best card for you. Luckily there are ways to evaluate the major perks and other elements of business travel credit cards so you can find the best business travel credit card for you.
1. Consider a co-branded business travel credit card vs. regular business credit card.
A co-branded card carries the logo of a service or product provider in addition to the name of the credit card issuer. Airlines and hotel chains are the most common co-branded types of business travel credit cards.
A co-branded card can work for business travelers who prefer specific travel brands, says Kathy Tsitovich, vice president for partner strategies at Intuit.
“Right now, some of the best welcome bonuses are from co-branded cards," Tsitovich says. “Also, a lot of co-branded cards are now providing benefits such as PreCheck, Global Entry and lounge access to help compete with the general travel cards."
When it comes to finding the best business travel credit card, keep this in mind: Co-branding does mean less flexibility compared to cards that aren't co-branded, says Ted Rossman, industry analyst at CreditCards.com.
“Unless you're really loyal to one specific airline, it's best to keep your options open," he says. “That gives you more ways to redeem."
2. Look for attractive bonus offers.
Some business travel credit cards offer eye-catching sign-up bonuses in the form of reward points or cash back. And category bonuses can produce significantly higher reward points for ongoing outlays on specific products and services.
Business credit cards generally offer bigger sign-up bonuses than consumer cards, Rossman notes. In fact, the best business travel credit card sign-up bonuses can be downright eye-popping.
“Some of the better ones we see now are worth in the neighborhood of $2,000," Rossman says.
Before you sign up, however, make sure the deal is right for your business.
“It's important to look beyond the bonus rewards you earn and pay attention to the spending threshold and how long you have to meet it," says Brooklyn Lowery, senior manager at CardRatings.com. “A 60,000-point bonus offer doesn't do you any good if you need to spend $5,000 in three months to earn it and you know your business can't afford to do that."
3. Match your business expenses with the right reward programs.
The real key to picking the best business credit card for travel points is to know your business. In addition to assessing how much you will charge, you need to know where you will spend it before casting your lot with any reward program.
“Take a look at your regular expenses, budget and spending patterns and then look for a card that offers rewards that align with those," Lowery says. “Don't allow yourself to be wooed by a card's excellent signup bonus if the ongoing rewards aren't going to fit in with your regular spending."
Reward programs give extra points on a plethora of categories. Common ones include gasoline and groceries plus, of course, the travel categories: airline tickets, rental cars and lodging. But different cards may grant bonus points for outlays on telecommunications, shipping, advertising and more.
If the bonus category isn't one you spend on, it's of little benefit.
“You will ultimately lose out if you think that you'll change your spending to fit into a card's offerings," Lowery cautions. “There are plenty of options out there so you can find one that works for you."
4. Seek travel perks and safeguards that meet your travel needs.
The best business travel credit cards may include annual fees, but business owners who travel often can offset that expense with attractive perks. Extras may, for instance, include free membership in pre-approved traveler programs to get access to expedited lanes at airports. Fee-carrying cards may even supply cardholders with credits for free travel.
Doing the math to subtract the fee from the expected benefit is the key here.
It's important to look beyond the bonus rewards you earn and pay attention to the spending threshold and how long you have to meet it.
—Brooklyn Lowery, senior manager, CardRatings.com
“Many of the premium travel cards come with lofty annual fees," agrees Tsitovich, “but after doing the math based on the benefits they provide, it's totally worth it."
Annual fees are just one kind of fee. Some cards charge fees for extra cards for employees. Others add fees for foreign transactions. Making the decision on these fees is less about addition and subtraction than—again—knowing how you will use the card.
“Definitely think about your spending lifestyle," Rossman says. “If you're going to be traveling internationally a lot, a card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees would be very valuable."
Finally, it's not all about the perks, bonuses and other tangible rewards. The best business travel credit cards can help in other ways. Being able to set individual employee spending limits, for instance, can simplify cost control.
Similarly, having ready access to analysis of past spending patterns can make budgeting a breeze.
“These are things you may not need to think about with your personal credit cards," Lowery says, “but they can make a big difference with your business card."
And if you don't see what you want in the current offerings, check back in a while. Some hitherto unknown features, such as cards that don't require a personal guarantee from the business owner, are popping up. and innovation in the field is bubbling, Lowery observes.
“I expect business credit cards to continue to be a big part of the credit card marketplace and for banks to continue to look for ways to attract new business cardholders," she says.
Read more articles on credit-card financing.
Photo: Getty Images
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