Corporate or personal card for business expenses?

Key factors to weigh: Who pays the annual fee and who gets the rewards

Damon Brown
Business Travel Writer
Business consultant, frequent flyer aficionado

How to earn elite status on airlines

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I was once offered a corporate position and, in the conversation, the organization mentioned having an expense account.

As a world traveler, the thought of a corporate card made me pause: Do I want to have a corporate business credit card tied to the company or a personal rewards card paid back in reimbursements?

If you are faced with a corporate-or-personal credit card choice, here are factors to weigh, questions to ask and how to maximize your rewards no matter what your decision:

Reimbursement versus no out-of-pocket

The corporate credit card is the easiest route for business expenses: You’re skipping collecting receipts and the cash flow gap waiting for reimbursement. The downside is that the points usually will belong to the company and not you.

If you use your personal credit card for business expenses, the downside is the burden of payment – keeping and submitting receipts – is on you. You may have to pay the charges for that business trip before you are reimbursed by your company.

The advantage of using a personal card for your business expenses is the points, the perks and the card are yours.

Who pays the annual fee?

With a corporate card, your employer pays the annual fee and you likely benefit from a higher-end business credit card’s perks, such as free checked bags, priority boarding and airport lounge access.

If you have or sign-up for a high-end personal rewards card for your business expenses, the annual fee, often hundreds of dollars, is on your dime.

In the case of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, that would be $450. Yes, you get a $300 annual travel credit, TSA Precheck or Global Entry credit and more, but that annual fee is a chunk of change.

How’s your credit?

If you don’t have excellent credit, it might be hard to get an elite travel rewards card – business card or personal card – in your name.

That’s not the case for your employer, which can get a corporate card because the company is responsible for paying the charges every month.

See related: Corporate credit cards: How they work, benefits, drawbacks

What if you move on from the company?

If you take a job somewhere else, you’ll turn in your corporate card, maybe even before you drop off your laptop and badge.

If you use your personal credit card for business expenses, you can keep the rewards earned on those purchases.

For example, those miles earned on flights, hotel and meals on that business trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, could help pay for your next getaway to Las Vegas or a beach in Florida.

How to maximize rewards on business travel and expenses

If you use your personal card for your business travel, here are some ways you can earn more miles:

Airline dining programs

First, sign up for airline dining rewards programs. Just link your personal card and frequent flyer number and you can earn up to five miles per dollar spent at affiliated eateries and cafes.

American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, United, Delta and most other airlines have these dining rewards programs

Think of this as a way to juice your rewards every time you charge breakfast tacos and OJ when you are at the airport on a layover.

Strategize your business meals effectively on your personal card and you can passively rack up serious miles that, in turn, can be used for personal flights and upgrades.

Shopping portals and card-linked offers

Second, use airline shopping portals and card-linked offers, such as Amex Offers, for office supplies and other business-related purchases.

Similar to the restaurant platforms, online portals can allow you to rack up dozens of points for each dollar spent.

If personal card is from American Express, you could get a $30 statement credit for $75 in purchases of office snacks or cleaning supplies from Boxed.com.

If you work remotely or have a home office, you need printers, paper and dependable internet access for video conferences. You can be earning points for all those purchases if you use your personal card for your business expenses (whether or not your company reimburses you for all of these charges).

See related: 6 questions to ask about your company credit card

Corporate or personal card? I’d pick…

As for me, I didn’t go forward with the corporate position, so I didn’t have to choose using a corporate card or my personal card for business expenses.

In the future, though, I decided to always go the personal card route if allowed that option. As an entrepreneur and consultant, I’d rather make sure my miles, and all the perks, stay with me.

 


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Updated: 10-22-2018