How To Use Business Expenses To Fly For Free: Earning Travel Rewards

If you’re racking up business expenses on a credit card, there’s no reason not to turn that spend into free travel opportunities.

Small business owners and corporate spenders alike can open up their wallets and frequent flyer accounts to a whole class of points and miles earning credit cards otherwise unavailable to the public at large. In addition to potential credit score and credit limit benefits, separating business expenses onto business credit cards offers significant value when it comes to earning rewards for free travel.

Qantas calls its business class seats “Skybeds.” Despite a side-by-side configuration, they have garnered rave reviews. Accumulating business spending in certain ways makes it possible to fly in a seat like this for little more than taxes and fees.

This four-part series will walk you through the basic steps of converting business spending into premium travel rewards. This first section will cover the first step in the process, finding payment methods that allow you to net freqeunt flier equivalent points when making business purchases.

  1. Earning Travel Rewards
  2. Maximizing Business Spend for Travel Rewards
  3. Navigating the Booking Process
  4. Leveraging Perks and Upgrades

Expenses amongst businesses vary widely in category and volume, and so before selecting a business credit card to apply for, business owners should first do the math to select the best card(s) for their particular spend and travel patterns.

Here are a few cards with high travel redemption earning potential, along with a discussion of their costs, benefits and best uses.

The Business Platinum Card from American Express Open

Intro Bonus: American Express Open is currently offering the highest overall travel points sign-up bonus on a business credit card. After a user is approved and spends $10,000 within three months, AMEX will deposit 50,000 American Express Membership Rewards points. Spend an additional $15,000 in that three month window, and AMEX will drop you another 50,000.

What Points Are Worth: AMEX points can be directly transferred to 16 airline frequent flier programs, including Air Canada Aeroplan miles, British Airways Avios, Delta Air Lines Skymiles and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles. The points can also be converted to hotel reward programs including Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz Carlton and Starwood Preferred Guest.

These are just a few examples of what the 100,000 point bonus, with spend, could net you:

  • A first class ticket between the United States and anywhere on a five star carrier like ANA or Singapore Airlines.
  • Two round-trip business class tickets between the U.S. and Europe on Lufthansa, Swiss International Airlines and others.
  • Four round-trip economy class tickets between the U.S. and Europe.
  • Two free weeks at a Marriott “Level 1” or “Level 2” hotel, or five nights in a “Level 3” or “Level 4” property.

Bonus Spend Categories: Cardholders can earn five points per dollar spent on airfare booked through American Express Travel. Earn five points per dollar spent on hotels booked through American Express Travel. Earn 1.5 points per dollar on purchases of $5,000 or more (up to 1,000,000 additional points per year).

Other Ways To Redeem Points: In lieu of valuable frequent flier mile transfers, you can redeem points for one cent when paying for airfare with points through American Express Travel. That redemption rate increases to 1.54 cents per point when paying for airfare with points through American Express Travel on your selected airline of choice, as you earn a 35 percent rebate. Also redeem points for 1.54 cents equivalent on full-fare economy class or on any business class or first class flight regardless of airline (the rebate is capped at up to 500,000 points back per calendar year).

Annual Fee: $450 annually, however $200 can be recovered as a statement credit for spend on your airline of choice.

Additional Traveler Perks: Premium travel perks include complimentary AMEX Centurion Lounge on any trip and Delta Skyclub access when traveling on Delta. AMEX will pay for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck sign-up fee. The card also includes rental car collision insurance on rentals bought using the card. AMEX offers Platinum cardholders its highest degree of  purchase protection, and also goods that are lost or damaged within a limited time of purchase. Automatic travel disruption insurance applies to trips paid for using the card.

Best Ways to Use This Card: Given the bonuses, this card offers the best points earning rates on airfare and on generic purchases greater than $5,000.

Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Intro Bonus: Chase is offering perhaps the most generous bonus for new card members. Chase will dole out 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after business card holders spend $5,000 in the first three months.

Bonus Spend Categories: The Ink Business Preferred card offers three points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent on all travel, including not only airfare but ground transportation, ride sharing services like Uber, public transportation, cruises, hotel and bed and breakfast reservations. Chase also offers Ink Preferred card holders three points per dollar spent on specific business categories, including social media advertising, shipping, cable, internet and phone services.

What The Points Are Worth: Chase points can be transferred to nine airlines, including many of the same partners in the American Express Program, plus United Airlines MileagePlus and Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards. Points can also be redeemed to purchase cash fare tickets and hotel rooms at a rate of 1.25 cents per point through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal.

Annual Fee: $95

Best Ways to Use This Card: Chase Ink is great for travel expenses, and can be a great auxiliary card even when paired with the Business Platinum card due to its generous travel earning categories. Ink Business Preferred cardholders can also earn three points per dollar spent using Plastiq, a checkwriting service that can convert credit card payments to physical checks for bill payments not otherwise chargeable.

Click here for information on this card and others like it.

The Business Gold Rewards Card from American Express Open

Intro Bonus: Similar to the AMEX Business Platinum card, American Express will endow new gold cardholders with 50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first three months.

Bonus Spend Categories: Cardholders earn three points per dollar on one category of their choosing. Categories are airfare, gas, advertising, shipping and computer hardware, software and cloud computing. Cardholders still earn 2 points per dollar on the remaining categories. Bonus points only accrue for the first $100,000 spent on all five categories.

Redemption Details: Points can be transfered to 16 airlines, or redeemed for airfare through the American Express Travel Portal at a rate of one cent per point.

Annual Fee: $175, waived the first year.

Additional Perks: The Business Gold card doesn’t come with the high-level Platinum perks like complimentary lounge and SkyClub access, but does offer rental car collision coverage, trip protection and discounted paid access to AMEX Centurion Lounges.

Best Ways to Use This Card: While you can rack up unparalleled points on airfare with the Business Platinum card, the Business Gold card rewards other spending categories better. 

The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express

Intro Bonus: None

Bonus Spend Categories: None; two American Express Membership Rewards points per dollar on all spend regardless of category up to $50,000 each calendar year

Redemption Details: Points transfers to 16 airlines; one cent per point redemption rate when paying for airfare with points through American Express Travel

Annual Fee: $0

Best Ways to Use This Card: Cardholders can use the Blue Business Plus card on expenses that don’t qualify for point bonuses on other AMEX business credit cards, and combine Membership Rewards points with those earned on other AMEX cards when transferring to American Express airline and hotel partners.

Sign up for the Blue Business Plus Card here.

CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard

Intro Bonus: American Airlines will deposit 70,000 American AAdvantage miles after cardholders spend $4,000 in the first four months.

Bonus Spend Categories: Earn two miles per dollar spent at American Airlines, gas stations, certain telecommunications companies and certain car rental providers.

How Much Are Miles Worth: Since this card is directly affiliated with American AAdvantage, cardholders can’t transfer the miles to other airlines. Cardholders can book available award seats on American Airlines and Oneworld partners, including British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LATAM, Qantas, Qatar Airways and others. For example, using 70,000 AAdvantage miles, a cardholder can fly free in first class one-way from the U.S. to Europe, or in business class one-way from the U.S. to Asia.

Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year.

Other Travel Benefits: CitiBusiness AAdvantage cardholders enjoy perks when flying on American Airlines, including higher boarding priority, a free checked bag when travelling in economy, and a discount on in-flight purchases like food and alcohol. The card also comes with some travel protection insurance and rental car collision coverage.

Best Ways to Use This Card: If your business uses American Airlines often, this card offers attractive AA specific benefits in addition to an enticing signup bonus.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

Intro Bonus: Southwest offers 60,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points after cardholders spend $3,000 in the first three months.

Bonus Spend Categories: Cardholders earn two points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases; 6,000 bonus points each account anniversary. Cardholders who spend $100,000 or more qualify for a Southwest Companion Pass, which allows you to bring a companion for free on any Southwest flight you take for a year.

What the points are worth: Rapid Rewards points can be used for any Southwest flight, and points awards are translated to an equivalent cash fare at around 1.7 cents per point.

Annual Fee: $89

Best Ways to Use This Card: For business travelers likely to encounter Southwest, augmenting your Rapid Rewards points with your spend can make a lot of sense.  

Gold and Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express

Intro Bonus: Delta will drop Gold cardholders 30,000 Delta Skymiles, and Platinum cardholders 35,000 SkyMiles and 5,000 Medalllion Qualification Miles, after they spend $1,000 in the first three months, plus 5x bonus points on spend up to an additional 35,000 miles in the first three months.

Bonus Spend Categories: Cardholders earn two miles per dollar spent on Delta Air Lines purchases.

What Points Are Worth: Redeem miles for Delta flights, as well as flights on SkyTeam and Delta partner airlines including Air Europa, Air France, Aeroflot, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Korean Airlines, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia and others directly through Skymiles.

Annual Fee: For Gold, $95, waived the first year. Platinum is $195, without a fee waiver.

Other Travel Benefits: Delta American Express cardholders enjoy perks when flying on Delta Air Lines, including higher boarding priority, a free checked bag when travelling in economy, discounted access to Delta SkyClub lounges, and a discount on in-flight purchases like food and alcohol. The cards also come with some travel protection insurance and rental car collision coverage. Generally, covereage types and levels are higher with the platinum card Platinum cardholders also earn one free domestic companion ticket each year the the card renews.

Best Ways to Use This Card: These cards are great for business travelers who rack up a lot of Delta Skymiles.

The JetBlue Business Card

Intro Bonus: JetBlue offers 40,000 TrueBlue points after $1,000 in spend in the first three months.

Bonus Spend Categories: Earn six points per dollar spent on JetBlue Airways purchases; two points per dollar spent on restaurants and office supply stores; 5,000 bonus points each account anniversary.

Redemption Details: Cardholders can redeem points for JetBlue flights at a base rate of 1.7 cents per point. Fliers can use points to acquire JetBlue Mint lie-flat business class seats at a more favorable rate.

Annual Fee: $99

Best Ways to Use This Card: This is a good card for JetBlue business travelers, but also a good option for aspiring travelers who live in a JetBlue hub like Boston, Fort Lauderdale, New York or Los Angeles.

United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card

Intro Bonus: United will credit cardholders 50,000 MileagePlus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

Bonus Spend Categories: Cardholders earn two United miles per dollar spent at United Airlines, restaurants, gas stations, and office supply stores. United also offers 10,000 bonus miles after cardholders spend $25,000 in each calendar year.

Redemption Details: Miles can be redeemed through the United MileagePlus frequent flier program, which can be used to book award seats on United flights and all other global Star Alliance airlines, such as Air Canada, Air China, ANA, Air New Zealand, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Avianca, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA Air, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Swiss International Airlines, Thai Airways. While these miles are limited to United’s own frequent flier program, United generally has the best award availability of the three major U.S. airlines.

Annual Fee: $85, waived the first year.

Other Travel Benefits: United MileagePlus cardholders enjoy perks when flying on United Airlines, including higher boarding priority, a free checked bag when travelling in economy, free United Club passes, and a discount on in-flight purchases like food and alcohol. Cardholders also get better access to mileage award redemption seats than MileagePlus members who don’t have a United credit card. The card also comes with some travel protection insurance and rental car collision coverage.

Best Way to Use This Card: Like other airline cards, this card is a good choice for United frequent fliers. United’s superior frequent flier redemption options and exceptional bonus mile earning categories make this card an attracive choice to other aspiring travelers, as well.

Bank of America Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard Credit Card

Intro Bonus: 25,000 Bank of America Travel Rewards points after $1,000 in spend in the first two months

Bonus Spend Categories: Three points per dollar on travel booked through the Bank of America Travel Center; One and one half points per dollar on all other purchases. When paired with a Bank of America business checking account that is enrolled in Bank of America Relationship Rewards, the card nets a 25% to 75% bonus on all points earned based on checking account balance, beginning at a minimum of $20,000.

What Points Are Worth: Bank of America Travel Rewards points can’t be transfered to airline frequent flier programs or hotel rewards programs. Instead, cardholders redeem points using a straighforward points-to-cash payment system. Points are worth one cent each for travel, cash back or gift cards.

Annual Fee: $0

Best Ways to use This Card: The Bank of America Business Advantage card has a rewards program that is simpler to use than American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate rewards cards, and doesn’t charge a fee. The program is not nearly as rewarding, though. The card is good for simplified earning and redeeming and may be handy to Bank of America business checking account customers with a minimum average balance of $20,000.

The Upshot

For small business owners or even freelancers in the gig economy, business credit cards are a valuable option to maximize spend in categories such as gas, advertising, office supplies, and shipping.

Prospective business cardholders seeking award flights should carefully analyze their travel and spending patterns before selecting the right card(s) to add to their business wallets.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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