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How do employee credit cards work?

How do employee credit cards work?

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Employee credit cards, or charge cards, can be found at businesses everywhere. But how do they work?

Let's take a closer look at how employee credit cards are different from other types of cards, what kind of benefits you can expect from using them, and why you should get them for your employees. 

Plus, a bonus section on how to choose the right employee credit card for your business—and why corporate cards might be the better choice.

What is an employee credit card?

Employee credit cards are credit cards employees use for business expenses at their place of work. Pretty self-explanatory, but as usual, there's more to it than that. 

For employees, employee credit cards are an easy way to pay for work-related expenses—and get the resources they need to do their jobs—without having to use their own money.

For businesses, employee credit cards provide an efficient way to control and track work-related expenses without having to rely on receipts or reimbursement paperwork.

What makes an employee credit card different from a regular, personal credit card? Simple. Employee credit cards are restricted to company spending only, often in combination with an expense policy. While your personal credit card is only restricted by your own personal policies around spending.

How do employee credit cards work?

Employee credit cards work just like the personal credit cards you have in your wallet.

The main difference? Your personal credit card is restricted by your own personal policies around spending.

Employee credit cards are restricted to company spending only, often in combination with an employee credit card policy, or expense policy. 

This allows employees to make the purchases they need to do their jobs and gives their companies visibility into their spending. 

Employee credit cards versus other cards

Feature Employee Credit Cards Other Cards
Issuer Employer Banks or Financial Institutions
Purpose Business expenses Personal or Business
Spending Limits Set by employer Set by cardholder
Merchant Restrictions Often restricted Generally unrestricted
Monitoring Monitored for compliance Typically not monitored
Reimbursement Reimbursed by employer Paid by cardholder

How are employee credit cards different from other cards?

Aside from being restricted to company spending only, there are four key areas where employee credit cards differ from other cards.

Liability

Debt or interest on an employee credit card is the responsibility of the company, not the employee using the card. 

As such, activity on employee credit cards can affect the company's business credit score—but not the employee's personal credit score. 

Authorization

The process of getting an employee credit card is different from getting a personal credit card. 

Personal cards involve an application process and credit history review with approval based on personal creditworthiness. Credit limits are based on personal credit score and history.

Employee credit cards are instead issued based on employees' roles, responsibilities, and eligibility at the company. Credit limits are based on departmental spending restrictions.

Visibility

Employee credit cards give employers more visibility into employee spending than personal credit cards.

Personal credit cards give cardholders a monthly statement that includes purchases made during the billing cycle.

Employee credit cards usually provide comprehensive reporting with detailed transaction information and expense categorization. Some are even able to sync with accounting platforms for streamlined reconciliation. 

Fees

Unfortunately, when it comes to fees, employee credit cards are often just like personal credit cards. Which can lead to a deluge of fees for businesses that eat away at their profits.

Benefits of employee credit cards

There are many benefits of using employee credit cards as a small or even large business, but here are the top ones.

Automation

By providing more detailed transaction information and a single, central source for expense tracking, employee credit cards allow for automated expense management. 

The right financial automation platform can drastically reduce manual processes and data entry errors. Not to mention time wasted on collecting paper receipts and closing the books.

No more sharing

Giving employees their own employee credit cards lets you avoid the theft and loss, unexpected costs, and messy, time-consuming finances that come with shared credit cards.

Rewards

Rewards programs are an expected part of the credit card experience. Same with employee credit cards. Cash back on purchases and travel rewards can add up quickly, and some companies even allow employees to keep some or all of these rewards as part of their compensation.

Control

Most if not all employee credit cards allow companies to set spending limits and restrict card usage to specific use-cases, vendors, or categories. This extra layer of control over spending helps reduce errant costs and increase compliance with their employee credit card policy.

Ease of use

With employee credit cards on hand, employees don't have to worry about how to make business purchases. Or float business expenses on their own personal cards.

For companies, using employee credit cards also eliminates the tedious, time-consuming process of reimbursements. As well as empowering their people to keep the business running without hesitating when wondering whether or not it's worth making the purchase or not.

Should you get employee credit cards?

With small business credit cards, employees are (typically) personally liable for payments. But with corporate credit cards, there's usually no personal liability for payments. Although it is possible to have them be made jointly liable.

Best employee credit cards (for your business)

What's the best employee credit card for your business? That depends on your business' needs, of course. Take a look at some of the top employee credit cards out there. Then look through the top categories to compare cards when shopping around for an employee credit card.

Top 5 best employee credit cards

Card Annual fee Sign-up bonus Rewards rate Key feature Verdict
Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card $0 $750 bonus cash back 1.5% No rewards cap A solid sign-up bonus plus no annual fee or rewards cap makes this an easy pick for any (and every) business.
The American Express Blue Business Cash™ Card $0 $250 1-2% 0% APR for 12 months A high rewards rate (but low intro offer) makes this card perfect for businesses with good to excellent credit.
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card $95 100k bonus points 1x-3x Travel spending bonus If your employees travel for business, this is the card for you—a moderate annual fee gets you superb rewards on travel spending.
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express $695 None 1x-5x Elite status Like to travel in style? This card gives you lounge access and elite status on top of excellent rewards on travel spending.
Bank of America® Business Advantage Customized Cash Rewards Mastercard® $0 $300 1-3% Gas spending bonus Travel by road instead of air? This card has rewards tailored for drivers—plus no annual fee.

Categories for comparing cards

Annual fee

Obviously, $0 seems like the best annual fee. But make sure to put it in context with all the other considerations before you make your decision. Higher fees often mean higher rewards.

Rewards

Whether it's cashback or points—or even perks like access to airline lounges—employee credit card rewards are always worth paying attention to. Keep a close eye on which categories each card offers the most cash back on: gas, travel, accommodations?

Intro offer

Most employee credit cards will have some sort of intro offer available to entice you to switch. It shouldn't be your main consideration, but it could make the difference when choosing between two similar options.

Online rating

Online credit card rating sites aren't perfect, but they are a quick way to compare your options when you first start shopping around.

Consider corporate cards

As you're looking for employee credit card options, consider the alternative: corporate cards. 

What's the difference between employee credit cards and corporate cards? One is liability: With employee credit cards, employees are (typically) personally liable for payments. But with corporate credit cards, there is usually no personal liability for payments.

Corporate cards can offer even more benefits than your standard employee credit card, especially when combined with an integrated spend management platform (like BILL).

  • No annual fees
  • Flexible rewards
  • Seamless, automatic expense management
  • Access to virtual cards 
  • Cards for every employee
  • Easy admin controls
  • Set budgets to control spend

Want credit card rewards + software benefits?

Get all the benefits of an employee credit card, plus time-saving automation software with the BILL Divvy Corporate Card—a corporate card with fast and flexible business credit.

BILL makes it easy to access the funding you need, no matter the size of your business. Apply for a credit line in seconds and start spending smarter. Get started!

Employee credit cards FAQ

Do companies give employees credit cards?

Many companies provide employees with employee credit cards to avoid the hassle and risks of shared company credit cards.

Does an employee credit card affect your credit?

No. Employee credit cards don't impact your personal credit score. However, employee credit cards can impact a company's business credit score.

What if an employee uses a company credit card for personal use?

It depends on the company's policies. If an employee uses their employee credit card for something outside the state employee credit card policy (AKA expense policy), then there could be warnings or disciplinary action. Or in the most serious cases, fraud charges.

The information provided on this page does not, and is not intended to constitute legal or financial advice and is for general informational purposes only. The content is provided "as-is"; no representations are made that the content is error free.