If you’re a small-business owner on the road, learn how to use loyalty programs and credit cards to maximize the points you earn.
If you’re an entrepreneur who has to pay for your own business travel, it’s important to get as much out of every dollar you spend. A little bit of research and some rewards strategizing can help you earn more free flights, so you can put your money where it serves you best – back in your business.
Over the past two decades of being a small-business owner, I’ve come up with my own ways of traveling on a budget while maximizing the benefits.
While I sometimes envy company employees with all-expense-paid corporate credit cards and no worries over a budget, I’ve discovered when it comes to rewards, business owners have an edge.
We can earn more points than any corporate business traveler by taking advantage of the opportunity to double (and sometimes, triple) dip.
Another set of frequent flyer points
The major airlines have two sets of frequent flyer points: personal and business. The personal ones are what people usually discuss when they say, “frequent flyer points.” The business points are a separate program built for companies, so their employees can be rewarded for their travel even when the company itself is footing the bill.
Delta Skybonus, American Airlines Business Extra and United Perks Plus all provide business frequent flyer miles. Each system requires you to register your business, which means providing your business ID or, if you are a solo proprietor or entrepreneur like myself, your Social Security number. You can then give a unique business frequent flyer number to include when you or your employees book a flight.
The benefits of business accounts
The great part is that your personal and business frequent flyer points are separate entities.
In the case of American Airlines Business Extra, I receive one business point for every $5 I spend on a flight, in addition to the personal points. It works for flights booked through American Airlines, including affiliates like British Airways and Japan Airlines. The Business Extra point rewards start at 600 for a flight upgrade and go as high as 25,000 for a free anytime first-class flight from North America to the South Pacific.
As you can tell, business points in general are not as lucrative as personal points. However, remember this is a passive gain – you’re not doing anything extra to earn these points. Instead, you’re being rewarded for running a business.
Triple dipping with credit cards
A simple triple-dip strategy is to use your rewards credit card to pay for flights rather than using a nonrewards card.
For instance, I regularly use my Citi ThankYou Premier Card to book American Airlines flights. The Premier gives me 3 points per dollar spent in Citi ThankYou points for travel, American Airlines adds personal frequent-flyer miles for the cost of the flight and then American Airlines delivers a Business Extra point for every $5 spent on the same flight.
Even better, I can use the ThankYou points later to book flights that, to the airlines, are taken the same as a cash or credit purchase. I then have the opportunity to earn even more personal and business points from the airline.
Understand the limits
There are some limits to the dipping. First, the business programs of the carriers vary widely. For example, Delta Skybonus requires a minimum annual spend of $5,000. If you don’t meet that qualification, then you aren’t getting the points, assuming you are even accepted into the program.
Second, these programs are designed for people who are actually running a business. Ethically and otherwise, you should join these programs only if you are an actual business owner.
So, while you may not have a corporate account and a daily stipend, you do have a chance to earn more than you may be doing now. Depending on how often you travel and how much you spend, those extra points can add up quickly and allow you to grow your business while on the road.
See related: Adding a separate rewards card for business travel, Business credit card – reviews