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It’s a common misperception among inexperienced business travelers: “I can’t collect points or miles earned by business travel because those miles rightfully belong to my employer, who’s paying for my ticket.”
When an airline awards points or miles for a trip taken, those go to the traveler — the person who occupied the seat — regardless of who bought the ticket. Same for hotel stays.
Experienced business travelers know this already, according to a recent survey by clothier Jos. A. Bank in which 48% of respondents said earning airline miles was one of the big perks of business travel and 53% said the same about earning hotel loyalty points.
» Learn more: Shake up business travel by taking some ‘bleisure’ time
The survey also showed that business travelers spend an average of 14 hours per day working when they travel for their employer. So it makes sense to see how you can maximize the personal benefits of business travel. Here are six tips for making those business trips work harder for you.
1. Sign up for the airline’s frequent flyer program, even if you don’t expect to fly frequently
Joining one of these programs takes five minutes, costs nothing and pays you miles that could have a real cash value you don’t anticipate. For example, you might be able to transfer those miles to a hotel rewards program you like.
2. Use a rewards-earning credit card for everything on your trip
It’s a no-brainer that, if you’re spending money, you might as well get rewarded for it. Make sure the card you use pays you something you want, be it hotel points, airline miles, other loyalty points or cash back.
3. Sign up for a dining program
Many airlines offer a dining program in which you register a credit card — any card, not only the airline card. A lot of frequent flyers don’t bother with these programs because once upon a time they skimmed a list of participating restaurants and didn’t see any they liked.
But if you’re traveling, you could easily find yourself in a miles- or points-earning restaurant without realizing it. If you pay with a credit card you’ve registered with a dining program, you could get a happy surprise in the form of miles that magically appear in your frequent flyer account.
4. Consider loyalty
If your employer lets you make your own travel arrangements, look first at airlines and hotels whose loyalty programs you use. That is, if you’re collecting United MileagePlus miles for a personal trip, consider United for your business travel. Obviously, don’t waste your employer’s money by choosing a more expensive flight, but if fares are the same, there’s no reason not to choose the flight that will earn you the most rewards.
5. Charge meals and drinks to your room
Imagine you’re staying at a Sheraton, you’re a member of Marriott Rewards (remember, Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest were unified under one program in August 2018) and you’re paying with your Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. That cheeseburger you order at the hotel bar and charge to your room will go on your hotel bill, where it will earn you 6 points per dollar.
Whichever card you use, though, note whether it pays bonus points for travel, dining, or both, then remember that food charged to your room is usually categorized as travel whereas restaurant charges on your card are categorized as dining.
6. If you make your company’s group travel arrangements, look for programs that reward you personally
For example, Marriott’s Rewarding Events program, which is offered through 26 of its brands, seeks to attract conference planners with bonus points paid to the personal account of the person doing the planning. Whichever hotel group you’re considering, check to see what they’re doing to win your business.
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 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Travel rewards bucket list: Showering on a plane How I flew for free: Round trip NYC to India using Chase Ultimate Rewards This strategy is how I started earning major travel rewards