Expenses, Policy

Is an Automated Expense Report Better Than a Points Program?

No one will argue that a company benefits from high usage of the corporate card. It drives data and economic benefits that can have a material impact on the bottom line. 

 For many years, the rewards or points programs attached to corporate cards were positioned as the ideal incentive to drive card usage among travelers. The idea was simple: If the cardholder could realize personal gain from using the company-issued card, they would choose to use it more than a personal card. However, with time, card issuers and companies began to realize that the costs associated with these programs when reward redemptions start to accelerate often erode the economic gains. And as a result, they have declined in usage over the years. 

 But maybe there’s a better tool to capture more travel spend on the corporate card and realize an even bigger uplift in the benefits of the program: the automated expense report tool that integrates corporate card data and allocates expenses automatically.

 For many travelers, the expense report is the worst part of a business trip – collecting receipts, manually entering transaction data, allocating and splitting expenses. The challenges of a manual process continue through to the employee’s manager and the accounting team that needs to review, approve, and capture the data. Studies show that the average end-to-end time to complete the process is over 75 minutes per report – with most of this time spent by the traveler. 

 Now imagine a process that enables travelers to capture data and receipts while traveling: a mobile device and an expense report that uses card data and information captured while traveling to prepare an expense report almost immediately ready for approval and processing.

 For most travelers, the promise of a quick and automated process based on usage of the corporate card would absolutely drive up usage of the card. I would rather wait in line for a cab that accepts my corporate card than spend time when I get home entering details for a cash fare. I use the same discretion when picking a restaurant or other vendors along my journey. 

 So while some may still be willing to take the time (and potentially face the increased scrutiny from corporate finance) to earn points or rewards while using their personal card, I think, overall, the percentage of travel spend captured on the corporate card will increase – leading to all the company benefits that come with it. Therefore, I surmise that investing in an automated expense report with automatic integration of corporate card data beats the costs of providing a rewards program to drive up card usage. 

What do you think?