Companies typically reimburse employees in one of two ways for expenses incurred while traveling for business. The first way is through direct reimbursement. You keep track of your receipts and your employer will reimburse you. At some companies, this is done through a company credit card, and at others, you incur the costs on your own credit card.
The second way companies reimburse employees is through a per diem rate. Employees are given a flat fee for expenses. These flat fees can be based on government stated rates or chosen at your company’s discretion. If you spend more than the allotted amount, that money comes out of your pocket. However, if you spend less, then the difference is yours to keep—making it possible to profit from your company’s per diem. Here are six suggestions on how to make the most of your company per diem.
Book Hotels That Offer Free Breakfast
A lot of hotels include free breakfasts. Try to seek these out when you travel. Another way to score free breakfast is through hotel loyalty programs. Most hotels offer free breakfasts in executive lounges that are part of loyalty programs. You won’t necessarily have access to these lounges just by joining the program, but through repeated stays within the brand itself.
Pack Your First Meal
Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, pack your first travel meal. As long as there’s no liquid, you can put your food through the airport security. For something to wash down that sandwich with, bring an empty bottle to fill with water once you’re through security.
Graze on Complimentary Evening Happy Hour Buffets
Some hotels host a weekly manager’s reception where they offer free appetizers. Don’t be ashamed of loading up your plate and making a meal of it!
Like the free breakfasts in loyalty lounges, some hotels offer nightly appetizers in those same lounges. I’ve even stayed in a few that offer free beer and wine.
Just because you’re on the road doesn’t mean you have to eat every meal out. If you’re in a hotel, take advantage of the in-room microwave and refrigerator and stop at a grocery store to stock up on microwavable dinners, breakfast foods and cold cuts. Skip the breads and fruits though. You can swipe some of those free of charge from the free breakfast buffets mentioned above.
Better yet, book an Airbnb with a full kitchen. This way you can prepare full, healthy meals during your trip.
Don’t forget about coupons
We use coupons when dining out at home, so why not when we’re traveling for work? Scour Groupon for deals before you leave or look in the hotel magazine for coupons. The concierge also often has coupons for nearby restaurants.
Buy gift cards in advance
Sites like Card Cash sell gift cards for national chains at a discount. For example, I’m big on Panera when I travel as I know I can get a healthy meal plus have access to free Wi-Fi between client appointments. So, I look for deals on Panera gift cards. Another option is to buy gift cards at your local grocery store through fuel perks programs. The cards may not be directly discounted, but you’re saving money on gas.
I challenge you to see how much you can save through your company per diem!
Bryan M. Richards is a beer, food, and travel writer based in Charlotte. His work has appeared in Men’s Journal, Beer Advocate, and just about anything with the word Charlotte in it. In a previous life, he was a corporate road warrior staying in two to three different hotels a week and often forgetting his room number.