Expensify: A new take on expense reporting

Business travel seems to be one enormous headache, with the long security lines, the new fees for luggage, and the unrelenting crush of people on cramped airplanes. But perhaps the worst aspect of business travel is what happens after your return to the office: the dreaded expense report.

As an independent consultant, I don’t have to file expense reports for all business travel. I do have to consolidate expenses to invoice my clients, however, which accounts for more than half of my travel. Over the years, I have developed certain techniques to decrease the pain of gathering expenses after the fact. For example, at the time that I book travel, I capture the charges and put them in my invoice tool of choice, Blinksale. Still, this only works for the big ticket items, and the majority of my expenses can’t be captured this way, like meals, taxis, and hotel charges.

I have looked at various tools that work with scanners, such as Neat Receipts but my experience suggests that they are too error prone and fussy, and that particular solution is Windows/Vista only. I have a five megapixel camera in my cell phone and a scanner, so capturing copies of the actual receipts is easy. I can snap pictures of receipts while on the road, and throw away the originals. But the process of entering in the expenses is still a manual one, and I am sure that I miss expenses every once in a while.

I recently came across a new service that could really end run this whole process. Expensify.com takes a completely novel approach to automating expense reporting. You sign up with the service and provide your credit card information. They send you a brand new Visa debit card, which you then use for all your expenses that you’d like to automatically track. They pass through the charges to your original card, so you can continue to earn points. But Expensify captures the expenses and accumulates them at their website, so you can go there and turn them into an expense report with a few clicks. You can also attach images of receipts to expense reports after emailing them to Expensify where they automatically put them in your account for you.

Here’s a screenshot of a bunch of expenses:

And once they are associated with an expense report:

The business model is simple: Expensify charges 3% of the funds that you pass through the card. This may seem a bit steep — $30 on a $1000 business trip — until you consider what the hour you might otherwise spend fooling with a spreadsheet is actually worth to you. My bet is that to the people most likely to file expense reports — serious road warriors — the $30 will look like pocket change. They also allow you to enter expenses into your account manually, so I am likely to continue my practice of putting the big charges directly on my regular card — airfare, for example, or the base room charges for hotel reservations — and capture that at the time I make the reservations. But now, when I am in New York, London, or Copenhagen, I will simply charge everything else — meals, taxis, and additional hotel charges — on my Expensify card, and snap pictures of the receipts.

Expensify offers some additional benefits that make it even more attractive. You can forward the expense report electronically, and the recipient can pay directly by credit card. Expensify will credit the money to your original card. This could save me weeks of wait time, since my clients often cut a check or set up a bank transfer. In either case, I might be waiting weeks.

There is a short delay when you sign up, since it takes a week or so for the new credit card to make its way through the mail. I can’t wait for mine to arrive.

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As of 9:00 a.m. eastern time, the Expensify site seems to be down. It says that it is down for maintenance, but hopefully it gets back up before the end of the day so all of you can check it out for yourself.

11 Comments for “Expensify: A new take on expense reporting”

  1. posted by Fit Bottomed Girls on

    I have a business trip coming up…this totally seems worth the price. Especially if it saves as much time and headache as it seems like it would!

  2. posted by Mer on

    That is a nifty program – wish I had it when I worked at an ad agency – I could just key each expense to a job number in that Comments field and hand it in to Accounting. It would have saved tons of time.

  3. posted by Scott Johnson on

    Can we get back to unclutterer, please? This is more like advertising.

  4. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Scott — Since we began as a website, we have conducted product reviews. On our About page, you’ll see that we view product reviews as an integral function of our site. This software product helps people who travel for business and helps to clear the clutter from their work life. We don’t receive any sort of kickbacks from Expensify.

  5. posted by Amy on

    Went to the site, but it’s under maintenance right now. It SOUNDS like a good thing, so I hope the site comes back up soon.

  6. posted by David Barrett on

    Doh! Sorry you caught us in the middle of maintenance. We’re reviewing some changes to the site with MasterCard for approval, and unfortunately need to take the site off the air while waiting for a response. We expect this to be a one-time thing — a sort of hazing ritual all new card vendors need to go through — and hope to have it back up before the end of the week. In the meantime, all existing cards continue to work 100%, it just means we can’t take new orders for a bit. Sorry for the inconvenience!

    -david

  7. posted by John on

    I’ve been using a site called Shoeboxed for awhile, and they take care of the receipt scanning. You just mail them in and they scan them for you. That’s better for me than this because I really do need to have the receipts available for my accountant. This makes you scan them yourself which I did for years but always spent so much time doing.

    So yeah, I recommend Shoeboxed.

    J.

  8. posted by Sammy on

    Regarding the rate – not only is that pocket change to serious road warriors, but the fee you pay Expensify can be a tax deduction! Just put it down as an “unreimbursed business expense”. As long as you can identify it as a line item, you’re golden.

  9. posted by 14k on

    Word of mouth kills the site 😛

  10. posted by Business Travel Frequent Flyer Guru on

    A great service, but a bit expensive, as you said Expensify is best suited to the hard core road warrior.

  11. posted by dphelan on

    Actually, Neat Receipts is available for the Mac, and has been for some time. It’s right there on the front page of the site, or directly at http://store.neatreceipts.com/.....ts+for+Mac. Despite being listed as ‘advance release,’ it is a real and working product. (The software works as advertised, but is still being updated to support feature parity with the Windows version.)

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