A travel policy is a set of guidelines your company has for its traveling employees. It is a document that instructs employees about the systems it uses to book travel, how to contain costs, and how to allow for exceptional circumstances. Your travel policy should be provided to all employees who travel as part of your employee handbook.
Companies are increasingly turning to expense management software to help them automate and streamline travel expense reporting. Having a travel policy in place before implementing your expense management solution is essential to the success of the software.
Safeguards and Notifications
Travel policies are written to account for a wide variety of situations. They might provide distance restrictions for lodging, for instance, and every policy is sure to include spending caps. As is likely to happen, sometimes expenses are higher than allowed in the manual. Last minute flights, for example, might be more costly than those planned well in advance. In these cases, it is important that your policy outline an approval protocol that is reflected in the software.
Expense software provides ways to notify the appropriate manager when an expense overage is deemed necessary. It can either block the employee from making a ticket purchase until approval is granted, or simply give notice to the appropriate manager. Your expense policy will be the determining factor of how individual scenarios are realized in the system. The software makes your policies visible and actionable.
Define Special Expenses
Companies have special occasions arise through each fiscal year. Protocols for conferences, board meetings, annual employee outings, etc. should be addressed in the travel policy guidelines. If, for instance, the company hosts its board for a meeting, it might pick up the tab for accommodations, but outline in the manual that board members must provide a credit card to the hotel in case of outside expenses such as room service meals, shoe shines, or damages. Your software can’t do everything for you, but it can be set so that employees must enter explanations for extenuating circumstances.
When booking travel in accordance with a travel policy, many companies require you to use a specific travel agent or other specific service. If your company utilizes expense management software, you can use it to book airfare and hotels, too. The software can be set up to contain costs within certain windows, and help employees find the lowest possible rates for air travel, lodging, and rental cars.
All good travel policies include provisions for reimbursement. The policy should include a time frame for reimbursement, guidelines for what expenses are covered, and procedures for how to address any exceptions. This will provide your employees with a set of expectations so that they can budget accordingly.
Prior to reimbursement, however, employees must provide their expense reports and receipts in the appropriate form. Expense software can help employees manage this on the run—most cloud-based solutions allow entry and approval of expense reports from mobile devices or personal computers. As they are traveling, employees are able to upload copies of their receipts to the system, and log all major expenses (airfare, lodging) directly in the software.
What Policies are Reflected in the Software?
You can customize your expense management software to reflect any aspect of your travel policy documents. The list is long, but can include items such as:
- Preferred airlines
- Preferred rental car agencies
- Preferred hotels
- Seating preferences (1st Class, Business Class, Coach, etc)
- Hotel rate limits
- Airline flight pricing limits
- Type of rental car
Enter Your Travel Policy into Expense Management Software with the Help of an Implementation Team
With a well-defined travel policy in place, your expense management solution (EMS) partner can set up your software to match your policy. At ExpenseWire, our U.S.-based support and implementation team works with your accounting team to configure your EMS to the needs of your organization.