can my company require me to put business travel on my own credit card?

A reader writes:

I have worked for my current employer for seven months. In September, there is an annual mandatory conference in another state. I was told about the conference soon after I took the job and have no problems with attending. Yesterday I got an email from the corporate office giving instructions on how to reserve the hotel room and flight. I am expected to put both on my personal credit card and get reimbursed.

In the past, it has taken over a month to get reimbursed for other expenses. I have traveled for other employers and have never been asked to pay for these types of expenses up-front. These expenses total over $1000 and it is a hardship for me to pay them.

I talked to my manager and told him I did not feel that this was reasonable. He agreed that it was a lot of money but did not offer to find another solution. Am I within my rights to let my manager know I will not be attending if the company cannot pay the expenses upfront? This organization is a profitable, publicly-held company and I feel that I am advancing them money by paying these expenses myself.

Sure, you’d be within your rights, but they’d also be within their rights to let you know that it’s a requirement.

But you’re approaching this wrong. There’s no need to start out so adversarially. Instead, go back to your manager and avoid the issue of whether it’s reasonable or not. Instead, say: “I really want to attend this conference, but I’m not in a position to be able to put it on a personal credit card. What can I do?”

If he’s unhelpful, suggest options yourself: Can it be charged to a corporate card? Can he put your hotel and flight on his card? Can someone in HR help?

If he says no to all of this, say, “I really want to attend this conference, and I know it’s required. But I cannot charge this on my own card. I’m going to talk to HR and see if they can suggest any options for me.”

Then, do that. Have the same conversation with HR.

If the problem still isn’t solved, then you’ll need to go back to your boss and ask what will happen if you’re unable to attend the conference over this.

Now, stepping back, is this an unreasonable policy? Yes, absolutely. Companies shouldn’t ask employees to front them the money for business expenses (which is essentially what this is), but handling things this way is very common nonetheless. Your company is doing something unwise and unfair, but it’s a common enough practice that your first step should be to try to work with your boss to find a resolution, rather than jut flatly telling him that you won’t be going.

Of course, if you run through all these options and none work, then flatly telling him that you can’t go might be your only option — but you shouldn’t start there.

{ 213 comments… read them below }

  1. Lisa

    I don’t qualify for credit due to defaulting on student loans years ago. I don’t have a credit card and some employees don’t have the ready cash to do this 1x let alone several times a month if the job calls for it.

    1. Me2

      Same here. I do not have a credit card due to debt issues from the past (that I am working on clearing up), so if I had to front a company money it would be coming out of my checking account immediately. No way could I afford that. Asking an employee to charge these expenses on their personal credit card is awful. There are many reasons why this may not be feasible for the employee.

      1. Lindsay J

        Same here, and I live pretty much paycheck to paycheck. I don’t have $1000 hanging around on short notice.

  2. Alicia

    I’ve had a similar issue recently – not being put in a position of conference attendance resting on charging these items to my credit card, but the same idea.

    I had just moved for my position and had a substantial relocation reimbursement coming in, but the money hadn’t arrived yet. My company then wanted me to have new software and they said I would just get reimbursed at the end of the month with the regular expenses. Well, because I was waiting for the relocation reimbursement, I didn’t have the room on my credit card to put the $500 software cost. I sent an email to my boss mentioning that I wasn’t able to charge that software at that time, and asked for a PO instead. He was happy to oblige, but I did feel like I didn’t have good control over my finances having to tell him that (which isn’t true – it was transitional period, they are generally always tight, especially when carrying my condo that won’t sell and the new apartment in a city 5 hours away). I also hated it because I know my co-worker puts everything (like many thousands of dollars per month) on his credit card so he can get cash back, however I am uneasy with that prospect.

    1. Meg

      Relocating to another city ALWAYS costs more money than you think it will, no matter how well-prepared you think you are. Also, while I’ve heard of putting up the cost of relocation and reimbursing employees after, doing the same thing for a software upgrade seems a little … I don’t know, just not okay.

      1. Jamie

        Moving just like dealing with contractors – take whatever you think it will cost and x 1.5 (or if you’re me – double it) and then consider anything under that a win.

        I’ve moved a million times and I’m pretty good at forecasting but there are always the little extras that push you into the red if you don’t pad the estimate upfront.

        1. Julie K

          That’s the truth! We moved from NYC to Boston last year, and I kept track of expenses down to the last penny, and we still ended up needing to borrow $1,000 from my folks. Stuff comes up!

      2. Alicia

        It is a small company and the other employees don’t have a problem with it. Personally, I do for multiple reasons. I don’t know how stable this company is (small company in the “incubator”, hoping to fly the coop), so I don’t want to be left on the hook for thousands on my credit card when i might ave to fight for wages. I am also actively trying to pay down some debt that I incurred during my graduate degree. I don’t want my balance bouncing up and down, messing with my visual progress.

  3. Jamie

    Ugh – advice given is perfect and I have nothing to add except that this bothers me every time I hear about it.

    I know it’s common – but I just think it’s wrong for the company to ask employees to front money for business expenses. That’s what company credit cards are for.

    1. Wilton Businessman

      You’re going to give a company credit card to somebody who uses it once a year? I wouldn’t.

      I’m surprised that if everyone is required to go the company just doesn’t do a direct bill, at least to the hotel. I don’t think I’d want somebody else purchasing airline tickets for me because I like to use the kiosk to check in and I’d want my card identified with the ticket.

      1. Jamie

        No – but someone who has access to the company credit card can buy the tickets and take care of the hotel reservations.

        If people have a preference for purchasing their own tickets that’s one thing, but a lot of us (myself included) would prefer the company take care of that.

        1. Frieda

          Also many airlines let you check in at the kiosk with a driver’s license, right? At least NY licenses, which have a scannable barcode on the back. And I know at least JetBlue has an app that you can use to check in–no kiosk at all.

          1. Kate

            Every time I’ve flown recently I’ve swiped ANY credit card so the machine can get my name, and then my reservation’s pulled up based on name. No need to use the credit card used for the ticket purchase.

            1. Thought

              Exactly! It doesn’t matter which card because it doesn’t read your number, just the name.

        2. tcookson

          I always let my travelers know that if they buy the airfare themselves, they can’t get reimbursed until they return from the trip and submit receipts, so it is in their best interest to let me put the flights on my administrative travel card. Some people have purchased airfare months ahead of time, not realizing the rule about not being paid back until after the end of travel, and ended up stuck carrying the interest charges.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            What happens if they resign or are let go before the trip? Do they never get reimbursed for the cost, even though it was a business expense?

            1. fposte

              We hit a snag with this every year, because our fiscal year end, the deadline for reimbursement requests, is right near our big annual conference. This year the deadline runs right through the conference. If you don’t have earmarked funds pulled beforehand, looks like it’s too bad so sad.

            2. Anonymous

              Hmm . . . I’m not sure. I guess we’d find a way to settle up somehow. I’d contact the travel office manager and ask for help with it; I’m sure she’d figure out something!

              1. tcookson

                They would probably tell me to process the travel claim as if the trip had happened, but add a comment explaining that it was canceled and that airfare was paid in advance. The explanatory comment (ostensibly to potential auditors) always seems to be the fix for any unusual transactions.

          2. AgilePhalanges

            Wow, my company lets us submit pre-paid expenses ahead of the actual trip, as long as we have proof that we did, indeed, pay. Your company is basically encouraging you not to book airfare until the last minute, which generally costs more, unless you want to float the company a loan.

            1. tcookson

              I encourage them to book far out and save the money, but to allow me to put it on my administrative travel card rather than paying for it themselves.

      2. Nancy Boyd

        The credit card you swipe at the kiosk doesn’t have to be the one used to purchase the ticket–an airline employee told me the machine just pulls identifying information from the card and cross-checks it with passenger manifests. That’s why you can also swipe a drivers license at the same machine. It may not be universal across all airlines, but FWIW, I swiped my card at a Virgin America kiosk last week and it found my reservation just fine, even though I hadn’t used it to buy the ticket.

        1. Sascha

          My company uses their credit card for airline tickets, and I’ve never had a problem. We usually fly American. I just had to present my driver’s license (I’m in Texas).

        2. SB

          My previous company (a small company) had an office card that they paid for all business related travel with. No one ever had a problem pulling up their tickets at ticket kiosks using their personal cards.

      3. Meg

        No, but you can have one or two cards for the company that are used to book hotel rooms and tickets for everyone attending the conference. That’s what my previous employer did – they had two credit cards, and only the people in accounting were allowed to touch it. You put in a request for whatever you needed to pay for, and they took care of it. It worked surprisingly well, and it didn’t require everyone who travels for work to have their own card.

      4. Ann O'Nemity

        I’m honestly surprised to hear that so many people are still checking in at the airport! I always check in previous to arriving at the airport, even on the rare occasion that I’m checking bags. It’s just easier, faster, and in some cases cheaper if your airline charges any fees for carry-on or checked baggage.

        1. Melissa

          I usually check in before. I used to check in at the kiosks because nobody was using them and it was just as fast. But nowadays everyone uses the kiosks – in fact in some airline lines, the line is TO the kiosk and there are only 2 associates on for help and bag check – and so now I try to check in from home. Especially since I have a printer.

      5. tcookson

        We have a policy that people who travel at least three times a year can have a company travel card (basically a Visa card with restrictions on certain merchant codes, which limit where the card can be used). People who have these cards can use them for airfare, lodging, meals, taxis, etc.

        For people who don’t have their own travel card, I (as the department’s admin) have an administrative travel card which I can use to pay for a more limited array of expenses for each traveler (ex. I can purchase their airfare or prepay museum entry fees, but I can’t pay for their lodging, meals, or ground transportation). I can give them a cash advance, though, or they can use their own money and get reimbursed; I do whichever of these they prefer, and there are some who prefer to just use their credit card.

        1. V

          I would prefer to use my own credit card and get the rewards on it when I know I’m being reimbursed. That being said, it’s not right to force someone to do that. There should be other options and it sucks that the OP’s company doesn’t realize that.

      6. Mike C.

        One thing you might not be thinking about are situations where someone might not travel that often, but when they do, it’s at very short notice.

      7. Carlotta

        Why not? Where I work, if you have any business expenses at all, a company mobile, will ever need to travel, entertain, etc, you get a company credit card.

        You use it to book and pay for everything so it’s all under your control, and you claim expenses then pay the bill every month (if you’ve spent anything, that is.) You don’t have to take the trip before claiming expenses either.

        Some people will only use it for their phone bills and others won’t have a phone so will only use it for trips. Having said that, it’s a huge company and expenses turnaround is faster than a month. I guess we’re lucky!

    2. Laura

      My company mandates the use of company credit cards by employees who travel regularly. Except, said “company credit cards” are AmEx cards IN the EMPLOYEE’S name with the company name as a rider. Bills come direct to the EMPLOYEE and must be payed by the employee – and of course – AmEx has to be paid in full when it comes in. Unlike other cards, you cannot carry the balance.

      So people who are on the road week after week have to get home, get the bill, get the reimbursement check, pay the bill, get on to the next….

      I am so glad that my travel threshold is well below the card requirement. I at least get to use my personal Visa, which is not as good as the company actually paying it, but beats the treadmill they mandated the regular travelers on to.

  4. EnnVeeEl

    I put a large car repair bill on my credit card one month, and then my manager asked me to buy some magazines. I told her I couldn’t and asked if I had another option and she got snippy about it. She backed down when I explained why. I really resented explaining why. It was none of her business and I shouldn’t have to put things on my personal card. This was an office of a GLOBAL company. They weren’t broke. Oh and of course, they took forever paying you back.

    1. Lillie Lane

      Magazines? This sounds stupid and non-essential and the last thing you would ask an employee to whip their personal credit card for. I could be totally wrong on the context, though.

    2. tcookson

      There are certain people in my company for whom I arrange travel, and I know, just from conversation with them, that they can’t afford to put it on their credit cards. I’ve always just quietly submitted a cash advance request for them whenever they travel, and they always say they appreciate it.

      I overheard one of the other admins (a little bit above me on the hierarchy) training our new receptionist on how to process travel, and she just came out and said, “You always need to give so-and-so a cash advance because he’s poor.” I thought that was soooo tacky and insensitive!

    3. Lindsay J

      Me and my manager at my last job had a standoff for several days because there were essential supplies I needed for a project, accounting was dragging on approving an account with the supplier, and neither of us had money I’m guessing.

      I don’t have a credit card and didn’t have money until pay day. I’m guessing he didn’t have the money and didn’t want to admit it, as one day he was too busy, and the next said he locked his keys and wallet in his car the previous night and couldn’t access his car until he drove to his parent’s house after work to get his spare keys, then the next day he forgot . He would have looked much less silly if he had just admitted he didn’t have the money.

      Once I got paid I finally tossed it on my card and then petty cashed the reimbursement money and drove to the bank to deposit it immediately.

  5. Just a Reader

    This is a crappy policy but I think it’s pretty common. The last few places I’ve worked have required employees to front travel and taken awhile to pay back. The worst of the worst had low-salary employees on the road more than half the month and took a long time to pay back so these people were getting killed in interest, living hand to mouth and sometimes maxing out their credit cards purely on work expenses.

    I like the approach Alicia used. No need to get your boss in your business or to make it adversarial…but you get paid to work there and not the other way around.

  6. Susan

    My last company found a balance that worked for me – we were expected to front the expenses for travel, but we were issued corporate credit cards (based on our own credit, responsible for paying the balance ourselves) to use. What typically happened was I’d submit an expense report, get paid, and turn around and pay off the credit card. Perhaps not ideal, but better than using my personal card or savings.

    1. FiveNine

      That’s an interesting idea.

      When my boss recently told us we’d need to do the hotel and plane bookings ourselves now, it was overwhelming — there are several conferences assigned to individual employees to attend and report back on, and I had one in June and another in July. Booking the hotels and flights alone would have cost $2,000 right off the top, before any other typical expenses I’d incur on those trips and later be reimbursed for (and not counting any additional conferences they’ll assign to me later). Another employee was facing a similar sudden huge up-front hit.

      We talked to the boss and she agreed to put the flight and hotel charges on the company credit card in her name. With the hotels, it’s important not just to make the reservation under the card but to receive what’s called credit card authorization — so that when you show up in person, that card will be charged for all expenses (otherwise, all you’ve done is secured the reservation then need to produce your own credit card on site).

      But I feel lucky — I got the sense that we are lucky to have such boss. And that does sound kind of messed up.

      1. FiveNine

        That post was too long — so long that I completely forgot to say: If this arrangement ever falls thought I’d just as soon do what you describe: Suggest corporate credit cards in our own names, based on our own credit, which we would pay off when we receive the company’s reimbursements. (Like you say, not ideal, but that would be preferable to taking the hit in personal resources.)

        I do wonder: Did you need to set up an LLC or somesuch to do this? (And were there tax consequences?)

    2. Melissa

      That sounds cumbersome. If they’re all corporate cards and corporate was going to pay the expenses anyway, why not just charge it on the cards and then they can pay the charge card bill when it comes?

      1. Susan

        Well, I guess in theory because our corporate travel policies talked about reimbursable vs non-reimbursable expenses, so while certain things would be no brainers (airfare, hotel charges) others walked a line (how much did you spend on dinner? was it with a client? did you have alcohol? that’s not reimbursable!) So if we didn’t fully abide by the travel policy for reimbursement, we’d pay some expenses out of our own pocket. It did become cumbersome (i.e. if I bought a bottle of water and a magazine while waiting for a flight to visit a client, I could get reimbursed for the water – meal allowance – but not for the magazine, because that’s personal entertainment) but we learned to live with it.

    3. Jessa

      And if for some reason you did not have credit? (Young, first job. Had medical issues or things in the past etc.?)

      1. Lindsay J

        Yeah, several years ago I had to go on a debt consolidation plan. I closed all my existing credit cards, and am not allowed to open new lines of credit until I am off the plan. In exchange my minimum payments and interest rates were lowered a great deal.

        Getting a card based off my own credit history would not be feasible for me at this point in my life.

      2. Susan

        Good question, and I honestly don’t know the answer. Most of us who had to travel on business were in our 30s and beyond and (I assume) had established credit. I never gave it much thought!

  7. OP

    OP here. I realize my question sounded advisarial. I usually am not but I was very put off by the thought of discussing my personal finances with my boss. Plus the fact that I was told to make the reservation in the next two weeks with no notice that I would need to spend that much money.

  8. Sniper

    If $1,000 represents a hardship, what are you going to do if your car needs repairs, your kitchen faucet springs a leak in the middle of the night or your refrigerator kicks the bucket?

    I’m not saying that it’s fair that you need to prepay for a business trip, then get reimbursed, but it’s also not fair for some emergency to come up. If you can’t put together enough money for an emergency, then you really do need to re-examine your spending habits.

    1. Just a Reader

      That’s really not relevant to the question at hand. People have all kinds of reasons they can’t or don’t want to pay for business expenses out of pocket.

      1. Rob Aught

        I agree. No need to get personal.

        In fact, back on topic, if an employee were to balk at putting company expenses on their personal card, it would actually not be any of their bosses business why they might not be able to.

        1. Alex Hagan

          Totally agree – and actually think it might show that the employee had good, rather than poor, financial sense. Why should an employee be responsible for funding the cash-flow of their employer in this way?

      2. Jamie

        Besides – not everyone who is asked to travel is making a lot of money.

        In manufacturing often floor employees will be asked to travel to other plants in various locations for training purposes – and if you’re making slightly over minimum wage you bet travel expenses on short notice (or any notice) would be a hardship if not impossibility.

        In a perfect world everyone has a big enough cushion to handle anything that comes up, but that’s not always the case.

      3. OP

        It wasn’t so much the actual hardship. I have the money but felt I was being asked to front the company money. Why should I tie up money that I may just need to fix my faucet or car?

        1. fposte

          The answer might be “Because attendance at this conference is more important than that principle,” but you’ll have to know your workplace and whatever future you hope for there to know if it applies here.

    2. Lucy

      Perhaps the OP would like to have that cushion available for personal emergencies, like the type you describe, without company expenses eating into it.

    3. Xay

      A personal emergency is different from being able to front an interest free loan to your employer to cover your business travel. I have an emergency fund and I would not want to use it for business travel expenses.

      1. Liz

        Exactly. An emergency fund is just that – for emergencies. Travel is not an emergency, and 2 weeks notice for a large expense is not enough. It might be different if they’d told the OP 6 months ago.

    4. A Teacher

      It isn’t my employer’s business if I have a minor car accident with a $500 deductible, if my basement floods and I have to repair the foundation and buy a new washer, I have an unexpected trip to the ER and the same night my neighbor’s tree is struck by lightening taking out my power and I have to throw everything in my freezer/fridge away (Yeah for the last month)! Those are personal expenses–now as a teacher I don’t have a classroom budget so I do get stuck paying for A LOT out of pocket but again your attack against the OP was unwarranted. Many of us live paycheck to paycheck and pay our mortgages/rent, bills and student loans but that doesn’t mean we have extra money to throw around. In my case, stuff is getting replaced as I can afford it–probably what a lot of us are doing.

    5. Jen

      Things happen though. When I was 23 I ran up a great deal of debt – it was stupid and I learned my lesson. I had to enter a payment program to pay them off but a part of this program was not having any credit cards. So I didn’t have a single credit card for 5 years until everything was paid off.

      Another friend faced a medical emergency when she was without insurance and eventually had to declare bankruptcy and couldn’t have a credit card becasue of that for a few years.

    6. Citizen of Metropolis

      I respectfully disagree. The OP’s spending habits – good -or bad are not at issue here. They are not our business, they are not her employer’s business, and to imply that she is doing something wrong is making an assumption that is without foundation. The issue is that her company is obligating her to take on a significant amount of debt, with no fixed date of reimbursement, to attend a work-required function. They are deficient financing their participation in this conference on the backs of their employees. It may be common, but it is still wrong.

    7. Meg

      It’s really not your place to judge someone else’s perceived “spending habits”. You have no idea what her spending habits even are. I have some money saved for an emergency – an unexpected trip to the hospital, my car needs major repairs, etc. It’s enough to cover those, but I can’t be spending that to front a business expense for my company. That money is specifically for emergencies and nothing else.

      1. Jamie

        Yes – and I can’t be the only one who’s had emergencies that did not have the courtesy of waiting until the previous emergency had been paid off.

        The week when the SUV needed a $1400 repair, my daughter cracked a tooth and we needed to pay half of our costs for the crown/root canal plus deductible before they would touch her, and the water heater pooped the bed – this was the exact same week college tuition for two kids was due. That was a FUN five days!

        Rude emergencies. Things should have the decency to check whether or not it’s a good time before breaking.

        1. Alicia

          Haha, sorry I am not laughing at the financial cluster-fudge (taking that from AAM so I don’t swear in the comments) that you described, but “rude emergencies” made me giggle.

        2. Chinook

          I would be doubly abgry at my employer if I wsa required to pay upfront my travel costs a day or two before these emergencies took place and, as a result, I had no room on my credit card/in my emergency savings/in my secret stash behind the clock not to pay for a necessity like a car repair for a medical treatment because of my employer’s poor financial policies. If I could have dealt with those issues without my employer’s expenses, I would be seeing red or stress crying at work for not being able to make ends met.

        3. Meg

          Ughhh emergency dental work is the WORST. I have never had a decent dental plan, and I always feel like I end up paying through the nose for whatever I’m supposed to cover.

          1. Jamie

            We do have an allegedly good plan – but I’m always confused as to what it does and doesn’t cover…it’s 45% of XYZ and 80/20 on ABC up to $X then it’s 100% unless it’s groundhogs day or a full moon – then we can pay the deductible in marshmallow peeps.

            Health care for us is so simple – the same co-pay for every visit. Even I can understand it. As smart as I like to think I am complicated insurance plans make me whiny.

    8. Sniper

      All I hear from everyone to my original response is excuses.

      My interpretation of the post was that the OP didn’t have two nickels to rub together and I was just being frank in that the OP may need to examine his/her spending habits so that when they need to spend $1000, they have those funds available.

      The truth may hurt, but someone has to say it, not treat it with kid gloves and excuses ;)

      1. Chinook

        But the key is she may an extra $1,00 dollars for emergencies but, if she uses it for work, then she can no longer have any emergencies (which will guarantee they will happen).

      2. Meg

        Awww. Are you the kind of person who says “BOOTSTRAPS!” when someone is having financial hardship? Stop picturing yourself as the “tough but fair” commenter here. Long story short, you have no right to judge her spending habits that you don’t even know anything about in the first place. Setting aside emergency money that you don’t want to spend on business expenses you shouldn’t have to cover in the first place is not an excuse. If you have never been in a position where you can’t afford $1,000, then you are very very lucky, and also in the minority.

        And yes, I’m aware my comment might be rude.

      3. RG

        While it may be sound financial advice, it’s still not relevant to the question. Even if there was an emergency fund, the employer’s request is not an emergency (as state above by another wise poster) for which the employee should be responsible.

      4. Melissa

        Why would you make that assumption, though? You know what they say about assumptions. There’s nothing in the OP’s post to indicate that she’s out of money, and even if she was, that’s understandable – she just changed jobs and relocated 5 hours away. Money is tight between jobs. She was very clear about the fact that she had to spend her funds on relocating and that’s why she doesn’t have the money to front her company. This just makes me think that you didn’t read the post very well.

      5. Katniss

        How you are expecting people to come up with that savings if their necessary expenses don’t give them extra money? Magic?

      6. TL

        Um, wow.
        I am a recent graduate, making not that much, paying back student loans (at nearly double payments because my car is nearing 100,000 miles and I need to pay off my student loans before my car dies.) I don’t buy a lot of things, I don’t go out that often unless it’s free, and for whatever reason, I’ve nearly always got something weird going on medically. I don’t have a lot of money left over or in savings and it’s not because of spending habits; it’s because of life.

        And for what it’s worth, my dad is someone who “pulled himself up by his bootstraps” (dirt poor felon who straightened up and now makes 6 figures a year running his own business). And you know what? He would understand if I didn’t have $1000 to cover emergencies at this point in my life.

        But thanks for your blanket judgments there!

      7. Lorena

        It must be nice to live in your world, where everyone with some self-discipline always has a grand to spare. I live on planet Earth, myself, and it’s just not that way here, no matter how much I wish it was. Not everyone who is poor is profligate.

      8. bearing

        Maybe she doesn’t have two nickels to rub together after having responsibly set aside an emergency fund and resolving not to touch it except for emergencies.

        I wouldn’t know, because it isn’t my business.

      9. mel

        It’s not unreasonable for someone to not have savings. When housing takes up 60% of your net income, it would be hard to squeeze an extra $1000 +interest after food/utilities/transportation/phone costs.

        For some people, “reducing spending” means going without FOOD. It’s hard to understand that not everyone in the world has it as easy as we do. We can only see through our own eyes, and usually we’re wrong.

        Maybe they don’t have an “excuse” for not giving away all of their money, but what’s your excuse for not checking your privilege?

    9. Melissa

      Well, that’s exactly the point, isn’t? Maybe she doesn’t know what she’s going to do if an emergency happens. That’s all the more reason to not want to front the money for a business trip.

      And even if I did have $1,000 socked away, that doesn’t mean I want it tied up in my company’s reimbursement process for 2-3 months.

      1. fposte

        Dude, you’re not speaking “the” truth. You’re kvetching at somebody about peripheral irrelevancy based on a conclusion you’ve jumped to.

      2. Rayner

        The point of the matter is, she doesn’t have that kind of funds available now and is being told that she needs to somehow magic them up from the air.

        I don’t’ have that kind of money lying around, and I work. I simply do not have enough money coming INTO my bank account to afford to spend $1000+ on something that I SHOULD NOT be paying in the first place. Less than half of that, maybe, perhaps another hundred if I resolved to live off of rice and bran flakes until pay day. OP may be in a similar situation where the inflow in simply does not leave her enough room to maneuver for a unexpected! thousand bucks which may not be repaid for weeks. There are all sorts of reasons why someone cannot simply dip into a fund and pull out a thousand bucks when an employer wants them to – from personal medical care, family issues, debt….

        It’s nice that you personally have that sort of money available, and yes, the OP should have a contingency fund for life’s fudge ups. But it doesn’t mean she has one as big as what the employer is demanding, or that she is able to access it for this kind of expenditure.

      3. TheSnarkyB

        Huh. I wasn’t getting into this because my manners aren’t up to par with everyone else’s. But I am now.

        You sound like an asshole !

        Mind your damned business – maybe if the fridge breaks, they just won’t have a damned fridge! Some people’s lives are harder than yours. Butt out!

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yeah, no name-calling, please, even when it feels warranted! (Because it always feels warranted to anyone doing it, after all.) Thank you.

          1. TheSnarkyB

            Fair enough. FWIW, I was actually surprised to see that you didn’t step in regarding Sniper’s quite personal attack that had nothing to do with the post at hand. I know you can’t moderate 24/7, but I did refresh to check first! (You tend to stop this sort of nonsense, that’s the only reason I’m pointing it out.)

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Insanely busy day, but I did see it and thought others were responding to it effectively. “Asshole” will get my attention every time though :)

      4. Forrest

        You realize that its highly probable that an average working adult could of written that question and today’s?

      5. KellyK

        Your comments are totally irrelevant, in addition to being rudely personal. Whether the OP should or does have emergency money socked away has absolutely nothing to do with whether she can afford to give her company an interest-free loan of a thousand bucks. As many people keep saying and you keep ignoring.

        She could have six months’ living expenses in an emergency fund and still, by definition, not have that thousand dollars because “My company is too cheap to pay its own business expenses,” is not an emergency. (It might become one if they continue to refuse and make her continued employment contingent on her attendance, but it isn’t yet.)

      6. anonalupagus

        I also have to wonder at the intention of a person who takes “sniper” as a pseudonym. To me it sounds like an alias for “troll.”

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Sniper is actually a regular commenter who has commented under that name for a while, and not in a troll-like manner.

          Seems like just a difference of opinion, not anything nefarious.

          1. anonalupagus

            I sit corrected, but I have to admit that the rudeness of the original comment and the follow-up took my breath away. Wow.

            Thank you for the blog–I really do enjoy, and am taking a lot away from, the posts and the comments (even the rude comments).

      7. Lisa

        A friend of mine often tells me, “when you get in the mud with a pig, you get angry, and the pig gets happy.” Enjoy the mud on your own, Sniper.

    10. Mike C.

      And what happens when an emergency has happened after fronting the company money?

      If I want to spend all of my money on hookers and blow for myself and my wife, guess what? That’s my business, not the business of my employer.

      There are only three kinds of people that should be fronting a business money – owners, shareholders and lenders.

  9. Eva

    [Off-topic] Alison, have you changed the timing of your posts? I’m in Europe, and it seems like there used to be posts (besides the short answer ones) coming in the afternoon, but lately there’s been nothing until the evening where suddenly there are several posts at once. I’m not complaining, but I’m curious about the reason for the change if indeed it is intentional. :)

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Nope — I always publish the short-answer post just after midnight my time (east coast of U.S.), then another around 11 a.m. EST, then one or two more later that day. (Weekends are different — one per day, publishing at 9 a.m.)

          1. Eva

            No, I don’t use an RSS reader at all, actually. I just visit the site whenever I feel like an AAM fix. :)

      1. Eric

        Almost every day, I see the short answers pop up on google reader, and know it is time to go to bed.

        1. Melissa

          I check them in the morning right after I wake up. It’s now part of my morning routine – check my email, check the Times, check AAM. :D

            1. Carlotta

              Me too! I usually read it as soon as I wake up. In fact I should stop because I really should get up on time…

    2. Jesicka309

      In Australia.
      First post of the day: about 2-3 pm. Afternoon tea break! :)

      Second: if I’m up late, at about 11-12? If not, I read them all the next morning over my morning coffee.
      Mondays kill me because there is a Sunday level of posts, but Monday levels of boredom.
      Who says I need an RSS reader? I can check the posts here like clock work. :)

  10. TP

    I work for a large university where they supply purchase cards to departments who need them. The card is just a like a credit card and can be used for buying food, supplies, parking fee, etc. Basically everything *except* for travel related expenses. Even a ferry ticket is forbidden. To this day I still don’t understand why. It’s not right for them to ask employees to front the money and on top of that, pay you back whenever they feel like it, which is often months after the fact. This university, I might add, charges students at least $45k a year in tuition. You’d think they can afford to pay the bills or at last try to find a reasonable solution.

    1. fposte

      Interesting–my state university allows us to book travel on purchase cards, but the cards remain in the control of our office staff (at least in my building), so stuff like end-of-stay hotel bills and per diem stuff has to be recouped later. It’s really helpful just getting the flight costs off the reimbursement list, though.

      1. Sascha

        That’s how they do it at my state university, too – I have to secure my hotel on my own card and pay for any of my additional expenses myself, and then I’m reimbursed. However they do offer advances – I just have to estimate how much I think I will need, and pay back any difference if I don’t use the full amount (and they will reimburse me if I go over). Even during times when I wouldn’t necessarily need an advance, I like to get one anyway – I’d much rather pay back a few hundred to the university than be out around a thousand or so and waiting for reimbursement.

      2. tcookson

        I have two separate administrative cards that I use for my department/faculty: a purchasing card that can be used for nearly anything except travel, and a travel card that can be use only for travel (but not for hotel bills or per diem meals; only for airfare, registrations, pre-paid entry fees, etc.). Faculty who travel at least three times a year are eligible for an individual (vs. administrative) travel card, which they can use for nearly all their travel expenses (hotels, meals, taxis, etc.)

        1. TP

          That makes sense, having two cards for non-travel items and one for travel. I wonder why my university doesn’t do that. If I’m the one travelling, it’s not the end of the world for me to pay my own expenses. But because I produce events at my job and often have out-of-town guests coming in, covering their expenses on my card doesn’t sit as well with me.

    2. Sarah

      We had something similar at my large public university. They had different cards for supplies, food, etc. and travel. The travel card would only be issued on a trip by trip basis. We didn’t have to pay out of own pocket and then be reimbursed though.

    3. Kate

      The university where I worked just switched over to a system where everybody has a corporate credit card. Before that, separate purchasing cards and travel cards, and it was a mess. Plus certain categories of purchases had low limits that you wouldn’t find out about until needing to pay, so everybody was always contacting the finance department to request temporary increases. And to top it all off, the cards were Amex, so smaller retailers didn’t take them, and then you’d have to use personal funds and fill out a form and submit a receipt for a $2 cup of coffee….

      Basically, I feel your pain.

    4. Dean

      The University I work at charges departments a large amount of “overhead” for any purchases made on the credit card, or really any petty-level equipment expenditure.

      Travel is not subject to that kind of overhead, so they don’t allow us to use the credit card. It gets annoying when we have to purchase gasoline for University vehicles while on travel, but otherwise is usually a fine policy. (Hotels and flights are paid via purchase order. Meals and misc travel expenses can be reimbursed after the factor, but you can apply for a travel advance).

    5. Melissa

      My university (also an expensive private) is horrible about reimbursements. They say that they take 6-8 weeks, but they can easily take 3 months. And their travel funding for graduate students is a reimbursement system – you have to apply for the funds, take the trip, save receipts and turn them all in within 21 days of returning. So basically they are expecting graduate students to front hundreds of dollars (sometimes more) to go to conferences and then wait 3-4 months before getting that back. Needless to say, I don’t go to conferences that often.

  11. Glen Harness

    My employer is getting ready to implement that very policy. They’re also implementing a new travel booking and reimbursement system. They’re still working out a plan to deal with employees who can’t put it on their card or don’t have cards.

    A couple of things I wonder about: if you use your own card and you earn airline miles based on what you charge, are they yours? And if for some reason it takes more than 30 days to get reimbursed, can you then ask for more money to pay the interest you accrued?

    1. Rob Aught

      What’s odd about that is that having a universal corporate card has helped cut down on fraud immensely. HR, Payroll, and others can all view my statements whenever they want. I personally think this is a better system. I can also ask our AP department about an employee’s charges if I have questions on an expense report.

      You should be able to get airline miles if it’s your card. I’d really question why not if the company challenged it.

      You can try to get interest reimbursed but most places have a policy for that already. I do know that one company did nothing about it and sometimes the AP or Payroll group would just claim you should have turned in your expense report sooner so you wouldn’t get charged interest. Very frustrating.

      1. fposte

        Oh, fascinating–there are private sector organizations that actually do cover interest? Wow.

        1. Rob Aught

          There is a policy at my current company. However, most people have corporate cards that need them, only a handful of individuals ever have to use their personal cards, and I have not heard of anyone actually being reimbursed interest so take it with a grain of salt.

          Policy and practice are two different things as far as I know at this point.

    2. fposte

      Your card, your miles. I can’t even imagine how they’d transfer them in such a case. On the interest, I suppose technically you could ask, but I don’t think they’ll say yes or think well of the request, and I think 30 days is awfully fast to be asking for interest. (But then I work for the state.) I’d bring up any delay problems with the first reimbursement when you were preparing for your next trip and ask how to avoid taking the personal hit again.

    3. Sarah

      When booking travel through my public university, you could enter your personal milage or hotel loyalty numbers so you collected all of the miles/points.

      1. Kate

        Same for my private university. It’s considered one of the perks of having a job that requires travel.

  12. LMW

    When I worked in publishing (a very low-paying job), we constantly needed to buy supplies for articles, and then submit receipts for reimbursement. It only took a week for the reimbursement check to arrive, but if, on a biweekly basis, I was taking home about $900 in pay and spending $150 on supplies, it was a true financial hardship. If we had special issues coming out, it could be even more. My editor just kind of brushed it off and told me to use a credit card…which is actually kind of hard to handle when you are living paycheck to paycheck anyway.
    My wonderful managing editor saw how stressed the situation was making me and came up with another solution: I’d proactively estimate my expenses ahead of time, submit an advance form, deposit that check, buy the supplies and then submit the receipts for accounting against the advance. It worked so well and it really upped my moral (which was low at that point for various reasons, but mostly financial stress).
    After 6 months of this wonderful arrangement, one of my coworkers was complaining about having to front the money for her supplies, I told her the arrangement I’d worked out, and when she submitted for her first advance they outlawed the practice for everyone and told me I shouldn’t have been doing things that way.
    I’m still rather bitter about the whole thing. I don’t understand how it’s okay to expect people to front 15% of their take home pay on the company’s behalf on a regular basis.

    1. Brton3

      I’m a little confused by how many people are saying this is a hardship. Putting purchases on your credit card is meant to avoid the hardship of having to come up with cash. The worst that will ever happen is that you don’t get the reimbursement in time and you can’t pay off the whole balance on your next bill, so you incur what, $2? $5? in interest charges? If you’re getting the reimbursement within a week there’s no way you’ll miss the billing cycle and you can pay those expenses the very day you get the check.

      If you had to use cash or a debit card, then I would understand the hardship angle.

      1. fposte

        First off, why should the employee be out $5 for the company’s pencils or conferences? Secondly, not everybody pays off the balance on their credit cards every month, and they shouldn’t have to just to oblige their workplace. (Reimbursement within a week has never occurred in my lifetime–we were astounded when the new computer system with direct deposit manages it within a month.)

        1. Brton3

          I only said that thing about reimbursement within a week because that’s what the first poster said. If you do in fact get your reimbursement right away, you just put that right into your credit card payment. You aren’t obligated to pay down your whole balance, just whatever the reimbursement amount was. And I know you shouldn’t have to pay interest on your employer’s pencils, I was just saying, that’s the worst case scenario.

          1. KellyK

            That’s actually not the worst-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is that you have some emergency while your credit is tied up with your employer’s purchases, and you can’t put the new transmission for your car, or your emergency dental work, or whatever, on that credit card.

            Or that having a high proportion of your available credit used screws up your credit rating right at the time you want to refinance your house or get a car loan, costing you a lot more than a couple bucks.

            Also, I think your math may be off to begin with. A trip can easily cost $1500 or more between airfare, hotel, and car rental, which if your credit card interest is 15%, will cost you $18.75 if you have to pay interest on it for even one month.

      2. ExceptionToTheRule

        If you only have one credit card and you’ve had a personal emergency, then you could quite easily be running up against your card’s limit and it would be a hardship. I had the front the expenses when my father passed away earlier this year. Those ate every dime of the open to buy on my card, if I’d have had to pay for an airline ticket and hotel, it would have been a serious hardship.

        1. LMW

          Yes, exactly this. At that point in my life, my credit card was vital to my financial security. If any extra expenses came up (if I got sick and needed a prescription, if my car broke down, etc.), it would have to go on the card. There was more than one occasion where I was up against the limit due to the company policy.

          1. Brton3

            I do understand this, but it seems like if you are really getting the reimbursement so quickly, the odds of a huge emergency that will push you over your credit limit happening before you pay off the employer’s charge are vanishingly small. I mean, you could always run into an emergency that pushes the bounds of your resources. The chances that the $100 work-related purchase being the thing that drives you to insolvency just don’t look very high.

            1. LMW

              To some people $100 can be the difference between eating or not. Having enough for rent or not. Gas to get to work. The phone bill. The electric bill. Maybe it’s just a short deliquency – the point is: Why should the company continually put it’s employees in this position?

        2. Kate

          And younger employees may have very low limits. My first credit card had a $500 limit because I had no credit history (this was just a few years ago). Putting a plane ticket and hotel on it would’ve been impossible, and it wouldn’t have been fair to put me in a position where I had to explain my personal finances to my boss.

      3. Just a Reader

        It depends on the balance you’re carrying and how quickly your employer pays up.

        I have never worked for an employer that pays within a week.

      4. Xay

        Not everyone carries a huge amount of credit or credit cards. I have one emergencies only credit card and that card has an intentionally low balance. In my last project, I had to fly 3-4 times a month at the cost of $3000 – $5000 in plane tickets alone. Why should I have to rearrange my credit availability and then hope for a reimbursement in time when I can manage the rest of my finances without using that card in order to basically loan my company money until they can complete a reimbursement (which took anywhere from 2 – 6 weeks depending on staff availability).

      5. Anonymous for this answer

        There are people who cannot drink one drink without sliding into alcoholism. I have learned the hard way that I cannot use a credit card. It does not work for me. I forget what I have already charged. My balances balloon up. I have spent the past 5 years paying off my debt through a credit repayment program and the lesson I have walked away with is that me and credit cards like Buffy and cars are “unmixy things.”

        So I use cash and I use debit cards or the prepaid credit cards (you put x on them and when x is gone, you are done). My place of employment does require me to travel and that has meant some difficulties.

        Back in the day when I was using credit cards, adding more to my balances would have meant a lot more than $2-5 for a month or so.

        One possible explanation.

      6. Liz

        You’re falling into the same trap as the management, who assume that everyone has a credit card with a reasonably high limit and plenty of free balance. Some people don’t qualify for a credit card, don’t qualify for a high enough limit, or don’t *want* a credit card. Others have already used their balance for the month, regardless of whether they pay in full later.

        And if your salary is under $40k, expecting you to front approximately 1/3 your paycheck for an undetermined period is quite a cheek.

        1. plain jane

          Not just that, but don’t you get charged interest on any purchase you make while you’re carrying a balance? (no grace period)

          I have been lucky enough to never been in that situation, but that was my understanding.

        2. Brton3

          Well obviously if you don’t have a credit card, this is a bit of a moot issue; although I agree that you shouldn’t be pushed into a discussion of your personal finances with your boss.

      7. Melissa

        Also, hitting up against the limit on your credit card for months can ding your credit score. If you have to travel 3-4 times a year and your company always takes ~2 months to reimburse you, this is a real problem.

      8. Brightwanderer

        Well, sure.

        IF you have a credit card. IF you have a credit card with a limit big enough to cover the fare + expenses. IF you have a credit card with a limit big enough to cover the fare + expenses AND you haven’t already used enough of that credit that you don’t have room left for the expense. IF you have a credit card with a limit big enough to cover expenses, AND you haven’t already used enough of the credit that you don’t have room left, AND you don’t have any reason to think you might need that credit at any moment to fix the car or the house or your kids…

  13. Brton3

    I agree this is a lame policy. And I don’t know the OP’s financial situation (like, do you have a credit card at all?) But when I’ve been in this situation, I’ve looked at it as an opportunity to get lots of points or rewards on my credit card. I know it can be inconvenient to track crap like that, but I have friends who are MASTERS at maximizing points and miles and all that stuff, and they would actively look for opportunities to put reimbursable expenses on their personal cards.

    Maybe there’s a way to get the reimbursement expedited so you know you’ll get the money before the due date for the current billing cycle on the card.

    1. Colette

      That actually won’t help if you carry a balance – I believe you’ll be charged interest from the time you make the purchase. The grace period is only if you pay off the card in full every month.

      1. Brton3

        This may be true in some situations or with some cards. I know I don’t accrue interest immediately on every purchase and I’m always carrying a modest balance.

  14. SB

    A company my husband used to work at had a policy that any single expense under $1000 other than office utilities had to be paid by the employee and then would be reimbursed by the company. It didn’t matter what it was. Whether a software upgrade, a recurring monthly payment (like the monthly charge for website hosting), office supplies, the office didn’t have an office credit card. It was absolutely abysmal at the time. I had lost my job and we were living paycheck to paycheck. Yet, we had to pay around $650 in business expenses every month. My husband only made $14 an hour. Some weeks we had to wait until the reimbursement check came in to buy groceries or pay rent. The company wasn’t a small business either. It was a largish company with offices across the US. When he finally found another job, he was sorely tempted to just cut off the website hosting for the office without transferring it.

    1. AP

      That makes…no sense whatsoever (for the company, I mean). How do people operate like this?!

      1. SB

        I know. It was so stupid and it made me so mad. I can understand reimbursing employees for gas/ mileage if they have to drive for work, but anything beyond that seems ridiculous.
        We came really close to overdrawing our account a couple times during that period. Imagine how embarrassing it would have been to explain to your boss that the website was down because you overdrew your account and the payment bounced. Luckily it never happened, but we really could have messed things up for the business by simply shutting down all the small recurring payments that were on our account.

        1. Jamie

          I’ve seen similar embarrassment when people were required to be available via their personal cell phones, but some of these people were low income and had pay as you go plans…so if they ran out of minutes that was it until they could load more. It put added stress so they would prioritize that bill and curtail personal calls to avoid trouble at work.

          Which is probably why I feel as strongly as I do about the issue of company paid phones. If they want off hour availability and you are okay with that it should be on the company’s plan.

        2. Anonicorn

          That’s just awful. I’m glad your husband found something else. It makes no sense that a company would place the financial responsibly for something like a website on its employees – for the reason you mentioned, among other things.

  15. CollegeAdmin

    My former company did this with an interview candidate – told her they’d pay for everything and then said, “Oh we’ll reimburse you after.” The whole thing was a wreck from start to finish, and she didn’t get reimbursed for 2+ months. She didn’t get the job, and I personally feel she dodged a bullet.

      1. CollegeAdmin

        At the time I was working for a medical supply company, though – not the college I’m currently at. It was (and still is) a HUGE international corporation – you’d think they would have handled it better. (No one even knew the right forms, contacts, or account codes to give me – it was a nightmare.)

      2. Melissa

        Yes, every spring I hear stories like this of institutions that still haven’t reimbursed candidates. I was really lucky; when I interviewed for my postdoc I got the check like the very next week.

  16. Andrea

    This kind of thing just burns my muffins. My husband’s employer does this, too, and while he doesn’t travel often, it’s frequent enough that it is bothersome. We always had only one credit card, which we almost always pay off every month, but because of this, we got a second one for him to use only for work expenses. This shouldn’t have been necessary, but we were worried—what if there was an emergency, and the one personal card we had was maxed out because of his work expenses? Then a few months ago, the reimbursements came late and we had to pay the bill on his business expenses card twice in a row without having the money back first. It wasn’t a hardship by any means, but it sure made me good and mad. I’m still mad about it, truth be told, and the more I hear about other people having to deal with this situation, the more upsetting it is. Then he was mistakenly overcharged by $700 for a hotel stay on a business trip, and he had the email from the hotel that stated the charge would be removed, but it was not. So we had to dispute the charge with the credit card company, and in the two months or so in between, we had to use our personal card for some of his business expenses (well, I think that was actually because the reimbursement was late again, and I balked at fronting our cash and so we instead chose to use our personal credit). All the while, we wondered if we were going to have to eat that $700 or not. I mean, that should have been charged on a corporate card to begin with, and any mistake or dispute should have been dealt with by the company, not with him sitting on hold with the credit card company in the evenings trying to get it sorted out. We finally heard back that the disputed charge was indeed removed, so that was a relief. His employer is a large firm that is doing quite well, and it continues to grow. But companies have no business requiring employees to front this money, particularly when they pay us back whenever they like. It would be one thing if it was just small expenses here and there, meals or gas or whatever, but airfare and hotels for a few nights amount to several hundred dollars at least. This money is a cost of doing business, and ought to be fronted by the company, not by its employees.

  17. Rachel

    I was SO HAPPY when I found out that my new job has the world’s most reasonable policy for this: only the highest-up people have company cards, but the finance team has a “home card” that we can use in the office to charge any larger expenses, like travel. We have an event in DC next week, and we decided I was going to go with barely over two weeks’ notice. My train tickets were over $250, but we put them on the home card and I don’t have to worry about it. So much easier.

    1. Jamie

      This is how we do things as well. If it’s an approved expense and you don’t have a credit card you go to one of the people authorized and they will do it for you.

      Then again my CFO considers it a point of honor to reimburse all expenses within a week (usually next day) because she doesn’t think employees should bear the burden of financing company outlays. It’s a good approach.

    2. AgilePhalanges

      Yes. At my company, only frequent travelers get company cards (which are still employees’ responsibility to pay, but they don’t affect your credit, and are granted based on the company’s credit standing, not the employee’s). But if an employee doesn’t have a credit card or doesn’t want to use it, each location has a general company card that can be used. In addition, people without credit cards (or available credit on them) can ask accounting for a cash advance for meals and other incidentals throughout the trip, and it will be settled up after the trip with receipts.

      On top of all this, expenses approved by Wednesday afternoon will be reimbursed by direct deposit hitting your bank account Friday morning–less than 48 hours later (or up to a little over a week later at the very maximum, if you just barely miss the deadline). So even if you do use a personal card (which many people eligible for company cards choose to do, so they can get miles/points/whatever), as long as you submit your expenses relatively quickly, you’ll be reimbursed long before the payment is due.

      Why can’t all companies be so reasonable?

    3. Jen in RO

      My company is similar (plus, in this county credit cards are really uncommon). We book flights and hotels through a company-approved travel agency and they just charge the company directly. We can also request an advance for any spending we might do while traveling.

  18. AllisonD

    This is quite common and I travel alot with my work. Did you ask what the turnaround time is on expense reports? I am paid within 3 days of filing the report with receipts. And for large purchases such as conference tuition, I can file that expense report the day I register and receive reimbursement within 3 days, long before my credit card payment is due. How quickly your employer will reimburse you is the issue.

    1. Melissa

      3 days?! That sounds like heaven. Around here the stated time is 6-8 WEEKS. And sometimes it can take up to 3 months.

  19. AllisonD

    Oh, and I could have a corporate card any time I want and I steadfastly refuse … I collect the points on everything rather then my employer.

  20. Liz

    See, I actually wish I could use my own card to get the benefits since I charge a couple grand a month, have plenty of room on my credit cards, and my company has a clear, concise expense policy that pays on time every month. Since I travel 8-9 times a year they just prefer that I have a corporate card so THEY get the benefits. It is easier but the amount of cash back I could’ve gotten last year would’ve been really, really nice after charging a couple last minute trade shows.

  21. Laura

    How about asking for a travel advance of $1000 (or whatever you think you’ll need)? That way you can book the airfare, and then pay your credit card balance immediately to avoid any interest charges. When you submit your expense report, you can either reimburse what you didn’t use, or get reimbursed for what you spent over the advance amount.

    My company doesn’t do this normally – they are pretty liberal with giving people corporate cards – but exceptions are made in special cases.

    If you do end up having to charge the expenses on your corporate card, submit your expense report immediately, as soon as you have a receipt. And take it personally to your Accounts Payable group, explain your situation, and ask if they can expedite it for you.

    Here’s a tip for dealing with AP – the people who are nice usually get what they want. Accounts Payable is a thankless job – I did it years ago. You spend your day fielding calls from people yelling at you about why this or that hasn’t been paid, and frequently the reason is something beyond your control. The people who go out of their way to be pleasant and cooperative leave a good impression. I never deliberately delayed something for someone I didn’t like, but if someone asked me for a favor and was nice about it, I always accommodated them. And if they are able to help you, be sure to take the time to thank them…they are good allies to have.

    1. Laura

      Oops, I meant if you have to charge the travel expenses on your own card, not the corporate card.

  22. Chocolate Teapot

    My company only issues corporate credit cards for Senior Members of staff. If I am travelling, I have to pay hotel bills and meals and transport and then submit receipts.

    As I don’t have to travel very often (and know in advance usually) I try to ensure I am travelling with somebody who has a company credit card to pay for meals and taxi fares. But even so, business rates in hotels can be pretty eye watering before you get to breakfast.

    (In which case, I always always feel I am justified to remove the free soap, sewing kit and pen from the room and hoover up as much buffet breakfast as possible.)

  23. Steve

    I’ve done a fair amount of business travel over the last 15 years (technology consulting), and in my experience putting travel expenses on a personal card is more common than having a corporate card. I haven’t had a corporate card in at least 7 years.

  24. Brett

    Reading this made me cringe. Two years ago, I had a vehicle rental company refuse our company card and make me use my personal car to complete a rental. 3 months later, I had several thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges show up, starting at the rental lot where they photocopied my card and spreading outward geographically from there. Turns out they also charged both the company card and my personal card for the original rental (someone got a discounted cash rental that weekend, pocked by an employee). How audacious was this thief? My reservation was made under the name of a police department!

    And that is when I learned the dirty secret that every motor pool/vehicle & supply manager knows. Corporate travelers are prime targets for credit card theft. A large company card will get hit dozens of times in a year. You are a rushed out of town business traveler who routinely uses your card for uncommon out of town expenses. That makes you a prime target; all they have to do is take your credit card to the back desk, photocopy both sides, and wait a couple of weeks. If you are travelling again when they go to make their fraudulent purchases, they will hit the jackpot of a card that takes several hours before it starts denying transactions.

    Our vehicle & supply manager made it very clear that under no circumstances was I ever to let a rental car agency or hotel clerk touch my personal card again while on business travel.

    1. Anonymous

      Never let anyone take any charge or credit card out of sight, business or personal. If necessary I follow the card, however ridiculous that looks.

    2. Editor

      One of the things that bothers me about this story of fraudulent charges is that there have been various proposals about reducing credit card fraud and stolen identities. The proposals go nowhere because lobbyists for the banks shoot them down, from what I’ve read.

      But if the fraud was a big issue for corporations and they lobbied for better laws about credit card fraud, then maybe everyone would have fewer problems. I’ve received three replacement cards in the last 14 month because someone collected my credit card number and then charged it for gas in the midwest, far from my east coast home. By having employees use their cards, the corporations are minimizing their exposure to fraud instead of lobbying for solutions to the problem.

      It’s too bad that generally accepted accounting principles don’t address expenses and reimbursements by specifying that properly run accounting offices pay most expenses directly through company cards, purchase orders or advances, and also specifying reimbursement within 7-10 business days. It shouldn’t be surprising if employees feel there ought to be a law about this — delaying or withholding reimbursements should be treated like wage theft, in my opinion.

  25. Risa

    I personally have an issue with a company using their employees for what is essentially a loan. My company as over $100 million in gross revenue annually. I run a department of 50 people and they expect me to front them the money on any expenses I incur on behalf of my department. It’s ridiculous. Whether it’s a hardship or not is irrelevant. For me it’s the principle of the matter.

    Personally, I don’t use credit cards – AT ALL. That is a decision my husband and I have made in order to live more responsibly. If we can’t afford to pay for it with cash, we don’t buy it. We have several long term goals in mind that we are working towards.

    However, none of this is my company’s business, and I shouldn’t be forced to have to explain this to them. They have far greater resources than I do to support their business objectives. My personal resources are for my personal objectives.

  26. KS

    Someone said further up in the thread, “it’s how long your company takes to reimburse you.”

    +1 X 10 to infinity to that!

    The 150 million in yearly revenue privately held company I work for take up to EIGHT weeks, minimum of four. My CEO has 6 houses–and I know how.

  27. Lily in NYC

    This is so common and it sucks. I had to put $9000 on my personal card a few months ago for a long work trip. I don’t know how the younger kids here with crappy salaries do it. We do make exceptions in some cases, but it’s rare. And my company takes FOREVER to give us reimbursments – I had to hound accounting after two months of no check to get that $9000 back.

    1. LMW

      You know, I didn’t even think of really high expenses when I was complaining above…my boyfriend is in China for work right now, and I think he had to put the flights and everything on his personal credit card…my credit cards combined don’t have the limit to cover the cost of that trip. His airfare was ridiculously expensive. I think it’s a $10,000 trip. How can companies expect people to front that much money?

  28. Brandy

    So, the company I used to work for did not have corporate credit cards. We had a big conference that started on a weekend. the VP of Marketing got stuck putting $25,000 on her personal credit card because the hotel would not let us add on an addditional conference room w/out the charge up front. She couldn’t get a corporate card or get Accounting to pay for it over the weekend.

    The company then took OVER A MONTH to reimburse her. She didn’t pay the card off–just paid the minimum–and later expensed the interest , which they grumblingly paid. But she complained before, during, after, and probably to this day about it.

    My point is, we can quibble about whether someone should be able to front $1 or $2k (or even $150) but when you start talking tens of thousands of dollars, it’s completely unreasonable, IMHO.

  29. Lar

    My organization also asks us to front the costs of travel and hotel but will also dictate how you travel and where you stay in order to get reimbursement. Any travel over a certain number of miles requires flying but there is often not a direct flight to small cities or remote locations so you are also required to rent a car. In many cases it would have been cheaper and faster for me to drive rather than fly but I would not have been eligible for reimbursement. Hotels must be within the same zip code as the destination and all meals must be within the same zip code. Not to mention that my last trip took 3 months to be reimbursed!

    1. Chinook

      All meals within the same zip code? I am guessing zip code areas are larger than Canadian postal code areas because my sister lives 2 blocks from my parents and they have 2 different zip codes.

      1. Lar

        Nope, I once went across the street from a the hotel/conference center to grab a quick lunch and had to eat the cost as well as the meal because the zip code changed.

  30. Brton3

    This is all very interesting perspective on something we all know already – in terms of getting and keeping decent employment, the deck is REALLY stacked against you if you don’t already have resources.

    Forget about having the money to spend to travel to a job interview, or savings to live without a job for a few months; what about just being able to pay for your work uniform, or even just paying for transportation to your work site? Let alone finding child care, etc. Imagine if you are right on the edge and you get this new job that promises good money and opportunity, and then they say “oh and you have to go do a special training in Peoria next weekend. You have to pay for the hotel and gas and other expenses, but don’t worry, we’ll reimburse you within 90 days.”

  31. Julie K

    After reading the comments, I can see that I’m very lucky! I have a corporate Amex, but I had to apply for it using my credit history, and the card is in my name. The card can’t be used for non-business charges (although this must happen sometimes because in the T&E system, you can mark a charge as “personal”). After I charge travel or training or whatever, the charge shows up in the T&E system, and I submit the expense. The company then pays the bill. If I wait too long to submit the expense, and the payment is late, I would be responsible for the late fee. This works pretty well, and I don’t ever have to front money unless I need to buy food or gas someplace that doesn’t take Amex (they don’t even bat an eye at the 20% I tip in restaurants or the tips for the hotel housekeeping staff). When I was a manager, one of my team members needed to travel with me, and she didn’t have credit cards and didn’t have the credit history to get a company card (and didn’t want one), so I put her travel expenses on my card. It wasn’t a problem getting all of it reimbursed.

  32. Julie K

    As I was reading the comments, I was also thinking that the travel and expense policy is something I will add to my list of things to ask about when job hunting (obviously not early in the interview process). I always want to know about benefits, but I don’t think I would have thought to ask about this until reading this post.

  33. OmarF

    My employer expects me to pay things as they come along, and then claim reimbursement (normal in my industry; I didn’t know anything else even existed!). Hotels and meals on the road are normally paid by me and then claimed. Usually, they pay for the plane tickets as that is something that can be arranged up front. They usually pay within a week of me submitting receipts. This varies a bit as they have a weekly cheque run, so I might have just missed the run for the week. This has always been before my credit card bill comes due.

    Some factors I don’t see above in the comments. One reason for this is it forces us to hand in receipts to get payment. Believe me, this is a big issue to get compliance if your own money isn’t on the line. No receipt means the company can’t claim the money as an expense on their taxes.

    Time to payment will depend on how long it takes for the approving manager to sign off on the expense. I make it a point to sign for my staff within a day of receipt, but I might be gone for days. My boss signs mine quickly as well whenever possible.

    If we travel in groups, the more senior people will usually cover the bigger expenses as we go along.

    One reason for the room charges to be on personal cards is to make sure that personal additions are covered by the employee. If the business covers the room, they could have an issue collecting incidentals back.

    I personally like how we handle things. It makes it easier to purchase odd things for the job as I need them, knowing I just have to justify them to my boss after the fact. I’ve always had good relationships with my bosses, so that’s never been an issue. Having to convince someone else that my need is important enough for a voucher or other system sounds like a bureaucracy nightmare to me.

    1. Cat

      You bring up a good point. I have a hard enough time getting around to turning in receipts as is; if it was a requirement for me to get reimbursed, it is easy to imagine that I would never get around to it.

    2. SB

      In the office I work at now, we have corporate AMEX cards. Every month we have to check out expense account, explain all of the expenses through the expense system, and attach scanned copies of all receipts. If you don’t attach receipts, the card doesn’t get paid. Any late fees or credit dings from late payments are the responsibility of the employee. It’s reason enough to never mess with receipts.

  34. Cassie

    At our university, plane tickets can be paid directly by our accounts. Hotels generally have to be paid with the traveler’s credit card unless you can find a hotel who will accept a purchase order (I know hotels near us will, but YMMV when dealing with out-of-town hotels). So in general, aside from the flight, everything else has to be paid by the traveler first and then get reimbursed. And no, employees can’t pay for other employees.

    Reimbursements used to take a lot longer (a month was not unusual), but they now take about 5 days barring any backlog. We have students who travel and I always try to process their reimbursements as soon as they turn them in. A former coworker used to hate doing travel reimbursements (per her own comments, they kept getting rejected) so she just stopped doing them. There was travel from a year earlier that still hadn’t been reimbursed. I would be livid if I were those students, but I guess they just learned to live with it.

    The univ did use to give travel advances, but I don’t know if they still do that (or if they assume everyone has credit cards now). People can get travel credit cards but it is under their own name and they would still be responsible for paying the balance if the reimbursement doesn’t go through in time of the bill due date. Our corporate credit cards (which we are not personally responsible for) can’t be used for travel.

    I had a professor who was traveling abroad for a couple of weeks and his reimbursement request was for about $10K. He joked that his wife said they would need to take out a loan on the house while waiting for the reimbursement (or maybe he wasn’t joking…).

  35. Laura

    Definitely ask HR/boss and have an open mind about it.

    At my company, employes get MAD when secretaries book things on the corporate card because employees want the travel points/perks from their credit card. Therefore, everyone is told to default to charging on personal cards. However, if you ask, they have corporate card available. I know you already asked, but I am writing this in case others are in this situation. Don’t assume the worst. My company considers it a service to us to allow us to charge it on our card (which I love- I get free vacations from all the points!)

  36. SarahMarie

    I work in an HR department and mainly deal with payroll. Our consultants travel quite a bit and are expected to have an Amex card to use for their travel. However, I do have a lot of people who come and ask for a travel advance for various reasons. Some valid and some not. I would imagine that if traveling for business would present a financial hardship, most employers would rather you come to them to determine a solution then to have you stressed out and lose productivity at work.

  37. FieldServiceGuy

    I performed international field service and training for an engineering company. Often, I would be staying in remote locations without internet (sometimes without phone service) for up to two months. I have had airfares as high as $8500 This company required use of personal credit cards. They were often late with reimbursment, in one case 6 weeks! I figure that the field service staff at this company provided a $250,000 line of credit for free to the company.

  38. Andy

    Leave the company. If something like that happens I wouldn’t touch a company with a bare pole. This just might be a beginning of conning you further. Search for another job.

  39. Mimi

    I hope someone can help me here but I cannot seem to find an answer to my question regarding credit cards. This is a little bit different. My husband has been working for a very large but privately owned company for 28 years; always using a company American Express card. Just recently there have been changes in management and also a salesperson who abused his company card to the amount of $4,000. A memo was sent to all the sales people stating that all company credit cards will end May 24, 2014 and that sales will be required to use your own personal card. Now this is where it really gets weird. They want you to turn over your personal card number to them so they can book your flight and room as they did before but with their company card. WHAT? Are you kidding? I flipped when I read my hubs company memo! I do not want a secretarial pool access to our personal credit card number and other personal information. LEGALLY . . . can a company do this? My husband is 63 and still plans on working till about 70 (hes a very young 63 :-) and we have worked really a lifetime to save and wish to protect our money, property, etc . . . and feel like we could loose alot if our credit card or personal information got in the wrong hands. We do not mind using our card and booking travel ourselves and getting reimbursed but not comfy with someone having access to our number to do that like they did with the company card previously. Any suggestions? Is this legal for a company to have your personal number? HELP!!!

  40. Rowdy Roddy

    I worked for a company for 13 years that had a travel department, and if they required you to travel for work, they handed you a complete itinerary, booked and paid for, with a Per Diem allowance check, paid in advance. NOTHING came out of our pocket. That is my minimum expectation. I will accept nothing less, or I will not travel for an employer. I recently started with a new employer. The first time they asked me to travel, I told them no problem, and asked for my itinerary, much the way I did at my previous job. They looked at me like I was from another planet. They told me to pay $2000 worth of expenses, such as hotel, flight, meals, parking and rental cars on my personal card, and they would pay me back after the trip. So, I pay now, and get reimbursed in nearly 3 to 4 weeks????? Not an option. I refused to travel. I am fortunately in a career field that is AGGRESSIVELY recruited. If they want to fire me for not using my own card, I will gladly take a few week fishing trip on the UnclePloyment dime, and then pick the next employer of my choice when I feel like returning to the job force. I will make sure the next company has the funds to operate like a real company.

  41. Lyc

    My husbands company says he must have a business credit card, it is in his name but they pick the bank (no points or benefits). They do pay timely. However recently he was hurt at work and was off for a few months recovering. The company would not let him work including doing his expenses (the expenses have to be done in the office on their computer, then approved by the manager). Their policy is not to pay any finance charges, so now there are over $200 worth of finance charges that we have to pay (they refuse to pay the finance charges ). He wants to close his credit card but they are telling him he is required to have it. Is this legal for them to require this?

  42. HotinAtlanta

    I work for a small company and I have to “front” the expenses for postage. The “accountant” is the owner’s wife and she is notorious for waiting over 2 weeks before we are given our reimbursement checks. One of my co-workers has been waiting a month for his December reimbursement check. Neither of us are paid enough to be able to float money like this. Last time I sent her a reminder she got extremely nasty and told me not to send her emails again. She does not understand that this is my money she is holding. If our checks aren’t in our hands by 4:30 p.m. on Monday, I am planning to have a talk with the owner and tell him he either needs to be sure we are reimbursed in a timely manner (1 week is long enough) or provide us with a company credit card to use. Very unfair to expect us to use our credit/cash to pay for company expenses.

  43. TaxWhammy?

    I have worked in the same situation as Rowdy Roddy and most of these posts describe. When you’re fronting your employer for business expenses (the cost of having you around to work) and getting reimbursed. What I want to confirm or clarify is how the reimbursement is taxed? Isn’t the check that pays you back for expenses added on to your normal paystub and therefore taxed for income, etc? What I’m wondering is if you front $2000 for a hotel stay, for instance, you get reimbursed, you pay off your credit card….then next year, the $2000 shows up as ‘income’ and then you’re taxed 20-30% of that income? Is this what happens? Doesn’t that mean we would be paying (in tax) about 20-30% of our hotel expense as an employee? This is the part of the taxes on reimbursements (as income) that I don’t understand. I’m not even sure if it’s treated this way. Anyone know?

    1. Omar

      @TaxWhammy. It’s actually quite fair. Pay a bill, hand in a receipt, and the money paid is not taxed. The only issue is if the company is slow in paying and you can’t afford to carry the charge. I’ve always been in situations where I got paid before the credit card came due, subject to me actually putting in the expense report on time. That’s the part I always hate; having to do the paperwork to get my money back.

      But, drive a mile and get paid a mileage rate. Depending on the rate, that could result in taxes. I doubt there are many employers that will pay a rate higher than the non-taxable amount though, so I’m sure you are safe. Rules will vary depending on where you are, but what I describe should be close anywhere in North America.

  44. Mimi

    @Omar and @Tax Whammy. Good question Tax Whammy but Omar, are you SURE about what you said about “not” being taxed?

    1. Editor

      In the U.S., reimbursements should be coded as reimbursements on the pay stub, even if the amount is paid out along with pay, so the reimbursements should not be taxable. You should be watching your pay stubs to see how the reimbursements are coded. Properly documented expense reimbursements are not normally taxed unless they’re very generous or violate other IRS guidelines — here’s some IRS information:

      “If your employer reimbursed you or gave you an advance or allowance for your employee business expenses that is treated as paid under an accountable plan, the payment should not appear as income on your Form W-2 (PDF), Wage and Tax Statement. You do not include the payment in your income, and you may not deduct any of the reimbursed amounts.

      “To be an accountable plan, your employer’s reimbursement or allowance arrangement must include all three of the following rules:

      “You must have paid or incurred expenses that are deductible while performing services as an employee
      “You must adequately account to your employer for these expenses within a reasonable time period, and
      “You must return any excess reimbursement or allowance within a reasonable time period

      “These rules are discussed in greater detail in Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses.

      “If your employer’s reimbursement arrangement does not meet all three requirements, the payments you receive should be included in the wages shown on your Form W-2 (PDF). You must report the payments as income, and you must complete Form 2106 (PDF), Employee Business Expenses, or Form 2106-EZ (PDF), Unreimbursed Employee Business Expenses, and itemize your deductions to deduct your expenses. See Publication 463 for detailed information on your employer’s reporting requirement for business expenses and how you are required to report these expenses on your tax return.

      “If your employer reimbursed you for travel or transportation under an accountable plan but at a per diem or mileage rate that exceeds the federal rate, your employer should include the excess in the wages on your Form W-2. Box 12 of your Form W-2 should report the amount up to the allowance. If your actual expenses exceed the federal rate, you may itemize your deductions to deduct the excess. For information about the federal per diem rates, refer to Per Diem Rates at GSA.gov and for information regarding mileage rates, refer to Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses.”

      From:
      http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc514.html

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