Despite the influx of summer travelers, business traveling during the peak season can still be an enjoyable and lucrative experience. These tips will help alleviate some stress while offering the opportunity to stack savings.
Summer brings out the vacationers, which can lead to headaches for business travelers. Between fighting the lines at the airport and contending with rising fares, hitting the road for business can be a hassle.
Fortunately, the secret to making trips less stressful may lie with your rewards credit card. These tips can help you plan summer business travel with fewer speed bumps.
See related: Best travel credit cards
4 tips to make summer business travel less stressful
Explore your card’s airport lounge perks
The airport lounge can offer business travelers an escape from the summer travel crowds. You may also find other perks such as hot meals, cocktails, showers, spa services, free Wi-Fi and private cubicles if you need to catch up on work.
Ivan Chong, founder of personal finance site Lazy Finances, says getting snacks or cocktails using your card’s lounge access could save you $20 or more per layover. As a business traveler, The Platinum Card® from American Express is his card of choice for lounge access.
These cards also feature lounge benefits for business travelers:
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card (Delta SkyClub)
- Hilton Honors American Express Business (Priority Pass Select)
- United Explorer Business Card (United Club)
If you’re looking for a new travel card to upgrade to for lounge access, review the scope of the lounge program and its features first. Then factor cost against the frequency of business travel.
“Keep in mind that access to airport lounges is usually provided by super-premium credit cards with a $400 to $500 annual fee,” says Uri Abramson, founder of OverdraftApps.
Abramson says the benefits may be worth it to frequent business flyers but not so much for occasional travel. He also cautions business travelers to consider the quality of the lounges they’re gaining access to when there’s a high annual fee involved.
“They’re not all created equal, some are much better than others,” says Abramson.
See related: Can you count on your credit card travel insurance?
Leverage loyalty for business travel
Airport, hotel, car rental and restaurant loyalty programs can all help you save money over the summer when you’re traveling for business. But it’s wise to have a strategy for how you use them.
“Try to stick to one loyalty program per travel area – i.e., hotel, airline, car rental and ride sharing,” says Chong. “The benefits of status scale up significantly at the higher tiers.”
Then consider how you can combine loyalty programs and your rewards card for maximum savings.
For instance, the Amex Business Platinum Card automatically extends Gold Status in the Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy programs to cardmembers. Upgraded status can help you unlock free nights on business stays faster.
Abramson suggests checking your card for rental car loyalty perks as well. With the American Express Platinum Car Rental Privileges program, business travelers can get automatic status upgrades through Hertz and Avis.
Upgraded status can save you money while allowing you to skip ahead to the front of the line.
Chong has another tip: keep an eye out for special airline and hotel bonus programs that are geared toward frequent business travelers.
Two of his favorite options for saving on travel are United Mile Play and Marriott’s quarterly promotions. Both programs feature targeted offers for earning bonuses on travel bookings, which can be stacked with loyalty program base membership rewards as well as credit card rewards if you have a card that’s co-branded to United or Marriott.
He also recommends stacking promotions through cash back portals.
- TopCashback.com, for instance, has a promotion that allows travelers to earn 4 percent back at Hotels.com.
- If you’re booking business travel over the summer through Hotels.com with a Capital One Venture or Venture One card, you can earn 10X miles per dollar when you book and pay for travel at the site. Keep in mind, this promotion doesn’t extend to the Spark Miles for Business card.
Look for savings, but keep rewards in sight
If saving on business travel is your main goal, don’t obsess over points and miles, says Abramson. “If you can see a good cash discount for a flight or hotel night, take it.”
Kelly Soderlund, communications manager at travel price comparison site Hipmunk, offers these tips for saving on flights:
- Utilize fare alerts: Setting up alerts through Google Flights or Airfarewatchdog can clue you in to where the deals are for summer flights.
- Consider basic economy in lieu of business class: “Basic economy might not be everyone’s first choice, but if you’re looking to save money on airfare, it may be the best way to keep your wallet on track,” says Soderlund. Just look closely into any extra fees you’d have to pay and compare with the price of regular economy seats before booking.
- Book ahead: Some business trips may come up at the last minute, but if you have time in advance to book, use it to your advantage. According to Soderlund, booking three to four weeks ahead is the sweet spot for saving on business travel. “Summer travelers save an average of 16 percent on domestic airfare when flights are booked 21 to 28 days in advance of their departure date.”
It also pays to choose wisely when it comes to your choice of hotel.
Chong says business travelers should steer clear of family-friendly hotels when staying in popular tourist destinations. Between kids running the halls and crowds at the hotel restaurant or pool, you may not be able to relax at the end of the work day.
Soderlund suggests booking an Airbnb or vacation rental for summer business in place of a hotel. You can get privacy, plus peace and quiet. As an added incentive, you may pay a lower rate than a hotel. That could be especially helpful for an extended business trip lasting more than just a handful of days.
When earning rewards takes precedence over saving, consider whether your card requires you to book directly with the airline or hotel, or through the card’s travel portal to earn maximum rewards. And use caution when booking through third-party travel sites to avoid compromising your loyalty benefits.
“If you have elite status with a hotel, for instance, it might refuse to offer you certain perks should book your travel via a third-party provider,” says Abramson.
See related: Best no foreign transaction fee credit cards
Check fees, travel protections when heading overseas for business
If you’re headed overseas on business this summer, get the full rundown of perks included with your travel card.
“It may sound funny, but most people don’t even know all the benefits of the cards they carry in their wallet,” says Abramson. “With some credit cards, you can literally get paid if your flight or luggage is delayed but you need to know that you’re eligible for this benefit if you want to take advantage of it.”
Look for other extras, such as Global Entry or TSA Precheck credits, free checked bags and annual travel statement credits. Preferred seating or priority boarding may also appeal to you if you’re trying to navigate the tide of summer travelers.
Finally, make sure your card allows you to sidestep foreign transaction fees so you’re not sacrificing any rewards earned on purchases abroad.