Let’s Build a Better Travel Reimbursement Policy

On Saturday I ran my credit card at the grocery store and it was declined for lack of funds. I pay the bill in full every month and know that I had not come anywhere close to spending my limit in the past 30 days.

I swiped my emergency backup credit card and went on my way. I was about to call my credit card company and ask “what in the heck?” when I realized that in the past month my husband had spent three weeks in various African countries. Normally when he travels he uses his American Express, which has no limit and doesn’t affect my credit card, but I’m willing to bet that there were plenty of places that wouldn’t accept his Amex that would accept his Mastercard, which is a joint account with mine.

Now, this was a mild annoyance for me. I had another way to pay for groceries. But, it will become a bigger annoyance if his company doesn’t reimburse him promptly. They often don’t. (Partially his fault for being a procrastinator. Partially their fault for having a slow process.) The last thing I want to do is have to pay interest on his work trip.

And it made me think, what does a good travel reimbursement policy look like? Here are five things you might want to think about.

To keep reading, click here: Let’s Build a Better Travel Reimbursement Policy

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14 thoughts on “Let’s Build a Better Travel Reimbursement Policy

  1. Oh, yes! Corporate cards are the pits. They’re inscrutable. Why do I have to use a corporate card if it’s my personal credit rating on the line for having a card I don’t want from a company whose contract is not with me directly? Why are corporate cards always the card brand that so many businesses don’t honor? Why does the corporate card get deactivated without warning for infrequent travelers? Why, when I call before the trip to be sure my card is active, do they tell me it is, and at midnight the next day the hotel desk clerk tells me it is not? What is the corporate card/HR relationship that causes a hotel to not get paid because of some paperwork snafu with the submitted receipts, and I don’t know until months later when the hotel threatens me personally with collections? Grrr. I would love to have what you suggest: per diem, direct billing, and easy and quick reimbursement of any remaining expenses that I paid with my personal card. My personal card works and everyone takes it.

  2. 1. The per diem. Do not cheap out on that. If I have to be away from home and eat at a restaurant, please let me at least have a decent meal. You cannot eat at a nice restaurant in Chicago for $30 total for supper.

    2. Why the photos of the receipts? The system is already tied into my corporate credit card. You know what I charged. Yet I have to take a photo of my receipt, email it to myself (using my personal email address, because I cannot send attachments from my personal email to my work email and I do not have work email on my phone), save it, and then attach the photo/pdf to my expense report?

    1. I know that reimbursement system! Photocopy each receipt, mail to self, send each to the reimbursement system, put each receipt on its own specific line item, match it to a category, connect each attachment line item to each line item in the credit card billing and…no wait, they won’t connect. Call IT. IT doesn’t support that reimbursement system and doesn’t know who does. Call someone who knows someone who knows the guy who does. He’ll be back from vacation week after next to tell you that it’s a permanent bug in the system but with his sys manager permissions he’ll connect the line items right away. If accounts payable worked like that there would be a small army of software guys working on it and making daily progress reports. (Sorry for venting, EHRL. I actually used to like corporate travel in the days when there was a travel desk who arranged per diem and could handle trip snafus adroitly. I hate the personal financial risks and the hours of frustration that have come with the “automation” of corporate travel.)

          1. I got bad news for you about Concur. It was never designed to be helpful. It was designed to make it easier for Finance to audit travel and shift liability.

  3. The U. S. Government has excellent travel reimbursement policies. First of all, there is a per diem, so food is handled separately by employees themselves. Travel is booked — and paid for — through a central site To the extent possible, foreseeable expenses like hotels, airport shuttles, etc., are approved in advance, within the estimated, anticipated, ranges. Once the travel is completed, the receipts are submitted and promptly paid, with payment going directly to the credit card company, except for the per diem, which is direct-deposited to the employee’s personal bank account. My travel expenses have always been paid before I even receive the credit card bill.

  4. I’ve worked for two state universities in the same system. One paid for everything up front on the “company” card and I got a gracious per diem for food with high cost areas getting me more money. My only out of pocket was cabs and food. Reimbursement were two weeks after I submitted my paperwork. Fast and right into my accounts. Current job will buy conference registrations only. I have to do airfare and hotel and such on my personal card and then get reimbursed. That’s super annoying considering both places are in the same system and same rules but one decides to be more restrictive than the other.

  5. Obviously, the companies that issue corporate credit cards want to “control” the expenses billed to them, but they also need to pay these on a timely basis. Maybe the problem lies in the amount allowed to be charged on a monthly basis, without correcting for differences in costs per geographic area. There’s also the time factor difference between credits and debts on the card as most banks will process debits before any credits.
    As far as dealing with the accounting process of the company worked for, that specific company should clarify everything and not make last minute changes to policies without adequate notice. If receipts are required ( which in today’s age of technology is redundant), it is merely a tactic to eliminate fraudulently charges. Thank those who had abused the system for this inconvenience.
    As far as the government travel expense coverage being considered so great, someone needs to explain that to Secretary Pruitt who expects to travel at a higher than the business class status.

    1. Hey, don’t compare us career Feds to Pruitt (although he’d probably agree that it’s great! :-))!. As the agency head, he gets to approve his own travel, so I guess the sky’s the limit. However, for us ordinary peons, if we choose something other than the cheapest — or Government — rate we are required to provide adequate justification, in order to obtain approval.

  6. When I was in my early 20s, I was sent on a week-long training course in another town. I was so happy because it was a really interesting course until I realised I had to pay for everything upfront and get reimbursed afterwards. One week hotel stay + travel is a fair amount of money that I just didn’t have.

    My boyfriend didn’t have enough either and we ended up borrowing from his parents. I felt so embarrassed that we were both adults with jobs and yet we couldn’t find the money between us. I think the higher ups didn’t realize that my salary at that time was just too low to have much disposable income and I was too young to have any savings..

  7. One thing that baffled me at my old job was that credit card statements were specifically *not* considered receipts and were not usable to substantiate an expense for reimbursement. No idea why, but they were very clear on the point. D:

  8. I’ve worked freelance for the same group of people for nearly 20 years. They’ve been teams in four different corporations. It is only the most recent one that has a decent re-embursement scheme – they actually will re-emburse you in a week if you get your expenses in by sunday and it always goes smoothly even if there is a hiccup.

    The other places all took a long time – and I’d often have to pay off my credit card out of my own funds. One place kept changing the procedures for my supervisor to approve it, so it would sit parked on someone’s desk not moving anwayhere and I’d politely have to follow up and then it would get sent back to my supervisor. Things came to head when someone complained I had followed up ‘just wanted to check things would be moving ahead’ within the allotted time to pay. At this point, I had to bring in the big boss – who’s a very reasonable guy. He said – copy me on every expense. He was Director so that got things moving properly thank goodness. But even he couldn’t take on that crazy system!

  9. I work for a university and all work trips require me to submit a travel authorization form in advance. If I include receipts for any expenses I’ve incurred before the trip (e.g., flight, conference registration) or estimates of the upcoming expenses (e.g., hotel) they’ll give me an advance when the form is received – but I need to reconcile with actual receipts within 30 days of returning.

    On the issue of credit card statements vs. receipts – in my country there’s a tax registration number on receipts that allows our university to receive some reimbursement somewhere, so they need the actual receipt.

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