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If you spend money on behalf of a company and you’re not collecting air miles – you should start! I rack up a ton of business air miles through my company spend. Here are a few ways I currently do this.
One of the easiest ways to generate lots of air miles is by taking out a credit or charge card which gives you air miles when you spend on them. I my case, I hold a business charge card for myself and have supplementary cards for 5 of my colleagues. Whenever anyone spends money on these cards, I receive air miles.
For business spend I recommend cards from American Express like the Gold Business Charge Card and the Platinum Business Charge Card. These cards allow you to collect American Express Membership Rewards, which can be exchanged for air miles on partner airlines including Alitalia, Asia Miles, British Airways, Delta, Emirates Skywards, Etihad Airways, Finnair, Flying Blue, Iberia, SAS, Singapore and Virgin Atlantic. You normally earn 1 air mile per £1 spent, although they do run conversion bonuses from time to time.
If your business trades in Dollars or Euros, you may also want to consider the American Express International Currency Cards, which earn 1 air mile per $/€ spent. Green and Gold versions of these cards are available, each with different costs and benefits.
Employees often charge expenses to a personal card then claim this money back from an employer. Thus, I also use personal credit cards to accumulate miles on expenses.
Numerous Airlines have credit cards which allow you to accumulate air miles including American Airlines, British Airways, Etihad, Emirates, Flybe, Lufthansa, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. These normally pay between 1 and 2 air miles per £1 spent.
A major advantage of using an air mile card over a cash back card is that business air miles are not taxable. This makes collecting air miles particularly appealing, especially for higher rate taxpayers.
If you do a lot of travel in Europe or the USA, you may also want to put your foreign expenses on a personal American Express International Currency Card. These earn 1 air mile per $/€ spent. Green, Gold and Platinum versions are available with different costs and benefits associated with each.
Some petrol stations allow you to collect air miles when you buy fuel, such as:
Flying is probably the most obvious way to collect air miles. When you fly some airlines give you air miles. The further you fly, the more miles they give you. They give you even more if you travel in premium cabins i.e. Business Class and First Class.
Frequent flyers can achieve ‘status’ with an airline. Airlines accelerate the rate at which you earn miles depending on your status, so it is advantageous to stick to one airline. This sliding scale for earning air miles encourages brand loyalty and is the very essence of why air miles came into being.
Tip – Airlines are normally members of an alliance (an umbrella organisation which forms the basis of an agreement or collaboration). It is possible to earn (and redeem) air miles between different carriers in an alliance. It is also possible to match membership tiers and corresponding perks (like lounge access) among the partner airlines.
The are three major airline alliances are:
Seasoned flyers will achieve status in more than one alliance. This maximises the range of options for earning and redeeming business air miles.
Similar to flights, you can collect air miles via hotel stays when you are on business. This is either done directly (stay with a hotel and receive air miles) or indirectly (stay with a hotel, collect points in the hotel’s loyalty program, then exchange these for air miles).
Here are some hotel programs which allow you to earn air miles:
It is worth nothing that while you can collect air miles though hotel loyalty programs, the exchange rate is often quite poor – most of the time you are much better off redeeming hotel points for hotel stays.
Tip – Similar to airlines, some hotel chains accelerate the number of air miles depending on your status. It’s worth knowing that some hotel chains will ‘status match’ one another. Status matching is a shortcut to achieving top level status among hotel chains, which helps maximise the number of air miles you earn when you stay. I status matched myself last year, getting my Le Club Accor Platinum status matched to Best Western Diamond, which in turn was matched to IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite. Find out more about this at StatusMatcher.com.
It’s very much a case of finding an airline or hotel chain which works for you. If you do a lot of travel to one country (e.g. Dubai) it will probably make sense to use that national airline (e.g. Emirates) and a hotel chain with a large presence in the area (e.g. Starwood). I personally focus on BA for my airline and IHG for my hotel chain because they suit my personal travel habits.
Just for the record, you should not follow an airline or hotel chain with blind loyalty! This could be bad financial move. It is important to consider which airline and hotel chain will give you the best return based on your own travel requirements – being sure to consider the price of competitors. It is worth trying to stick with one airline and one hotel chain when you can… just avoid being a lemming!
If your company trades foreign currencies you can earn air miles through American Express FX International Payments. You earn one point (which can be exchanged for one air mile) for every £20 on foreign currency transactions, between the value of £1,000 to £100,000.
It would be impossible for me to list all the places you can collect air miles – I have only listed the most obvious ones above – I consider these to be the easiest ways to generate lots of air miles for things which most business owners will more than likely be doing anyway. Have a look on your preferred airline website to check out all the ways you can earn air miles. There will probably be a lot more than you realise.
I have quite a lot of experience collecting air miles – if you have any questions about this feel free to contact me.