Credit cards for frequent flyers were among the first reward credit cards offered, and they remain incredibly popular today.
In addition to offering airline miles for spending, they now feature a range of benefits that can save you time, money, and hassles when traveling. Most airlines now have frequent flyer cards designed specifically for small businesses, so it can be a challenge to figure out which one is best for you.
If you choose wisely, you can leverage your business spending for free travel or make your trips a lot more comfortable by with perks like upgrades or access to special lounges and other things at airports.
But if you make the wrong choice, you could find yourself paying a large annual fee for benefits you don’t use and miles you can’t easily redeem.
Small Business Airline Credit Card Basics
Most major airlines offer reward credit cards co-branded with their banking partners. For example, Delta Airlines offers a wide range of personal and small business credit cards from American Express.
Often, the terms and benefits of the personal and small business credit cards mirror each other. However, the small business versions offer bonuses for common business purchases, such as office supplies or telecommunications services, instead of bonuses for frequent household purchases like groceries.
Small business credit cards typically come with standard business-specific features. For example, most small business cards include expense tracking and reporting features, which can help business owners manage their spending and prepare their taxes. Many small business credit cards also allow you to monitor and control the spending of employee authorized cardholders.
But beyond those small business-specific features, these cards will work much like their consumer counterparts.
- Most cards offer a generous sign-up bonus when you open a new account. Competitive sign-up bonuses are generally around 50,000 points but can be as much as 75,000 miles. To earn it this bonus, you’ll usually need to spend between $3,000 and $5,000 within three months of opening your account.
- You should expect to earn at least one point per dollar on everyday spending and double the points for airline purchases. In addition, many small business frequent flyer cards now offer bonus points for other categories of purchases, such as hotels, rental cars, and office supplies.
- You should receive several valuable benefits from a small business frequent flyer card, including a free checked bag, priority boarding, and discounts on in-flight food and beverages. Premium small business frequent flyer cards can also offer priority check-in, credit towards elite status, and even membership in the airline’s airport lounge club.
The first step towards finding the right small business frequent flyer card
While there are dozens of small business frequent flyer credit cards offered, you’ll first want to narrow it down to the airline you fly with the most. You’ll need to take into account which airline is available at your primary airport and offers flights to destinations you’re most likely to need.
For example, if you fly out of Atlanta, Delta will be your only choice for nonstop service to most destinations, while American Airlines dominates services from Charlotte and United operates the majority of flights from Washington-Dulles.
If you’re fortunate enough to live in a city with multiple airline hubs, or if you fly out of a smaller airport without an airline hub, then you may be able to expand your search beyond a single carrier’s credit cards. In that case, you’ll be able to make your choice of airline credit cards based on your preferred carrier or the one with the best card offers.
To make the best choice, you’ll want to do the following:
- Examine the terms of a specific credit card and find out how valuable its rewards and benefits will be to you. Consider the size of the card’s sign-up bonus and how many miles you can expect to earn based on your business’s spending patterns.
- Be sure to determine the value of the points earned, as this can vary by card. The best way to do this is to see how many points you’ll need for a flight you’re likely to take. You can typically find this information by reading the terms of each card you’re considering.
- Consider the value of other benefits offered. For example, receiving a free checked bag will not be valuable for those who travel light, but it can save a lot of money for those who must travel with equipment or trade samples that have to be checked. Keep in mind that your business rewards may also be used on personal travel.
- Look at annual fees in comparison to benefits offered. Higher annual fees usually mean more benefits. Both Delta and United offer two card options with different fees. Their more expensive cards, carrying annual fees over $400, also include access to their airport business lounge networks. Because membership in those networks is more than the cards’ annual fees, this can be a great deal for travels already looking for this service.
Recommended: Not sure which card you should pick? Check out our recommendations on the 6 Best Travel Cards for Small Businesses
Alternatives to small business airline credit cards
As attractive as small business airline cards can be, they are not ideal for everyone. For example, some travelers prefer to book the most convenient and least expensive flights, regardless of the airline.
Also, many would rather earn travel reward points that can be used more flexibly across multiple airlines. For these travelers, it often makes sense to choose a travel rewards card that isn’t co-branded with an airline.
Thankfully, there are premium travel rewards cards that offer points towards airline fees and even access to airport business lounges. These cards are perfect for frequent travelers who are “free agents” with no loyalty to a particular airline.
By examining the features and benefits of small business airline reward cards, you can find the right product for your needs.