[Reader Question] Startup Business Travel Credit Cards

Thrifty Traveler reader Scott Gabrielson messaged me to ask:

“What are the best credit cards for a new start-up company? I’d like to reduce my travel expenses.”

 

That’s a smart question Scott, and I’m glad you allowed me to use your company as an example!

Start-up companies initially have lots of expenses but a thrifty way to save cash is to leverage credit card travel rewards. Scott recently founded Oliver Cabell, which is an online fashion retailer. He’ll be traveling to Italy to meet with suppliers and also travel domestically to various locations across the United States.

Based on Scott’s travel patterns and the best current offers, I’d recommend concentrating on Delta first, and then move on down the list to the other airlines. There is no reason to limit your business credit cards to one airline only.

Not all of the offers listed below are Business cards. When you first startup with one or two employees, try to utilize both personal and business cards to maximize your point potential, and save the most money. As the business grows and adds more employees, you will most likely have to stick to business cards only.

 

Delta

Round-trip Delta awards from the United States to Europe start at 60k SkyMiles. By applying for the three American Express cards listed below, you can rack up 150k SkyMiles after $5k spending in three months. That’s enough to fly to Europe twice and fly domestically at least once. That’s a savings of at least $2500. American Express cards are generally the easiest credit cards to get approved for, and they are offering great incentives lately.

Thrifty Tip #1: I always recommend applying for a personal and business card from the same bank, in the same day. By utilizing this method, you will only have one credit pull, instead of two.

Gold Delta Skymiles Business Card by Amex  (Hot new offer!)

  • Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 12.21.17 PM50k miles after $2,000 spend in 3 months
  • No annual fee for the first year, then $95
  • $50 statement credit after Delta purchase in first 3 months
  • Priority Boarding
  • Free checked bag
  • No foreign transaction fees

Gold Delta Skymiles Card by Amex  – (Limited Time Offer)
Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 11.32.40 AM

  • 50k miles after $2,000 spend in 3 months (Typically 35k)
  • No annual fee the first year, then $95
  • Priority Boarding
  • Free checked bag
  • No foreign transaction fees

Amex Premier Rewards Gold – (Limited Time Offer)premier rewards gold thrifty traveler

  • 50k Membership Rewards points after $1,000 spend in 3 months ($500 or more towards travel)
  • $0 annual fee the first year, then $195
  • No foreign transactions fees
  • $100 annual reimbursement for flight incidentals (Make money!)
  • No interest charges, must be paid in full each month
  • Points are transferrable 1:1 to many airlines or hotels including Delta
  • Points can also be used for gift cards, statement credits, or booking flights directly but it is more lucrative to transfer the points to an airline loyalty program

To earn 150k SkyMiles, I’d recommend applying for the cards in this order:

  1. Premier Rewards Gold (Day 1)
  2. Delta Business Gold (Day 1)
  3. Delta Personal Gold (Day 2)

Thrifty Tip #2: You can apply for any American Express Business Card, and earn the bonus again, 12 months after you have closed the prior card.

Thrifty Tip #3: If you have a Delta Amex credit card you have the option of paying for most flights with SkyMiles. This is different from an award flight, and you can also earn MQMs towards Delta status. This works great when you find a cheap sale flight. (1 SkyMile = 1 Cent)

Thrifty Tip #4: Almost anyone can apply for a business card, even if you only sell items on eBay or Craigslist!

 

United

There is no reason to limit your business credit cards to one airline only. Once you’ve applied for the Delta cards, move on to American or United.

Next to Delta, United is the easiest to book award tickets. There are also four great cards, which can be pooled together to earn a large stack of United Miles. Make sure to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and Ink card in the same day, to only get one credit pull. The Sapphire Preferred card and Ink cards both earn Ultimate Rewards, which transfer directly to United and other airlines such as Southwest.

Thrifty Tip #5: It’s important to note that Chase won’t allow you to have The Sapphire Preferred or Ink cards if you have had more than 5 credit pulls from any bank in the last 24 months. I always recommend applying for these cards first, when you start the points game.

By applying for all four Chase cards you can earn 180k United miles which is enough for three round-trip international tickets.

Ink Plus Card by ChaseScreen Shot 2015-04-11 at 12.08.26 PM

  • 60k Ultimate Rewards bonus after $5,000 spend in 3 months ($650 or more towards travel)
  • $95 annual fee
  • No foreign transactions fees
  • Earn 5X points on the first $50k spent on purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services
  • Earn 2X points per $1 on the first $50k spent in combined purchases at gas stations and hotel accommodations
  • Read my review of the best uses of Ultimate Rewards and a listing of travel partners.
  • New Chase limits on Ultimate Rewards program –> Read here first!
  • Multiple applicants are eligible to receive the bonus for the same business
  • One individual can earn the bonus more than once if you have multiple businesses

Sapphire Preferred by Chase TOP STARTER CARD

Chase-Sapphire-Preferred

  • 40k Ultimate Rewards bonus after $4,000 spend in 3 months ($500 or more towards travel)
  • No annual fee the first year, then $95
  • No foreign transactions fees
  • 5k Ultimate Reward bonus for adding an authorized user
  • 2x points when spending on travel and dining at restaurants
  • Read my review of the best uses of Ultimate Rewards and a listing of travel partners.
  • New Chase limits on Ultimate Rewards program –> Read here first!

United Mileageplus Explorer Business Card by Chase

Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 12.15.19 PM

  • 50k miles after $2,000 spend in 3 months
  • No annual fee for the first year, then $95
  • 10k mile bonus for $25k annual spend
  • Free checked bag
  • Priority Boarding
  • Two United Club passes per year
  • No foreign transaction fees

United Explorer Card by ChaseScreen Shot 2015-04-11 at 11.31.03 AM

  • 30k miles after $1,000 spend in 3 months (Wait for 50k offer!)
  • No annual fee for the first year, then $95
  • Free checked bag
  • Priority Boarding
  • Two United Club passes per year
  • No foreign transaction fees

 

American

The best offers for American are currently only 30k AAdvantage miles, so I would wait until they offer 50k to apply. American is great because you can find flights to Europe for only 40k AAdvantage miles during the off-peak season (winter/spring).

Thrifty Tip #5: Avoid AAdvantage award tickets with any legs on British Airways. British Airways adds excessive fees to your reward ticket.

American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum Select by Citi Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 11.17.51 AM

  • 30k miles after $3,000 spend in 3 months (Wait for 50k offer!)
  • No annual fee the first year, then $95
  • 1st checked bag is free for you and four companions
  • Early boarding in Zone 1

American Airlines AAdvantage Citibusiness World Card Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 12.13.44 PM

  • 30k miles after $3,000 spend in 3 months (Wait for 50k offer!)
  • No annual fee the first year, then $95
  • 1st checked bag is free for you and four companions
  • Early boarding in Zone 1

 

Starwood

You’re probably wondering why I’d include a hotel chain if we’re trying to save on flights. Well the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) cards allow you to transfer Starpoints to almost every airline. The best part is when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints, you receive 5,000 bonus miles. If you were to transfer 20,000 Starpoints to Delta, you’d actually have 25,000 SkyMiles. Starwood is my favorite hotel chain for many reasons. If I’m not working towards a sign-up bonus, I always put spending on my SPG cards to earn for hotel stays and airline transfers.

Starwood Preferred Guest Business by American Express – (Card ReviewSPG Card Thrifty traveler

  • 25k bonus after $5,000 spend in 3 months(30k offer several times a year)
  • No annual fee the first year, then $95
  • If you transfer over 20k miles to an airline program you receive a 5k bonus (25% points bonus)
  • Spending over $30k per year will earn you SPG Gold Status
  • New: No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • New: Receive free in-room, premium internet access
  • New: Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide
  • New: Free access to the Sheraton Lounges
  • Provides 5 nights towards status per year

Starwood Preferred Guest by American Express – (Card Review) – TOP STARTER CARDSPG Card thrifty traveler

  • 25k bonus after $3,000 spend in 3 months (30k offer several times a year)
  • No annual fee the first year, then $95
  • If you transfer over 20k miles to an airline program you receive a 5k bonus (25% points bonus)
  • Spending over $30k per year will earn you SPG Gold Status
  • New: No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • New: Receive free in-room, premium internet access
  • New: Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide
  • Provides 5 nights towards status per year
  • This is my everyday spending card when I’m not working towards a spending bonus

 

Southwest

Southwest offers two personal and one business card, which can each offer as much as 50k points each. Don’t underestimate the value you can get from Southwest miles. Southwest award fares are typically very low, and you cancel them right up until you fly. The easy cancellation policy is rare in the airline industry.

If you frequently travel with a business associate you should utilize the Southwest Companion Pass. It’s easily one of the best deals in the points game. You can also switch your companion three times during a calendar year.

 

Last Second Travel

We here at Thrifty Traveler realize that you can’t always be flexible with business travel, in order to accommodate an award ticket. If you have to book a last second flight but would still like to save some coin, then utilize the Barclays Arrival card. It offers $400 in travel statement credits, which can be applied directly to a flight. It’s a personal card, but it’s one of my favorites.

Arrival Card by Barclays – (Card Review) – TOP STARTER CARDBarclay-Arrival-Plus-World-Elite-MasterCard

  • 40k miles after $3,000 spend in 3 months (Worth $400 towards travel statement credits)
  • No annual fee for the first year, then $89
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Complimentary FICO Score
  • Receive 5% of your points back when using travel statement credits
  • The flexibility of using the travel statement credits makes this a great starter card
  • Want to know what qualifies for a travel statement credit?  Check out Flyertalk.

 

Bottom Line

There are many avenues to earn airline miles and help cut business travel expenses. If your business is located in an airline hub, you should probably concentrate on that airline, so you will have the most direct routes possible. I always recommend having points available in multiple airline loyalty programs, so if you have to book last second it will give you more flexibility. Also utilize one-way tickets, to improve your flexibility in bookings. For example, a flight to a destination on Delta and back on United may save you points, and allow you the best flexibility. If you can’t book on points and miles always reference my tips on how to book the cheapest flight possible.

 

Just getting started in the points game? Check out our Beginner’s Guide!

 

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