In October, the IRS announced it would freeze per diem rates for business travel at 2012 levels –– $160 to $243 per day for travel and just $52 to $65 for food.
That may seem like a fortune to budget travellers, but there are plenty of hidden costs associated with travelling for work that have nothing to do with food or shelter.
Like any craft, learning the ins and outs of saving on business travel takes time. To help, we’ve rounded up a few of the most common mistakes rookies make that could wind up costing them.
Leaving expenses reports to the last minute. Waiting to file expense reports is just an accident waiting to happen. You could easily lose cab or meal receipts and wind up footing the bill out of your own pocket, and there are often cash-only expenses that aren’t as easy to keep tabs on without a physical receipt. To make your life easier, download an app like Expensify or Lemon to snap photos and download receipts along the way. When you’ve finished you trip, it takes a few minutes to categorize expenses and organise them into a shareable spreadsheet.
Forgetting to deduct expenses at tax time. If your company’s per diem for food and lodging isn’t ample enough for your tastes, don’t forget that you can still get a tax break for business-related expenses. Just do your homework first to find out what qualifies (Hint: That dinner cruise or sight-seeing expenses probably won’t fly with Uncle Sam).
travelling without your own WiFi hotspot. When you’re on business, time is money. Don’t waste precious minutes wandering around trying to find a working WiFi connection or cell phone reception. Ask your employer to outfit your computer with a WiFi hotspot. We’re fans of the Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE MiFi.
Forgetting to let your bank in on your itinerary. There’s nothing worse than swiping your credit card overseas only to be denied because you just tripped your bank’s anti-fraud detector. It takes a few minutes to call up your bank before travelling to let them know your destination and to be ready to see some international transactions.
Using currency exchange counters. No matter what the glossy currency exchange counters tell you, they won’t offer the most competitive rates. Take out cash from ATMs to get the most bang for your buck, or simply use your credit card when possible.
Using the wrong credit card. Foreign transaction fees are any traveller’s worst nightmare. That’s the fee your lender will slap on every transaction you make in a different country. Do yourself a favour and be sure to carry a card that either waives these fees –– or better, doesn’t come with them in the first place. Cardhub, Nerdwallet and other credit rating sites often come out with lists of the best travel cards on the market. The Capital One Venture Card topped both their lists for 2013.
Taking unnecessary trips for the sake of it. This is 2013, not 1993. There’s no reason to waste time and money to fly cross country for a meeting that could just as easily be conducted online or via web cam. Unless you’re truly hankering for an excuse to get out of the office, you could win major points from your boss by trimming expenses and taking your business affairs into the digital age.
Neglecting your body’s needs. Business travel shouldn’t be all work and no rest. Take care of your body along the way by giving yourself time to adjust to time differences to rejigger your sleep schedule. Bring an eye mask and splurge on first class reclining seats if you must. You’ll be less likely to make rookie mistakes with a solid 7 hours of sleep. That goes double for your diet. Because taste bud sensitivity diminishes with altitude, aeroplane food is often loaded with extra sodium and flavoring to make it more palatable. Do your gut a favour and bring healthy snacks along with you and try to find a solid meal outside of an airport terminal.