How to Save Money with Per Diem on Business Trips

Berry Mathew

Updated on:

How to Save Money with Per Diem on Business Trips

Business trips are essential for many professionals but can quickly become costly. The expenses can add up fast between transportation, lodging, and meals. However, one way to reduce costs is through per diem allowances. Per diem refers to the daily allocation provided to employees for expenses incurred during business travel. Maximizing per diem can save money on business trips. By managing your money, you may even return home with extra cash! Keep reading for an overview of per diem and how to cut back on business expenses. 

Understanding Per Diem

Per diem is an allowance employees receive to cover during a trip. It covers the costs of food, lodging, and incidental expenses during business travel. It simplifies expense reporting and reimbursement for employers and employees. 

Per diem rates are set by the government and vary depending on the location of the business trip. When traveling, per diet covers the area’s average food and lodging cost.

Maximizing Per Diem

1. Know Your Per Diem Rate

Before your trip, research the per diem rates for your destination. The General Services Administration (GSA) sets the per diem rates for all U.S. cities and counties. These rates are available on the GSA website and vary depending on the time of year and location. Knowing your per diem rate helps you plan your expenses and keep them within the allotted budget.

2. Plan Your Meals Wisely

When traveling for business, it can be tempting to splurge on fancy meals. But the bad news is that this can quickly eat up your per diem allowance. So instead, plan your meals strategically. 

Find affordable options like fast food or local eateries offering discounts or promotions. If you want to go the healthy route, look for fast-food restaurants that offer salads and grilled chicken. 

Pack snacks or bring your own food to save money on meals. Applying these tips will allow your money to last much longer. 

3. Use Your Per Diem for Incidentals

Incidental expenses are costs that your per diem allowance does not include. Examples of incidentals are tips, parking fees, and taxi rides. However, if you keep your meals and lodging expenses within your budget, you can use the remaining funds for incidentals. This can help you avoid dipping into your funds to cover these expenses.

4. Keep Track of Expenses

Keeping track of your expenses is essential to ensure you stay within your budget. Keep all receipts and record your expenses in a spreadsheet. Or, you can utilize an expense tracking app to make your life easier. Doing one of these options will help you stay on top of your budget and avoid overspending.

5. Understand the Rules

Employers may have specific rules and regulations regarding per diem allowances. Ensure you understand these rules before your trip. That way, you can avoid issues with getting reimbursed. In addition, you may occasionally travel overseas. If that’s the case, research your destination’s per diem rates and rules. Some countries have different per diem rates and regulations than the United States.

6. Find Business Hotels with Per Diem Rates

One of the easiest ways to save money on business trips is to stay at a business hotel that offers per diem rates. Many business hotels offer per diem rates to government employees. And they may also provide them to other business travelers. Search online or call the hotel directly to find business hotels with per diem rates.

Another option is using a travel management company specializing in business travel. These companies can negotiate discounted rates with hotels and airlines. A company is a great option to stay within your per diem budget.

When booking a hotel with per diem rates, ask what comes with it. For example, some hotels may include breakfast or other meals, while others may not. You should also ask if there are any additional fees. There may be hidden feeds, such as a resort or parking fees which are not part of the rate. 


Per diem, allowances can be an excellent way to save money on business trips. By understanding the rate, as a recap, you can: 

  • Plan your meals wisely
  • Use your per diem for incidentals
  • Understand the rules
  • Find business hotels with per diem rates
  • Keep track of expenses

Keep track of your expenses; you may even return home with extra cash! With a bit of planning and strategizing, you can reduce business travel costs and have an enjoyable experience.