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Increase ‘bleisure’ travel savings with rewards, points, miles

Use credit cards and loyalty programs to your advantage – but make sure to keep business and leisure expenses separate

Summary

“Bleisure,” which combines business trips with leisure activities, has become increasingly popular, especially among the millennial travel crowd. These tips will help you make the most of your trip and stay on top of expenses and reimbursements.

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“Bleisure,” which combines business trips with leisure activities, has become increasingly popular among the millennial travel crowd. National Car Rental’s 2019 State of Business Travel Survey found that 90 percent of millennial business travelers have engaged in bleisure travel.

“It’s no surprise that this concept is popular among millennials as they take more business and leisure trips than any other demographic,” says Jeff Berk, CEO of business travel platform Tripkicks.

According to a January 2018 Expedia report, millennials are more likely than any other generation to save for travel. And 74 percent of Americans prioritize experiences, including travel, over things.

“Experiences are incredibly important to millennials and the appeal of adding an exciting or fulfilling personal endeavor while furthering your professional career is compelling,” says Berk. “Additionally, more companies are embracing bleisure and recognize it as a positive for maintaining work/life balance.”

There’s another reason bleisure has proven popular. According to National’s survey, 49 percent of millennials said saving money was a motivator for merging work with personal vacations.

“Bleisure is perfect for solo travelers looking for a more effective way to travel on a budget,” says Chizoba Anyaoha, founder of travel app TravSolo.

These travel rewards tips can help increase savings further when business and leisure meet.

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Use loyalty to your advantage

Airline and hotel loyalty programs are a simple way to earn points or miles on flights and hotels associated with bleisure bookings. When choosing which programs to join, less may be more.

“The best way to rack up savings is to stick with one hotel and one airline and work their rewards system, rather than bouncing around from program to program,” says Valerie Joy Wilson, travel expert and founder of the Trusted Travel Girl blog. “If you can choose your hotels and airlines for work, you’re already racking up free credits on the company’s dime.”

For hotel loyalty, Wilson prefers the Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy programs. Other loyalty programs you might consider for bleisure travel include:

Airline loyalty programs can be particularly helpful for saving money if you’re not using a travel rewards credit card to book.

“Earning elite status will help you earn miles even faster on your preferred airline,” says Wilson.

If you fly major carriers such as American, Delta or United, that may not be difficult to do if you’re a frequent bleisure traveler. For example, you can unlock the first level of elite status with those airlines by spending $3,000 on air travel and logging 25,000 flight miles.

See related: 7 hotel rewards mistakes you should avoid

Compound loyalty rewards with credit card and banking rewards

“Credit cards are the fastest way to earn miles and points,” says Wilson. “If you aren’t utilizing them for company expenses, you’re leaving free travel on the table.”

Millennials are increasingly adding rewards cards to their wallet; 78 percent say they’ve applied for at least one rewards card, according to a 2017 Aite Group report.

Knowing how to leverage travel rewards for bleisure is important for maximizing savings.

“A great hack is to use your rewards card on everything your company is willing to reimburse you for, especially the food allowances,” says Anyaoha.

You use your card to pay for those reimbursable expenses, then “use the reimbursement money to pay off the balance,” he says. “You’ll gain more cash rewards or more miles, depending on what type of rewards card you have.”

Wilson’s favorite pick for bleisure travel is The Platinum Card® from American Express. In addition to earning five Membership Rewards points per dollar on airfare booked directly with the airlines or amextravel.com and prepaid hotel stays booked on amextravel.com, the card offers:

All those perks can make bleisure travel more enjoyable, if you’re comfortable paying the $550 annual fee.

If you’re looking for a card with a lower annual fee that still delivers great rewards, consider these options:

Anyaoha has another tip: check your bank for partnerships with hotel and airline brands.

“They may offer hidden discounts that aren’t advertised to the public,” Anyaoha says. Keep in mind that these may be exclusive to the bank’s credit card options, although some may offer discounts when you use your debit card to pay for business and leisure travel.

Also, consider whether your bank has a loyalty program of its own. Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program, for instance, offers up to a 75 percent credit card rewards bonus for eligible banking customers.

See related: Travel hacks guide: Howe to become a points hacker using credit cards

Save on travel with apps

Apps like Jack and Ferdi can make finding things to do and places to see easier on bleisure trips. There are also apps that can help you lock in even more savings.

For example:

  • Nightly.travel is a hotel-switching app that can help you find discounts if you want to move from one hotel to another during your stay.
  • Roaming Hunger helps you find food trucks in your local area if you’re looking for a way to eat on the cheap.
  • Skyscanner lets you compare prices on flights and get alerts when tickets go on sale.
  • Trail Wallet allows you to set a daily budget for business and leisure spending so you know if you’re in danger of overspending.
  • Rome2rio is a price comparison app that shows you the cheapest ways to get around in your destination city.
  • Skiplagged can help you find deals on flights and hotels.

Skiplagged can also help you find savings on airfare using “hidden city” bookings, but that could be risky if the airline takes issue with your flight-hopping strategy.

Keep detailed records for bleisure spending

If your employer reimburses you for business travel, it’s important to make sure you’re getting credit for those expenses.

“There’s a high likelihood that your employer has a travel policy and it’s your responsibility to follow it,” says Berk. “In general, it’s a best practice to keep business and personal transactions as separate as possible.”

Berk says it may be better to use one rewards card for business and another for the leisure part of your trip to avoid blurring the line between the two. That “reduces the likelihood of business charges going unreimbursed, or personal charges getting mistakenly reimbursed.”

While your card statement should break down spending for reimbursement, Wilson suggests using an expense tracking app for backup.

“The best way to track it is to always get a receipt, take a photo of it and add it into the app,” she says. “That way, you can send a spreadsheet with images of attached receipts directly to your company’s expense department.”

And don’t charge leisure spending to a company-issued credit card without checking the guidelines first.

“If not addressed within a travel policy, employees should inquire about the appropriate rules with their employer,” says Berk.

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Published: April 26, 2019

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15.09%
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Reward
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18.58%

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