I don’t speak too much about my “real” job, outside of writing this blog, but ultimately the nature of my job creates a ton of content that I write about here — whether I mention it or not. (so maybe I should)
Anyways, I am on the road a lot. In my two years since graduating from college I have almost consistently traveled weekly Monday thru Thursday. Without diving too deep into the specifics of the job, as I know similar situations have been criticized recently, I will say that the business of travelling weekly has its ups and downs. My opinions have altered slightly as of late, though.
Overall, I can’t complain — it is definitely a “grass is always greener” scenario, but I find a ton of benefits that spill into my personal travel, and for the purposes of this blog it gives me more content. Which is net positive. But what I’m about to talk about in this article would make it not just positive, but incredibly lucrative.
A situation that got me intrigued
I was recently speaking to one of my friends in the same industry as me about his travel experiences. We were talking about airline and hotel statuses, what brands he’s decided to stick with, how he complements his travel with credit cards, and so on — you know the regular jargon.
But then we got into expenses, somehow, and I was floored. He told me that he puts all of his spend — flights, hotels, car rentals, expenses — on his personal card. This isn’t even a choice, he has to do this. So not only is he receiving points from the travel, but also a few hundred points or miles (potentially) from purchasing that travel.
My situation on the other hand has me buying any business travel through a corporate card. So while I do receive the points I earn from travel, I am not seeing any of the points and miles from potentially purchasing this travel on my personal card. Essentially just throwing away [gains] points. Of course, I know a lot of people who would probably prefer not taking on the liability.
A mixed reaction situation
Of course, the first reaction to this may be one of skepticism. A lot of people may see this amount of spend on your personal card as a ton of liability on you, rather than your company, but I see this as HUGE! When I heard about this, the only thing I was thinking about was the incredible amount of points up for grabs.
Instead of dollar signs, I see points and miles. 🙂
And after some further research, I came to learn that there are actually a lot of companies that at least allow this. And to be clear, I am not allowed to do anything like this — or else, you know I would. My companies policy is actually the complete opposite.
I am able to get reimbursed for expenses throughout the week (i.e. dining and meals), so I do use my personal card for that. But any other kind of expenses (i.e. flights, hotels, car rentals) are all booked onto a corporate credit card. So while I do get all the miles and points for flying, staying at hotels, etc., I get no points from any of that credit card spend. Which I believe is relatively common practice.
So what I wanted to do here was act as if I could — as if I could use my personal cards to charge weekly travel expenses.
The card to use if you can charge business flights to your personal card
There are basically two schools of thought here when determining how to accrue business points on your personal card.
- I want the most possible points of the most valuable kind of points currency — ideally allowing me the greatest travel flexibility in the future.
- I have one airline, I don’t intend to fly anyone else, so I want to earn as many points with that one airline as possible.
In other words, you need to determine how you want to accrue points. Does it make sense to accrue one airline currency, which you’ll also be flying on, or do you want to add some flexibility to the points you earn.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is arguably the most well-rounded card on the market — and that’s a made of miles promise.
The current strategy I use for my business travel is two-fold, and similar to the one that I would recommend in this situation. Of course, here, you are able to earn the points from credit cards at a much higher rate!
- I put all of my expenses (travel, dining, etc.) on my Sapphire Reserve to earn maximum Ultimate Rewards points, which will earn at a rate of 3 points/dollar on all the spend mentioned above
- Through weekly travel, I’ll earn quite a bit of “frequent traveler” points at respective airlines and hotels
Even without the opportunity to use your personal card for business expenses, I’d implore anyone to earn as many Ultimate Rewards as possible. While having hundreds of thousands of points with an airline is cool to look at, there is a lot of restriction when it comes down to actually booking that travel. Don’t forget all the places those Ultimate Rewards transfer!
It is also worth noting that Chase is very lenient with what they consider as travel spend. As I’ll discuss later, some cards are not so generous when it comes to their spending bonus categories, but Chase on the other hand covers almost everything.
*Platinum Card from American Express
I have mixed opinions when it comes to this card, especially when it comes to justifying the annual fee. Regardless of that, though, this card is without a doubt the most lucrative card for buying flights directly from the airline.
Which is an important distinction.
For purchases made directly with an airline this card offers 5 Membership Rewards points per dollars. Unfortunately, though, most corporate travel is not booked through airlines (at least, as far as I’m aware). Which is why I include the asterisk above.
Many companies hire a third-party company to book there company travel, or at least manage it, ultimately to help get the best prices, and I’m sure there are a lot of other benefits I’m just not privy to. But what that means for people like us is they most likely are trying to take away the benefits that cards like this offer.
So while I’m not saying to avoid the card altogether, but for the purposes of this argument, I would first guarantee you can book travel directly with an airline (no travel portal, online agency like Expedia, etc.) before investing $550 in an annual fee.
If you are able to score 5 points per dollar with airlines, this card could be a serious points-maker for you.
Airline Card (for airline of choice)
And finally, if I took option number 2 as laid out above, and wanted to earn as many points on one airline as possible, I would choose to spend on a credit card of my chosen airline.
I would probably break this down further to include a hotel credit card as well. One of the better things about a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve is that you’ll earn the same, super-valuable bonus points on spend across all different categories. Getting an airline card would only earn you 1 point per dollar spent on any other travel.
So I will touch on the hotel aspect a bit later, but when it comes to committing to an airline card I would only suggest this strategy in a few select scenarios:
- Your home airport has one major airline, and you never see yourself flying on someone else. The locations where I’d see this being worth it are Atlanta and Delta, or maybe Dallas and American
- The airline credit card can be used for some outstanding benefit on the airline (i.e. the Southwest Companion Pass)
- I know that I’ll be flying a specific airline for an extended period of time. For instance, if you are going to focus on earning with one airline, you’d want to make sure your credit card is with that airline.
So taking a look at some examples, these are airline cards I would consider in this scenario:
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority
This is obviously specific to those looking to earn on Southwest. And the reason I place it at the top of the list is because of the potential it has towards the coveted Southwest Companion Pass.
In the event you are traveling for work, Southwest is your weekly airline, but you are going to fall short of the 110,000 Rapid Rewards points needed for the Companion Pass this card may be the perfect answer. The Companion Pass is easily the best benefit offered by Southwest, and I’d argue one of the reasons they remain so competitive in the frequent flyer community. And even more awesome is the fact that points earned on any one of their credit cards count towards the milestone needed for the Companion Pass.
The newly released Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card offers up to 60,000 bonus points after you sign up for the card, as well as some other great benefits. Like a $75 annual travel credit!
Of course, a lot of people who travel weekly for work on Southwest may be able to reach the Companion Pass milestone simply by flying, and in that case I’d say this card will just get you a ton of points! On top of the (at least) 110,000 points you already have.
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card
What makes this card more valuable than a lot of its counterparts is the Alaska MileagePlan program — from which you earn miles on the card. I for one have not taken advantage of the program, but I have read a lot about it and fully understand the value of the program.
The one thing that sets Alaska apart is not the fact that they are not part of any airline alliance (because Southwest isn’t), but rather the number of airlines that they have partnered with to take their miles even further. Unlike the other “small” US airlines, like JetBlue and Southwest, Alaska has partnered with airlines all over the world to offer some really unique redemption opportunities.
As mentioned, I have yet to take advantage of the Alaska MileagePlan program, but honestly just writing about it makes me wonder what I’ve been waiting for. So if you do happen to fly Alaska, or can credit your points there, this card would be an awesome addition to your wallet.
I could keep going…
To be honest, I could keep going down the list to name every airline in the country and their respective airline credit card. At this point, I’d say that all respectable airlines in the US have a competitive credit card portfolio to help bolster their frequent flyer program.
Delta with American Express, United with Chase, and American with Citi/BarclayCard. If you find yourself beginning to travel a lot with these, or any other airline, ensure that you take a look at one of their credit cards. I hope that you’ve got the idea at this point.
As you can probably tell, I would salivate at the idea of being able to charge company travel to a personal credit card. It would be so easy hitting spending bonuses, and my account balances would be off the charts. Not to mention all the other benefits.
So while I am not necessarily complaining about my situation, I am saying that I would have a full plan if the situation were to ever change. If you are unlike me, and are able to charge your business travel to a personal card, I would recommend ensuring that you’re taking full advantage. Or else, let me pay for you!