Business travelers are still taking to the air, despite the uncertain economy. Only 25% say they'd alter plans in the face of higher airfares, the U.S. Travel Association found in a recent survey.
Yet pressure remains. Tighter profit margins have led some employers to demand travelers cut back on outlays or take more meetings in order to justify the cost of going on the road. According to another survey of more than 700 travelers conducted on behalf of the Embassy Suites hotel chain, 19% of business travelers are actively cutting back on incidental expenses while 22% are seeking more value when booking accommodations.
Fortunately, stretching a buck is easier than ever thanks to smartphones and mobile devices. Here's a look at five apps that can help you make the most of your business travel budget: 5 Money-Smart Apps for Business Travelers
5 Money-Smart Apps for Business Travelers
1. Foursquare.com. This is the original check-in app. More recently, the company has been teaming with merchants to offer just-in-time deals when you're near a restaurant or shop. And thanks to a broad-based partnership with American Express (AXP), some outlets now offer instant rebates on purchases made with a registered Amex credit card. The downside? You'll need to stay flexible about where you eat and shop in order to collect the most savings, but Foursquare's discovery tools -- such as finding popular spots or locales recommended by friends -- should make the hunt more tolerable, and perhaps even fun.
2. HelloWallet.com. A rising competitor to Intuit's (INTU) Mint, HelloWallet doesn't use ads and charges individuals $9 per month. (Pricing varies for companies who choose to buy subscriptions in bulk for their employees.) All the basic tools for personal financial planning are included: transaction tracking, financial trendspotting, and budgeting. Business travelers in particular might benefit from HelloWallet's location-based spending guidance. Input a budget and use the iPhone app, and HelloWallet will help you "spend" according to plan and what you've spent at that locale previously.
3. TurboScan. As the name implies, TurboScan turns a smartphone into a "scanner" for documents (cough -- receipts -- cough) using a built-in camera. Adjust the image and output as a PDF file for expense reporting. There is a cost, however: TurboScan costs $1.99 in the iTunes App Store. Users nevertheless love the app, with 1,593 contributing to a five-star average rating.
4. Cardmunch.com. While it's tempting to focus on savings, we shouldn't forget that executives travel to broker revenue-generating deals. Cardmunch, a service of LinkedIn (LNKD), is designed to help file the business cards. As with TurboScan, users transform their smartphone camera into a scanner to capture card details. Photos are then sent to the service, where they are transcribed and made available for use in any contact management program. And of course, LinkedIn profile data is included automatically.
5. Kayak.com. It's a search engine that specializes in finding cheap flights, hotels and rental cars that automatically comparison-shops across services. Think of it as an aggregator that scans the entire Internet to find deals. Users can also set price alerts to be notified when ticket prices to their favorite destinations rise or drop dramatically. In addition, the iPhone app contains airport information, contact numbers for major airlines, tour information, and a currency exchange calculator.
Beware the Digital Straitjacket
Whatever apps you use, keep in mind that not all deals are created equal. For example, group-buying deals from the likes of Groupon (GRPN) and Google (GOOG) tend to feature limitations that specify where and when you get to use them. Business travelers, of course, tend to need flexibility in using savings deals.
You'll find plenty of options via the five apps listed above, but there may be several others I've missed. What apps do you use to save a buck while on the road? What other strategies do you use for keeping travel costs under control? Please weigh in using the comments box below.
Motley Fool contributor Tim Beyers owned shares of Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and past columns. The Motley Fool owns shares of LinkedIn and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of LinkedIn and Google, as well as writing a covered strangle position in American Express.