Tracking business travel expenses

Expenses—one of the inevitable outcomes of business travel. And with expenses come expense reports. I’m not going to say it’s the worst part of my 6-9-14job but….okay. It’s the worst part of my job. To be fair, it has gotten better. The program my company uses has gotten faster, and now we can email PDFs of our receipts instead of having to mail hard copies. But still, it’s no fun. Last weekend I spent four hours on a Saturday working on expense reports so I could get them turned in by the deadline. Four hours! On a Saturday! I guess it’s one of the perils of traveling many weeks in a row.

I am not foolish enough to think that my way is the best way of doing things; it’s certainly not the only way. But I have gotten several requests lately to share my suggestions for tracking receipts and expenses. While I am happy to share, what I’m really interested in is what other people do. So, my process:

  • Keep my receipts in the back portion of my wallet during trip.
  • After trip put in envelope to keep separate until time to do reports
  • For reports, I arrange receipts by date and category, take a picture of each receipt, then email all of the pictures to myself
  • I create a PDF of all of the receipts and use my company’s program to do report

It’s not fun, but it’s less tedious than it used to be. I used to scan all of the receipts and create a PDF that way, but simply taking photos is much easier and can be done anywhere. The Home Warrior is trying to convince me to take a picture of each receipt as I get it. For some reason that seems risky to me! But maybe in the future.

I know there are apps that can be used, but whether they are helpful or not really depends on what reporting program your company has.

Readers, how do you keep track of your expenses? Do you use an app? Other technology?

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  1. I’m really curious to see what apps other use. Last year I used iXpenseit (something like that) on my iPhone. It takes pictures of the receipts, you add a few details and it saves everything. Problem is at the end of the year, the file was SO LARGE that it took almost 15 minutes to turn it into a PDF, and then another 10-15 minutes to export the file. On top of that, I had to print +400 pages, and hand that to my accountant, who did not think that was cute…not one bit. I have a backlog of receipts from January 1 that need to be recorded somehow, but I don’t know if it’s really going to happen.

  2. Fortunately my company uses Concur. I can capture receipts using my phone’s camera and add all the detail on the Concur app. I don’t have to save paper receipts or scan images when I get back home. I process each receipt as they come so the minute I land I can submit my expense report.

  3. My Key is minimize paper so you don’t end up with a suitcase/wallet/purse full of paper for the last three weeks. Travel Receipts should be pretty easy, since you should automatically be getting Airline, Hotel, and Rental Car Receipts in your email. Auto-sorting receipt related mail into it’s own folder makes this even easier.

    Other expenses like meals is a bit harder, but I agree with HW. Take a picture as soon as you get them. If you have an iCloud or a Google Account, those pictures should be auto backed up to the cloud. I have to paste all of my receipts into word documents and PDFs as well and have found this to work extremely well and I’ve never lost a single receipt since I’ve done it this way. My expense reports are done in 15-20min per week of travel.

    I also load my expense reports to my google drive account/receipts, so I am always at the ready when a client/the tax man ever needs to see a receipt again.

  4. Taking pictures and emailing receipts is a good method. But it’s nice to work for a company that has a $75 threshold to require receipts 🙂

  5. I have a similar system, except i have a mobile app that takes a photo and converts to pdf and emails it (“geniuscan”)
    I take the photo at the moment of puchase – the pdf file name is the date and time, so that helps me remember what the charge was.

  6. @Pat, that sounds like a good one. The only concern I would have for that is a lot of my expenses are incurred outside the country–what kind of data does that use up? Will it save them as a draft if it’s not able to send the email?

  7. My company uses Concur and I use their app. Its as simple as taking a picture of your receipt and hitting save. It automatically uploads the image to your expense report and you can fill in the details later. It sure beats the old arts and crafts projects of taping receipts to paper and faxing them in. We book trips thru Concur also and it syncs those into my TripIt app as well. Overall, I can’t really complain about it since its a lot better than what we used before. I just can’t compare with any other apps.

  8. I use the camscanner app and snap a picture of each receipt and then email it to myself. Unfortunately, our Time and Expenses system requires us to upload a separate receipt for each line items. For hotel invoices that include VAT (those need to be physically mailed into central accounting) I keep an envelope in the front pocket of my Travelpro Crew 8

  9. Our T&E department needs to see every receipt that we scan to them. So I save all the receipts tape them to copy paper so as not to jam the scanner and scan them over. Because we us a corporate Amex to make the payments we use PeopleSoft to reconcile the card and add cost centers and receipt descriptions and submit the report electronically the Fwd the scan of the receipts. Seems antiquated to me.

  10. We use Concur as well, used to use Replicon. Concur is much better (just because the app is more stable); I really like being able to snap photos of my receipts while I’m still traveling. I still save everything until I file the expense report, though.

  11. I also use Concur and I love the app – normally my expenses are incredibly easy because everything automatically imports from my corporate credit card so I only have to submit receipts for the occasional cash expense. However, on a recent two week trip I found out that my corporate card had been cancelled when I tried to pay for my ride to the airport, and I couldn’t get a replacement until I returned home. Thousands on a personal card later (I pay for meeting space & catering on trips), I’m sorting through a mountain of receipts and double checking everything against my credit card statement. I tried to keep up with it all by uploading photos as I went but I’m paranoid I’ve missed one. I can’t believe that just 5 years ago this is how I did all of my reports, what a headache!

  12. My company uses ExpensePath and it is great – receipts by mobile app or email to my account, can pull in Amex transactions, converts foreign currency automatically. Much easier to use than other solutions I have had to use.

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