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Travel and expense policy best practices

Every business has its own travel and expense policy, to meet the individual organisation’s particular needs. There are some common principles that all effective policies include. The travel and expense policy is critical to business profitability, integrity and compliance, so it’s important to make sure the rules are clear and comprehensive.

The most effective travel and expense policies are dynamic, linking expenditure to customer and revenue data so that guidance is appropriate to the particular business situation. For example, last minute travel to close a business deal may require a higher level of spending than a traditional travel policy may allow, but the revenue generated by the deal could far outweigh the cost incurred. Other best practices include:

1. Be clear and simple

Don’t overcomplicate the travel and expense policy. Keep it concise and clearly written, so it’s easy to understand and refer to. For spending thresholds, or daily (per diem) allowance rates, make sure the rules are clear and explain why they are necessary.

2. Consider employee needs

Make sure your employees won’t end up out of pocket – if they are required to spend on behalf of the company, reimburse expenses promptly. If your policy states that employees must use certain suppliers, for example, hotel chains, make sure there is an easy and rapid way to seek approval for alternatives if there’s no availability in the location.

3. Connect travel and expenses policy to profit

When you drive travel decisions using customer and revenue data, you empower the traveller to spend what’s needed to generate revenue and profit for the company. You could set a budget depending on the forecasted revenue of the business trip. For example, sales reps might be given 10% of the total value of their sales opportunity for travel and expenses. They know the deal needs to be profitable, so this will encourage behaviours where they spend money as if it is their own.

4. Streamline the process

Make it easy for people to submit their expenses. Technology can really help with this, as long as that doesn’t mean complicated scanning and extensive forms. The latest digital travel and expense systems let employees make expenses submissions on the road, using their mobile devices to photograph receipts. Line by line expense submission means employees don’t stack up a backlog of expenses that creates a cashflow problem for the business.

5. Use an integrated system

For travel booking, an integrated travel and expense system can automate expense management, populating an expense claim with travel and accommodation bookings made within the system. This saves time for employees and finance, increases accuracy and gives better commercial visibility of spending.

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