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In the era of Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts, entrepreneurs can land deals, meet new clients, and work with faraway employees without ever meeting anyone face-to-face. While that's certainly been a boom to business - companies can spend less money on travel and it can be easier to make new connections - studies have shown that in-person meetings are still the best kinds of meetings. 

According to a survey from research firm the Aberdeen Group, 75 percent of C-suite executives said that in-person collaboration is a must, while 82 percent said they were better understood after a face-to-face encounter. Oxford Economics found that, on average, every dollar spent on business travel resulted in $9.50 in new revenue and $2.90 in profit. In addition, 57 percent of executives said that cutting travel budgets during the 2008 downturn hurt company performance.

Jeff Hofmann, general manager of Chase's small business credit card, Ink, thinks that face-to-face still works best-and it's the preferred method of communication for many of his business-owning clients, too. "It's great to be able to use video chat, but you really get to know someone when you meet them face-to-face," he says. "If you're closing a deal or want to build trust between two partners, then you can't rely just on digital."

Of course, business travel can get expensive. Besides paying for flights, you have to spend money on hotels, car rentals, dinners out, and more. And while the trip may pay dividends later, you'll have to cover those costs now, which can be a challenge for many small operations. 

Fortunately, venturing out to meet clients doesn't have to cripple your bottom line. Many companies are covering their costs by paying with business credit card reward points, especially those that put most of their business purchases on their business credit cards. While owners will typically redeem points for flights and hotels, Hofmann has seen customers use their points for Uber and Airbnb gift cards, which they can then use to travel around a city or stay in a place that may be cheaper than a usual hotel.

Pay Attention to Points

While some entrepreneurs redeem their points when they see they've accumulated enough for a flight, many who rely on face-to-face travel will make a concerted effort to maximize the rewards they receive. Naturally, the more they can rack up, the more they can spend on client entertainment and travel.

There are several ways to earn additional points, says Hofmann. One easy way is to use your card on the myriad of items that generate bonus points. Chase Ink Business Preferred® cardholders, for instance, can earn three times the points* if they put flights, train tickets, hotel stays, shipping purchases, internet and cable, and other items on their card, he says. 

Some businesses can boost their point totals by simply putting more purchases on their card. According to Hofmann, a significant amount of small businesses still buy big items with a check. "They're not getting any value with that," he says. "Put it on a card and you don't have to make the payment for 25 or 30 days and you get rewards."

Give Additional Cards to Staff

Another way to earn more points is to give business credit cards, or at least access to your cards, to your employees, says Hofmann. The more people use plastic, the more points you'll accumulate-and have to redeem later. With Ink, you can add employee cards to your business card account at no additional cost. 

Since a flight usually costs much more in points than, say, a gift card, you will need to find ways to increase your reward totals if you want to cover face-to-face meeting costs. "Airlines and hotels are larger redemption items, so it makes sense to give your employees cards to earn more rewards," he says.

Even with today's digital tools, companies will need to spend at least something-whether in cash or in points-on business travel. "You have to cultivate relationships," says Hofmann. "You can leverage digital to grow the business opportunity, but you still need the face-to-face interaction."

 

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