How I used rewards credit cards to cut my small-business travel costs in half

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Roshawnna novellus
The author, Roshawnna Novellus.

  • I got my first credit card for my small business, and it helped me save a lot of money on travel.
  • By opening and using a Southwest credit card, I was able to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.
  • Using a credit card responsibly to earn rewards can help you offset your small-business expenses.
  • Read Insider’s guide to the best small-business credit cards.

I’m pretty meticulous when it comes to my money. At a young age, my mother taught me how to keep organized financial records, use a general ledger, and balance a checkbook. Up until I started EnrichHER in 2017, I’d lived a debt-free life and never touched a credit card.

However, as my company grew, the business expenses — software tools, supplies, memberships, Google ads — started rolling in fast and furious. Travel was my biggest expense. I was flying every week to meet with potential investors, participate in pitch competitions, and attend business conferences. These costs were outpacing my cash flow, so, after talking with other fellow entrepreneurs, I turned to credit cards.

At the time, I was averaging about $15,000 a month in (mostly) travel costs (I flew 54 times in 2019 alone!). The expense was necessary, however, because these trips would sometimes result in cash grants, partnerships, or investment deals.

For the amount of money I was spending on travel, I realized I was missing an opportunity to capitalize on airline incentives. I did my research and compared all the airline loyalty programs, ultimately deciding that Southwest had the best option for me.

I used a Southwest credit card to earn the Companion Pass

Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

The Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card provided a fast way to earn rewards from purchases and offered the ability to earn points that qualified for the Southwest Companion Pass.

This particular benefit is what attracted me to the card. Having the ability to fly a staff member with me on business trips was a huge money-saver. It nearly cut my travel costs in half.

Read more: The Southwest credit cards just got a massive overhaul, with new bonus categories, improved benefits, and welcome bonuses of up to 100,000 points

I was able to qualify for the Companion Pass in a matter of months. And yes, the Companion Pass allows you to book an actual confirmed ticket for your companion — not standby — and I was only responsible for taxes and fees. 

I have to admit, at first I was terrified of the possibility that I could fall behind on the credit card payments. Remember, I had never owned a credit card before and that’s because I was taught to use cash and pay everything in full. I knew the horror stories of how this kind of debt can banish you to a life of bad credit scores, high interest rates, and debt collector harassment. 

Read more: Guide to the best starter credit cards

My saving grace was that I started this process with a strategy. Every week, I categorized all transactions by type (ie “Flights,” “Hotel,” “Shipping,” etc) to keep the charges organized and not get behind on the payments. I also linked the costs to KPIs to better analyze our spending. 

If I wasn’t getting the return I wanted on certain initiatives, I’d adjust our plans. Keeping a watchful eye on the card activity helped me anticipate our bill, which I was able to pay in full every month.

While my company’s expenses look a lot different today, I still approach credit cards with the same philosophy:

Not all debt is bad

It’s well known that credit cards can help establish business credit, but I never knew that if used strategically, it can help offset certain business costs — like travel.

Have a plan

Assign a specific purpose for how you’ll use your credit card and stick to that plan. And if it doesn’t work, start a new plan.

Stay organized

Categorize your charges to maintain awareness of what and how much you are spending. There are a number of service apps that will do this for you.

Take advantage of rewards programs

I used my credit card for travel benefits, but there are numerous cards that offer a variety of incentives such as cash back, a 0% APR on balance transfers, and retail discounts. Find the program that works for you.

Avoid charging what you can’t pay off in 30 days

This rule helped me think twice about certain decisions. Like, does the office really need a dozen iMac upgrades or can that wait another year?

Don’t buy if there’s no ROI

Another word of wisdom that I follow religiously. It makes no sense to spend money that doesn’t ultimately benefit you. Always analyze your spending to see if your monthly transactions are aligned with your business goals.

With a bit of planning and research, credit cards can be the asset you never knew you needed.

Related Content Module: More Credit Card CoverageRelated Product Module: Credit Cards

Read the original article on Business Insider

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