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How to use your employer’s company credit card

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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 company’s rules around using theirs. 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 and 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 do’s and don’ts of using your company’s credit card.

What to do with your employer’s credit card

Make sure you know your company’s policies on what can be charged on your credit card and what can’t be. 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.

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 — but not all do, and you may be held responsible for paying the difference if you overspend.

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.

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.

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 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 agreement on using it, so pay attention to those rules, and revisit them if you haven’t used the card in a while.

Avoid making large purchases without getting pre-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 your company has set. 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.

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 forget to communicate about mistakes. For one thing, 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.

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 forget to keep an eye on the security of your card. 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

A corporate card can be a valuable tool as an 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 it’s important to make sure you use your card exactly as your company intends.