Maximizing Your Travel Dollars

The cost of travel may be up, but business fliers can find ways to save

“That way, I can earn more miles faster,” he says. Dunnan agrees this is the best way to get free tickets, and says that it doesn’t really pay to spread your miles around. “Stay with one carrier, but join other programs just in case you may need to fly on another airline.”

Bolden also relies on his airline affinity credit card to acquire miles. “Every time I charge something, I earn another point,” says golden, who upgrades whenever possible. “While my ticket may cost $300 round-trip and another $200 to upgrade, I I’ll do so to earn double miles or miles and a half.” But not everyone can do this. “The ability to upgrade depends on the status of the frequent flier,” says Fulton. “Gary is at a Premium status, so he can upgrade tickets from coach to first class for say, $100 each way, and earn bonus miles. But if you’ve purchased a $1,700 round-trip from Los Angeles to New York and you’re not a frequent flier or on a lower level, you might not even be able to upgrade,” he explains. Bolden earned about 10 free trips last year with this method. According to Inside Flyer, travelers took 13,000 free trips last year.

It’s important to put together a solid travel policy for your company. Keep in mind specific guidelines for booking preferred hotels and airlines, selecting rental cars, handling meals and entertainment and payment methods. Consider how much your employees travel and what class of service you can afford. American Express offers The Travel Policy Handbook and software called Travel Policy Expert, which develop policies for small businesses. It’s free to American Express corporate customers.

When you have a clear idea about your guidelines, the next step is choosing a good travel manager/agent. It will be key to carrying out and managing your company’s travel policy, says Jeffrey B. Lang, author of The American Express Guide to Corporate Travel Management. “Travel and entertainment is one of the fastest-growing expense categories for U.S. businesses today,” writes Lang. “Although it is the third largest controllable expense, holding down travel expense is for many companies an afterthought.”

When selecting an agency for your company, advises Lang, look for one that offers all the services your company needs. Lawyer’s Travel, for example, offers gift-shopping while you’re on the road, medical help and concierge service. Take bids from various agencies and evaluate the services, suggests Lang.

Since his company is small, with just seven staff members, Bolden makes most of the travel decisions. “Our policy is really not written and everything is to my discretion,” says Bolden, who usually travels on record company business. Not having a set policy is not a good idea for businesses to follow, and Bolden knows it. “That’s why it was important for me to have a good agent, one who has the time to figure out the best deals for us.”

“When I know a client like I know Gary Bolden, if situations come up, I can usually

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