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Credit Card Advice If You’re New to Travel for Work

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Credit Card Advice If You’re New to Travel for Work

Jasmin BaronCredit Card Advice If You’re New to Travel for WorkMillion Mile Secrets Team

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In my previous life, I was a college aviation instructor, so was thrilled when one of my former students texted the fantastic news that she’d finally landed a dream job in her chosen field – flying around the country!  She’ll be on the road ~5 months a year, though, so naturally our conversation turned into making the most of that.

“Oh, yeah,” she said.  “I signed up for all the hotel programs!”

Turns out, her situation is a little more lucrative than many who travel for work, because she’s getting a fixed allowance for each night she’s on the road for accommodations and meals.  So she can essentially plan (and pay for) her own hotel stays and food, and make use of the best credit cards for travel without having to mess around with expense reports or reimbursements from her employer.

She’s new to credit card rewards and asked my advice.  Here’s what we talked about.

Starting a New Gig With Work Travel? Before You Launch, Figure Out How to Make the Most of It

First and foremost, I said, never leave money on the table.  Especially if someone else is footing the bill.

Earn the Most Credit Card Rewards When You Travel for Work

I’ve done a moderate amount of work travel, but I’m no George Clooney in “Up in the Air” … you’ve seen the bit:

 

If you’re old timey at the work travel thing, this probably won’t resonate.  But if you’re new, here are tips to get you started.

1.   Sign Up for Every Rewards Program Possible

My friend doesn’t have loyalty to any hotel brand – her work has her showing up in cities and towns with just a few days notice, so she goes for the hotel with the best rate.  She’s already signed up for every single hotel rewards program to earn points for her stays.

Be sure to add your loyalty program number to every stay – even if it’s on a discounted or corporate rate.  You may not always earn points, but it’s worth a try.  I have airline friends who don’t earn points but DO get stay credits when they’re out on layover with certain brands.

2.   Pay for Flights, Hotels, Food, and Incidentals With a Rewards-Earning Credit Card

If your work reimburses you for your travel expenses, you’re already ahead of the game.  Some companies make you put your travel expenses on a corporate card, which means you won’t get the rewards for your spending – instead, they will.  You should still sign up for airline and hotel programs though, because often you’ll get to earn miles and points regardless of who pays for it.

Assuming you’ll put your travel and dining spending on your own credit card, as my friend will, the best bet to start with is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.  It earns 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 on travel and dining worldwide with no caps – it doesn’t matter if you’re staying at a Hyatt or small-town motel.  The annual fee is $95.  And it comes with 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (worth $600 cash back, or $750 in travel) after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening – that’s pretty huge.

Road Warriors Who Just Need a Place to Land for the Night Can Still Earn Bonus Points With the Right Card

It’s even easier for flights, because airlines will award you frequent flyer miles whether you book directly with them or through a 3rd-party site like Expedia or Orbitz.  Hotels aren’t the same – you typically won’t earn hotel points or stay credits if you don’t book directly (but you’ll still earn credit card rewards).

3.  If You Become Loyal to a Brand, Get Their Credit Card (Usually)

Being a road warrior may mean you’re gonna get the cheapest, fastest, or easiest travel arrangements.  Using a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Citi Premier℠ Card makes sense here, because you’ll earn bonus points for travel regardless.

My friend says she’s been frequently staying at Hilton and Marriott brands, because there’s usually one of their hotels wherever she ends up.  Otherwise, she’ll use her company allowance for an Airbnb, which is cheaper in a lot of instances.

If she keeps staying with Hilton, it’s worth it for her to get the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card – she’ll earn bonus points on every stay, but more importantly free breakfast at Hilton hotels because the card comes with Hilton Gold Status.

Hilton Gold Elite Status Isn’t a Joke – That’s My Daughter Enjoying a Beautiful Eggs Benedict Thanks to This Perk

When she stays at Marriott, the new Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card would make sense if she’s trying to save up for Marriott stays.  It earns 6X Marriott points per $1 at participating Marriott hotels.  I wish it offered elite status with the same perks as the Hilton card, though.

Check out the brands you stay with most.  Do the math, and assess if the perks and earning with a branded credit card is worth it.

4.  Earn Rebates

Using an AMEX card when there are AMEX Offers for a certain hotel brand can put money back in your pocket.  So can booking your hotel stay through a shopping portal.

It’s a nice extra boost when you’re using your credit card for work stuff.

Do you have more advice for a newbie diving into travel for work?  Please share in the comments.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees

More Info

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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I am seeking feedback for redeeming points for overnight stay in Ft Lauderdale before cruise in March. I can stay at Hilton brand 40k points w breakfast, Holiday Inn brand free night certificate expires mid October, or Hyatt brand 8000 points w breakfast. I have Hilton points, IHG points and the certificate, and Ultimate Rewards for Hyatt. March is only trip planned so far but early in the year. All hotels in the 250-300 dollar range. Which would you use? Thanks