Friday, July 20, 2007

Business Expenses: Money in Your Pocket

Yesterday I wrote about all the ways in which I lose money by not filling out my expense reports in time and by forgetting to file some expenses. Well, there is a a flip side. If you play your cards right, your reimbursables may actually make you a small amount of money. Here is how:

1. Cash Back - if pay for your business expenses using a cash back credit card, any cash back your card gives you is yours to keep. For example, if you a purchase a flight for $500 and get 1% cash back, that's a profit of $5. On the $3,500 in expenses I filed earlier this week, I will probably earn about $30 in cash back. That's not even a night at the movies, but it's something.

2. Loyalty Programs - most companies let employees keep any frequent flyer miles they earn and any hotel loyalty points they accrue when traveling. When it's time to go on that next family vacation all those frequent flyer miles and hotel points could turn into serious cash. Most companies, however, will not let you pick a more expensive flight or hotel just to fit with your frequent flyer preferences. For that reason, it is a good idea to sign up for multiple loyalty programs, and to make business trip arrangements as far in advance as possible so that you can hopefully get your preference in hotel stays and airlines.

3. Per Diems - some companies, mine included, pay their employees a flat per diem instead of reimbursing them for actual dining expenses. My company pays employees a flat $50 per day for meals, regardless of actual spending. Assuming you were able to eat out three times per day on less than that amount, the extra is yours to keep. Personally, I find it difficult to accomplish this in a strange city without resorting to fast food.

On balance, between the amounts I lose to unreimbursed business expenses and the amounts I gain from frequent flyer miles and cash back programs, I am guessing I am just about breaking even, but with a lot of hassle to show for my troubles.


beth said...

Loyalty programs do add up. My dad earned a ton from his days of traveling on business. It's probably been well over ten years since his last business trip, and I think he still has enough miles for a flight or two (some airlines have miles that expire, but not all). Not to mention, he got to see a lot of different places.

Shadox said...

One of my colleagues took the family for a 5 star trip to Hawaii a couple of years ago. Flights, hotel stays and even meals were all paid using hotel points and frequent flyer miles.

Unfortunately, I have bad luck trying to redeem my miles. Whenever I want to go, I can't find award travel. This means I now have over 300,000 in United Airline miles...