Small businesses now have access to a range of travel programs formerly available only to the largest enterprises. Discount programs, travel incentives, and other services that simplify business travel can save your company money, and reduce the overall hassle of travel planning. Below are some of the most common ways you can make your business travel planning more efficient and easier on your budget.

Enroll in airline programs
Everyone knows about airline frequent flyer programs. But small business owners are often unaware that many airlines also offer other frequent travel perks aimed at small businesses. These programs are designed to reward small businesses that choose a particular airline by awarding them bonuses based on how often their employees fly. In many cases, the employee receives frequent flyer mileage while the company also receives its separate bonuses.

Utilize online travel planning services
Unlike large enterprises, smaller companies typically do not have a dedicated travel planner who can identify price breaks, record user preferences, and manage the booking process. But by using the Internet small businesses can gain some of the benefits a dedicated travel resource offers, by using powerful tools to quickly locate the best price, store traveler profiles (including airline preferences, seat preferences, frequent flyer numbers, etc.), and receive written confirmation via email.

Take advantage of travel reports
Many online services also provide your company with detailed travel reports, a common tool used by travel planners at larger companies. These reports provide detailed information about air travel, car rental, and hotel stays, and can provide a useful record of travel expenditures.

Negotiate rates for car rental and hotels
A growing number of rental car companies offer special corporate accounts for small businesses that rent cars as few as five times per year. These programs provide discounts as well as other "club" benefits such as express check-in, dedicated members-only phone numbers, and a Web site to make reservations in advance. The large hotel chains also offer negotiated rates to businesses that commit to a set number of nights.

Look for available perks and discounts
You may be able to get business travel discounts through your trade association, chamber of commerce, or your charge card provider. These perks may go beyond simple discounts. For example, American Express Business Platinum Card® members have complimentary access to Continental Airlines' Presidents Club® and Northwest WorldClubs® when they're flying on these airlines.

The views and opinions contained herein are not necessarily those of American Express and are intended as a reference and for informational purposes only. Please contact your attorney, accountant or other business professional for advice specific to your business.

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