I'd like to share seven of my simple business travel and expense tips for startups that I've picked up over the years. It's critical in the current economic climate that we maximize every dollar spent on goods and services.Over the past week I've purchased a round-trip flight along with car rental reservations. On each purchase I was able to save a nice amount of money. For example, on the flights I saved 12% from the basic Web price and I saved 6% on each hotel booking. I refuse to purchase anything online without looking for a coupon or cashback offer. What's great about the techniques and tips I share below is that you use the actual company websites for all purchases and reservations -- not a third-party booking or sales service.
Tip #1 - Use business credit cards
This is probably the most overlooked business item I've seen with startups. Even if you are one person in a basement, you can get a business credit card using your own personal name. Each card provides a different set of benefits but here are some ideas to consider:
Tip #2 - Get a business AMEX card
American Express has a program called Open which offers a variety of discounts at many national chains for car rentals, Kinkos, FedEx, etc. There is even a 5% discount now for Yahoo Search Marketing. If you purchase anything at any of these chains, you should use an Open card.
Tip #3 - Use the same hotel chain or airline where possible
Being able to maximize a hotel or airline program means staying within the same chain whenever possible. I like Priority Club and Starwood the best but almost every chain has a program. It's not just enough to use the card when you check-in, you need to maximize the bonuses to hit the big freebies and top program levels. The more loyal you are to a chain, the more offers they will send you. Make sure you check FlyerTalk for your hotel and flight programs to check for bonus offers. Many bonuses aren't sent to everyone but most times you can still grab them.
Tip #4 - Mobile Plan Discounts
Talk to your mobile provider - many times if you can link up multiple numbers from your staff, you will be eligible for good company discounts. I've seen discounts as high as 15% on AT&T and T-Mobile.
Tip #5 - Shopping with rewards
If you shop online, check out Fatwallet rewards. They offer cash back when you shop through their merchant gallery. It's easy and you shop through the normal merchant's site but you just click from Fatwallet. For example, NewEgg pays 1% back, Dell 1.5%, Staples, Office Depot, etc. About 200 stores are listed.
Microsoft offers cashback shopping through the Bing search engine. Bing offers cashback at a large variety of online merchants. For example, there are reports that you can receive a cashback reward of 15% this weekend when you shop at Dell.
Tip #6 - Always sit in the best seat on the plane
SeatGuru should be your first stop once you have selected a flight. The service displays every seat on almost every plane and which seats are best. While this won't save you any money, it will make your trips more comfortable. If you fly a lot, ExperFlyer can help you find the best fares by showing you fare buckets versus the traditional pricing on airline Web sites. And FlightStats provides stats on the flights you are considering including on-time arrival rates.
Tip #7 - Using Priceline or Hotwire
While I don't use these services too often as they conflict with the usage of rewards cards, if you do use either, BetterBidding should be your first stop. They will tell you what others have bid and won so you know what to bid. Never bid on any travel service without doing your research.
I hope these tips help you maximize your online business spending. Please leave your business savings tips in the comments.