Nearly half of organizations are still stuck with manual expense reporting systems. Does your company still have a tedious, paper-based system or homegrown solution with a spreadsheet and a few email routing rules? These manual or low automation systems are prone to errors that can cost you money and productivity. We’ve selected our top 10.


1. High-Cost, Low-Speed Processing and Approval

Add up all the time spent by various employees manually processing expense reports, and each report costs you an average of almost $30. Switch to one of the expense reporting solutions that offer automated expense submission, approval, and reimbursement, and you speed things up while bringing the cost down to under $10  per report.


2. No Way to Submit Expenses while on the Road

Manual expense reporting solutions require travelers to retain receipts and log them in when they’re back in the office. As most business travelers are aware, finding and organizing all the receipts at the end of the trip is a challenge. Modern expense management solutions let them save time and boost efficiency while entering expenses – and copies of receipts – from any mobile device during a trip. 

Related: How to Make the Business Case for an Expense Management System

3. Tougher to Negotiate and Keep Volume Discounts

Business vendors, especially travel providers such as hotel chains, often offer discounts if you commit to a specified level of spend. It will be challenging to figure out how much you spend with each vendor if you still use a manual expense reporting system. Automated expense reporting solutions let you quickly pull up annual spend for each vendor and items such as average room rate or fare and location of spend. It also helps you to track in real-time whether employees are booking with preferred vendors to ensure that negotiated rates are kept in place.


4. Limited Enforcement of Compliance

From airline lowest logical fares to meal allowances, monitoring and enforcing policy compliance can be a bear with a manual or homegrown expense reporting system. Automated solutions let you set up parameters that either flag or prevent out-of-policy expenses, prompting travelers to explain why they might be out of policy. This automated compliance enforcement also helps to minimize friction between expense submitters and approvers.


5. All-or-Nothing Approvals

If the person responsible for approving reports is away from the office or an item requires additional information, expense reports and reimbursement can be delayed. With manual approval systems, one line item can delay an entire report. Expense automation keeps the workflow going with line-item approvals and speedy reimbursements for uncontested expenses.


6. No Employee Visibility into Reimbursements

With manual systems, users never know where their report is in the approval process or why their reimbursement is delayed. Modern expense reporting solutions give users real-time email notifications if reports require further clarification. They also let users log on to the system to see where their report is in the approval process at any given time.


7. Greater Chance of Human Error

A system requiring manual data entry is begging for mistakes to be made. Mistakes are easy to make and track, with paper-based processes making it difficult to find the error’s starting point. Receipt OCR eliminates human error issues by scanning, parsing, and importing data from receipts to expense line items. This automation also allows expenses to be processed from submission to reimbursement without needing human data keying.


8. No Integration with Online Booking Tools

The use of corporate travel online booking tools (OBT) is growing, and such tools can become even more efficient and effective when they feed all trip data directly into a global expense system. Such effortless integration is never the case with a manual system – and what about trips that get extended, changed, or canceled?


9. Difficult to Prevent Expense Fraud

Expense fraud in the U.S. costs employers billions of dollars annually, and many of these cases are committed by those who submit expenses manually. Manual expense reports lack the safeguards such as booking feed integration, policy compliance monitoring, and flagging suspicious-looking claims – just to name a few. Approvers may miss mistakes and fraudulent expenses. Modern solutions include expense report audit capabilities that provide a secondary review process to help catch errors and thwart fraudulent activity.

Related: How Much Does Business Expense Fraud Cost?

10. No Way to Scale as You Grow and Evolve

As your organization grows and evolves, the only growth in your manual expense reporting system is a higher volume of reports to review, approve and reimburse manually. Modern expense report solutions effortlessly handle any sized workload with the utmost efficiency and ease.

If you think your company is saving money by sticking with a manual expense reporting solution, think again. Look beyond the fixed costs and into the gains in productivity, time and other benefits a fully-automated expense report software can bring. 


Our choice of Chrome River EXPENSE was made in part due to the very user-friendly interface, easy configurability, and the clear commitment to impactful customer service – all aspects in which Chrome River was the clear winner. While Chrome River is not as large as some of the other vendors we considered, we found that to be a benefit and our due diligence showed that it could support us as well as any large players in the space, along with a personalized level of customer care. Sally Abella, Director of Corporate Travel Harman International
We are excited to be able to enforce much more stringent compliance to our expense guidelines and significantly enhance our expense reporting and analytics. By automating these processes, we will be able to free up AP time formerly spent on manual administrative tasks, and enhance the role by being much more strategic. Ben Zastrow Zelle