Business travel is the lifeblood of airlines. The big carriers have sales teams dedicated to winning travel contracts from major companies, but not all companies are large enough to score corporate sales contracts.
Enter small-business programs, which major U.S. airlines use to offer rewards to small businesses that fly the airline. These programs are great ways for smaller firms to earn rewards for booking business travel while still letting travelers earn miles and elite status for themselves. That means that small-business owners can effectively double-dip on flights.
Let’s take a look at American Airlines’ small-business program: Business Extra.
Is your small business eligible for Business Extra?
There are two eligibility requirements for Business Extra: business size and location. Both are very reasonable.
Companies with just two or more travelers can qualify, provided that company doesn’t already have some kind of corporate sales agreement with American Airlines, American Eagle, British Airways or Iberia. The business must be located in the United States, Canada, Anguilla, Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Hong Kong, Mexico, St. Kitts/Nevis, St. Lucia or St. Vincent.
Unlike Delta and United’s small-business programs, there are no spending requirements or other eligibility requirements. That makes Business Extra great for those with a very small business.
However, Business Extra may be cracking down on some small businesses. In an audit letter that my small business received in mid-June 2020, Business Extra stated that “Business Extra accounts must have at least two W2/1099 employees that travel and post credits.” This isn’t a requirement listed in the terms and conditions, so make sure that your small business meets these unpublished requirements as well.
How to enroll in Business Extra
Enrolling in the Business Extra program only takes a few minutes. But there are a few steps you might need to take before getting started.
First, in order to enroll as a business manager, you’ll need to have an AAdvantage account. That’s because Business Extra uses the business manager’s AAdvantage log-in information.
Business Extra often offers incentives for small businesses to join. For example, a recent promo code allowed small businesses to earn 2,000 bonus points by signing up and taking a flight before June 30, 2020. So before you sign up, check to see if there are any promo codes that will benefit you.
Once you have your AAdvantage account, start here by entering your country, name, email address and any applicable referral code. On the next screen, you’ll need to enter your business name, website and address. Next, enter your contact information, job title and AAdvantage account.
To prove you’re really a business, you may need to submit documents like your Employer Identification Number, articles of incorporation, a partnership agreement or a valid business name registration certificate. You can find a list of documents the program accepts in the Business Extra FAQs.
How to earn points in the Business Extra program
Business Extra members earn 1 point for every $5 spent on flights on American, British Airways and Iberia, as well as codeshare flights on Finnair, Qantas and Japan Airlines. These points are are separate from your traditional AAdvantage miles, which individual flyers will still earn, while your company earns Business Extra points for those same flights.
The easiest way to earn points from flights is by adding your Business Extra number to your AAdvantage account profile preferences.
After you do, your Business Extra account number will be auto-filled when you complete a booking on the American Airlines website. If you book an AA flight through another website, you can still add your account number before your flight by calling AA’s Business Extra phone number (800-457-7072) and asking an agent to add the number to the record locator.
Points usually post within two or three days of your flight. If you don’t add your Business Extra number before your flight, you can submit a manual request for any flights taken within the last 12 months.
Companies can also earn Business Extra points from cargo shipments as long as they meet certain booking requirements. And companies will earn 1 Business Extra point per $20 of eligible spend on the American Express® / Business Extra® Corporate Card.
Business Extra points expire at the end of the year two calendar years after they’re earned. That means any points earned in 2020 will be valid through Dec. 31, 2022. There’s no way of extending the validity of Business Extra points, so you’ll need to redeem your points before they expire.
» Learn more: NerdWallet’s best travel credit cards for business
How to redeem Business Extra points
Once you’ve collected enough Business Extra points, you can redeem them for free flights, flight upgrades, lounge passes and even elite status. Or you can donate your points to nonprofit organizations, small businesses or minority-owned businesses.
Using points for free flights
There are three types of flight awards: PlanAhead, Anytime and Partner awards. Each has its own pricing scale. PlanAhead awards require saver space and are the cheapest, with flights starting at 1,400 points round-trip.
The full list of flight award prices and options is available on the Business Extra website. All flight awards are priced as round-trip. While you can redeem points for one-way flights, they will still cost the round-trip award price. You won’t be able to use the return portion for a future flight.
You can redeem points toward flights two different ways. If there’s award availability at the time you want to redeem points for a flight, you can book the flight on the Business Extra website.
The other flight redemption option is to redeem points for award certificates. These certificates are valid for a year. You can use the certificate to book flights up to 330 days in advance. That makes these certificates the way to go if you need to redeem expiring points but you don’t yet know when you’ll travel.
If you need to change or cancel your flight, you can do so for free in the first five days after ticketing. After that, there’s a point reinstatement fee of $150 for the first certificate and another $25 for each additional certificate within the same transaction.
Generally, elite upgrade certificates cannot be applied to Business Extra flights. However, top-tier Executive Platinum and ConciergeKey members can apply 500-mile upgrades to eligible flights.
Redeem Business Extra points for upgrades
Business Extra members can also redeem points toward flight upgrades. There are three options.
The domestic upgrade awards (designated by the code BXP1) are popular due to their low cost and the ability to apply this upgrade to flights such as AA’s coast-to-coast lie-flat business class flights and flights to Hawaii. However, neither domestic nor international upgrade certificates are valid toward bookings into the cheapest fare classes (those with the code B, N, O, Q or S).
Upgrades may only be applied after the ticket is issued, require upgrade space to be available and are valid for one year after issuance.
Redeem Business Extra points for lounge passes
Business Extra members can redeem 300 points for a one-day pass to an Admirals Club or 3,300 points for a one-year membership to the Admirals Club.
When you redeem points for lounge passes, you have to designate which traveler will be using them. The passes aren’t transferable.
Redeem Business Extra points for elite status
Members can even redeem points to get elite status. Your business can redeem 3,200 Business Extra points to gift someone AAdvantage Gold elite status.
Gold status comes with one free checked bag on American Airlines flights, 24-hour upgrade window, complimentary upgrades on flights under 500 miles in length, 40% bonus miles on flights, complimentary Main Cabin Extra seats at check-in, complimentary Preferred Seats.
» Learn more: Guide to American Airlines elite status
In June 2020, Business Extra added a new redemption option: donating points. Business Extra points can now be gifted to nonprofit organizations, small businesses or minority-owned businesses. To kick off the new option, Business Extra is matching member contributions up to 500,000 points through July 31, 2020.
The bottom line
American Airlines’ Business Extra program is a great way for small businesses to be rewarded for business travel. With rewards ranging from a free lounge pass to free flights around the world, the program is rewarding for businesses of all levels of travel.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
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Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card