Headed to a convention or conference? Don't forget rewards credit cards

These tips will help you save on hotel stays, transportation and meals

Rebecca Lake
Personal Finance Writer
Making complex credit topics simple

Headed to a convention or conference? Don't forget rewards credit cards

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Summer is festival and family travel season, but it’s also a great time to check out a convention or conference.

Whether you plan to get your geek on at San Diego’s Comic-Con, rub elbows with YouTube influencers at VidCon or hit a smaller convention, there’s one thing to keep in mind: cost.

Unless a convention or conference is being held in your hometown or is being paid for by your employer, you’ll have to cover travel to and from the event, hotel stays and food. A travel rewards card can save the day – and your wallet.

Here are some tips for using your travel rewards card for your next conference or convention trip.

See related: Score summer festival savings using your rewards credit card

Credit card tips for saving on convention, conference travel

Stack travel rewards with banking rewards

“The best way to earn rewards for conference travel is to layer airline, hotel, banking and credit card rewards programs together,” says Lee Abbamonte, travel expert and Bank of America spokesman.

Abbamonte, a frequent traveler who’s spoken at the Public Relations Society of America Travel and Tourism Conference and SXSW, leverages frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs when booking air travel and hotels for conferences.

“I receive those loyalty program benefits, then earn even more rewards by paying with a credit card tied to a banking rewards program,” he explains.

  • The Bank of America Premium Rewards card, for example, offers unlimited 2 points per dollar on travel and dining. If you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards client, you can get up to a 75 percent rewards bonus.
  • Bank of America also recently debuted the Business Advantage Relationship Rewards program, which extends that same benefit to business rewards cardholders.

“That means you earn up to 3.5 points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining,” says Abbamonte.

See related: Marriott is launching a new loyalty program in August, Best rewards credit cards of 2018

Look for partner travel deals

Taking advantage of hotel or airline partner programs is another way to stack rewards earnings when booking convention travel.

You can also leverage partner programs when redeeming rewards if your travel rewards card allows you to transfer points or miles to other frequent flyer or hotel loyalty programs.

See related: When you can and can't transfer points, Can you transfer loyaly points between card issuers?

"If you’re attending a conference at a big hotel chain, it may be worth looking at getting a new credit card with that chain. The conference stay could help you ... grab a big sign-up bonus."

Go co-branded for conventions

Co-branded cards can also help you multiply rewards. Benjamin Tobias, a certified financial planner and founder of Tobias Financial, sticks with co-branded cards from JetBlue, American Airlines, Marriott and Hilton to book hotel stays whenever possible.

“If you’re attending a conference with a big hotel chain, it may be worth looking at getting a new credit card with that chain,” says David Rae, president and founder of DRM Wealth Management. “The conference stay could help you hit the initial spend required to grab a big sign-up bonus.”

 

Video: Credit card reward hacks

Rae attended FinCon last year in Dallas and stayed at a Sheraton hotel, which is part of the Starwood Preferred Guest program.

He paid for his stay with The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and was able to take advantage of a special promotion, which allowed him to get $100 back for spending $500.

If you’re not aware of any special partner offers with your co-branded card, it doesn’t hurt to ask. The same goes for getting rooms or flights at a better rate.

“Always contact the conference or convention organizer to find out if there are any discounts on hotels or airfare available,” says Tobias.

Be smart about dining

If you’re going to be spending all day at a convention or conference, you’ll have to eat, but how you pay for it matters when travel rewards are on the table.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred cards offer 3 and 2 points per dollar on dining, respectively, which makes it easy to use one card for all your convention spending.

If your travel card only pays 1 point or mile, or 1 percent cash back on dining per dollar spent, however, you might think about adding a dining rewards card into the mix.

  • Barclay’s Uber Visa, for instance, offers 4 points per dollar on restaurants, takeout and bars, including UberEATS.
  • The Capital One Savor card lets you earn unlimited 3 percent cash back on dining.

Lauren Liss, vice president, U.S. cards, at Capital One, recommends picking up the tab for lunch if you’re attending a conference with other team members to maximize earnings with a dining rewards card – just make sure you get paid back afterward.

Rae has another tip for racking up more rewards at conferences if you have a travel card that offers a lower rewards rate on dining: Charge everything to your room.

“Use a card that gives you additional points for hotel spending,” he says. “This way, you won’t end up charging meals that only accrue the base level rewards.”

See related: 47 millions Americans have picked up a tab to get card rewards, poll finds, How dining out can help you earn more rewards

"You shouldn’t mix personal with business expenses on the same card. If you’re planning a mini vacation, swap out your business card with your personal card for the remainder of your stay."

Think carefully about redeeming rewards for deductible expenses

If you’re planning to write off a convention or conference trip as a business expense, you may want to hold your rewards in reserve to redeem for a personal trip.

Business travel expenses are deductible and, “by paying for the conference with your card you’ll effectively be receiving a discount in the form of the tax savings,” says Tobias. Plus, you can still earn rewards for the trip if you’re charging all your travel spending to your card.

It may be a good idea to bring a personal credit card along to cover anything extra if you’re at a business conference, like a spa day. A personal travel rewards card also comes in handy if you decide to extend your trip after the conference ends.

“You shouldn’t mix personal with business expenses on the same card,” says Tobias. “If you’re planning a mini vacation, swap out your business card with your personal card at the front desk for the remainder of your stay.”

See related: Pros, cons of getting a business card for personal use, 6 reasons entrepreneurs should get a business card


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Updated: 10-17-2018