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Travelers often use loyalty program numbers to earn airline miles or hotel points when booking personal travel. However, if you travel for work and someone else books your reservation, it's easy to overlook or simply forget this step — potentially leaving thousands of points on the table.
And those points could be worth quite a bit. Total spending on global business travel reached $697 billion in 2021, according to the Global Business Travel Association, and that’s expected to grow as the industry recovers from COVID-19 pandemic lows.
So, if you’ve got a work trip coming up and your company is paying for your travel expenses, don’t sleep on all the potential ways to earn points. Here are some tips to consider to ensure that you’re not missing out on any extra rewards.
1. Add the reservation code to your airline and hotel loyalty program accounts
When booking your own travel, including your frequent flyer number or loyalty program number on your reservation is a relatively straightforward process. But if someone else is arranging your travel or if you book your trip on your employer’s travel portal, you may not have the option to add those loyalty programs.
To get around this, once your flight and hotel are booked, gather your airline and hotel reservation confirmations and look for the reservation code that corresponds to your flight and hotel. Then, log into your airline and hotel loyalty programs and manually add those reservations to your accounts.
Sometimes, the reservation code from your company’s travel portal won't match the type of reservation code that the airline or hotel accepts online. In this case, you may need to call the airline or hotel and ask them to manually add your reservation to your account.
And while you’re at it, make sure your Known Traveler Number also appears on your flight reservation if you have TSA PreCheck. If the TSA PreCheck indicator doesn’t show on your boarding pass, you won’t be allowed to enter the TSA PreCheck lines.
» Learn more: How company retreats are changing business travel
2. Use a credit card that earns miles or points for expenses
If you purchase any extras, such as Wi-Fi, bags or food during your flight, make sure to use a credit card that earns extra points for travel purchases. When you check into your hotel and need to provide a credit card, similarly use a card that earns bonus points on travel.
Then, during your hotel stay, charge all your expenses to your room so that you earn points with your credit card and also with the hotel. The number of hotel points you earn will depend on your hotel elite status.
For example, if you are staying at a Hilton hotel, and you have Diamond status and incur a $500 hotel bill, you can earn 10,000 Hilton points since Diamond members earn 20 points per $1 during the stay. If you charge that hotel stay to a card that earns extra points for travel purchases, you will also earn rewards.
However, note that the hotel rate must be eligible to earn points. Some work trips are part of a group rate that may exclude loyalty point earnings.
In addition to your flights and accommodations, you may incur other expenses like taxis, food and gas on a work trip. Again, use a credit card that earns bonus points in these categories.
If you don't get reimbursed for your work trip
If your employer pays for your work trip using the company or corporate credit card, you may not be able to reap all the benefits of earning points. So while you may not be able to earn those extra points, you'll still earn miles for your flight and points for your hotel stay.
3. Choose an airline or hotel you already have status with
You may have a lot of airline and hotel options when booking a work trip, especially if you’re headed to a popular destination.
If you have elite status with one airline or hotel, make sure to book travel with those companies because you may be able to extract even more value from these trips. You can earn additional hotel points if you have status, and you also may get other perks available at your status level, including free room upgrades, early check-in and late checkout.
Those with airline status may benefit from free seat upgrades, additional baggage allowance and higher mileage earning rates.
For example, if you have United Silver status and you’re booked on a United flight, you’ll be able to select a free Economy Plus seat at check-in and get 70 pounds of checked baggage free, even when flying economy. If you’re lucky, you may score a first class upgrade.
Maximize your points on company expenses
If your company is paying for a work trip, take every opportunity to earn points. You might be surprised at just how much you can earn, especially with inflation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, flight prices are up more than 26% year over year, so your trip to an annual conference might be more expensive than it was last year.
After all, someone should get the rewards for paying extra for travel this year — why not you?
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 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card