What Can Business Travel Credit Cards Offer?
With a business travel credit card, you can snag rewards for travel. But that’s just the start. Some other pluses:
Access to revolving credit. Whether your business is new or well established, you need capital, and a business credit card may be faster and more convenient than a loan. Applications are much simpler for business credit cards than for business loans, which can require extensive documentation.
That could make business travel cards easier to obtain for working capital purposes, startup costs or other expenses. And a business travel card allows flexibility, so you can tap as much of your credit line as you need during each statement period, pay off your balance, then use the card again.
Travel rewards. Business travel cards can provide excellent rewards value. You will typically receive rewards for every purchase and can redeem them for travel expenses. Although business travel cards usually earn the most rewards on travel, these cards offer bonus rewards on business purchases such as gas, telecommunications, shipping, advertising and dining.
Financial organization. One practical benefit of business travel cards is that you can use them to better organize your finances. A business card facilitates separating business and personal expenses. And financial-reporting features, such as categorized annual expenditures, can simplify record keeping and taxes.
“Every small-business owner benefits from separating their business and personal purchases, and using a business credit card is an effective way to do that,” says Gerri Detweiler, education director for Nav, which helps business owners build and monitor business credit for free and matches them to financing.
Other cardholder benefits. Top-level benefits such as travel credits, priority boarding, airport lounge access and hotel status come with many business travel cards. These cards typically offer travel insurance as well.
“Many business travel cards act as a VIP pass that you can simply flash to get into airport lounge networks,” says Maddie Shepherd, senior staff writer at Fundera, which offers financial advice for small businesses. “This is obviously pretty exciting for business owners and employees who have to travel frequently for work, but it’s not necessarily the most practical benefit of carrying a business travel card.”
What Are the Drawbacks of Business Travel Cards?
Business travel cards have a lot to offer, all of which can come at a cost. You will need good credit and will have to tiptoe around fees, including interest charges. And if travel isn’t a significant expense for you, redeeming your rewards in that category might not be a smart choice.
Before you apply for a business travel credit card, consider these factors:
Good to excellent credit is required. Most business travel cards demand good personal credit. That means you’ll need a personal FICO score of at least 670 to qualify for most cards.
If you’re not sure whether your credit is good enough to be approved for a particular card, check if the issuer offers prequalification. Prequalifying allows you to see whether you’re likely to be approved and has no impact on your credit report.
Fees. According to U.S. News research, business travel credit cards have above-average fees compared with other types of business cards. You can expect annual fees and APRs to be higher. However, some business travel cards waive their annual fee the first year, allowing you to try them first.
APR. Compared with other types of business credit cards, business travel cards have an above-average minimum APR of about 17%. You’re also not likely to get an introductory APR with a business card. Few cards of this type have a 0% introductory APR on purchases, and a balance transfer introductory APR is even more rare.
Your redemption options may be limited. If you have a co-branded business travel card, you may only be able to redeem your rewards with the brand and its partners. Some business cards may allow you to redeem your rewards for travel expenses only.
A general business travel card could limit you to qualifying travel expenses. This may be a problem if you realize that what you really need is cash to put back into your business rather than to redeem and earn rewards.
“Many of these cards allow you to redeem points for gift cards or merchandise, but that’s generally not the best use of miles,” Detweiler says. “If you don’t spend enough to earn a reward you’ll use, or if you don’t plan to travel, then a card that offers cash back rewards may be a better choice. Business owners can always use cash.”
Other cards have flexible redemption options, including cash back, but they impose a lower value on these choices compared with travel.
Can You Get a Business Travel Credit Card?
Business travel credit cards are extended exclusively to businesses. That means general consumers shouldn’t expect to be approved. However, what credit card issuers consider a business can be broad, and it includes freelancers, self-employed individuals and sole proprietors.
You don’t necessarily need several years in business or even revenue, as approval hinges primarily on your personal credit and business credit, if it’s established. Although you can use your business tax ID number to apply, sole proprietors only need a Social Security number.
Should You Get a Business Travel Card?
Business travel credit cards can be excellent if they’re the right fit. If you plan to travel, need flexible capital, and can avoid fees and high interest rates, a business travel card is probably worthwhile.
“The value that businesses can access through a business travel card is pretty remarkable,” Shepherd says. “But that’s if they’re constantly redeeming points for travel and taking advantage of travel perks, which isn’t necessarily a given for most businesses.”
You might want to consider a different type of card if you need to carry a balance or if you don’t spend enough to earn the rewards you would need to offset any annual fee. You could be better off with a business cash back card, ideally one with a low annual fee or no fee.
But evaluate cards on a case-by-case basis because you could find worth from a business travel card in other ways. “An exception would be if you can justify the annual fee based on the benefits you’re earning,” Detweiler says.
Shepherd points out that you could use a business travel card to supplement a business cash back card. However, splitting your spending between two or more cards will mean fewer charges on each account. That can make accruing enough rewards to justify each card’s annual fee more difficult.
How Can You Choose a Business Travel Card?
No two business travel cards are alike, so you’ll want to choose one tailored to your business needs. Some factors to weigh include:
Loyalty vs. flexibility. Airline or hotel co-branded business cards may be a good choice if you frequently fly or stay with a particular brand. You’ll earn the highest rate of bonus rewards with the brand and get valuable cardholder perks. Co-branded business travel cards commonly have benefits such as priority boarding, free checked bags, lounge access and elite hotel status.
However, co-branded business travel cards generally have limited redemption options. The best redemption values are typically with the brand and its partners.
A general business travel card might provide fewer benefits, but you can redeem your travel rewards for any qualifying travel purchase. This flexibility could be more important than brand rewards and benefits, plus some general business travel cards have exceptional benefits.
For example, The Business Platinum Card from American Express offers up to a $200 airline fee credit. You’ll get access to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide as well as Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status and Hilton Honors Gold status. These credits and other perks, if you take full advantage of them, help offset the card’s hefty $595 annual fee.
Cost vs. benefits. Shepherd recommends doing a cost-benefit analysis to choose a business travel card. Look at typical spending for your business, and add up how much you expect to net from each card’s rewards. Factor in how often you anticipate using the cardholder benefits, and compare the card’s overall value with the annual fee.
“You may have to do a little math to figure it out for your situation, but getting free checked bags – a $25 to $35 charge one way on most domestic flights – is often enough to make it worthwhile, even if you don’t travel more than a handful of times each year,” Detweiler says.
Justifying the cost of premium business travel cards with annual fees well into the triple digits could be more difficult. These cards usually come with big benefits to match their big costs, so maximizing their value may hinge on taking advantage of those benefits.
Shepherd says to consider which cardholder perks you’d invest in even if you didn’t have a business travel card. Be honest with yourself, she says. Would you truly have spent that much to access airport lounges?
Other costs. Various costs are involved in using a business travel card besides an annual fee. With few business travel cards offering 0% APR introductory periods on purchases or balance transfers, any balance you carry is likely subject to interest charges.
Business travel cards also have a higher minimum APR than other types of business credit cards. If you plan to carry a balance, a business travel card is probably not the right choice for you. But if you’re not ready to rule one out, make sure you factor in interest charges when you do your cost-benefit analysis.
Foreign transaction fees can be particularly important if you’re planning international trips or purchases. This fee is charged when you make a purchase in a foreign country or currency, and it is typically about 3% of the transaction. Few business travel cards have this fee, so if you’re expecting to make foreign transactions, choosing a card that waives it is fairly simple.
Although some fees, such as an annual fee, could be worth paying, avoiding most other types as much as possible is a good idea. Set up automatic payments and reminders so you’re less likely to incur late fees. Plan to pay off your balance each statement period to avoid interest charges.
And call your card issuer to ask for a better deal, if possible. If you request an annual fee waiver or reduction in your APR, you just might get one.