ask the readers: can’t afford my job’s required travel

This is our last of our week-long “ask the readers” series. And this reader is in a particularly difficult situation. Be nice to him!

He writes:

I emailed you about a month ago about a position I had accepted that got frozen the day before I was to start. They finally reopened the position and I started Monday. Great, right? Not so much. About 4 years ago, my wife and I filed for bankruptcy. I was very up-front about this during the interview stage when they stated that I would be issued a company credit card.

So they had me apply on Monday for an American Express. It is not a company credit card; it is issued to you directly and, big surprise, AMEX turned me down. So now I am in a position where I cannot get the card and the only other option — short of being fired by the company, which I would rather not have happen — is for me to front the approximately $2,500 a month that the travel for this job will cost, and they will refund the money about 14 days after receiving the expense report. After doing the bankruptcy, I swore I would NEVER do credit again, and for 4 years we have lived on all cash.

Does anyone have any ideas how I can come up with the seed money (we have about a grand in our emergency fund)?

I wrote back to this reader and asked if he’d talked to his boss about the situation to see if he could just be issued a company-issued credit card. He said:

Oh yes, I asked. The HR manager said that the corporate rules are that you use the AMEX or you pay for all costs and turn in an expense report with receipts and they will pay you back in “about” 2 weeks. Since we will be going out 2 weeks at a time every month, it is possible the first 2 weeks will not paid to me before I am out in the field again.

This is a really difficult situation, not being made any easier by his company’s rigidity on this. What thoughts do people have?(And ideally this doesn’t need to be said, but just in case: No comments blaming this guy for his bankruptcy please! We don’t know what his situation was, and lots of people are in those shoes these days. And that’s not the point of this question; figuring out what he can do now is…)

You can read an update to this post here.

{ 128 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    When I started my last job, I was in a tight pinch financially and had no available credit. My boss used his company card to cover my expenses until I was in a position to front them myself.

  2. Katy O*

    Honestly, I’m surprised his employer has the nerve to call it a “company card” when it clearly isn’t. I don’t have any solutions for this because he should never have been put in this situation to begin with. Is it that common for companies to expect their employees to cover that many travel expenses up front? We had to pay gas and meals but not hotel or rental cars…doesn’t seem right.

    Best of luck to him!

    1. Piper*

      It is common, especially in sales-related roles. My husband has to do the same thing, although their turnaround is a week. And also, whenever you’re a newbie there and everyone goes out on the “company’s” dime for a nice expensive dinner with drinks, guess who gets to pay? My husband got socked with a $500 dinner bill his first week working there, on top of the $2000 in travel charges. Nice, huh?

      Fortunately, he had the money to front it, but yeah, I feel for the OP. It’s definitely crappy. I have no real advice other than what’s been given, though.

  3. Anonymous*

    I had a similar situation at my company. Through the Corporate Amex program, the company can ‘guarantee’ your card directly with Amex, basically co-signing for you and you will get the card and be able to use it up to the amounts they specified. I don’t know if your company is willing to do this, but I would suggest talking to your direct manager about it and see if he/she may have more pull with HR to get this done for you.

    1. Samantha*

      This. Or they issue an advance to him ahead of time and he hands in his expense report when he gets back.

      It’s completely unreasonable that they expect him to pay for that much ahead of time when he told him that he couldn’t. No one could come up with $2500 to cover travel expenses each month. That’s ridiculous.

      1. Katieinthemountains*

        I work at a small company, and pay for rental cars, hotels, gas, and food when I travel (infrequently). I usually receive the reimbursement before the credit card bill is due. It also has a line for any advances to be taken out prior to reimbursement. But I might spend $250, not $2,500.
        Push back (politely, of course). You were up front about the bankruptcy; they promised you a company card. They wanted you to work for them, and somebody farther up the food chain should be able to get you an advance or some other kind of card.

    2. Laurie*

      Came here to offer the two ideas that Anonymous and Samantha already addressed –

      I was going to suggest calling Amex and explaining to them exactly why you need this card, and that they could contact your Corporate Office to verify that you are an employee, confirm your monthly salary etc and then issue you a card. But, the Corporate co-sign idea is better.

      Other idea, similar to Samantha’s, was to shore up the $2,500 somehow (if the company gives it to you, that’s better) and use that instead of a credit card. If the company agrees to give you the $2,500, it’s not like you have to carry it around in cash. There are things called p-cards and travel cards specifically for this purpose, since traveling athletic teams and students can’t all qualify for Amex either. Or, the company could even start a checking account, issue you a debit card and monitor your spending. There may even be a way for the company to arrange with the bank to remove the ATM withdrawal ability on that debit card – then it would be just like a credit card, wouldn’t it?

      Bottom line – there are creative ways around this in the banking world.

    1. Another Anon*

      That’s a good idea. If the bankruptcy is far enough over that Visa would give you a card where AmEx wouldn’t, you could pay on your own card and have the company reimburse in time for you to pay off without carrying debt. I used to do this when I ended up at hotel desks late at night over and over and they’d say my AmEx card wasn’t any good. I’d use my own card, straighten it out with AmEx the next day, and by next trip it was dead again. There’s another advantage to doing using your own card: the company used to reimburse straight to AmEx. I submitted stubs and that was the last I saw of it. One time they didn’t pay and I didn’t know until I got threatened with collections. If my company bills affect my credit rating, I want to see them myself! Aside from that incident, I pay off each month without fail. You can use a credit card without taking on credit debt.

  4. Anonymous*

    Not sure what the travel costs are for, or who else is going… but especially if you’re traveling with someone, can you get them to order 2 tickets, 2 hotel rooms, etc.? Then you’d only have to submit reimbursement for your meals and incidentals, which would presumably be more manageable. If you’re going out on your own, maybe you can borrow someone else’s card (i.e. type in their number while ordering, then return the card to them)? I have done that in the past, but it was at places that were much less rigid.

  5. RachelTech81*

    Surely any manager who has any level of down-to-earthness about them at all would understand the average person’s inability to come up with such an enormous quantity of money upfront and part with it for weeks at a time every month…right? Furthermore, why did the Hiring Manager bring him on if they explicitly discussed bankruptcy or personal credit concerns during the hiring process and he knew a credit check was required for the position? It doesn’t make sense to me. In fact it’s all kind of shady…I think…

    I MIGHT be able to come up with that kind of money in a pinch by making an arrangement with a family member who could part with the seed money for some period of time while I repaid in some sort of structured payment plan – maybe…maybe…Good luck OP.

  6. Brook*

    I think the only option here is to be blunt: “I cannot afford to front the money for company travel and then wait for reimbursement. You guys are going to have to pay for the flights and accommodations upfront.” You’re probably going to have to escalate this to someone with the authority to change the policy, as the enforcer doesn’t have the will (or maybe isn’t empowered) to be reasonably accommodating.

    And you don’t need to go into your finances with them, the fact that this won’t work for you should be enough information.

    I’ve worked places that required a reimbursement process for food, taxis and the like, but they covered the flights and hotels upfront. That seemed like a reasonable policy to me, as the known costs didn’t ever fall on the employee.

    1. Charles*

      “I think the only option here is to be blunt: “I cannot afford to front the money for company travel and then wait for reimbursement. You guys are going to have to pay for the flights and accommodations upfront.” ”

      ditto –

      And it is quite possible that the company cannot do this – policies are rigid sometimes because once the manager makes one exception, then she is stuck making exceptions for everyone and then there is no more policy.

      Or, the only other option (aside from being fired) that I can think of is to ask if the company can delay the OP’s travel until the OP can cave up enough money to get someting like a pre-paid card.

  7. fposte*

    Wow, the company really isn’t handling this very well. I’d try pushing one more time at work–maybe not HR, but whoever handles the travel expenses. Do they have an in-house card that they can use at least to book the air travel, even if they’re not prepared to prepay the hotel? That would make it a little less daunting.

    I know you said you’d never do credit again, but it sounds like you’re going to have a tough time in your industry without it.
    Often the first credit card step after bankruptcy is a secured card–which probably won’t help you now, since they’re generally only secured to the amount that you’ve deposited with the issuer. Consider checking with your bank, though, just in case they do have a similar product that could be of use, and you might consider aiming toward a small secured card after you sort this out to start building up your credit again.

    1. Erica B*

      Secured credit cards is what is suggested to reestablish credit in this situation. However you have to come up with the cash to make the limit on your cash first, so if you don’t have that kind of money to begin with, this is not the best option. Oh and the interest rate is high. There are credit card companies that deal specifically with with those with less than stellar credit that will set you up with a card with a low limit.. But not only that, after you file for bankruptcy, you can not get a credit card for 2 years. Period.
      if you are able to acquire the seed money, you can put it in a checking account to be used solely for this purpose and attach a debit card to the account that you can use in lieu of a credit card.

      I agree about talking with the company. You stated that you made this clear when they interviewed you and it seemed to be a non issue at the time. I hope that they are able to work with you on this.

  8. ruby*

    Do you feel you have exhausted the options to have the company help you with his and you are on your own now to find a solution? I know it’s delicate because the last thing a new employee wants to do is be a problem, but I’m not clear if HR is left with the impression you’ll just use your own card (which you don’t have) or if they know you are up the creek without a card and don’t care?

    Also, when you say get the seed money, not sure what you mean by that? You have to get a credit card for this job in order to do this much traveling, you’re not thinking you can travel without a cc and play in cash?

    Depending on the answers to the above:
    – If they think you are able to use another personal card and you feel comfortable asking for help, I would talk to HR, let them know because of the banruptcy issues you told them about, you could use assistance in getting a card and see if that shakes loose any help.

    -Can somone in your family co-sign a credit card for you? I understand declaring bankruptcy means you had significant issues in the past and there may be issues with this. But you have a job now that depends on your ability to travel a lot and for that, you must have a card. The no credit rule is admirable but no longer practical and would keep you from doing this job.

    I don’t feel like the company is in the wrong here, just my two cents. It’s extremely common for people to use personal cards for work expense and then get reimbursed. In 20 years of working, it’s only in my current job with a huge company that I have a corporate card.

    1. fposte*

      I assumed by “seed money” the OP means that after he gets paid a time or two he can keep a travel-money float available to draw on until the company reimburses him, but right now there just isn’t enough extra in the budget.

      1. Piper*

        This is what I assumed he meant, too. Once you get it rolling, you won’t need it again. It’s just coming up with that initial amount that’s tough. It shouldn’t cost that much money to start a new job!

    2. Sarah G*

      Maybe for limited expenses, like others have mentioned (meals, taxi, etc), but $2500/month worth of travel expenses? That’s too much. I agree with others, he should talk to someone else, i.e. his manager (not HR), and say he isn’t able to front that kind of money, and could they please find another alternative. No further explanation needed.

  9. Anonymous*

    Wow. I really feel for the OP. I haven’t gone through bankruptcy, have good credit, and make a good salary (for my age and experience) and I could not afford to front $2500 on a one-time basis, let alone monthly. I’d have to borrow it from my parents!

    I hope this poster’s situation causes a couple people to look at their company’s card rules and re-examine them. This economy has just been brutal and plenty of people don’t have that kind of cash to spare for 4-6 weeks all year round.

  10. Rednecka*

    Having worked in the HR / payroll dept myself, I have handled these kinds of situations.

    What I and the company never would do is to issue a credit card in the company name when the issue is a history of personal debt.

    What we would do, however, was to issue a cash advance for the first month for the approximated cost.

    This means that the employee would receive an amount immediately when hired. The amount would be deducted from the last pay check/final salary, on which the last expenses also would be reimbursed.

    Could this be an option?

    1. Mike C.*

      The issue of personal debt doesn’t even play here at all, because like AaM said you nor your business have no idea how they got into problems in the first place, and you make the implict assumption that the employee will then use the credit card on a spending spree instead of company expenses.

      So instead of a tool which can be monitored because your company is judgmental, you hand them a cash advance which can not be tracked? And you dock it from their paycheck? In addition to not working at all, doesn’t that break a whole bunch of payroll laws?

      1. Anonymous*

        Not sure why you are calling this judgmental. I am an in-house lawyer and guess how often the company has to eat charges that an employee has racked up on the “corporate” Amex card? All the time. But you are right, a cash advance is no better. Like it or not, the OP is an unknown entity to the company. The way the Amex corporate card program works for many (most?) companies is that travel charges like flights, rail, rental cars are billed through the employee’s amex, but end up on the company’s master account, so it’s a zero balance for the employee.

        Our policy is, if you don’t qualify for an amex, you can’t travel, and if your travel is a part of the job, you can’t have the job. Sorry, but it’s a risk for the company, and even more than that, processing “one-offs” is a headache for the accounting department and they simply don’t have the resources to deal with it.

        1. Orig Poster*

          I do not take it as judgmental. I judge myself far harder than any of you can for this. My personal meltdown is not the company’s problem. It is mine.

          As for the corporate card, that may be how it works for y’all, but that is not how it works in this company. Here the bill comes to the employee, by the time the bill gets here the $$$$ should be here from HR. You pay the bill online, if you are late AMEX notifies the company and they “remind” you to pay. If you skip out without paying, the company withholds funds to pay off your final check.

          What you say in your final paragraph is what I was worried would be the reaction of the company. But as a corporate lawyer, you also must be aware that transferring an employee into a situation like that and then firing them for not being able to get the card could very well get a complaint with DOL against your company. In this case it will also result in a complaint with the company we have a contract with. I am not exactly an “unknown” at this company because I have been there for two years. I know who to place complaints with at the company we service that would really not look good to our company.

          1. fposte*

            Just curious–what grounds do you think the complaint to the DOL would be based on? I’m seeing crappy treatment, but nothing that I’d know to be a breach of labor law. Even if you had a contract that they have to change their business practices to accommodate your inability to get a card–which you don’t–I suspect that would be a matter for civil litigation rather than a DOL claim.

            1. Orig Poster*

              Basically, long story short, this position was supposed to open in January. Our client froze the position the day before I was supposed to start. In the meantime, I had been training my replacement for two weeks. I had been promised that my new salary would go into effect on Jan 1. Because of the freeze, corporate had been delaying paying the agreed amount that I had worked. I have emails from supervisors of both sub departments (my old one and my new one) that they would honor the pay and it would be retro to first of year as well from our local HR. She went back and forth with NY HR and suddenly the position opened up last week and I had 3 days to train a different person to do my old job. Coincidentally I find out (tuesday when it again was not on my pay stub) that HQ HR wanted additional paperwork that was submitted by local HR the same day that I was notified that I was transitioning on Monday of this week. All of this I have in emails.

              My suspicion is that corporate would not sign off on the pay change without the client paying additional and client would not pay if I was not transferred. Basically a pain in rear for HR. Well, if I do not have money to go out, I cannot go out and will have to be let go. So that “fixes” there problem with the client because the client will not have to pay for the employee in the team that they did not want to pay for. The reason that it would be of interest to DOL is because that thing which disqualifies me for the position was disclosed prior to the offering of the job. So if they use that as a reason to terminate rather than making a position on the side of the office that does not have that requirement would be suspicious.

              But hey, that might seem kind of martyr like, might not be that at all. It just feels that way right now.

              1. Orig Poster*

                Acording to FLSA, they would have to pay the salary they agreed to. Their not paying it makes a DOL violation. My being transferred to a position that they knew I did not qualify implies that this is retaliatory so that they could run me off. Retaliatory action for trying to enforce labor law is illegal activity.

              2. fposte*

                I’m not a lawyer, and I definitely don’t want you to avoid going to the DOL if there’s a reason to. But it sounds like you’re talking an exempt position, so FLSA doesn’t apply here, and DOL doesn’t concern itself with contractual disputes about salaries (and consequently with any retaliatory action based on that). None of that, as far as I can tell would be a breach of federal law; it’d be a private civil contractual matter.

                The one thing that may be relevant here is if it’s considered that a termination would be discrimination against you for being bankrupt, because that is illegal discrimination under bankruptcy law, which could give you ground for a discrimination suit. Still not a DOL matter, though.

              3. fposte*

                Sorry, that’s misleading, I used “salaried” when I meant “non-exempt.” DOL doesn’t concern itself with wage and hour claims for exempt employees. It doesn’t matter how they’re paid; it matters what category they belong to.

              4. Orig Poster*

                Possibly. They list us as exempt employees, but what is interesting about that is that we are still paid for OT at straight time and if we do not work 40 hrs, we will not get our full salary that week. Also from my reading of FLSA (which DOL does enforce) we do not legitimately fall into any of the four classifications for exempt. I am the only Professional on staff and I am not doing work that requires that Professional License. I think that if it actually went to DOL that it would be a bad day. But then the client would cancel the contract and we would all be out of jobs.

              5. fposte*

                Whoa, that is…special. But it definitely sounds like it’s FLSA-relevant and thus DOL-able, so you were absolutely right.

              6. Orig Poster*

                Oh, and I forgot to add that I would classify us as blue collar as we work outside for those 14 hour days.

              7. Emily*

                It’s been a minute since I read the exempt classifications, but isn’t one of them something that amounts to, “an employee who is critical to the functioning of the company/organization?” Like someone whose work can’t just be given to another employee but actually personally has a significant amount of responsibility to ensure smooth operation of the business? At my current job I have no professional certification or license, nor do I need one, but there’s only 4 employees and my work (like that of the other three) is critical to the org’s operations, so I’m considered exempt. Paying exempt employees hourly with OT is unusual, but not unheard of. My org prefers to give comp time (extra vacation days) for mandatory evening/weekend work, even though we’re all exempt, just as a nice gesture to the staff. (We don’t get any comp days for any evening/weekend work we do voluntarily to meet a deadline, only if we were specifically required to work an evening or weekend for an event or similar.)

        2. DianaH*

          Why is a cash advance no good? It could work as a travel advance and when the employee submits their voucher for reimbursement, the total minus the advance is reimbursed. As long as the company does not advance more than the travel actually costs, then the company is not out one penny more than if they reimbursed the entire travel amount after the travel rather than some before and some after.

      2. Kim Stiens*

        A cash advance doesn’t break payroll laws. If you and the employee enter into a signed agreement where you give them cash and then that cash is deducted from their next check, there’s nothing wrong with that. Companies do it all the time. What you can’t do is make deductions from a paycheck without the specific written consent of the employee (except in like 1 or 2 cases). Of course, some things are still illegal to deduct even with employee consent, but I’m pretty sure cash advances are OK.

  11. Orig Poster*

    A few things:

    Yes, I have asked what they can do and the answer I am getting is nothing. The manager who hired me from my former position with this company to the new position should have verified with HR what would need to be done and he did not.

    I am not a “new” employee with this company, I have been with them for two years but just transferred from one side of our department to another. Our company’s department ONLY has one client. But we are required to follow the rules of our parent company. One of them is that if we cannot qualify for an AMEX (they are guaranteeing that it will be paid but it still qualifies on your credit and AMEX NEVER forgives you if you ever BK on them), then you must come up with the funds yourself, the corporate does not front you, ever. The single largest cost for us is our airfare, we do not get a big warning that we are going out (the guys going out Tuesday found out on Thursday of this week). If I tell them that the $2500 is not there, then my position is gone. Since company has filled my former position, I am on the street. It is not personal, it is just the rules of the company.

    I know of one way to get the $2500, a loan against my 401K. It is not something that I want to do, but right now I see no other viable options. As for paying with cash, that is basically what I will be doing. Will be putting it in a checking account with a Visa Check card. I guess that I could put it in a secured CC with my credit union, but am unsure how that works. Also, since the company will pay in “about” two weeks, I fear what would happen if they do not have my money to me BEFORE I have to purchase tickets. So, in my mind I realistically need to have between $2500 and $5000 in my account to pay for this. Based on the new salary, that top number is possible within a few months, but that presumes that I will actually still be employed there.

    As I stated, I made some STUPID mistakes that caused us to have to file BK. I failed my wife and my family. And I do not want to put them in that position a second time. The idea of getting a CC makes my stomach physically ill. I have made it 5 years, and we have actually made out well (built up a small emergency fund and actually own our vehicles which are a 1993 jeep and a 2002 exploder) and I just really do not want to lose everything again because of a company that I worked for. Been there, done that and it ain’t any fun.

    1. ruby*

      That is a tough situation and I hope you are able to resolve it. I understand your reluctance/aversion about CC, but I think that it is unrealistic to expect to travel this much for business and not have one. it sounds like you have made a good deal of progress from the mistakes that led to your financial problems and if you look at the CC as a work necessity, maybe it will make it easier to do. The CC will give you built in float that will help with the lag time for payment. If you can get one, I think that is the most feasible option long term. And as you likely know, your credit rating needs to get re-built and paying off a CC each month will help with that.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. If the company won’t go for the suggestion I made below, I think you need to get a credit card. The rate won’t be great, but someone out there WILL give you a card. I know, I went through bankruptcy myself. You just have to make sure you use it only for your business expenses and when the reimbursement check comes in, it goes right back to the card. No saving aside a little cash “just in case.” That will get you back into a hole.

      2. Ashley*

        ITA with Ruby. I see why you are gun shy about getting a credit card, but I trvaled 75% of the time and trying to do it with a debit card would have been disastrous.

        1. Car rental agencies and hotels will often put a hold on money in the amount of TWICE your anticpated costs to make sure they are paid. On a credit card this can mean denied charges, but on a debit? Bouncing checks all over town even though you HAVE the money.

        2. The amount of times these places screw up and overcharge is insane. Again, this is coming out of your personal finances and can take weeks or months to straighten out and during that time you are out that money.

        3. It is NEVER a good idea to pay for things online (or even on the phone) with a debit card. Again, this gives everyone with your debit card number a direct line to your bank account. Yes, there are still consumer protections in place, but until the problem is resolved you are out your money.

        1. Elizabeth*

          Some car rental places will not rent you a car at all without a credit card (or maybe a big, big cash deposit). I had to help out a friend last year by giving the rental car company my credit card number so he could rent a car, as he only had a debit. They didn’t charge my card, and wouldn’t have unless my friend hadn’t paid upon returning the car, but they had to have it as insurance against someone racking up more funds than they could afford with no credit.

          1. Orig Poster*

            Not to be rude, Elizabeth, but the myth that car companies will not rent to you without a credit card is just that: a myth. According to a 2008 survey of 45 locations of 9 major car rental companies by credit cards dot com, all 45 took debit cards. Yes, they put a hold on your account for the expected rental costs of the vehicle, but you were going to use that money to pay them anyway so that is a non issue.

          2. LaPreghiera*

            In my experience traveling with only a debit card most rental car places hold about $200 for incidentals on your account until you return the car, but it usually takes a day or 2 for them to release the funds while they inspect the car for damages. They are more apt to rent to you at the airport cause they assume you’ll definitely be returning the car to catch your returning flight. If one company won’t rent to you another one will but I would pre-book online even if the same day so they can’t turn you down at the counter unless they want to give you your money back and lose a customer…
            Booking hotels online, they only charge the total rate of the room, and several times when I got to the hotel they didn’t ask for my debit card to cover incidentals. Now, I’m sure they may already had it on file, but when I did hand my debit I never noticed a freeze on my account.
            But if the freezes and bounced checks back home concern you, here is an idea: Get a prepaid Visa/Mastercard or PayPal Visa/Mastercard and use that card to book travel/catch any freezes and kept your debit card free for just the gas, meals, etc. I suggest Paypal more so, cause you can just have left over funds returned to your bank account once the business trip is over, or transfer more funds if unexpected travel changes, then reload if before the next trip. And with that I would open a separate savings account to link the paypal to just for your travel so it doesn’t interfere with the regular family finances.
            But this is just a time to knuckle up, hustle, be creative, and still get the job done. In a few years be able to look back on these days and be thankful you made it.

        2. Orig Poster*

          About #3, I presume that you do not buy anything online with a credit card either? The Visa debit card has just as much protection as a credit card, according to Visa’s own website. You are not liable for any fraudulent charges on your debit card if it’s lost or stolen. And the procedure to get the funds back usually takes about 5 minutes with your bank. One caveat about the debit one is that if they suspect fraudulent activity, they freeze your debit card till you call them. THAT is embarrassing when you are in a grocery store and you cannot get $45 food with your family there and it turns out they froze the account because your wife bought $2 worth of pictures online through a deal they found. Bank rep asked me to hand the phone to the store manager and she apologized to him telling him it was their mistake and I did actually have the money. Did I tell y’all that I love my credit union?

          1. Ashley*

            Original Poster, you asked for advice and I have traveled extensively for a company that handled credit cards and reimbursements in the same way as the one for whom you are working. I attempted with my points to give you the benefit of my experience, but now I feel like you are being argumentative.

            I commend you for working through your bankruptcy situation and I know Dave Ramsey advocates no credit of any kind, but I feel it is unrealistic to try to travel for weeks at a time without one. I have stayed at hotels that put a hold on thousands of dollars worth of funds for several weeks on my American Express. If that had been a debit card, I would not have been able to pay my mortgage.

            In this case, having a credit card might be the solution to more credit rating problems (paying bills late.) You obviously don’t agree despite any evidence I might offer.

            1. Orig Poster*

              No, I am just saying that being afraid to purchase with a debit card online does not make financial sense. The visa protections are afforded the cards. So that means your bank will fix it if someone does a bogus charge just like they will if you get a bogus charge on your credit card. Not only that, if the charge comes on your debit card, you will see it a heck of a lot sooner than you will waiting for a statement at the end of the month from the credit card company.

              I do question the questionable myth that you MUST have a credit card to rent a car because I have 4 years of anecdotal evidence of that not being the case. Without fail, when I have had to rent a car, I have been able to use my debit card to rent it with them placing a hold for the amount of the rental. Does that guarantee that will always be the case, no. But to use the argument that you cannot rent with a debit has not shown true in my case. As I stated below, I did apply for a capital one, and will grudgingly carry it for emergencies but think that I will do the secured card at my credit union that is tied to my savings account as my primary means. That way I will reap the ‘benefits’ of a credit card (the raising of my “I love debt” score, and the month and a half to pay it off) without the negatives of not knowing I have the money to pay it off each month.

              I learned something from my bankruptcy: I do not want to go through it again and will take steps to keep from going there. One of those steps was changing to cash. Cash means I can afford it. It also forces discipline. A lot of the guys eat like kings on travel because they do not pay for it. Until I build up enough cash to cover it, I do not plan on following their lead.

    2. Kim Stiens*

      I wish I had a 2002 Exploder!

      LOL, I totally see how this is an iffy position. Taking money from your 401K could be a really bad idea… I know that you get screwed with fees for removing early….

      Basically, I think you just need to make a choice. But you should make it about the company, not about the money. You’ve worked for them before, and you seem to indicate that you don’t think they’re intentionally screwing you over. Do you want to work for this company for the next 20 years? If so, it might be worth pulling funds from your 401k. If not, job searching now might be better than job searching 3 months from now if your funds come up short when you need to travel. But your decision should be based on whether this company is worth it to you.

      Though I’m baffled by this AMEX stuff. Our (small) company has company Amex’s in employees names, and we don’t even have to immediately give them an SSN or birth date for the EE to have them issue a card… ie, there’s no way that under our setup, they’re even running credit checks. Is this not common?

      1. Orig Poster*

        If your company does not have to give SSN, then you are adding as an authorized user. That is a possibility, but not for my company they do not add authorized users to their cards.

        It would not be a withdraw from my 401K, it would be a loan from it. Basically I would be loaning myself money at X% interest for a period of time and they automatically deduct the amount from each paycheck. The down side is the 401K is not investing that money during that time (OK, since the interest is going back in my account it could be argued that I am drawing a ROR of that percent, but since my 401K is doing VERY well (over 12% this year) I really hate that idea. I am financing my company at the harm to my retirement.

          1. Orig Poster*

            Seriously!!!! You want to take investment advice from the guy who went bankrupt?!?!? LOL

            A lot of my 401K is invested aggressively. I figure I will never be able to retire unless I take that approach. I am in my mid 40’s so still have time for the investments to recover. I looked at the historical 10 yr and used that for my basis of choices. I did not do too bad last year, only losing 8.6% when most of my friends were in double digit loses. Since our company matched dollar for dollar until the end of the last year, I figure that I made a pretty good return. This year they match dollar for 2 dollars so my choices have to be a little better to cover the growth that I want.

            1. fposte*

              It’s kind of interesting–it sounds like you’re a person who’s inherently pretty risk tolerant and then, in the last few years, had a big risk blow up in your face and you’ve changed that area of risk tolerance a lot. But it still sounds like this is a risk-tolerant-type job overall, and I’m thinking that even if you solve this problem with the company, you may need to find a way to approach the job that doesn’t expose you to all of uncertainty that seems to want to be a part of it.

              I guess what I’m really saying is it sounds to me like this may not be such a great fit for you any more, and I hope you’re not letting your anxiety about finances drive you into devoting your life to a hard and stressful career that you don’t actually enjoy.

              1. Orig Poster*

                Generally risk tolerant, yes. I lost everything but my family back in 2008. The way I look at my 401K is that since I still have 20 years, then I have to bust my tail making up for lost time. And I have to look at historical rates of return to make as much as possible. If I lose all of the 401K, then I lose nothing because I had nothing to retire on after my meltdown.

                I really do love my profession. I just do not like the politics of the job. If I had the guts for a true risk, I would go out on my own. For about the amount they are asking me to front, I could purchase the equipment that I would need. But the thought of my children moves me to inaction.

              2. fposte*

                That makes sense; it sounds more like a situation where the job is fine once you get through the admin, and those are pretty common.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      You should be very proud of yourselves for paying off your cars, building an emergency fund, AND not getting back into debt. Not a lot of people can say that.

    4. Anonymous*

      I would approach my manager.

      “I need some advice on how to handle this. I’m really excited with this new position, but I don’t have the cash to pay for all my travel up front. What should I do?”

      From what’s been said, I understand that the HR manager has told you it’s the company way or no way. Has your own manager told you that there are no other options other than you to hit the street? Be blunt and direct (but not impolite).

      There are *always* exceptions to the rules.

      I’m sure there is some way to get a guaranteed credit card. Traveling without a credit card is going to be extremely difficult. What happens if you need to rent a car? Good luck putting cash down for one.

      If the issue is that you don’t trust yourself with a credit card, I would look for another line of work *and* figure out what I could do in order to trust myself.


      1. Orig Poster*


        1) if I had to rent a car, I would use Budget. Have done it in the past with my check card.

        2) if I had to rent a car, there are much bigger problems: our company supports a transportation company!

        3) Great to hear that you are so perfect that you do not have any bad habits that you choose to stay away from because you were unable to handle them. Would you tell an alcoholic to figure out how to trust themselves with having a drink for social reasons? I have found a way to trust myself, it is called paying cash!

        1. Orig Poster*

          I am sorry all that #3 was rude of me. I understand that I put myself in this mess. But the job that I do has nothing to do with money. I am considered as one of the best at what I do and that is why the company sought me out when they heard that I was not happy in the last position. This position is very much in line with what I did for 20 years. The ONLY reason that travel is an issue is because our client is SO BIG that we will be spending two weeks at a time on the road. When we come back, another group goes on the road for the rest of the month to support the project. All that is involved in the expense is the plane there, food and hotel. We work a 14 hr day for two weeks straight and then come home and work 2 wks of 8 hr day/ 5 day week. After my trip in the field, I will be putting about $200 or more per pay period into an account for this purpose. After a year the account should have $5000 without the original money.

          1. Anonymous*

            Apology accepted. I, too, apologize for any offense my post caused you. My intent wasn’t to offend.

            What happens on your first day there when you need to book a flight back immediately and pay through the nose for a ticket? Even if you choose to pay cash for all but emergencies, it would be useful to have a way of deferring payment for a true emergency. That’s what I was (unsuccessfully) trying to convey.


          2. Richard*

            If you’re truly so good at what you do, I’m going to echo the suggestion of approaching management. If your options are to be approved for Amex or be fired, I’m fairly certain that they will pull whatever strings are necessary and give a kick up the backside to whoever needs it to keep you on.

    5. khilde*

      OP – I can’t commend you enough for taking responsibility, righting your course, and sticking to it!! That doesn’t seem to be a celebrated quality in our culture these days, so it’s awesome to know it exists! My husband and I tried to pay in cash in the past. I liked the idea of it and we actually spent WAY less than using plastic, but it takes some serious logistics and dedicated to keep it organized. And since I’m not very disciplined in keeping track of things, we kind of fizzled out. I don’t think many people realize how hard that actually is!!! Way to go!

      I’m trying to think through some of the things I’ve heard Dave Ramsey talk about and a few things come to mind (though I’m sure you’ve already considered these):

      — can you sell anything? In my (admittedly small) town, an “online garage sale” has popped up on Facebook and people I know are making some serious money on it. They are selling their goods for more than you’d make at an actual rummage sale, but it’s a little more personal (and no shipping) than selling on e-bay. Even so – ebay is probably a good option? If you cobble enough goods together, you might be surprised how quickly you can wrack up some $$?

      — does your lifestyle/schedule allow you to take on a small part time job in the evenings? Dave always talks about getting a pizza delivery job. It wouldn’t have to be permanent. Just enough to make the money. I know that might require some time to build up the funds, though.

      — do you have a skill that you could market in the short term to bring in some cash? Like are you a handyman? Or……well, that’s the only one I could think of, but I’m sure there are more skills that could bring in some cash.

      Good luck. You are in a tough position. I do hope it all works out for you. Oh! You should call into Dave Ramsey and see what he says!?

    6. mishsmom*

      there is no shame in making mistakes… we learn, we move on, and it sounds like you did. i bet your wife respects you more today than ever…

  12. The Other Dawn*

    Where does the employer bank? My suggestion would be to ask that a debit card be issued in your name that is attached to the employer’s bank account. Or they can open a checking account specifically for this and fund it monthly based on your anticipated expenses. That’s what my company does. Works like a charm. Just make sure the debit card has high enough PIN and signature limits to accommodate the purchase of an airline ticket.

  13. AGirlNamedMe*

    Don’t take a loan on your 401k. Not only will it take weeks to get the money, it’s not a good financial decision for you and your family – in fact, it’s much worse than getting a credit card.

    Secured card is the way to go if you can do it. You deposit the cash and can use up ho that amount to “charge ” on the card. You will also be rebuilding your credit at the same time. Eventually, the amount of your deposit to this account can be returned to you.

    I find it hard to understand why the company won’t advance the daily expenses and then find someone else with a company card to charge the hotel, car, and flight. I have done this frequently with employees and it works out just fine.

    If the company really will not be d on is, maybe you can ask a friend or relative for a little help. When I had rough time financially, the help of family pulled me through.

    And, finally, American Express will eventually forgive you. I included them on my bankruptcy about 20 years ago and have had a card with them for at least 10 years now. I’m telling you this part to show you that there is nothing wrong with filing bk when you must…..and, more importantly, it is possible to recover well from it.

    Sorry employer is being bad about this. Policies can be bent, they aren’t written in stone.

    1. Kim Stiens*

      The problem with a secured card is the OP’s original problem… you need to be able to deposit the full amount of your proposed credit limit with a secured card. He doesn’t have it. It sounds like he could get a secured card for about $1000 when he needs one for about $5000. A secured card is not a solution for the OP, at least in the short term.

      I also assume that if OP had family or friends he could go to for $5 Grand (And, I mean, I’ve got like 50 friends who can afford to float me that much for a couple months…. need sarcasm font), he would have. I assume that this job is a big enough salary bump that he could recoup those 401k losses over time.

      I think that the calculus is really whether losing the fees associated with pulling from your 401k is worth staying with the company. And that’s a very personal decision that I don’t think any of us can make for you. Sorry, dude. :) What an awful situation… I wouldn’t want to work for these guys, but if they are otherwise awesome, or the job is particularly stellar, then that changes things.

  14. sr*

    Even the most rigid of companies (including the US government) can issue an advance. They know the expenses are coming, so you estimate, they deposit it to an account, and bingo you can float your travel costs indefinitely. The trick is to know who and how to ask, and where to ‘squeak the wheel’. Hell, if I was able to get a travel advance as an unpaid intern with the USG, you should be able to from your company.

  15. Wilton Businessman*

    One option may be a pre-paid credit card. Of course, that would would mean you would have to put the money up front and then draw on it.

    Anther option might be a secured card. But there again, you’d have to put the money up to secure the card and then keep up with the bills. Credit unions are usually best at issuing these types of cards, but I don’t know if you’re going to be able to get $2500 worth. Plus you’d have to have the money to secure whatever limit you had, so if you’re operating on $1000 savings, this isn’t really going to be an option.

    Most companies I have worked for PREFER to have travel expenses and hotels direct billed to them. Maybe ask if that is an option and then you would just have to cover the day-to-day expenses. Not great if you don’t have any credit, but might lighten the load.

    In addition, any company I’ve worked for that issued a “corporate” card, the card and the bills are still in your name. I’ve never worked (or even heard of) at a company where the credit card bill went directly to the company and they paid it.

    1. Kim Stiens*

      Re: company credit cards. Our company has two credit card accounts, which draw on two different limits. We can issue cards from those accounts to employees, in the employee’s name, and the bill comes to us (the company) each month. Employees never see a bill. And as I mentioned, they don’t even necessarily need the EE’s DOB or SSN right away (though they do get a bit cranky if you don’t eventually provide it). I can’t understand the logic of having a company credit card where the bill still goes to the employees, and am baffled by the idea that that is apparently the norm?

    2. KayDay*

      Our company credit card is billed directly to the company. Same with my last org. Employees just need to provide the receipts for all purchases made each month. (Of course, we are pretty small, so it’s not that hard to review all expenses). I know of one person who had a situation similar to Wilton’s but she worked for a (relatively) large consulting firm.

  16. Mike D.*

    Personally I would quit. That may not be the answer you were looking for but I would look for a new job immediately and quit this one. They were not open with you when you first took the job. There’s a very big difference between being issued a company credit card, and being asked to get your own card that you pay on and then they pay you back. Especially since you explained your situation during the interview process. This seems unprofessional on their part. You were open with them but now because of their policies and lack of clarification you’re stuck.

    I’ve always found it insulting when companies expect this from their employees. I’m your employee not your bank. I can understand it for small things that occur on the trip like food, but for major pre planed expenses like hotel and transportation I see no reason why the company can’t pay for those up front. They’re going to be paying for them anyway. How would they react if you went in there and asked for your next paycheck a week early? They probably wouldn’t be open for that, but there’s not much of a difference. I’m no more their bank than they are mine.

    Off topic but I commend you on sticking with cash only after a bankruptcy. Too many people get credit cards right after because they’re so worried about building their credit. I’m a big fan of Dave Ramsey who advocates the cash/debit card only lifestyle. Good luck.

    1. Orig Poster*

      Dave Ramsey is the reason that I have stuck with it. I wish I had read or heard from him BEFORE the BK, but such is life. Those who have not been through one do not know the hell it is. They see that you got all these debts erased but not the humiliation that you feel because you are a deadbeat in your own mind.

      As for using the debit card, most are branded as visa or MC these days, and when run as those they will not show a difference between those and the regular CC for the hotel you are going to. I have used it for short trips lots of times these past 5 years. And they only difference was that I did not have local phone service if I refused to authorize a $100 hold for that. I have a cell phone, I do not plan on using a phone at the local hotel.

      My greatest concern with a secured is can I get one. At least that way my credit union will give me interest for the money. And as I said, if I hit the road I will be able to stockpile money. That is why I took the position: Two weeks out in the field every month will increase my salary by 50%.

      As for quitting, I have my resume out there. I took this position because I was not happy what I was doing at the company. This is just the latest in a string of problems I have had with this shift in position going through. My biggest problem is that the industry that I was in for so long has been slaughtered by this economy and may never recover. After two decades in this industry, I really do not know if I am even qualified to work in any other.

      1. Andrea*

        If your salary is going to be increased by that much with this job, then yeah, I might go ahead and do the loan on the 401(k), pay that off while stockpiling a cushion for emergencies and ongoing business travel, and then get a credit card to use only for work. It your salary is going to increase by that much, I’m assuming (hoping, anyway), that you could pay off the loan fairly quickly, which would help you build up your credit.

  17. Deborah Andrew*

    See what kind of loans your credit union can work for you. They may have a small unsecured loan that they can approve you for, even with the bankruptcy because of the other money you have deposited with them.

    The credit union for which I used to work had a small “signature” loan that members could get approved for and then at anytime come in and add up to the amount of the loan added back into it.

    Example: $5000 was originally loaned, monthly payment were set up at time of approval. Monthly payments allow you to pay the amount down to $500. An emergency arises and you need $1000. You would come in, do a loan add on and walk out with the $1000 dollars. Your balance is now $1500. Your monthly payment would come out like normal.

    It could work in this situation because once you received the reimbursement from your company you can use that money to pay the balance of the loan down. There may be interest accrued but depending on the percent it may not be much.

    Not an ideal situation, but it would allow you to float the amount until your company paid you back.

    My luck to you on this very tough situation.

    1. Jess Mohr*

      I agree here. Our Credit Union does short term loans up to $5K, and the payments are drafted right out of our paychecks. We have 2 pay periods each month, so 1/2 comes out of each pay check. This has worked out great for me in the past with small things I needed to have done (car repairs) and it also built my credit rating. Definitely check into this option.

  18. Andrea*

    I was going to suggest a secured credit card–many smaller banks and credit unions have them–but you mentioned that already, as did others. Look into it, but I’m not sure they’ll let you do one that is that high. However, if you got a secured card with your bank and managed it well, they might then offer you an unsecured card. I know that doesn’t help you now. I’m sorry, though. This is a crappy situation. It is total bullshit that any employee should have to front that kind of money for a company. And for most people I know, fronting that kind of money every month would indeed be a hardship. I can’t believe that you are the only employee in that situation.

    My husband and I pay for everything in cash (well, except our mortgage), and we have only one credit card with a limit of $500, which we have purposely kept low and which we pay off every month. He sometimes has minimal travel expenses–a few hundred every 5-6 weeks–and he uses the card for that. But really, our credit card is supposed to be for emergencies and the like–for US, not his company. (We are fortunate enough to have a large savings cushion, though, so it’s okay.) Anyway, since we don’t really use credit and since we just bought the house just over a year ago, he was actually turned down when he applied for a second credit card. We had thought that it would be best to have a separate one for him to use for work stuff only, but apparently, people who rarely use credit and have minimal credit history–and healthy salaries–are deemed a credit risk. (More likely, credit card companies know that they won’t make enough money off of us.) I point this because you should be congratulated for doing so well these past few years, and because I think it might help you to know that even people who have been fortunate to be able to live without credit are penalized under this deeply broken system.

    I am sure that there are cards out there that you could get to help you re-establish good credit, and I would suggest getting one at some point because you never know when you might need it. I bet you can find detailed ratings of them online to help guide you. In the meantime, I’m really disgusted with your company.

  19. Verde*

    What about a pre-paid card? I work at a non-profit and we use those for our staff when they travel and for departmental purchasing. It’s a lot easier than getting credit cards for everyone on the company account, we use cash instead of credit, and they can be shut down in about 30 seconds if anything weird is going on,

    The company could easily fund it on your behalf, as they’re going to be reimbursing you anyhow for whatever you spend on the travel. Then you have the funds up front, no credit involved, and you just turn in your receipts at the end of the trip and they can see what you spent and what’s left.

    If you want to email me, I’m happy to send you some links.

  20. Amy*

    Hi OP, I have a few ideas. Can you get a friend or family member to co-sign to help you get a credit card? One with low interest may be good…I know you have been “off credit” for a while but it might be a good thing this time around. Or, Can you register for a class or two at a community college? Maybe you could apply for grants or (god forbid) loans….but if you have a co-signer for the school situatiomn (Sallie Mae is where I got my school loans) and they give you the rest back in a check. I have used left over money to pay rent, buy new tires etc. It’s yours, just have to pay it back- plus an online class still counts and its at your convenience. Maybe your wife could take a class, get a co-signer and she could give you the money from the check? If not, I feel for you. I suggest keep looking for a new job/career, something else always comes up when you least expect it! Keep it positive. :)

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I know absolutely nothing about grants and how they work, but to apply for a grant that’s supposed to be for school, isn’t that scamming the system? I’m not trying to be an ass. I truly know nothing about how grants work so that’s why I’m asking.

      1. Suz*

        You’re correct. It’s not ethical and it the school or lender ever found out about it, you’d have to repay the money immediately. Amy’s situation was different because you are allowed to use student loans for basic living expenses. New tires probably don’t qualify though.

        1. Laura*

          The other problem with the educational loan idea is that generally federal loans require students to be full-time (12 credit hours). That’s a heavy load for working full-time too.

    2. Another Anon*

      It doesn’t even matter if it’s low interest if it’s paid off every month. I think the OP said he never wanted to do debt again.

  21. Amy*

    it is not scamming. i work hard and I am a student. the LOAN is to help you pay your bills, books/supplies costs, food, whatever. This guy might benefit from taking an online class and then paying back a little loan. I just got one for 6 grand. I paid my class, while taking my class I work part-time but not enough to live off of. It’s how things work. I know almost every student does it, that’s why they are student loans. :) Now I have money incase something happens to my car, or if I need an emergency fund.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Actually, I was asking about grants, not student loans. I was under the impression that grants don’t have to be paid back. Is that not the case?

      1. Nichole*

        Yes, grants do not have to be paid back if the student meets their obligations to the school (attending and passing classes mostly), but loans have to be paid back regardless and can usually be deferred if the student is meeting his or her obligations. Based on the OP’s statements about the line of work, though, I suspect grants may not be an option because of a previous degree. From what I understand, you’re usually not eligible for grants if you have a degree, but may be eligible for loans or other aid like work study jobs.

    2. Katya*

      That’s great but you are a student in school so your use of the money is appropriate, this person is not so the situation is totally different.

    3. Liz in a Library*

      Yes, that is exactly what the loan is for. However, travel unrelated to school expenses is probably not going to be a qualified educational expense.

      Per Sallie Mae: “Your student loan is part of your financial aid package and is to be used to cover the cost of attending your school including tuition, fees, books, housing, meals and other costs related to attending your school. You may not use federal financial aid to pay for bills unrelated to attending college.”

  22. Suz*

    OP, I’d be really leery of taking out a secured loan, loan against your 401k or anything like that. You mentioned your industry has been hit hard by the recession/depression. If the company starts having financial difficulties and doesn’t reimburse you, you’re screwed.

    You’ll be incurring these expenses on the company’s behalf. They should either be billed directly for your expenses or give you an advance. I agree with what Mike D said above. You’re not their bank so they shouldn’t expect you to act like you are.

    1. Liz in a Library*

      I agree, particularly in regards to the 401k loan. If you end up unable to repay in time, for whatever reason, you will owe additional taxes and fees that could be painful.

  23. Another Emily*

    I really feel for you OP, what a tough situation. It stinks that your company was so dishonest. I’m glad you have your resume out there, best of luck in your search. (I don’t know what industry you’re in but I don’t think you should pigeonhole yourself. Maybe you have transferrable skills to other industries.)
    For the current situation, a secured credit card was mentioned earlier, and that sounds like the best option to me. I know you hate the idea of having a credit card, but you’ve been very strict with your budget and I think this type of credit card could fit in to that. They typically have low limits (the only downside, it might be too low for your needs) and you put up 1/4, 1/2 or all the limit in cash once, depending on what AMEX decides. This could be a good option if you put up say $1000 and have a $3000 limit. When the card is cancelled and its balance paid off you get your deposit back. I’d look in to that if I were you.
    You can pay its balance off every month so while you would be using credit, you would not be carrying a balance.

    1. Another Emily*

      Also maybe it doesn’t have to be an AMEX card. I don’t see why your company cares since it’s your personal credit card. So look at all your options.

  24. Anonymous*

    I know you said you’ve been off CCs for a while and don’t want to go back, but if you were willing to sign up for and get a company AMEX in your name, why not find a bank to issue you a regular unsecured personal CC. You won’t get all the best terms with the BK in your history but with 4 weeks per billing cycle plus a typical 3 weeks from the statement to the due date, it buys you plenty of time to get reimbursed. Only carry the card when you are on travel (basically use it just like it was the company card), pay it off as soon as you get reimbursed and keep building up your cash cushion with your extra money from travel.

    After a few trips when you have a large enough cash cushion, you can cancel the card and be back on your cash only plan. Its a tough situation, but between having to have a CC for a few months or being out of a job, I’d take the CC then save as much as possible to get back on the cash plan.

    1. Liz in a Library*

      Plus, to be frank, there are banks for whom customers with recent bankruptcies are incredibly desirable, because of the fact that there is a limit on how frequently you can declare bankruptcy (so they know you’ll be on the hook for it, versus other customers who are unknown).

      I know you don’t really want to go back to CC’s (and don’t blame you!), but could you get one with *just* enough limit to cover your travel in a single cycle? It would be difficult for you to abuse it, which seems to be your (reasonable) fear.

  25. EngineerGirl*

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned this but…
    OP, you fully disclosed your bankruptcy to the hiring manager. They told you that they would cover the card. You accepted the position based on this. In many states, that is a contract.

    I would go again to your boss and HR and remind them of their agreement. Yes, your boss didn’t check with HR. But that doesn’t relieve them of the obligation of their promise. HR is going to tell you it is against company policy. Keep reminding them that it was a condition of hire. Tell them you are willing to work with them on this, but you were made a promise as a condition of hire. If you lose your job because if this issue, it could be considered a breach of contract.

    Don’t take a loan out on your 401k. If you do lose your job (or take a new one) you are obligated to repay it immediately.

    1. Orig Poster*

      True, I would have to repay it within 60 days. But if they reimburse like they say they will (and yes with the track record on this whole thing I have SERIOUS reservations about that actually happening), then I would have the amount less any interest. IF this were to happen after a payment or two was paid by me, the interest would have been covered and should be able to pay with those funds.

      Yes, I believe it is an oral contract too, but seeing as how they promised me the new salary at the first of the year and here it is past the middle of Feb without the raise going into effect, I do not put a whole lot of faith in their word. Right now they are sitting with hundreds of dollars of my money which are supposed to be on the next check. I think that is what makes me most worried. I do not trust them to get my money to me in the two week window. And while $2500 seems doable, fronting them $5k just seems impossible.

      1. Daisy*

        I’m sorry, but I’m rather sickened by this “martyr” angle you’re taking. If it’s an “oral contract,” good luck on ever collecting your money. If you believe you actually have a chance at collecting this alleged raise, then email your boss, cc: HR and accounting, and I’m sure something would be done to rectify the situation (in fact, this has worked for me in the past). If not, I would suggest that you part ways with this company because why would you want to be a member of a company that doesn’t keep its word? Or perhaps you can find a non-traveling position within the company or be demoted to a position that doesn’t require relying on your personal cash for travel.

        Basically, it seems to boil down to the fact that you believe this company to be the big bad wolf to your little red riding hood. If it’s really that terrible, then why stay? I understand that you may need money to support your family, but having been in the same situation, sometimes resigning and putting yourself on the line to find a new career may be the best solution to jump start a career search and get you a job that better fits your needs.

        Finally, I find it hard to believe that the company couldn’t either advance you the money or put the travel charges on another employee’s card. I have actually experienced both situations, both in large and small, personal companies, and don’t understand why this is not a feasible option, unless your company is truly that rigid (if so, why would you want to work there???), or perhaps, they are trying to push you out under not-so-comfortable circumstances. I WANT to feel sympathy for you but frankly, I feel like your original post and all responses have been ripe with a “WOE IS ME” mentality and contain little description of what you have actually tried to make your situation work. Above all, I hope that no one gives you a hand out in this situation because it’s clearly not what you need, based on your lack of remorse or resourcefulness expressed here, and you may have not learned your lesson from your BK.

        1. Orig Poster*

          Daisy, may it be with you one day!

          Thanks for your words of support! FYI, I have the documentation on the raise in emails from the past three paychecks that did not have the raise. I just do not want to turn them in to DOL.

          And why do I NOT QUIT! Because right now a shitty job is better than no job. A shitty job puts a roof over my kids head, no job puts no food in their stomachs.

          You are a jerk!

          1. Anonymous*

            Remember, there’s one in every crowd. If they aren’t a part of the solution, then they are a part of the problem.

            Hang in there. I hope someone has the answer that will help you. I know I don’t as I do not have a position that travels.

            Best of luck to you and yours.

        2. Daisy*

          Actually, pardon my passive-aggressiveness in the previous post: I’m actually not “sorry “that I feel sickened by this situation, it’s just what I honestly feel.

          As for how to get seed money, which I realize my comment actually never suggested, perhaps your wife could work a part time job to contribute towards your household income (if she is not already employed), or you all could consider cutting household expenses to be able to add money to your “seed” fund, including: cutting down on coffee; cutting down on junk food/eating out; cutting down on driving; eliminating ownership of vehicles (should you own or lease more than one); moving to a domicile with a smaller rent/mortgage; moving to a nearby city with a lower COL; eliminating your need for cell phones, cable, internet at home; or otherwise finding ways to cut costs by lowering your standards of living. Tough times call for tough measures and I’m sure you and your family will make it out more functional, resourceful and whole, as a result. Good luck!

          1. Anonymous*

            Daisy, the OP is a David Ramsey fan. I’m sure he already considered all his cost saving options.

            OP, with the economy the way it is, I’ve heard of many responsible people being tossed into bankruptsy. I hope you come out of this and into a healthy and happy new job, whether it is this one or another.

        3. Pamela G*

          “Above all, I hope that no one gives you a hand out in this situation because it’s clearly not what you need, based on your lack of remorse or resourcefulness expressed here, and you may have not learned your lesson from your BK.”

          Wow, how did you possibly read a lack of remorse into the OP’s comments? Here’s a few snippets you might have missed:
          “I judge myself far harder than any of you can for this. My personal meltdown is not the company’s problem. It is mine.” and “As I stated, I made some STUPID mistakes that caused us to have to file BK. I failed my wife and my family. And I do not want to put them in that position a second time.”
          To me, that sounds like someone who accepts responsibility for his mistakes and accepts that the BK is a problem which will continue to make life tough for him, but acknowledges that it’s his problem.

          1. Anonymous*


            Let alone how it does not comply with Ms. Green’s request for all respect comments towards the OP.

            Daisy’s vitriol totally overtook any sort of help she put in that post. And to add salt to the wound, she then wrote a post on how the OP should take charge of his life, but from everything I gathered, he took home a huge lesson from the bankruptcy and is doing all he can to avoid it again. He needs advice on how to approach his company on a sensitive subject the appropriate way, not a chastising comment from someone he doesn’t know. And while the comments seem to be mixed in the what to do vs. what not to do, those are much more productive than anything Daisy wrote.

            If a commenter is not a part of the solution…

  26. KayDay*

    That is a silly way to do travel…I work at a non-profit, so we are pretty sympathetic with employees not wanting to spend a lot of their own money on travel (as our salaries are not that high). This is what we do when a employee without a credit card travels:
    – flights are always booked in advance through the company’s main credit card. Our travel agent has this number on file and books all travel on it. If flights are booked directly through the airline, the CEO’s assistant processes the booking.
    – if possible, the hotel is booked in advance, on the main company card. The hotel then has the CEO’s exec assistant process a authorization to bill the card directly.
    – a small travel (cash) advance is given to the employee, at 75% of expected expenses. If the hotel cannot be charged to the main corporate card, we give them 100% of expected hotel costs. The advance is not related to payroll in any way.
    – when the employee returns, they fill out a travel report with receipts for all expenses. The advance is subtracted from the total expenses, and the employee is reimbursed for the difference (or reimburses the company if the advance covered more than was spent). easy-peasy.

  27. Anonymous*

    At the risk of sounding like a pessimist – maybe this isn’t the right time for you to make this kind of move. I would probably see what other positions are available in the company that don’t require travel. As you mentioned, travel can be without warning -so coming out of pocket and then waiting to be reimbursed can cause a great deal of anxiety. Is this really what you want to go through?

  28. Orig Poster*

    Daisy, your suggestions on how to save some money up are decent, several of those we have done already when my industry had the bottom drop out in 2008. But none of the, short of having a fire sale on the jeep, would take care of the problem at hand. And quite possibly I will look at selling it. As often as not I use the public transport to work now days as parking fees are so high in town. After the BK we became experts at beans and rice. I take pride in the fact that my family is making it on a salary that is about $10K less than I was making at the time of bankruptcy and that is with the income my wife brings in.

    I am so sorry that you think mine is a martyr complex. I may very well be a doormat for my company- as much as anything being such is what enabled us to get so far behind that bankruptcy was the only answer. Maybe you are right and I should take my cues from you and act to my company the way you have acted to me here.

    1. Piper*

      Yeah, I can’t see how giving up your morning coffee or a $10 lunch is going to help you meet this immediate need. Those are the kinds of things that you may see a difference with over a long period of time, but it’s not going to help you today.

      Hang in there, OP!

  29. american_banshee*

    Remember: If you use a debit card (with a Visa or MasterCard logo on it) to rent a car, they run a credit check on you. If you use a credit card (not a debit card), there is no credit check. I’m not sure how it works with secured or pay-as-you-go credit cards.

  30. Anonymous*

    I like this advice best, if this is a possibility. Sorry, I didn’t read all of the details. The situation with your company sucks.

    “””””I know you said you’ve been off CCs for a while and don’t want to go back, but if you were willing to sign up for and get a company AMEX in your name, why not find a bank to issue you a regular unsecured personal CC. You won’t get all the best terms with the BK in your history but with 4 weeks per billing cycle plus a typical 3 weeks from the statement to the due date, it buys you plenty of time to get reimbursed. Only carry the card when you are on travel (basically use it just like it was the company card), pay it off as soon as you get reimbursed …..”””””””””

    1. Bella*

      I agree. Another poster mentioned that, while you won’t be able to be choosy about the rate you get, someone will give you a credit card. Only use it for business travel, say no to any credit extensions and make sure to pay the balance in full each month.

      I try to pay in cash as much as possible, too, but when it comes to frequent travel, it’s not always possible. I have one credit card and it only gets used for travel and other work related expenses.

      1. Orig Poster*

        I have looked into it. Can get a capital one unsecured but with not much of a limit. That is understandable. The only things I have on my credit report as far as creditors are my student loans. I do not blame them for wanting to see what I will do before committing to any large amount. If my company pays me backpay they owe, and if I take the loan on the 401K, I can do the secured card route. Of four the question then is “Will my credit union give me a secure card?” Sorry if it sounds whiney, I just really do not know. For all the gains I have made in the last 4 years while the economy was going to pot, I still wonder why anyone would ever lend me money. And since everyone says that a check card visa just will not work, I really do not see any other option than to go that route, expect the worse and stockpile in my savings account like there is no tomorrow so that if I am forced to hit my own savings on this that I will be able to. Who knows, stockpile for a year or two, go with the cards (both a secured and unsecured) and maybe we will actually be able to buy a house again from someone with owner financing. I really did not think anything other than a camper as a house to call our own was ever going to be an option for us ever again.

  31. Wilton Businessman*

    Oh, one more possibility could be that you could become an authorized user on somebody else’s card.

  32. Evan the College Student*

    OP, you mentioned that your pay raise was supposed to be retroactive to January 1st, but it never came. If you got that back pay, would you have enough to set aside the seed money? If so, you might want to point that out to HR.

  33. Harry*

    Have the OP tried contacting American Express directly and briefly explain the situation? I will find it very surprising if they do not approve you for a say $3000 limit (which is nothing really) credit card if they have your company’s backing. If your company has a good record with AMEX, they should be more than happy to do business with you.

  34. Anonymous*

    From poster with advice to get the unsecured CC-

    I would go for the Capital One card you know you can get. Even with the small limit, if it covers you for the hotel or the car thats a huge amount of money you don’t need out of pocket up front to keep your job. Another thing I’ve done before was called the CC company and told them I work for “so and so” and am going on business travel soon that I need to pay out of pocket and get reimbursed, would it be possible to raise my limit to $X. Most of the CC representatives will be sympathetic and there is usually some amount they can raise the limit without having to do a credit check. Not sure if this would work on a brand new card but worth a try.

    Again, I don’t mean to break your cash only plan but it is a work-around to get you over the hump until you have the cash cushion built up and can get back on the plan (Dave Ramsey’s plan has gotten me down to only having mortgage and student loan debt so I can’t argue with its effectiveness).

    Also another thing I just thought of, if you travel on per diem for meals like my company does, that can be a huge way to save some extra money up quick. One of my first trips, I’d eat the hotel’s continental breakfast, grab a subway or similar lunch, then make pasta in the room for dinner. With per diem at $46 or higher most places in the country, that was about $40 extra a day in my savings account once I got reimbursed, it adds up fast.

  35. Fox*

    OP, I came to post to mention the possibility of getting a secured CC – now I see several others have done the same. I’m not sure how many banks you’ve talked to that offer this option, but I know BofA has several different secured and partially secured options – some with no deposit required. I would recommend going into a banking center to talk to someone, they’re usually extremely helpful and will go out of their way to do what they can. That’s been my experience, anyway. Whatever you decide to do, best of luck!!

  36. Anonymous*

    I am a manager at a large hospital. Two of my staff had an opportunity to attend a national conference. Corporate policy is to cover your expenses and be reimbursed. Neither staff member (young staffers) had a credit card to cover the expenditures. I simply added one of them to my own CC and the staffer reimbursed me when she received the corporate reimbursement. Perhaps OP’s manager could do the same? The AmEx Corporate is the way to go. I however did not know this at the time my staff needed to travel.

  37. EB*

    just wanted to comment on a possible solution – we got a line of credit from our credit union. Works kinda like a credit card but a way lower interest rate and we can transfer the money in between our accounts online and there is a interest rate break if we pay it off at the end of the month.

    Might be a good way to get credit of around $3000 without a credit card. Since the OP has expressed reservations about having a credit card in his name due to temptation, the line of credit could be placed in his wife’s name (with him as a cosigner) only so that there is accountability for spending.

  38. marty*

    Maybe I’m naive, but isn’t this pretty simple?

    If the company requires travel as part of my job…..the company pays -upfront.

    The idea that an employee has to pay out of his pocket upfront to do the company’s work, on the company’s time seems on it’s face wrong.
    I have no credit cards….is a company going to require I get one to do my job?

  39. Mz. Puppie*

    I’ve been BK myself and I understand how you feel about credit. You’ve been doing the right thing for yourself from your BK until now, but now your circumstances have changed, so “the right thing” has unfortunately changed.

    You’re right that AMEX considers you persona non grata until after that BK falls off your credit report in 2018, so forget them entirely. (Incidentally, so does Chase. Avoid.)

    But please go to your credit union, sit down with somebody, and lay out the entire situation. I’d lay odds 20:1 that they can help you in some way. They may be willing to give you a personal loan, which you can then use to fund a secured credit card. Or perhaps no to the loan, but yes to the secured card, which you could fund using a cash advance (if HR will agree to it), or else that 401k loan (last resort).

    You should not have any problems getting a secured credit card. After all, there is zero risk to the issuer — your credit line is equal to the cash you’ve already handed over. I promise you that you can get a secured credit card, if not with your credit union then elsewhere (I got mine from Orchard Bank online).

    As a bonus, using and being responsible with that secured credit card will improve your credit score, which is increasingly being used for employment decisions and for things like insurance rates. So it does benefit you to be improving your credit score even though you have no intention to go down that credit road again (except for this work travel).

    A good resource for you may be — I know they’ve done roundups before of the best secured credit cards before.

    I hope I’ve been helpful to you. Best of luck.

  40. Kristi*

    Hey OP, you’re not the first person in this situation nor will you be the last. One of my subordinates had a similar dilemma a while back. I paid for their expenses/travel until they received a corporate card. Wasn’t that big of a deal and I certainly don’t expect a subordinate to be financially overwhelmed as paying to work isn’t the point at all.

    OP just talk to your boss and sort it out.

  41. farida*

    I honestly don’t understand why no one here finds it illegal that an employee would have to pay company expenses up front. It should be illegal. It is an investment on the company’s behalf and should be paid for by the company in advance, anything which is not an incidental, hotel, flight, rental car should be booked by a company’s account. In the last 8 months I fronted 45,000$ for my company, and I now look at this as criminal, why am I pre-investing? I don’t even get bonuses. NO other employee has to do this but field employees, and field employees get no incentive in return. Sales commission is based on sales, not on paying your company’s expenses up front. Companies that don’t get this are disrespectful.

  42. farida*

    on another note, it is discrimination to lose your job if you can’ t pay company expenses. If it is obvious that your job description does not say you will lose your job due to lack of your own funds, and your job performance is not rated by your credit rating or lack of your own funds, then you can’t lose your job, no employer has the right to say if you can’t pay for us up front, we don’t want you. this has to become illegal.

  43. euro car*

    This is positively among the more fascinating sites I have seen.

    It’s so easy to get jaded, but there is honestly some great stuff out there, and I believe your blog is truly one of them!

    1. A. Dylan*

      I just read this post and the subsequent comments from top to bottom and I laughed out loud at this comment, euro car. Some of these comments were so grim and argumentative and weird and then, all of a sudden, it was like, “What a great, happy blog! Yay!” Man, what a difference four months can make!

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