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Can I earn miles on a company credit card?

SmarterTravel

Dear Tim,

We are a small architectural firm in San Diego. One of the principals has a Mileage Plus Card from United Airlines and was wondering whether a company-backed credit card that would allow mileage to be earned from both miles traveled and purchases made be feasible. I called the customer service number for the United card and was told that they do not deal with companies, only individuals. How do I find out which cards, if any, cater to small businesses? I would appreciate any help you could give me concerning this.

Thank you,

Debbie

Dear Debbie,

There are indeed mileage-earning credit cards that permit miles earned for charges by multiple company employees to be channeled into a single account. And in these cost-conscious times, those miles can be recycled for future business trips, effectively reducing your company’s travel expenditures.

Note that while you may choose to think of, and use, that single frequent flyer account as a “company account,” it must in fact be established in the name of an individual, not a company. In practice, the business owner or senior manager who establishes the credit card account is responsible for designating the mileage account into which the earned miles will be deposited.

It should also be noted that while business cards allow the consolidation of miles earned for charges, miles earned for flights and other non-charge activities by different individuals will not, and cannot, be combined in the same account.

As you discovered, United currently offers the Mileage Plus Platinum Visa, issued by First USA, but does not offer a business card. If they did, it would probably look very much like the card offered by their closest competitor, American Airlines. Here’s a summary of American’s Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage Business Card, issued by Citibank:

Earning Miles: Earn one AAdvantage mile for every $1 spent on purchases on the card, up to a maximum of 150,000 miles per calendar year. AAdvantage elite members are not subject to this limit.

Maximum Cards: One primary card (the account holder) plus up to 24 additional cards for employees, for a total of 25 cards per Business account.

Annual Fee: $75 per year plus $25 per year for each additional card.

Account Reporting: Quarterly and annual account summaries broken out by category and employee. Account status can also be viewed online.

Similar business cards are available from several other airlines (see below).

Two things to keep in mind…

First, recognize that miles earned in a central account, for use in defraying the costs of business travel, are miles not earned in the accounts of individual employees. So the company’s gain can amount to employees’ pain. In many companies, frequent-flyer miles are considered to be a salary adjunct, rightful compensation for the extra time and energy expended on business travel. Depriving employees of this long-enjoyed perquisite can be a morale-killer.

Recommendation: Before making a change that will adversely affect your employees’ mileage accumulation, discuss the matter with your human resources director. The cost savings may be overshadowed by the negative morale impact.

Secondly, choose a business card with an eye to your company’s current and future travel patterns. The miles earned are valuable only insofar as they can be redeemed for travel to destinations where your presence is required for business.

Recommendation: Involve your in-house travel coordinator or independent travel agent in the choice of cards. They can help insure the card actually helps meet your travel goals.

The following are some business cards to consider:

American Airlines
Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage Business Card from Citibank
800-732-6000

Midwest Express
Midwest Express MasterCard BusinessCard from Elan
800-388-4044

Northwest Airlines
WorldPerks Visa Business Card from U.S. Bank
800-285-8585

US Airways
Dividend Miles Visa Business Card from Bank of America
800-360-5080

Tim Winship
Contributing Editor
SmarterTravel.com

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