Business frequent flyer programs such as Delta SkyBonus, United PerksPlus and American Airlines Business Extra, among others, can unlock valuable savings on flights for your company. Here’s how they work.
Air travel can take a major bite out of your bottom line when you own a business.
Whether you’re covering business travel expenses for yourself or for employees, managing costs is a priority. Enrolling in a business frequent flyer program can unlock valuable savings on flights.
“With business frequent flyer programs, you’re able to double dip as companies can register and earn points on employee travel on top of the employee earning miles as well,” says Jeff Lenney, CEO of JLenney Marketing, LLC and frequent business traveler.
You can get even more mileage from these programs by pairing them up with a travel rewards credit card. Here’s what you need to know to maximize travel savings for your business.
See related: How to earn more points booking business travel
Business frequent flyer programs: A quick guide
- Personal versus business frequent flyer programs: What’s the difference?
- Points – not miles – are the payoff for business travel.
- Business frequent flyer programs from major U.S. airlines.
- How both employer and employee can earn rewards.
- Upgrade frequent flyer earnings with a travel rewards credit card.
- Take advantage of airline partnerships.
- Set clear rules for employee-earned miles.
Personal versus business frequent flyer programs: What’s the difference?
You may understand the ins and outs of your personal frequent flyer program, but business programs don’t always follow the same rules. There are certain guidelines your business may need to meet before you can begin earning or redeeming rewards.
- To enroll in United Airlines’ PerksPlus Program for businesses, for instance, you must have at least five employees and a minimum of $25,000 in airfare spend during the first 12 months after enrollment to remain eligible.
- Delta’s SkyBonus program is limited to small and medium-sized businesses with a minimum of $5,000 in eligible flight revenue and a minimum of five unique employee travelers each year.
- One additional stipulation: You generally can’t belong to another airline’s corporate or business discount program. Personal frequent flyer programs typically don’t have that same restriction.
“While it does vary per airline, most of them require that your company have two more travelers that do not already have a corporate sales agreement or discount in place,” says Lenney, who belongs to the American Airlines Business Extra program.
Points – not miles – are the payoff for business travel
Personal and business frequent flyer programs also differ in their rewards.
With these programs, you’re earning points in place of miles in your business account. That’s a big change from something like the Delta SkyMiles program, which lets you earn miles on air travel when you book with a personal credit card, such as the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Card from American Express, or a business card, such as Delta Reserve for Business.
Here’s a brief look at your rewards earning potential across the top business frequent traveler programs:
Business frequent flyer programs from major U.S. airlines
|Airline program||Rewards structure|
|Alaska Airlines EasyBiz||Earn 1 Mileage Plan mile per dollar on base fares for your business, on top of personal employee miles earned.|
Earn 3 miles per dollar spent on Alaska Airlines ticket purchases when you pay with the Alaska Airlines Visa Business card.
|American Airlines Business Extra||Earn 1 Business Extra point for every $5 spent on eligible flights, including employee travel.|
Earn and redeem Business Extra points on American, British Airways and Iberia flights, as well as flights operated by Finnair, Japan Airlines and Qantas when you purchase tickets from American.
|Delta SkyBonus||Earn up to 30 SkyBonus points per dollar spent on eligible flights, including employee travel, booked with Delta, Air France, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Alitalia, Aeromexico and participating partner airlines.|
Employees continue to earn personal miles in their SkyMiles account.
|JetBlue Inc.||Businesses earn 3 TrueBlue points per dollar spent on JetBlue flights.|
TrueBlue members enrolled in Blue Inc. earn 6 points per dollar spent.
|United PerksPlus||Earn up to 6 points per $1 spent on qualifying flights.|
Points can be converted into MileagePlus miles and added to employee accounts.
How both employer and employee can earn rewards
These points are separate from any rewards your employees may earn.
In Lenney’s case, “any employee of my company is able to fly as a traveler on my Business Extra account and earn points for the business, as well as AAdvantage miles for themselves.”
That policy can extend to other business frequent flyer programs as well.
“There are a few business travel agreements, generally for small businesses, that allow the firm to earn miles and points in addition to the business traveler’s personal frequent flyer or loyalty account,” says Suzanne Wolko, who previously worked as the global business travel manager for an investment firm.
“Usually for smaller firms, the travel agent will put the company account number and the traveler’s frequent flyer number into the reservation,” she says. In some cases, you may be required to book through a travel agent to earn points for your business.
Her previous employer had an agreement with British Airways, allowing her to earn miles in her frequent flyer account as an employee while the company earned travel credit in its corporate account. She would then use points earned in the business account toward employee travel.
“It saved a good amount of money when redeeming points,” says Wolko.
She points out that transparency and careful administration are key when applying rewards earned for the business.
“When redeeming for a flight, the company will use its points and the employee will not earn points in their personal frequent flyer account,” says Wolko. “So sometimes you need to delicately balance the program to ensure which employee, team or department is getting the expense benefit to their budgets.”
Upgrade frequent flyer earnings with a travel rewards card
Business owners can add to their travel rewards stockpile by booking airfare with a personal or business credit card.
For instance, the Chase Ink Business Preferred Card offers 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 in combined travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and advertising purchases made annually.
You could use the card to book business travel through, for example, United PerksPlus and earn up to another 6 points per dollar spent, that you can redeem toward future flights.
Co-branded cards can stretch your earnings potential even further.
Say you have the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and you belong to both the Business Extra program and the AAdvantage program.
Booking a $500 flight would net you 100 Business Extra points as well.
Take advantage of airline partnerships
Being aware of airline partnerships or alliances also matters for maximizing earnings.
“One tip I give travelers is to credit partners in alliance when you fly so you consolidate miles earned,” says Wolko. “For example, when I fly American I credit British Airways in Oneworld Alliance to get elite status quicker.”
If you’re flying with a partner airline, make sure you read the rules for booking to get travel credit for your business.
“With American, to earn points you need to fly on American Airlines,” says Lenney. “However, because of joint ventures with British Airways and Iberia, you’re also eligible for points on those airlines as long as you book your flight with one of them directly.”
See related: 3 ways to earn elite status with airlines
Set clear rules for employee-earned miles
If you’re looking for a new business travel rewards card to go along with a business frequent flyer program, set ground rules when issuing cards to employees, says Slavik Boyechko, filmmaker, business traveler and founder of Gear Dads. That way there’s no confusion about how rewards are earned or the dividing line between business and personal accounts.
Trying to merge credit cards and frequent flyer programs with your business frequent flyer rewards can get messy, Boyechko says.
“Just like work-issued cell phones, credit cards and mileage accounts can’t exist in a corporate vacuum without being intimately tied to the individual,” he says. “Careful policies and procedures should be put in place before beginning to shop around for business cards and miles.”