Attending a conference or convention can come with a hefty price tag. Here’s how you can leverage rewards credit cards to save on lodging, meals and transportation expenses
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.
Credit card tips for saving on convention, conference travel
- Stack travel rewards with banking rewards. Leverage hotel and airline loyaly programs with card rewards.
- Look for partner travel deals. Some cards offer extra bonuses when you book at specific sites or transfer to selected partners.
- Go co-branded. A conference stay can be a great opportunity to earn a generous sign-up bonus on a co-branded credit card with an airline or hotel chain.
- Be smart about dining. Choose the right card to charge restaurant meals, and consider picking up your team members’ tab to boost rewards.
- Think carefully about redeeming rewards for deductible expenses, and keep all non-business expenses on a separate, personal card.
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® Visa® credit 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.
Look for partner travel deals
Taking advantage of hotel or airline partner programs is another way to stack rewards earnings when booking convention travel.
- The Capital One Venture card, for example, recently established a partnership with Hotels.com that allows cardholders to earn 10 miles per dollar on hotels booked and paid through Hotels.com/Venture.
- The offer works with the Hotels.com rewards loyaltyprogram – so travelers can also collect 10 nights and get one free.
- Combining benefits from both programs can mean a return of up to 20 percent on hotel stays.
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.
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred both allow for 1:1 points transfers to selected partners. You may be able to increase your points value by strategically transferring them to partner airlines or hotels.
- Citi’s ThankYou program also offers transfer incentives if you have the Citi Premier Card or another eligible ThankYou card and book with travel partners. Recently, the program offered a 30 percent bonus to ThankYou members who transferred points to JetBlue.
See related: When you can and can’t transfer points, Can you transfer loyaly points between card issuers?
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.
- The Hilton Honors Card from American Express and the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card, for example, allow you to earn 7x and 12x points per dollar on hotel stays with Hilton. With the business card, non-Hilton hotel stays earn half the points instead.
- American Express also recently upgraded the introductory bonus for each Hilton Honors card, making them even more tempting for convention goers.
“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.”
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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.
“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 Cash Rewards Credit Card lets you earn unlimited 4 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.”
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.”