Almost all business travelers understand the headaches that manual expense tracking can cause. Misplacing important travel receipts can result in delays in reimbursement, while simple calculation errors that occur when people attempt to reconcile their expenses by hand can end up costing a company thousands of dollars at tax time.
The average business now spends 10% of its annual budget on expenses related to business travel, according to research from the Aberdeen Group, and 40% of small business owners say they are actively looking for ways to reduce expense-processing costs. Even more important than the costs associated with expense tracking is the time that the process eats up. Business travelers waste valuable time when they track their expenses with a pen and paper, or even an Excel spreadsheet. Increasingly, businesses are looking to cloud-based expense management software for a solution.
Using expense management software, business travelers can submit receipts from any location, at any time. In many cases, receipts can be entered into a company’s accounting system electronically by snapping a photo of the receipt with a smartphone device. Busy professionals are able to increase productivity by managing travel expenses when they’re sitting at the airport, at a hotel, or at an off-site work location.
Of course, expense management software is not without its downsides. To use these tools, business travelers must rely on their smartphones or tablets. Additionally, expense management software relies heavily on an Internet connection. Business travelers who are working in remote locations without WiFi or 3G connectivity may have to wait until they return to the office to manually input their receipts and expenses online.
Ultimately, most business travelers can increase their productivity when they start using digital expense management tools.
Here are five tips to make that transition successful.
1. Take advantage of unproductive moments.
Business travel is filled with downtime. Whether you’re waiting at a car rental kiosk or relaxing in a hotel lobby before your next meeting begins, you can use your free time on the road to input business receipts using your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Using expense management software like Xpenditure, you can digitize receipts and add notes about relevant purchases while the information is still fresh in your mind.
2. Skip paper receipts when possible.
Whenever you’re given the option, ask to have receipts emailed to you rather than printed. Most expense management systems will allow you to forward emailed receipts to a special address, or submit receipts from inside a browser window, to be automatically entered into your company’s accounting system. Not only does this process allow you to save paper, but it also helps you save time and money.
3. Take a look at device compatibility.
Many of the most popular cloud-based expense management tools offer mobile apps for users with Android devices and iPhones. Business travelers should check to make sure that the platform they’re considering purchasing offers a mobile app that’s compatible with whichever smartphone or tablet devices they already own.
4. Pay attention to costs.
The costs associated with using expense management software can vary wildly from platform to platform. Professionals should pay close attention to the unique benefits that certain platforms offer and avoid paying for specific features that they do not plan on using. In some cases, businesses can pay less for software—like Shoeboxed or SimpleScan Connect, for example—when they opt to pay annually rather than monthly.
5. Keep your original receipts.
Being able to snap a photo of a receipt and enter it automatically into an expense management system can sometimes give professionals a false sense of security. Tax experts recommend that business travelers retain copies of their physical receipts, even after they have entered the scanned versions of those receipts into their online accounting software.