January 6, 2022

Corporate credit card policy best practices + how to manage employee credit card agreements

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As business travel begins to pick back up and many workers return to the office, they’re dusting off their company credit cards and getting ready to start spending again. One thing employees may not be looking forward to, however, is filing their expense and reimbursement reports after their trips.

That presents an opportunity for companies to re-examine their corporate credit card policy and to remind employees of expectations around both business and personal spending. Disciplined and efficient company credit card policies are crucial for management or small business owners looking to take control of business expenses and protect the company’s bottom line.

Following corporate credit card policy best practices can also reduce the potential for confusion and appropriately set expectations for all parties. Of course, establishing a strong corporate credit card policy is important, but the software you use to implement that policy—and the cards that you select—are even more important.

What is a corporate credit card policy?

A corporate card policy outlines the terms, conditions, and expectations associated with an employee-issued credit card. It aims to help accounting departments with financial reports, simplify business spend control, and reduce instances of unauthorized expenditure.

Five components of a strong corporate credit card policy

A good corporate credit card policy is easy for employees to understand, simple for you to enforce, compliant with the accounting department, and flexible enough to facilitate growing business needs. Employees should sign a written copy of the corporate card program's policy before they start using their card, indicating that they agree to the parameters.

Each company’s policy will differ based on business size, financial position, and unique needs. Still, most corporate credit card policies will serve as a bridge between the finance team and company employees.

Corporate credit card policies should cover the following:

Cardholder responsibilities

This outlines the employee credit card agreement, in other words, the responsibilities of any employee handling a corporate credit card. The clearer you can be about duties and expectations, the more cards you can issue (teamwide). These responsibilities typically include following the rules outlined in the business credit card policy, taking reasonable measures to protect the card and its information, and promptly filing necessary expenses.

The general expense policy

Here’s where the policy discusses the rules tied to the corporate credit card account, including whether employees can use personal cards for business expenses (they shouldn’t), who employees should contact if they have questions about spending, and employee corporate card eligibility criteria. It should also contain guidance on documentation requirements and the process to follow when mistakes happen.

Allowable or prohibited expenses

This section covers which expenses the company will cover and up to what amount. This typically varies based on the card user. A salesperson, for example, might have the authorization to use their card for client entertainment, while an office manager might be authorized to purchase business supplies. This breakdown should also define the consequences associated with prohibited credit card purchases (which can range from loss of card privileges to termination of employment).

The request-and-approval workflow

A step-by-step overview of how and when cardholders need management approval for their purchases. The simpler and more seamless you can make this process, the less time employees will spend on expense reporting, and the more time they can spend focused on doing their job. 


Even the most comprehensive policy can’t cover everything. This section of your corporate credit card policy will instruct employees and managers on how to resolve issues that arise from unusual spending or unique situations not explicitly discussed in the policy.

How to ensure employees adhere to your policy

The best corporate credit card policies take a fit-for-purpose approach, making it fast and easy for employees to record expenses and for managers to approve them—and that means moving away from old school approaches and implementing technology.

Finance teams should lean on automation that digitizes and enforces card policies. This means looking for cards that allow organizations to do the following: 

Minimize reimbursements by making it easy for employees to request cards

Giving all startup employees a corporate card, allowing them to request virtual cards, and strongly discouraging the use of personal cards makes expense reconciliation much more efficient. Using a startup business credit card also minimizes the impact of business expenses on the personal cash flow of employees.


Automate approval routing for new card requests 

The required approvals for card requests may vary depending on the department or level of the employee asking for the card and the desired card limit. Routing such requests to go directly to the appropriate manager—or line of business leader or finance team, if necessary—speeds up the process and allows the end-users to make purchases more quickly and turn their attention to activities that actually add value.

That’s particularly important in today’s hybrid work environment when dispersed teams are often still working across multiple time zones or on asynchronous schedules. 


Implement real-time receipt and memo collection

Best-in-class cards allow employees to submit receipts in real-time via text or email—or by uploading them to an expense platform. They can email e-receipts to a designated address or use photos of physical receipts for in-person purchases. Employees can also submit a short memo with expense details for purchases over a certain threshold.

Fast, seamless expense entry also provides finance teams with a better view of how and when departments or individual employees spend money.


Set daily, monthly, and one-time spending limits

By putting these credit limits in place on cards, managers can reduce the potential for out-of-policy employee spending and all the hassles that come along with reconciling them. Modern corporate cards also enable managers to scale such limits up or down as business needs change or employees take on different projects or roles within the company.

A flexible, tech-enabled card can even allow for payments to suppliers who have not historically accepted credit card payments, providing more flexibility to scale, increase working capital, and decrease the time spent paying bills. 


Implement category and merchant controls 

By pre-approving certain expenses (and implementing limits) by category (e.g., car rentals or hotel rooms) or by vendor, managers can authorize cardholders to make purchases while still maintaining specific expense restrictions. This empowers team members to make their own spending decisions, minimizes the fear of disciplinary action due to out-of-policy spending, and improves morale while also facilitating more seamless workflows.

Bonus: Categorizing expenses can not only give you additional control over employee spend, but it can also make record collection easier at tax time or when building out a P&L statement. By requiring certain fields and documentation upon submission, you can easily generate detailed reports when you need them later. 


Establish spending alerts

In traditional spend management workflow, the finance team may not see credit card transactions until weeks or months after a purchase. That can make it difficult to correct mistakes or ensure policy compliance. The finance department can create its own rules for such alerts, getting the information they need without waiting for monthly statements or being bombarded by notifications.

A better corporate spend solution automatically reviews each transaction in real-time, alerting the appropriate managers to suspicious charges, price increases, or other expense-related discrepancies. It can also identify potential areas of waste, such as duplicate subscriptions or opportunities for rate negotiation. 


Use card templates

For frequently used cards, such as those for new employees, wellness reimbursement, or company lunches, card templates allow for mass rollouts with minimal work for the finance team. Each card’s template can have embedded limits and spend rules that make sense for its use case. 


Startup finance protection made easy with Ramp

Building and polishing your corporate card policy can feel overwhelming, but by working with the right partner—and the right technology—you can improve spend management, price transparency, and policy adherence. The right corporate card can not only streamline expense management, but the funds saved along the way can fuel growth.

For example, Ramp’s savings-focused corporate card comes with software that easily allows finance teams to digitize and enforce their corporate card policy. One popular Ramp feature allows companies to block out-of-policy spend as it’s happening, reducing the potential for mistakes or fraud.

With Ramp’s real-time visibility into all transactions and customizable spend controls, you’ll always have insight into employee expenses—and the ability to prevent or minimize out-of-policy spend. Ramp is technically a charge card (not a credit card), which means you never have to worry about interest or late fees. Plus, it offers unlimited 1.5% cash back and additional spend management solutions, such as bill pay, accounting automation, and integration with your other tech tools.

Sr. Content Marketing Manager, Ramp

Stefanie Gordon is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Ramp. Prior to Ramp, she worked as a content strategist at two digital marketing agencies, iQuanti and Aurora Marketing, and as a finance reporter at Institutional Investor, where she covered everything from options to pension funds. Stefanie graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in English and a concentration in journalism and later earned an MA in education from NYU. When she isn't immersed in content and thought leadership, Stefanie loves to play any and all racquet sports.

Ramp is dedicated to helping businesses of all sizes make informed decisions. We adhere to strict editorial guidelines to ensure that our content meets and maintains our high standards.


What is a company credit card policy?

In a business context, a company card policy sets forth the guidelines, limitations, and expectations tied to an employee-issued corporate credit card.

What’s the difference between a corporate credit card and a small business credit card?

While often similar in function, there is one key difference between these two card types—small business credit card applications often require a personal founder guarantee. Corporate card providers generally don’t make such a weighted request.

Can I use my company credit card for personal purchases?

Unorthodox use of company credit cards, for example, obtaining a non-merchant cash advance at an ATM, is typically prohibited. If unauthorized charges appear in card statements, finance teams will work with the card issuer to:

  • Identify the user
  • Request an original receipt (in pursuit of a refund)
  • Make changes to the responsible party’s credit card limit (and, in some cases, escalate matters to more serious levels)

How First Tee transformed its bookkeeping and saved time with PwC and Ramp

"The efficiency of using PwC Bookkeeping Connect, coupled with the Ramp platform, has probably been about 75% time savings. Instead of every hour I would have had to spend on bookkeeping, I’m probably having to spend maybe 10 or 15 minutes.”
Dan Burke, CEO, First Tee San Francisco

How Mix Talent cut costs, gained transparency, and improved efficiency with Ramp

"I use Ramp’s functionality to examine the contracts and understand whether we’re getting the best terms, as opposed to just trying to get the bill paid. Ramp has allowed us to project cash flow so much better."
Paul Streitenberger, Accounting & Finance Lead, Mix Talent

How The Joffrey Ballet cut their month-end close time with Ramp

“One of the things I was looking for, and which Ramp has done for me beautifully, is to consolidate credit cards, ACH payments, check payments, and reimbursements into one place and give us a full picture for insights."
Gee Hoon Lim, Director of Finance, The Joffrey Ballet

How Beyond sped up reconciliation time 8x faster with Ramp

“With Ramp we close in 5-6 days, which is pretty quick for a company with four different subsidiaries."
Jake Steele, Senior Staff Accountant, Beyond

How Ramp helped Barry’s save 400 hours/month on expense report headaches

“As we scale we need tools that are built to scale with us - we need to see expenses real time, we need to see duplicate spend. These types of insights are important to the health of our business.”
Steve Padis, SVP Finance & Strategy, Barry’s

How Seed optimized card management, increased compliance, and prepared for scale with Ramp

“Ramp is helping us build a closed loop of financial feedback if you will, we’ve gained visibility, accuracy, and control.”
Sarah Bird, Controller, Seed

How Ramp enabled Glossier to save 5 hours/week and easily integrate with NetSuite

“We were in disbelief. We were not prepared for the speed of execution.”
Roxane Cosnard des Closets, Senior Manager of Financial Systems at Glossier

Time is money. Save both.

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