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Corporate policies: Cell phone reimbursement

Corporate policies: Cell phone reimbursement

Old Apr 15, 08, 6:30 am
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Corporate policies: Cell phone reimbursement

Hello. I'd like to get some ideas of what other people's companies do for cell phone reimbursement for travelers.

The company I run is a small company. We have two types of traveling employees:
1. Sales people - on the road a ton; use the cell phone to stay in touch with friends and family but also with prospective clients to keep deals moving along.

2. Sporadic travelers - on the road a week or two at the most per month, but not every month; use the cell phone strictly for personal use.

Today, I reimburse both groups equally at a flat rate regardless of travel time. The number of sporadic travelers is starting to increase to the point where more people will be on the road but perhaps no one person will be on the road more than one week every two months. I'm starting to the good old 'that isn't fair' comments if I don't reimburse everyone equally so I would like to make some changes.

For the sporadic traveler, there really is not a sound business purpose for the reimbursement aside from not wanting to hassle with calling cards or hotel room phone charges. I should also point out that right now, I reimburse the two sporadic travelers a flat rate regardless of how much they travel or don't travel just to make it easy for me to administer.

I am thinking of a few options, but wanted to see what other companies who are cost sensitive might be doing. The thoughts are:
1. Get a few pre-paid cell phones that the sporadic travelers can take with them and use when on the road, recharging them at $25 per month or something like that.

2. Come up with a per day allowance for cell phone expense while traveling and let them use their own phones...something like $5.00 comes to mind but even that may be high.

3. Regardless, keep doing what I'm doing for the sales folks...they use it, they use it for company business and we make money becuse they do.

Any thoughts or suggestions either in theory or real life experience?
dingo is offline  
Old Apr 15, 08, 6:51 am
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My situation is not quite the same as yours - I'm on the road 5 days a week, as are the majority of the rest of my company's consultants. I used to get a flat $50 a month to cover my cell phone, but when the company asked me to add email access to my personal phone I told them that they'd need to cover the whole thing....so now they pay $120 for full BlackBerry access for me. It was either add it to my personal phone or carry it plus a company BlackBerry....and my business cards have my personal cell number on them anyways.

Are the phones your staff use company phones or personal phones? The company at which I'm deployed now has a number of people who travel sporadically, and they have a loaner phone pool. In theory, they're only to be used for outgoing calls, so that the current holder of the phone doesn't end up with incoming calls along the lines of "but I called this number last week for Joe/Sally/whomever," but I don't know how well that works.

The loaner phone idea might work better than the prepaid idea. I like the prepaid idea in concept, but what happens when someone heads out of the office and then realizes that they only have 4 minutes left on the "company" phone? They'll use their personal phone, then grumble when they get back about "Dingo gave me a phone but it only had 4 minutes on it, but he's paying for all of the sales guy's phone. What's up with that?"

That said, if there are only two people who travel periodically, you might be able to make an arrangement where you pay half their monthly bill or something like that. Even if they've gone to the latest unlimited calling or whatever kind of plan, you're probably only looking at $50/month apiece. Just remember that you'll only pay for the primary line, in case they have a family plan/text messaging/ringtones or other crap that they try to use to pad the bill. At a small company, that's probably less likely to happen, but you never know.

Let me know what you decide....always interested to hear about policies like this as they're something I must follow.
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Old Apr 15, 08, 6:59 am
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Most of my staff are on company phones. We have a pool of several thousand that are mixed cell and BB.

I have a few employees that use personal cell phones. I just have them expense their bill. It's not worth the quibble over $50 or $75 or even $100.
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Old Apr 15, 08, 7:06 am
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Thanks for the replies so far. All of the phones are personal phones for both groups...a decision I made when I got tired of replacing phones that had been dropped, left in rental cars or run through the wash machine. Interestingly enough, personal phones get taken care of a lot better than company owned phones...hmmmm....something counter to the 'spend the company's money like it is your own' concept!
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Old Apr 15, 08, 7:15 am
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On the use of a personal phone, my company does not reimburse unless it is a metered call. E.g., if you're using your bucket of minutes, you're S.O.L. If the call is a metered call, they pay the full cost, but see below.

The company also issues out loaner cell phones (they're on monthly plans, not prepaid), incoming and outgoing work related calls are gratis to the employee, obviously billed to the company. As for the exact calling plan, I'mm not sure, but I do know that even if the call is being made/received from the "bucket" the billing feature does allow the company to track the cost of the call. When an employee signs out a phone, they give a billing number to the staff handling sign out/sign in of phones and, internally, the calls are billed to the billing number.

Personal calls. Each employee is allowed one (yes, one) "reasonable" length personal phone call (incoming or outgoing), per day. Reasonable is based on the length of the trip the employee is taking. Truly, though I have NEVER heard of the company (1) defining reasonable, (2) tagging an employee for making more than one call, or (3) tagging an employee for making a call of unreasonable length. I'm sure it has happened, but I've never heard of it. In part, I think this is impossible for the staff to really police (for example, who's going to sit there and look at calls and compare them to the employee's home / family number).

Datawise - employees who need one (either full time or for a trip) are issued a Blackberry. Tech people come and set it up and, for the part time / per trip user, pick it up at the end of the trip, wipe it and issue it to the next user. No cost to employee (our company however has a pretty strict no personal email on company systems policy).
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Old Apr 15, 08, 7:53 am
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the company I use to work for would reimburse for business calls, not personal calls, so each month I had to get a detailed statement, go through it and highlight the business calls and submit and expense report. Some months I did it, others I didn't because it was a real hassle. With that company, I traveled about 75% of the time and used my cell phone mostly for business calls.

The company I work for now reimburses for the full cell bill every month regardless and I travel 50 - 75% of the time and always file a monthly er for the cell bill.

Also, the company I use to work for had an office, my current company I am home-officed when I am not on the road.

I guess if I was making the decision, I would reimburse the whole bill for people who travel 1 - 2 weeks per month as well as the people who travel all the time. The overhead of having to figure out if people are doing the split corectly, plus paying their time to figure out the cell bill would probably cost you more than just paying for it.
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Old Apr 15, 08, 8:38 am
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Company I work for gives you two options: 1) expense your personal cell phone up to $65/month. 2) receive a company BB and you are not allowed expensing the phone. Many of the people I know have switched to the BB option as it's one bill they no longer have to pay personally. They also like the functionality of the BB units better than their personal phones. I have the BB and personal cell phone but mainly use the BB.
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Old Apr 15, 08, 8:42 am
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We are required to tot up the number of minutes used for business calls and are reimbursed ratably for the same. E.g. on a 1,000 minute plan I use 750 for business calls. Company would cover 75% of my bill.

As a practical matter, it's a pain in the arse to check through a couple of dozen pages of calls so I just pay the bill myself.

In my previous job, I received a flat monthly cell phone subsidy which covered 90% or so of the bill.
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Old Apr 15, 08, 9:25 am
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This is awesome...thank you!

Again, on the sporadic travelers they use it almost exclusively for personal use...hardly any work related calls. It is just my dodge to company calling cards and hotel room phone bills. If these folks who traveled a little bit were tethered to it for client or business purposes I'd pay it in a heart beat. Right now, I feel like all we are doing is subsidizing their personal cell phone usage. Maybe the right answer is actually one posted here, though painful for the employee: reimburse work related with an itemized receipt or maybe I'm back to my per diem allowance.
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Old Apr 15, 08, 9:27 am
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Our company is a little odd, in that we don't have a real phone system. All ee's can choose whether or not to receive a company-paid Skype number and phone, and nearly all may expense $40/month toward their personal cell. People with phone-intense jobs get $60 or $80 depending on position, IIRC. Also, "technical" folks who are field-based get an company PCCard modem.

In the OP's case, I'd be tempted to just add a per-diem for phone, e.g. $2/day, and be done with it. In a smaller organization, the hassle of owned equipment, loaners, etc., isn't worth it.
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Old Apr 15, 08, 9:39 am
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We used to have a policy that reimbursed up to $80 per person. However depending on the type of user, sometimes $80 wasn't enough.

We ended up talking to business account reps from AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint. AT&T actually gave us a proposal where our cell phone bill was reduced by almost half if we put all of our phones under one account.

What helped with the savings was the fact that a lot of our users called each other. Before they each had different carriers and everyone's minutes were used when they called each other. Now calls to each other are included because they are all in the same network.

Additionally, all minutes are pooled so if we have some users that don't use the phones that much, their alloted minutes can be used by someone who uses the phone more.

An added benefit is that since we issue the phone and phone number, if there is turnover in a position customers and other corporate contacts don't have to learn a new number. They can continue to use the same number to contact the new employee in the position.

We're a small company and didn't think we could afford to put everyone under one account and pay the bill directly, but the savings were astonishing.

Something you may want to look into.
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Old Apr 15, 08, 10:55 am
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Originally Posted by Mikey likes it View Post
We are required to tot up the number of minutes used for business calls and are reimbursed ratably for the same. E.g. on a 1,000 minute plan I use 750 for business calls. Company would cover 75% of my bill.

As a practical matter, it's a pain in the arse to check through a couple of dozen pages of calls so I just pay the bill myself.
This is how we do it if you use a personal phone for business calls. We do have corporate issued phones through AT&T (Treo and Blackjacks running GoodLink are the path they chose). If you have one of those, it's fully-reimbursable as long as you don't go over your plan minutes. If you go over your plan minutes and had *any* personal calls on them, you have to itemize.

I have a company issued phone. Total bill for voice (800 min) + GoodLink is about $100 all in ( - company discount + taxes).
bdjohns1 is offline  
Old Apr 15, 08, 3:23 pm
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Look at using company phones and getting a "Family" plan for your employees, with unlimited night & weekend minutes and a large pool of anytime minutes. As noted above, you'll get a giant pool of minutes for everyone to use. The primary account will be quite expensive, but you can add on lines for ~$20.00 per month each. Make the employee responsible for replacing any phones in between a 2 year company replacement policy.
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Old Apr 16, 08, 8:16 am
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Well, the MOST important thing to do/have is to have a policy in place and make sure everyone understands it, and it is accessible or communicated.

Then, my historical policies when running companies and one of the policies that I put in place at many companies is the following:

Sales people, get their phone re-umbursed or better yet are issued a company phone. this usually includes email, internet, etc as they need it, and the philosophy is that sales people are on the road often, we want to encourage and support their ability to CALL HOME and stay in touch with family, friends, etc as easily and cheaply as possible. This is a cheap perk compared to the value it creates for the employee to reduce stress and reduce the feeling/thinking that they are constantly away and out of touch from their lives. The key things to work on with your company Cell providor are M2M, N&W with early starts, etc. A good contract with 5+ users should be able to net your some 10%+ discounts, M2M and N&W at 19:00.

For NON-SALES people, usually mgmt gets a phone. Again, cheap perk and the majority of their calling is going to be business.

For other NON-SALES, the policy states that we'll do an accounting for 90 days and establish a % of business calls that are valid. That % 20%, etc will be simply re-imbused every quarter as a re-imbusable expense and paid. We'll do a review once a year. There are companies that will do this for you for 5$ a month added to your accounts, per user, but I was always able to do it myself in about 10 minutes total. But, with 50+ phones, I could imagine that the 5$ a month would be a worthy expense.

hope this helps.
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Old Apr 16, 08, 8:57 am
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I work for a large consulting house and we have flat rates for reimbursements by level. The flat rate allows the employee to determine what devices they want to have. The rate covers use of Blackberry Data, cell phone and wireless broadband card useage)

Staff - $50
Senior - $100
Manager & above - $150

The policy does not take into account whether the person travels or not. It is assumed that staff aren't in so much demand that they need a BB, cell phone and wireless card)

I have a BB with unlimited data and a separate wireless broadband card. My bill comes to $165 a month so I pay $15 out of pocket.
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