You don't need every card out there, so pick carefully.
Smart cards were supposed to change everything about business travel. The payment systems would replace credit cards and cash, track frequent flier miles and propel passengers toward a paperless society. While the reality hasn't quite worked out that way, coupling the words "smart" and "cards" is still a very good concept: More than ever, travelers have to make intelligent decisions about the kinds of cards they carry.
For example, Priority Pass offers cardholders unlimited access to 300 first-class lounges in more than 70 countries-including those operated by America West, Delta, Northwest and US Airways-for $249 per year (or $99 per year plus a per-visit fee of $24). That's about as much as it would cost to get access to a single airline's lounge network. Best of all, you don't have to be flying on that day in order to get into the lounge.
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How about that affinity card that allows you to spend money and earn rewards points? Savvy travelers prefer the Diners Club card , which offers a generous rewards program with few restrictions. One of the best perks: Cardholders receive automatic car rental insurance-something other cards are reluctant to offer.
Don't overlook insurance when picking a card. The American Express Platinum card offers coverage against loss and damage to checked and carry-on baggage. It also gives you excess coverage for checked baggage up to the program's limit or full value. However, you have to buy tickets using the card.
Pay to Play
In the game of mobile Internet access, your biggest hurdle is finding a decent rate.
Airport business centers are often little more than a cluster of pay phones and a drop-off box for overnight packages. Good luck finding even a basic power outlet, phone jack or printer. One solution worth a try is Wayport Inc., an Austin, Texas, company that provides business travelers everything from high-speed wireless Net connections and fax service to document scanning and comfortable work spaces. And with more than six locations in major U.S. airports, chances are you'll find one of these centers on your next layover.
But should you use them? Rates are a little steep-$4.95 per connection (which gives you unlimited access until midnight of the same day). It isn't quite as good a deal as that offered by airport business lounges, which often give you free Internet connections, but it is a better deal than some airport hotels, which offer less connectivity and fewer features at their limited business centers for slightly less money. At the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, for instance, rates are $10 for 15 minutes of Net-connect time with a 15-minute minimum. For a complete list of Wayport locations, visit www.wayport.net .
Many business travelers on airport layovers are skipping bigger tasks, such as faxing proposals, sending e-mail and making phone calls on landlines, and instead are starting to rely on mobile phones and wireless modems. In the end, paying extra for a cellular modem is more cost-effective than renting a cubicle at an airport hotel or hoping that your lounge will have an available free Internet connection.
Amanda C. Kooser is Entrepreneur's assistant technology editor.
Christopher Elliot is Entrepreneur's "Biz Travel" columnist.
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