Corporate Housing BlogTravel Tips › Business Travel Spending: Where Your Money Goes on the Road

With any form of travel, the costs of coming and going add up in ways you might not expect. Business travel spending is no exception. The ride to the airport, the client meals, the happy hour drinks, lodging – they all can get costly in a hurry.

So, before you swipe your credit card at the airport for a pre-departure coffee, think about where your money goes when you’re on the road. Certify, which helps companies manage travel and expense reporting, provides some insight in its annual and quarterly SpendSmart reports. Do you recognize yourself in these business travel spending trends?

hamburger and fries

Meals accounted for the largest percentage of business travel and entertainment spending in 2016.

Business Travel Spending by Category

In 2016, the three categories that accounted for the biggest percentages of overall business travel and entertainment spending were:

  • Meals: 19% ($27.02 average per transaction)
  • Airfare: 15% ($316.17 average)
  • Lodging or hotels: 14% ($210.19 average)


(Note: The average cost of corporate housing in the U.S. is $150 a day, according to 2016 statistics.)

Getting to and from business meetings is expensive. Transportation in all its forms, in fact, made up 42% of business travel spending. Besides airfare, the other transportation-related categories for 2016 were:

  • Fuel: 11% ($29.77 average)
  • Taxi: 9% ($27.90 average)
  • Car rental: 5% ($190.74 average)
  • Parking: 1% ($34.10 average)
  • Tolls: 1% ($24.38 average)


The other categories, not transportation-related, were miscellaneous, 13%; cell phones, 5%; supplies, 5%; and shipping, 2%.

Business Travel Spending by Company

So what companies are getting expensed the most? For those figures, we can look at the Q1 2017 summary that Certify just released. Certify broke out the most-expensed vendors by the number of overall transactions, not the spending totals. The winners were:

  • Uber: 7%
  • Starbucks: 4%
  • Delta Airlines: 4%
  • American Airlines: 3%
  • Amazon: 3%


Ground Transportation: Uber Up, Taxis Down

speeding car

Uber has zoomed to the front of the ground-transportation category.

As evidenced by the numbers above, the growth of Uber and its rival Lyft has caused the greatest upheaval in business travel spending in recent years. In Q1 2017, in fact, Uber had more than half of all expensed ground-transportation transactions.

The totals for the ground-transportation category (% of transactions):

  • Uber: 53%
  • Car rentals: 31%
  • Taxis: 10%
  • Lyft: 6%


Seen over six quarters, the bad news for taxis and good news for Uber is really clear. From Q4 2015 to Q1 2017, Uber has gained 13% of ground-transportation rides from business travelers. Lyft has gained 4%. (Lyft’s share has especially risen in 2017 so far, as Uber has suffered bad publicity, Certify reports.)

Segment Q4 2015 Q1 2017
 Uber  40%  53%
 Car Rentals  38%  31%
 Taxis  20%  10%
 Lyft  2%  6%

Meanwhile, car rentals have lost 7%. Worst of all, taxis have lost a whopping 10% of total rides, with their share cut in half over 18 months. Over nearly the same time, the average cost of taxi rides has dropped from about $40 to $34. Average costs for Uber and Lyft rides have remained fairly flat at about $28 and $24, respectively.  

Of course, car rental companies get more money per transaction. For Q1 2017, for instance, the car rental company used most by business travelers was National Car Rental. National had 26% of all car-rental transactions, with an average cost of $185. The runner-ups were Enterprise (17%), Hertz (14%), Avis (12%) and Budget (4%).

Business Travel Spending by Restaurant

coffee drink in cup

Starbucks is the restaurant expensed the most by business travelers.

It wouldn’t appear that business travelers are spending any money saved via ride-sharing on fancier restaurants. For Q1 2017, these were the six restaurant chains expensed the most times:

  • Starbucks: 4.6%
  • McDonald’s: 2.9%
  • Panera Bread: 1.7%
  • Subway: 1.6%
  • Dunkin’ Donuts: 1.4%
  • Chick-Fil-A: 1.4%


Certify didn’t even attempt to calculate the calories in all those Frappuccinos and Big Macs.

About Mark Edelen:

Welcome. I'm Mark, the organic SEO analyst for, and I'm here to share tips for business travelers from our partners at You'll find me on Twitter, tweeting about search and digital media trends, @MarkEdelen.


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