6 Ways to Maximize Benefits of Business Travel

June Casagrande
By June Casagrande 
Published
Edited by Mary M. Flory

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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.”

Au contraire.

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 2024, including those best for:

Travel Cards from Our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Points
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1.5%-6.5%

Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Cashback

Intro offer

$300

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
See more travel cards
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