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How Do Business Spenders Really Feel About Using Personal Cards for Work? It’s Complicated

BELLEVUE, Wash., Jan. 13, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Center, a technology company helping businesses manage and optimize spend, today released the results of its first Business Spender Sentiment Survey, which asked over 500 business spenders—employees who make purchases or travel on behalf of their company—how they feel about using personal cards for work expenses.

“One of the most common statements we hear from CFOs, accounting managers, and HR leaders in organizations of all sizes is, ‘We don’t have a corporate card program because our employees like to use personal cards to earn points, rewards or cash back,'” said Naveen Singh, Center CEO and co-founder. “We wondered if that was actually true, especially given the financial burdens of the pandemic economy.”

“What we found is that while employees do see earning points as a benefit, many also experience stress and incur financial costs, especially for the nearly 70% of respondents who carry or sometimes carry a balance on their personal credit cards,” Singh continued. “Center’s Business Spender Sentiment Survey reveals employees’ burdens, worries, and opinions about using personal cards for work.”

Survey Highlights:

  • Nearly 70% of corporate cardholders still use personal cards for business expenses. A quarter of them (25%) said they use personal cards because their corporate card isn’t accepted everywhere.
  • Sixty percent (60%) of those who choose to use a personal card over a corporate card do so to earn points, rewards or cash back. The employees most likely to make this choice include executives and sales people, who likely view earning points as a benefit in return for frequent travel.
  • While 87% of respondents agree that, “Employees should be trusted to make the right decisions on purchasing,” only 51% of respondents have a corporate credit card.
  • Nearly 80% of respondents agreed with the statement that “employees want to use personal cards to earn points,” but just 52% agreed that “it’s reasonable for companies to ask employees to use personal cards to pay for business expenses and wait for reimbursement.”
  • Just under half (49%) of respondents have to use personal cards for work expenses, either because they hadn’t been issued a corporate card or because their company did not have a corporate card program. The majority of this group (56%) said that earning points, rewards, and cash back on their personal cards is a benefit.
  • Of those who have to use personal cards, half (51%) also said there are burdens that come with using personal cards. These included financial impacts, stress around reimbursement timing, embarrassment when they don’t have enough credit available, and a sense of unfairness that they have to use their own money for business expenses.
  • Nearly 70% of those who use personal cards for work, whether by choice or necessity, carry or sometimes carry a balance on their personal credit cards. Those who carry a balance were three times as likely to experience stress around interest charges, late fees, lower credit, having less money for daily living expenses, or exceeding their credit limit.

Points Come at a Financial Cost, for Employees and Organizations

Survey respondents who carry a balance on their personal cards were of all ages and all levels within an organization. Even if their companies reimburse them quickly (90% say they are reimbursed in less than three weeks), people who carry a balance forward will immediately begin accruing interest charges on new purchases (business or personal). Those interest charges, which cannot be expensed for work, impact employees’ personal finances and ultimately negate the value of the points earned for those purchases.

Furthermore, for organizations who have invested in a corporate card program, there is duplicative cost and effort involved in maintaining two employee expense systems. In addition to paying for and managing a corporate card program, organizations also have to process and reimburse out-of-pocket expenses for employees choosing to use personal cards, adding to the complexity of an already time-consuming process.

“Business spend has been shifting over the last decade, with more employee-driven, decentralized purchasing, a trend only strengthened by the pandemic this year,” said Singh. “In addition to typical travel expenses, employees today pay for software, digital advertising, office supplies, and more by credit card. Organizations need to consider how to manage and track card spend more efficiently while also minimizing the financial burden on employees.”

Key Takeaways

For companies without corporate card programs:

  • Ensure the review and reimbursement process is timely and efficient to minimize employee stress.
  • Use p-cards (departmental purchasing cards) for non-travel office expenses, rather than having employees use personal cards.
  • Recognize the financial burden placed on employees as well as hidden stress factors such as carrying a card balance.
  • Consider offering a corporate card option to employees who would benefit from it.

For companies with a corporate card program:

  • Adopt a card program with wide payment acceptance.
  • Encourage corporate card adoption by replacing month-end expense reports, a process that typically takes an hour or two for spenders, with easy, automated expense tracking for corporate card expenses.
  • Review policies around who gets a corporate card to ensure cards are available across the employee base.
  • Move non-travel spend to departmental p-cards to minimize financial burden on employees and maintain visibility over expenses.
  • Eliminate duplicate processes for accounting by consolidating spend on one corporate card system, rather than paying for and managing both a corporate card program and employee reimbursements.

An infographic of the survey data is available, and the full report is available for download here

About Center         
Center ID Corp., doing business as Center, helps organizations thrive by getting the most of every dollar—and hour—spent. With its integrated corporate card and expense software, Center uses real-time data to track spend as it happens for better visibility, live analytics, and cost savings. Center is based in Bellevue, Washington. For more information on Center, please visit

Media Contact:
Jennifer Lyle
[email protected]


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