5 Top Online Expense Management Systems [+ How to Choose a Provider]

By Linda RoperJune 22, 2023

To keep your business running smoothly, you need to be able to manage your expenses. An online expense management system can help you do that. But what features should such a system have? And how do you choose the best provider for your needs? In this blog post, we discuss some of the most important features of an online expense management system. We also round up the 5 best providers to help you make an informed decision for your own company.

Stack of expense receiptsTable of Contents

What is an Online Expense Management System?

An online expense management system is a tool that businesses use to manage their company’s expenses. For example, this can include expenses occurred from staff travelling to visit clients on-site or entertain clients during a business meeting. These systems are typically web-based, allowing employees to submit expenses electronically and finance managers to approve them.

An online expense management system can be used by companies of all sizes, but it’s particularly beneficial for medium to large companies that often have a lot of expenses to track.

Why Does Your Business Need an Online Expense Management System?

The goal of an online expense management system is to reduce the administrative burden on employees while improving transparency and visibility into the company’s spending habits.

Types of expenses that can be managed

There are many different types of expenses that can be managed with an online expense management system. Some examples include:

  • Meals and entertainment

  • Automobile expenses, including petrol, maintenance, and repairs

  • Airfare and accommodations

  • Other travel-related expenses

An online expense management system allows you to see all expense-related information in one place, so you can easily see how much money was spent on various items and services. This information can help you make better business decisions in the future, as well as reduce employee expense fraud.

What Features Should Your Online Expense Management System Have?

In short, there are eight features you should look for in an expense management system. They are:

  1. Mobile-friendliness

  2. Real-time visibility

  3. Expense approval workflow

  4. Easy data entry with receipt scanning

  5. Data visualisation and reporting

  6. Integration with accounting software

  7. Automated expense policies

  8. Optimial security, compliance and up-time

Let's break down those eight features in more detail so you know what to look for.

1. Mobile-Friendly

A mobile-friendly expense management system is a must. Your employees are on the go, and they need to be able to submit and access their expense data from anywhere.

Make sure your online expense management software is compatible with all major devices and operating systems, including iOS and Android phones, tablets, and laptops.

2. Real-Time Visibility

With real-time visibility, you can track and monitor your employee expenses as they happen. This is a critical component for ensuring employees aren’t abusing the system or getting away with fraudulent claims.

3. Expense Approval Workflow

You should be able to manage expenses and approvals in the same place. This will help ensure that expenses are being managed properly, while also making it easy for your team members to see what they need to do next.

4. Easy Data Entry With Receipt Scanning

If you're looking for an easy way to enter your expenses, then a receipt scanning app is the best option. You can do it on a mobile device, anywhere. The software then recognises all of its relevant information, such as vendor name, date, and amount.

5. Data Visualisation and Reporting

When you have a clear understanding of what's happening in your business, it's easy to make better decisions based on the facts. The right data visualisation tools can help identify trends, monitor performance, and spot problems so that they can be addressed as soon as possible.

6. Integration with Accounting Software

Integration with other systems, including accounting software, is a must-have feature of any online expense management system. This integration allows you to eliminate further manual data entry and save time in the process.

Integration with accounting software also allows you to keep track of your expenses in real-time. As soon as you reimburse an employee, the transaction will be reflected in both systems, which ensures that no transactions are lost or forgotten.

7. Automated Expense Policies

Automated expense policies allow you to enforce company policies automatically, which increases compliance among employees and eradicates the need to manually review every expense report.

8. Optimal Security, Compliance, and Uptime

Security and compliance are two important features that any online expense management system should have. GDPR compliance, for example, requires companies to protect their customers' data and give them access to it when they need it. Additionally, data encryption allows a company's sensitive information to be protected from hackers.

Another important aspect is uptime; if your expense management system goes down too often or for too long, your employees will lose confidence in its reliability. You may also lose access to vital expense data.

choice of expense management systemsHow Do You Choose the Right Provider?

With so many online expense management systems on the market, it can be difficult determining which one is right for your needs. We’ve rounded up the 5 best online expense management systems and their features below, to help you decide.

1. ExpenseIn

ExpenseIn is a cloud-based, all-in-one expense management software currently being used in over 40 countries worldwide. Its goal is to revolutionise the inefficient paper-based expense management process while saving companies time and money.

Best Features:

2. Webexpenses

Webexpenses aims to streamline expense tracking, improve efficiency, ensure expense policy compliance, and provide valuable insights for cost control.

Best Features:

  • Expense capture in various ways, including via the mobile app, email submissions, or by uploading receipts and invoices.

  • Real-time rule checks to enforce expense policies.

  • Receipt Management, including storing and managing receipts.

  • Comprehensive reporting and analytics tools to gain insights into company-wide spending patterns. This includes customisable dashboards, expense category analysis, and data visualisation.

  • Integration with popular accounting software, such as QuickBooks and Xero.

3. SAP Concur

SAP Concur integrates all of your expenditure, travel, and vendor invoice spending into a single system.

Best Features:

  • Integrates with travel booking platforms, allowing users to link their expenses with travel bookings.

  • Uses AI and machine learning to analyse spending data, simplify auditing, and address noncompliance issues.

  • Users can scan receipts on the go, link card charges to receipts, and reimburse out-of-pocket expenses for employees faster.

  • Features like data backup and access controls to protect sensitive financial information.

  • Integration with many popular HR, payroll, finance, and CRM platforms

4. Spendesk

Spendesk combines spend approvals, virtual and physical cards, expense reimbursements, and invoice management into one system for greater visibility and control.

Best Features:

  • Spendesk offers virtual and physical cards that can be used by employees to make purchases, with spending limits and restrictions set by administrators.

  • Users can set budgets for various departments or projects and track spending in real-time to ensure they stay within budget.

  • Multi-currency support, making it easy for businesses to manage spending across different countries and regions.

  • Users can schedule payments in advance, ensuring that bills and invoices are paid on time and avoid late fees.

5. Pleo

Pleo does away with expenditure reports, lessens the administrative burden, and streamlines bookkeeping with the aid of innovative technology and business cards.

Best Features:

  • Pleo provides employees with a smart company card that can be used for business expenses, with spending limits and restrictions set by administrators. The card is linked to a mobile app and web platform that allows employees to easily submit expenses and receipts.

  • Real-time expense tracking with a mobile app and web platform.

  • Customisable approval workflows for different types of expenses, ensuring compliance with company policies.

  • Integration with business tools such as Slack and Xero.

What is the ROI of an Online Expense Management System?

When calculating the return on investment (ROI) of an expense management system, several factors come into play. These include:

  • How long it takes an employee to complete an expense report.

  • The average hourly wage of an employee.

  • How long it takes a finance team member to process an expense report.

  • The average hourly wage of a finance team member.

  • The average percentage of expense reports containing errors.

Using research from the Global Business Travel Association, calculated in GBP, businesses can expect the following when using manual systems for tracking and receiving expense reports:

  • The average time taken to complete an expense report: 20 minutes

  • The average cost of processing an expense report: £37.96 

  • Percentage of expense reports containing errors: Up to 20%

  • The average time taken to correct an expense report: 18 minutes

  • The average cost to correct an expense report: £34.03

When we factor in the average cost to process and correct a single expense report, businesses are paying £71.99 per expense report, per month, by using manual processes.

When using an automated expense management system, businesses significantly reduce the time spent submitting and approving expense reports, as well as the number of errors contained within them.

expense management system implementationWhat is the Best Way to Implement an Online Expense Management System?

Implementing an online expense management system requires careful planning and consideration. Here are some steps you can follow to employ an effective expense management system in your business:

Step 1: Figure Out What You Need

Understand what your organisation wants from an online expense management system. Be sure to also consider things like user roles, approval processes, expense categories, reporting needs, and security requirements.

Step 2: Pick the Right Software

Research and choose an expense management software that meets your needs. Look for features like those mentioned earlier in this guide, and keep in mind that cloud-based options are better for access and scalability.

Step 3: Trial the System First

This allows you to test out the software and make sure it's compatible with other systems, such as payroll and invoicing. It also gives employees time to get used to using the new software before they’re required to submit their expenses through it.

Step 4: Set It Up

Customise the expense management software to match your individual company’s needs. Create user roles, set up approval processes, define expense categories, and establish your spending policies.

Step 5: Integrate With Your Existing Systems

If you have other software like accounting or enterprise resource planning (ERP), make sure the online expense management system can integrate with them. This will allow the systems to share data automatically, making it easier for employees of all levels in your organisation to access information from one place.

Step 6: Train and Support

When you're implementing an online expense management system, it's important to create a plan for employee adoption and integration. This includes developing an employee training program that teaches employees how to submit expenses, attach receipts, and follow approval procedures. Be sure to offer ongoing support too.

Step 7: Encourage and Enforce Policies

Promote the use of the new system by explaining its benefits to employees, like saving time and getting reimbursed faster. Make sure everyone understands the expense policies and follows them consistently.

Step 8: Monitor and Analyse Expenses

Finally, you should regularly check and analyse expense data to spot trends, find ways to save money, and identify any policy violations. Use the reporting features of your expense management system to get useful insights and make more informed decisions about your business moving forward.