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How do YOU keep track of business travel expenses?

How do YOU keep track of business travel expenses?

Old Mar 7, 11, 11:11 am
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I do a combined hi-tech and low-tech method. As I get a paper receipt, I "scan" it using an iPhone app. There are many to choose from, some free, some paid. As long as you "scan" the receipt on a dark service, the app recognizes the edges and only scans the receipt. I keep 1 file per week.

My company still requires the paper receipts, so I also keep the paper in a special compartment in my carryon bag. I may also put them in an envelope, but basically all receipts go in that compartment. But if I happen to lose one, I still have the snapshot I took with my iPhone, and my company will take that in a pinch.

I then combine the "scanned" receipts with any electronic receipts (airfare emails, National car rental receipts emailed to me, etc.) and submit them along with our Excel spreadsheet expense report every week. Easy!!
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Old Mar 10, 11, 4:42 pm
Join Date: Dec 2005
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Since I often have to turn in the actual receipts, and (like your upcoming schedule) often have several back-to-back trips that have to be documented separately, I keep a series of envelopes available.

In the old-day, I hole-punched them and put them in my Franklin. Now, the envelope for the current trip is in a special, easily-accessible slot in my breifcase or backpack, and the other envelopes tucked away. Then, when I work on my expense claims, I pull out each envelope in chrono-order and it is easy to finalize.
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Old Mar 11, 11, 1:13 am
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When slipping around between hotels, the welcome letter envelope carries the incoming day receipts, the checkout envelope is nice for the next days. Always a good excuse for a quiet drink in a corner of the bar to update the day's totals into the small pcket sized (old fashioned) notebook. Saves carrying an electronic lump and looking for a power point, also if the envelopes hit the laundry or whatver you at least have another record. First action on the return flight or train, transpose into the spreadsheet for submission.
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Old Mar 17, 11, 10:04 am
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I take an envelope for each trip, write down expenses on the back and put receipts in the envelope, hand the envelope to my secretary when I return and I'm done. If you are required to prepare your own reimbursement request, you will then have the chronology and the documents you need. One thing to remember is to write down items for which you may not be required to submit a receipt (if your company adheres to IRS requirements, you may not need receipts for taxis and meals under $25, for instance).
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Old Dec 22, 11, 8:38 am
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expense tool

I know some folks that use xpenser.com and they really like it. You take a photo of your receipt and the app auto updates everything on the site. It really streamlines the process.
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Old Dec 22, 11, 8:47 am
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Originally Posted by Kalvenanderson View Post
Hi caimakale, keeping a track of travel expenses in spreadsheet seems some what tedious My company uses Concur Premier. It's an end-to-end travel and expense management solution. It helps simplify the booking process, expense reimbursements and pretty much tracks all my business expenses. In other words, it is a complete enterprise business solution that provides end-to-end integrated travel and expense management.
Mods, this is clearly an advert.
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Old Dec 22, 11, 8:51 am
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Key is for employer to simplify the process. If you pay people to total up their nickels and dimes and then pay people to review those, it's a huge waste. We have gone to the following;

1. Travel booking through corporate travel. My assistant supplies a client code. The charge for the ticket is "stripped" off my corporate CC and I never see it again.

2. Same thing for car service to/from home airport + on the road. I never pay the expense and thus don't get reimbursed.

3. Receipts for hotels, meals, entertainment and other incidentals are submitted to the extent they exceed $25.

All of this means that on a 1-night trip, all I have is a receipt for the hotel and dinner, maybe a lunch of I was doing entertaining. Possibly a couple of local cabs if no car service.

Those few receipts go in an envelope, are scanned into special software, approved electronically and reimbursed directly to my bank account in between 1 and 9 days (we process reimbursements on the 10, 20 & 30th of the month. So a receipt submitted on the 11th is paid on the 20th as is a receipt submitted on the 19th.
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Old Dec 22, 11, 3:40 pm
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Looking at my own experience and that of folks on my team who also travel heavily, my biggest piece of advice is to stay on top of tabulating expenses. If you put it off for 4-6 weeks (as some of my colleagues occasionally did) you're going to forget what happened, you'll have lost some receipts, and you're probably going to eat some costs. It doesn't matter whether you use technology solutions like smartphone scanner apps or old-fashioned methods like clipping receipts together in an envelope that you enter into a spreadsheet at the end of the week. Just do it at least once a week.
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Old Dec 22, 11, 11:24 pm
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Originally Posted by boschertjd18 View Post
I know some folks that use xpenser.com and they really like it. You take a photo of your receipt and the app auto updates everything on the site. It really streamlines the process.
Welcome to FT..

Originally Posted by EuropeanPete View Post
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Or referral..
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Old Dec 23, 11, 8:58 am
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My company also uses Concur and this isn't an advert, just an honest user review, as I don't work for Concur nor do I get any kickback from them. Gotta tell you, I love it. My corp finance people linked my corp Amex to my Concur account; anything that goes on the corp card automagically shows up in my Concur account so all I need to do is fill in some details for each expense (like if I take a customer to lunch, I fill in the customer names). It is pretty accurate in categorizing the charges, i.e. a restaurant charge made at 1pm automatically goes in the "Employee Meals on Travel-- Lunch" category. The only reciepts I need are hotel (as you can bury all sorts of crazy stuff on a hotel bill, so they want it itemized) and cash expenses over $25. Under $25 they take our word for it.

For the hotels, I do as much business as I can with hotels that keep my folio online in pdf (like Hilton) or email a folio that I can print to PDF (Hyatt, Marriott) then I just upload the PDF. About once a year I have to stay in a hotel that doesn't do online/email folios and I put those in my suitcase so I know they'll make it home, scan and submit. My most common over-$25 cash expense is taxi reciepts but I keep a stash of those in my desk for when I forget to get one. You can buy books of taxi reciepts at Office Depot.

It's a very efficient system, I really love it, as our old system was to tape paper reciepts to a sheet of paper, number them in the order they were entered to the old online expense system, and drive out to the office to drop into inter-office mail. No matter how careful you were, the Accounts Payable folks would find something to reject your report for. I got rejected once for taping the reciepts by the corners instead of the top/bottom. It would take me about 60-90 minutes to do the expense report for a 4-night trip. I can do it in about 10 minutes now.

FWIW I do have to cover the $75 annual fee to participate in Amex Membership Rewards but since I usually rack up 30-40k Amex points each year, it's worth it to me. We do have pretty strong policies against using a personal card (which I used to do on the old system) so I don't bother although I know folks who prefer to get a VP/Director approval for every expense just so they can get their personal card's points. Their personal cards are not linked to Concur so they have to do their expenses the "old" way. For me, I'd rather have the VP/Director's attention for better reasons so I'll stick with the Amex and Concur.
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Old Dec 23, 11, 9:35 am
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Firstly, be wary of companies that reimburse! You should never pay to work, even temporarily while waiting for them to pay you back.

That said, it starts with receipts. Keep every single one. Each meal, each toll booth, each parking slip, each hotel summary (hotels, to save themselves work, will sometimes just charge your card and tell you that you are good to go without printing a receipt. Get one anyhow)..and keep them together either in a compartment in you wallet or in a valet of some kind. Keep each day's together, use a paperclip. Always keep them in the same place, a dedicated compartment in your briefcase or laptop bag..this way you will always know where to look and remain organized. Doing it daily protects you from forgetting when and where you went weeks later, and you will forget, especially after travelling frequently. Trips all begin to blend into one.

A spreadsheet is simple to do and you can tailor it to your needs. My advice is to start a new worksheet for each trip, and update it the second you book the flight or hotel and then each night while on the road.

Even though you need to submit those receipts and invoices for reimbursement, I strongly advice that you copy them first, even better, make them into a PDF. There are many reasons for this: the company could lose them, the hotel or restaurant could alter the charge (servers are fond of changing the tip amounts), the rental car company could claim you screwed up the car (SO ALWAY KEEP AND COPY YOUR WALK AROUND INSPECTION CARBONS FROM CAR RENTALS) or you get double billed somewhere. Retaining receipts is useful if you ever have to dispute a charge to your CC, and as backup if the employer decides they don't want to pay you everything back.

Keep a hard copy of the complete worksheet and receipts (or copies) on file..computers get stolen or break down..hard copies are great backup.
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Old Dec 23, 11, 11:20 pm
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I've worked for a variety of sizes of companies here in the US and I don't have an allergy against paying expenses up front and being reimbursed later if that is the default modus operandi for an employer. As others have noted in this thread, letting yourself get behind in filing your expense reports is a killer for multiple reasons. So if you do manage to keep to just a maximum of 2 weeks delay between incurring expenses and turning in your corresponding expense reports, then even if you end up filing a report immediately after a paycheck cycle (or expense reimbursement period, if your company's expense reimbursement system works on a periodic cycle not perfectly aligned with paychecks), thus inadvertently maximizing the latency between your incurring the expense and your getting reimbursed, you probably still got reimbursed before you had to make payment to your credit card, even with the reduced 21 days between statement date and due date for most US based credit card issuers.

Yes, it's true you're taking a risk on the short-term credit worthiness of your employer. If that's a significant issue, you need to be planning many things accordingly, not just your expenses reporting strategy. And yes, I think a young recent grad or somebody in a tricky financial situation who may not have the ability to float the money temporarily should ask the employer about possible alternate arrangements such as getting a lump sum advance. While I have the wherewithal to easily float the money, occasionally I do have a business trip planned in advance with sufficient certainty that both airfare and hotel should be booked and paid well in advance to get good prices, and my employer has not objected to reimbursing me for those expenses already incurred, even though the trip itself has not yet taken place. After the trip I'll then file another expense report to cover food, misc. transport, incidentals, etc.
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Old Dec 24, 11, 1:10 pm
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My former company used Concur as well. It was pretty good, but sometimes it would go down or hang or be slow. That said, it saved the time and trouble of mailing in the receipts like we used to prior to using it. I was based at PHX, the corporate office was in JAX. We would scan our receipts to a PDF and retain the originals ourselves. It also helped that we were using the corporate AMEX and not our own funds for reimbursement.

You could also export the reports to excel or many other formats, so we did not have to come up with custom spreadsheets.
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Old Dec 24, 11, 6:29 pm
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Originally Posted by Flahusky View Post
I'm shocked not a single person has mentioned NEAT Scanners.
I had the worst luck with Neat Receipts. Their scanner software always crashed my laptop. Every time I opened it, it was a race against the clock before I got a Blue Screen of Death.

Originally Posted by pinworm View Post
Firstly, be wary of companies that reimburse! You should never pay to work, even temporarily while waiting for them to pay you back.
Every firm I have ever worked for did this. Even Ernst & Young - we got a corporate AmEx, but we were responsible for paying it every month. Personally, I don't really care if I'm floating the firm a grand or two a month - I know they'll pay it back promptly (with the next pay cycle - before any payment is due to the credit card) and I get to keep the points.

Originally Posted by EuropeanPete View Post
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Old Dec 24, 11, 8:01 pm
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Since it's my company, I have to really watch what I do lest I end up in front of the Tax Man.

When I'm on the road, I put all receipts in my travel folder that has my weekly or biweekly itinerary, notes, maps, hotel confirmation numbers, rental car info, etc. When I get back to the office, I sit down and fill out my expense report.

For the last 15 years I've used an Excel spreadsheet of ByWeekly expenses.
I'd be glad to share it if anyone wants a copy, but you can create your own based on your needs. I enter mileage or rental expenses, lodging, meals, entertainment, etc. etc. and it's totaled for the DAY and totaled for the WEEK.

I staple my receipts to the back and send the biweekly report to my accountant on a quarterly basis (6 expense reports quarterly).

Seems to work for me, him, us, and Tiny Tim Geithner.
In fact, perhaps HE should have used some sort of accounting and then HE would not have gotten in trouble with his own agency.
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