Key takeaways

  • Using the right credit cards can help businesses and individual business travelers save money on travel expenses.
  • In addition to earning points and miles that can be redeemed for travel, many credit cards offer travel perks like free checked bags, business lounge access and free hotel stays.
  • Choosing the best card for your needs helps you earn rewards you can use to defray the cost of your next business trip or personal vacation.

Business travel can be very expensive, but there are ways to save — and one of the most effective tools for saving money is a credit card. The best business cards for travel can save business travelers both time and money while offering valuable travel rewards and cash back. Premium travel rewards cards can also go a long way toward improving the travel experience by offering travelers upgraded airline seats and free hotel rooms, as well as access to airport business lounges.

Here are a few things you can do to save money on business travel — while adding comfort and convenience — using a credit card.

Use your card to save on hotels

When paying for a hotel stay, one of the most effective ways to save money is to use a credit card that’s offered by the hotel chain. Hotel rewards cards allow you to save money in several ways. First, they feature bonus points or cash back for hotel charges, which can later be redeemed for free night stays. Additionally, a hotel rewards card can offer you credit toward elite status in the hotel loyalty program. And when you hold that status, you’ll enjoy perks like priority customer service, room upgrades and even waived fees.

For example, the World of Hyatt Business Credit Card* from Chase offers the cardholder (and up to five employees) Discoverist status, as well as five qualifying night stays for every $10,000 you spend in a calendar year. After spending $50,000 in a calendar year, cardholders also receive 10 percent of their redeemed points back as bonus points (on up to 200,000 points redeemed) for the remainder of the calendar year. And since you get employee cards at no cost, their spending counts toward the $50,000 requirement.

Discoverists receive extra points and perks like free bottled water and 2 p.m. late checkouts. And when travelers receive top-tier World of Hyatt Globalist status, perks include free breakfast, suite upgrades and free parking on award nights. Cardholders also get access to Hyatt Leverage, Hyatt’s global business travel program that offers special rates on participating Hyatt hotels worldwide.

Save on flights with a companion pass

When you’re traveling with a colleague, nothing saves money like receiving two tickets for the price of one. Thankfully, several airline credit cards offer companion passes. For instance, the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card from Bank of America offers a companion fare from $122 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $23) each account anniversary after you spend $6,000 or more on purchases within the prior anniversary year.

Better yet, the British Airways Visa Signature® Card* from Chase features a Travel Together Ticket that you can earn after spending $30,000 in purchases in a calendar year. This gives you two airline award tickets for just the price of taxes and fees. Just note that British Airways has a habit of imposing notoriously high carrier surcharges, especially on its awards in business in first class.

But perhaps the best companion pass is the one offered by Southwest Airlines, which is normally achieved by earning 135,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. However, holders of a Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card can earn a welcome bonus of 80,000 points for spending $5,000 in purchases during the first three months — getting you more than halfway to the Companion Pass during your first year. And cardholders receive a boost of 10,000 qualifying points every year and can earn qualifying points from credit card spending and flight purchases. Once earned, the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass offers unlimited tickets for your designated companion for just the price of taxes, normally $5.60 each way within the United States.

Get free expedited security

Many business travelers are forced to waste incredible amounts of time going through airport security. But with the right credit card, you and your employees can be reimbursed for expedited security program memberships.

Many credit cards now include reimbursements for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, which includes TSA PreCheck. TSA PreCheck allows you to go through an expedited security screening where you can leave your shoes on and your 3-1-1 liquids and laptops in your carry-on suitcase. Global Entry offers expedited immigration screening when you arrive in the United States.

Some business credit cards feature a credit of up to $100 for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry — including the Capital One Venture X Business, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card and the IHG One Rewards Premier Business Credit Card. In fact, the TSA maintains a list of all cards that offer this free credit. The credit is typically available just once every four years.

Several credit cards also offer free or discounted Clear Plus membership. Clear is a private company that authenticates your identity using biometrics before escorting you to the front of the TSA lines, either PreCheck or standard. For example, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express or a personal card like the American Express® Green Card* offer up to $189 in credits for Clear Plus membership.

If you’re wondering which program would work best for you, here’s our comparison of TSA PreCheck vs. Clear.

Get free business lounge membership

Another way that travelers waste time and money is when they have a layover or an airport delay. Airport food is generally expensive and of inconsistent quality, while sitting around a crowded departure gate can be a waste of productive time. But if you have an airport business lounge membership, then you can enjoy a free meal while having a less hectic place to get work done.

Several cards offer airport lounge access. The American Express Business Platinum offers access to a variety of lounges — including the Centurion Lounges, Delta SkyClubs and the Priority Pass Select lounge network. The Capital One Venture X Business card also offers a Priority Pass Select lounge membership, as well as access to its new and expanding list of Capital One lounges.

Alternatively, you could consider an airline co-branded card. For example, the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card offers access to the Centurion Lounges and the Delta Sky Clubs while the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® offers access to American Airlines Admirals club lounges.

Earn elite status with an airline

Having elite status with an airline frequent flier program can be extremely valuable. Traditionally, the only way to earn that was by actually purchasing airfare and then flying. However, airlines are increasingly offering elite status — in whole or in part — through credit card spending.

For example, the American Airlines AAdvantage rewards program allows you to earn any level of elite status simply through spending on its co-branded credit cards. The JetBlue TrueBlue program offers the chance to earn all four levels of its Mosaic elite status using a combination of credit card spending and flying. The United Quest℠ Card* from Chase allows you to earn 25 Premier Qualifying points (PQPs) for every $500 you spend on purchases with your Quest Card (up to 6,000 PQP in a calendar year) that can be applied toward your Premier status qualification on United MileagePlus, up to the Premier 1K level.

Take advantage of statement credits and more

Although it can be difficult to determine the exact value that some credit card benefits provide, other benefits are much more straightforward. In fact, many business credit cards offer annual statement credits, free checked bags and more.

For example, the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business card allows cardholders to check their first bag for free when flying with Delta. The United℠ Business Card includes a free checked bag for you and a companion plus an annual $100 statement credit when you make at least seven United airlines purchases of at least $100 per year. Amex Business Platinum cardmembers get up to $200 a year in statement credits toward qualifying airline fees with your selected airline, while The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card offers a “Free Night Reward” after making $15,000 in purchases in a calendar year. You can even earn a second reward night after making $45,000 in purchases during a calendar year.

How to turn business rewards into personal travel

A beauty of earning travel rewards is that they are retained by the credit card’s primary account holder. So if you are a small business owner, you receive ownership of all of the points and miles that you earn from your credit cards — including any rewards earned by authorized users of your cards. Likewise, you also earn rewards for anything you charge to your personal credit cards for company travel your employer reimburses.

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Bankrate’s take: This means that you get to keep all the rewards earned by your credit cards, and there's nothing that says you must use those rewards for business. Therefore, it's advantageous for small business owners to use cash for tax-deductible business expenses while redeeming their travel rewards for personal travel.

The bottom line

The key to saving both time and money on your business travel is understanding and maximizing the potential of your credit cards, including their travel benefits. By using the right credit card for your needs, you can enjoy more productive business trips while earning points and miles toward your next vacation.

Check out our list of the best small-business credit cards or use Bankrate’s free CardMatch tool to find the right card for your business.

*Issuer-required disclosure statement

Information about the World of Hyatt Business Credit Card, British Airways Visa Signature® Credit Card, American Express® Green Card, Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® and United Quest℠ Card has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer. Information regarding the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card was last updated on February 1, 2024.