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Corporate Plastic Power: Surveying Employees on Company Credit Cards [2024 Survey]

Alex Miller's image
Alex Miller
Alex Miller's image

Alex Miller

Founder & CEO

Countries Visited: 34U.S. States Visited: 29

Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex is a leader in the industry and has earned and redeemed millions of points and miles. He frequently discusses the award travel industry with CNBC, Fox Business...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
Keri Stooksbury's image

Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

Countries Visited: 44U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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A company credit card is a tool of empowerment, trust, and sometimes, contention. In the complex world of corporate finance, their role often remains obscured. From inadequate training and loose guidelines to using personal funds on business-related expenses, company-issued credit cardholders may not always know exactly when and where to swipe.

To learn more about this financial enigma, we surveyed 500 professionals entrusted with company credit cards. We got an insight into their perspectives and practices while using the plastic gatekeepers of corporate funds.

Follow along as we learn about the purchases made with corporate cards most often, the difference in personal and corporate card usage, and how a lack of training and specific guidelines can lead to varying levels of misuse, intentional or unintentional.

The Purchases Most Often Put on Company Credit Cards

To begin our examination of company credit card usage, we wanted to learn more about 2 key insights: the purchases most regularly charged to these cards and commonly deployed security measures. We asked respondents about their most frequent corporate card transactions and the protections their employers have in place.

There were 4 major purchases that over half of cardholders cited making regularly. Travel expenses take the lead, with 65% of folks using their swipes for transportation and lodging on business trips. 56% use their cards for meals and entertaining clients, while office equipment and technology follow close at 55%. Recurring purchases for everyday tools, such as software subscriptions, are made by 54% of cardholders.

Interestingly, over a quarter of respondents (27%) report using their company card for personal expenses.

Regarding security measures, most companies want the paperwork. 57% require receipt submission when using the corporate card. The same goes for spending limits, with 57% also keeping tabs on the amount of cash that is spent day-to-day. 48% have transaction alerts set up, and only one-third of companies (34%) require employees to use 2-factor authentication when making business-related purchases.

Hot Tip:

Find out if a corporate credit card is right for your business and what some business card alternatives are if it isn’t.

Company Credit Card vs. Personal Credit Card Usage

An infographic illustrating insights about the use of company credit cards vs. personal credit cards
Image Credit: Upgraded Points

Now that we’ve got an understanding of how corporate cards are commonly being used, we want to wade into the slightly murkier waters of the study and find out how company credit card use differs from personal credit card use and how often those lines are blurred for holders of both cards.

The average monthly company credit card bill is reported to be $6,506, far outweighing the $2,347 reported average for personal credit card statements. Looking at just these figures, you might think that employees are overspending at work. However, 1 in 5 Americans find themselves “often” or “always” making work-related purchases with their own money. An additional one-third of respondents (33%) do this at least “sometimes.”

This blurring of lines between personal and professional spending could be due to employees not wanting to go through the hassle of lengthy approval processes. Of the 82% of employers who require approval before purchasing items with company cards, 29% require it every time, no matter the size or frequency of the purchase. 53% only require it for large or recurring purchases.

To blur the lines even further, when asked who manages the rewards offered by their company credit cards, 10% of respondents had no idea, and another 10% said it is done on a case-by-case basis. With 20% of cardholders not clearly understanding who keeps and manages the rewards they’re racking up, you wonder whether they’re actually being used. 

Hot Tip:

Finding the best business credit card for your company can help you track expenses, earn worthwhile rewards, and optimize your spending.

Outside of that, one-third of companies (33%) manage how rewards on company credit cards are used, about a quarter (24%) allow employee cardholders to manage them for company use only, and 23% allow the employee to use them for personal use.

How Often Are Employees Misusing Company Credit Cards?

An infographic showing the results of a survey about how employees misuse company credit cards
Image Credit: Upgraded Points

After exploring the gray area of personal fund use for work expenses, we’re turning our focus to a darker corner of corporate card usage. Specifically, how often they’re misused and why it might be happening.

Continuing our theme of blurred lines, a surprising 30% of company cardholders report never receiving specific training or guidance on the appropriate use of the corporate plastic they were entrusted with.

Operating in that gray area, 1 in 5 cardholders confessed to using their company card for personal expenses. Beyond that, the repercussions ripple a bit throughout the workplace. Half of the respondents (49%) are aware of colleagues who have faced consequences for crossing the line of inappropriate corporate card use.

We also found that 62% of cardholders are aware that company credit cards were misused for non-business activities within their organization. 18% say this is commonplace where they work. Consequences, it seems, may not always have the desired effect. 

One thing to consider is the number of misuse cases that go unreported. Based on our survey, 20% of American corporate cardholders would be uncomfortable reporting company card misuse to a superior. We also asked how concerned companies should be about credit card misuse at work. Generally speaking, they think companies should be “somewhat concerned” about the ethical use of company cards (41%), but 24% think they should be “concerned,” and 21% think they should be “very concerned.”

While surely not all of these misuse cases can be attributed to a lack of training and proper guidance, investing more heavily in that area could likely save employers a few headaches down the road. 

Methodology

To learn more about company credit card usage in the U.S., we surveyed 500 American employees with company-issued credit cards over a week in December 2023. We got an insight into the purchases they typically make, the security measures their companies have in place, how their company card and personal card usage varies, and how they (or their colleagues) have misused company cards before.

Final Thoughts

The average American corporate credit cardholder frequently spends on travel, has to submit receipts on large and recurring purchases, rarely (if ever) spends over $5,000 at a time, racks up a monthly bill of about $6,500, and almost certainly knows someone who is misusing their company credit card. We hope this survey provided some insight into the murkier parts of how Americans are balancing their personal and professional budgets (just hopefully not together!).

Alex Miller's image

About Alex Miller

Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex is a leader in the industry and has earned and redeemed millions of points and miles. He frequently discusses the award travel industry with CNBC, Fox Business, The New York Times, and more.

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