Best Rewards Programs for Business Travelers

Travel Channel's picks for the best travel rewards programs.

By: Kayleigh Kulp
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To get what you want out of a frequent flier, hotel or car-loyalty program, pick the best one for your needs and use it regularly, suggests Chris McGinnis, editor of YouMustBeTrippin.com, Best Western's travel blog.

“Most frequent travelers want recognition from companies they patronize the most,” says Mc.Ginnis.

Choosing the best rewards programs depends mostly on your nearest airport and the hotels located in your most frequently visited cities. Forum FlyerTalk.com helps business travelers examine their options and AwardWallet.com helps travelers track and boost rewards.

Rewards are maximized when used along with program-sponsored credit cards, especially now that loyalty programs are becoming driven by how much money you spend versus how much you travel, says Jason Clampet, senior online editor for Frommers.com, a travel information website.

A few loyalty programs stand out for their convenience, perks, reward options and VIP treatment:

The program offers levels based on the number of rentals you accumulate. The basic program is free and allows you to bypass the counter and select vehicle upgrades from the “Emerald Aisle.” The top tier guarantees car availability with 24 hours’ notice, free rentals and car delivery. Club members can earn 2 free rental coupons with the “One Two Free” promotion. “[They] can be stacked with other coupons and discounts so they can save you a lot of money,” says Mark Mannell, CEO of CarRentalSavers.com, a car-rental booking site.

Starwood Preferred Guest
The program includes brands such as the W, Westin and Sheraton hotels and gold status starting at 25 nights. Platinum status with 50 nights offers free breakfast, late checkout and rewards for suite stays. “[Late checkout] can just be a lifesaver when you have an afternoon flight,” says Dave Grossman, owner of HotelMagician.com, a hotel-booking site.

The Starwood Preferred Guest AmEx helps travelers rack up rewards faster. “Their dollars mean more,” Clampet says of the program. Starpoints are also transferrable to several airline partners, with bonus points upon redemption.
The program covers 3,600 hotels that include Hilton, the Doubletree, Waldorf Astoria and the Hampton Inn. Travelers can earn rewards on 3 credit cards and redeem rewards from more than 50 airline partners. The HHonors Surpass AmEx has a higher annual fee than most cards at $75 but offers top tier status for customers spending $40,000 in a year.
“I don’t necessarily want to have all of my reward options tied to one airline,” Grossman says. Joining a frequent-flier program where rewards are redeemable on multiple airlines is optimal. The Star Alliance includes 27 airlines such as United, US Airways, Lufthansa, Continental and Air Canada.
Frequent travelers who bounce between airlines but want airport lounge access should try a third-party service such as Priority Pass. For about $100 year, you gain access to up to 600 lounges.
With help from his Delta SkyMiles credit card, comedian Dan Nainan, who travels 125,000 miles annually, has spent $10,000 but earned enough SkyMiles for 15 round-trip trans-Atlantic flights. He also receives status member perks, including unlimited free domestic upgrades and a “special secret toll-free number, which is answered immediately, and they greet me by name,” he says. Further, a Delta representative greets and whisks him through customs when returning from international destinations.

The Delta SkyMiles Platinum AmEx offers many ways to earn rewards and VIP status without flying. You get 25,000 SkyMiles for spending $50,000. That’s 5,000 miles from Delta’s lowest status level, which offers expedited security lines and waived baggage fees.
Travel writer Kayleigh Kulp also writes about personal finance for FoxBusiness.com
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