Key takeaways

  • Understand the company credit card use policy to avoid exceeding limits or making unauthorized purchases.
  • Save your receipts and any written purchase authorizations you receive from a supervisor, and make sure to submit expense reports promptly.
  • Keep a personal card with you as a backup — and if you do accidentally use a business card for a personal purchase, repay the charge and tell your employer immediately.

Your company just gave you a credit card to use for job-related expenses. That can make daily life and business travel a lot more convenient. At the same time, it’s important to make sure you use the card in the way your employer intends.

That starts with understanding how corporate cards work, and your employer’s company card policy. If you work for a small business, you may be added as an authorized user to your employer’s business card, which works a bit differently. In that case, the card you’re given to use may be a personal credit card, not a business card.

Either way, you’ve been entrusted with a credit card connected to your employer’s business, and it’s important to use it properly. Here are some general dos and don’ts of using your company’s credit card.

What to do with your employer’s credit card

Do: Know the credit card use policy

Make sure you know your company credit card use policy on what can and can’t be charged on your credit card. You may be held responsible for any charges that are not authorized by the company. When in doubt, ask your supervisor. Some companies don’t have clear written policies about how to use a company credit card. You’re better off inquiring about the unwritten rules than getting surprised that you’ve broken them later.

Do: Understand your spending limits

Stay current on the spending limits your company has placed on specific types of spending, such as hotel rooms, entertaining clients and meals while you are traveling. Some companies set spending limits for certain categories of purchases with their credit card company, and you may be held responsible for paying the difference if you overspend. Others don’t set such limits.

Do: Save your receipts

Make sure you keep good records. Your company will probably require you to submit receipts for your purchases. If you think you will lose the receipts, take photos on your phone or use a free tool like CamScanner.

Do: Have a backup card

When traveling on business, have your own card ready for unexpected expenses your company doesn’t cover. You don’t want your company credit card to be your only backup if you have to pay for something unexpected, like a trip to the pharmacy or clothes to wear if your luggage gets lost. That’s one way to ensure you maximize the rewards for those purchases yourself.

Do: Be prompt with expense reports

File your expense reports on time. It will be easier for your employer to stay on top of paying the card in a timely way if you provide the information the accounts payable team needs upfront.

What not to do with your employer’s credit card

Don’t: Start spending immediately

Don’t use the card until you know what the company’s rules are on using it. Ask for a copy of those rules. You may be asked to sign an employee credit card agreement, so pay attention to those rules, and revisit them if you haven’t used the card in a while.

Don’t: Make large unauthorized purchases

Avoid making large purchases without getting approval from a supervisor in writing, even if your company has no official policy on this. It’s always best to avoid surprising your employer with unexpected bills!

Don’t: Exceed the spending limit

If you’re getting close and think you may need to exceed the limit on a business trip, ask as soon as possible. Your company may be able to raise your spending limit without penalty or ask you to put some charges on your personal card and submit them for reimbursement.

Don’t: Use a company card for personal purchases

Never use your company card for personal expenses, unless it’s a real emergency. To avoid that scenario, always have another payment card available for your personal expense. If an emergency comes up, and you do have to use it, notify your supervisor proactively, so there are no misunderstandings.

Don’t: Keep mistakes secret

Communicate with your employer about mistakes. Making personal purchases on a business credit card likely violates the terms and conditions of the card agreement, which can have serious consequences. If you accidentally use your business card because you mix it up with another card in your wallet, repay the charge immediately and notify your supervisor.

Don’t: Use rewards points you earn

Never assume the rewards points from your business card belong to you. Your company may have a policy in which the points belong to the company. Ask about the policy if you are not sure.

Don’t: Be lax about security

Even if it’s a corporate card, it’s your responsibility to report fraudulent charges to the card company and notify your employer. If you notice any charges you don’t recognize, notify your company immediately, so they can take appropriate action to prevent future theft. Keep any business card as secure as you would keep your own card.

The bottom line

Corporate cards perks and tools that can be valuable to any employee, saving you from the burden of having to put business purchases on your personal credit cards and maxing out your credit. However, it’s also a big responsibility, and you’ll want to make sure to use your card exactly as your company intends.