We used to keep track of expenses by hand.
Business owners and bookkeepers would crack open tomes full of lined paper and spend countless candlelit hours logging transactions in tiny text arranged in meticulous rows and columns.
They probably hated every second of it, but they had no other choice.
Recording expenses by hand was the only option back then. It’s a bit different nowadays. Today’s small business owners can pick between any number of electronic tools to record transactions and track expenses on top of an ever-growing list of features.
The right tool can help save time, minimize the potential for human error, create automated reports, and much, much more.
The question is: Which expense tracking tool is right for you?
Expensify is a web-based platform with a very compelling initial price point: Free.
There are two higher subscription levels for $5/user/month and $9/user/month, respectively, but that’s a small price to pay for the functionality Expensify offers.
What functionality, you ask?
- You can scan receipts with your phone and automatically add them to expense reports.
- Web and app-based expense tracking.
- Track your whole team’s business expenses with Expensify credit cards.
- Connect Expensify with a long list of business and HR software, including QuickBooks, Oracle Netsuite, Gusto, Workday, and more.
- Set up approval workflows and rules that flag expenses for manager approvals.
- Automatically track tax rates.
- Automatically detect duplicate receipts, confirm the validity of transactions, and calculate exchange rates.
And that’s just in the free version. The $5/user/month Collect Plan adds functions like setting smart limits to spending and transaction size caps, automatic expense approvals, automatic syncing with your accounting software, plus the ability to run payroll through the Expensify platform.
The $9/user/month Control Plan includes everything from the free and Control plans and throws in a few impressive extras.
It allows you to put multiple approvers in charge of validating and approving expenses, for one, plus the power to control what different users can access.
You also get the ability to set expense policies and apply them across your organization, not to mention a robust custom reporting tool for gaining deeper insights into your firm’s spending.
Divvy is another free service designed to help small and midsize businesses control their spending, build their credit, and streamline their expense-tracking processes.
They make their money from merchant fees generated from purchases made with the credit cards they offer, which helps explain why the cards have such a central role in their marketing and website. It must be working; otherwise, they wouldn’t be offering features like:
- Automated expense management.
- As many virtual and physical cards as you want.
- Easy access to lines of credit.
- Set up budgets with built-in spending controls.
- Real-time transaction tracking.
- Earn reward points from transactions.
- Integrates easily with popular accounting software.
- Keeps track of subscription costs.
- Simple interface with automatic transaction categorization.
- Makes reimbursing quick and easy.
- Automatically generates and logs expense reports.
Another free service that makes money from splitting merchant fees on purchases, Ramp is a full service that starts with corporate credit cards and works its way down.
They make it as easy as possible to get as many physical and virtual credit cards as you want, then provide as many business-friendly features to their customers as they can afford.
- Easily set transaction caps as well as merchant and category controls.
- Simple travel management.
- Unlimited receipt matching and verification.
- Software that automatically enforces expense policies.
- It uses AI to read invoice transcripts and automatically generate reports.
- You can pay bills using ACH, check, and card payments.
- Automated savings insights and real-time data visibility.
- Integrates with accounting software.
- Set up custom automated processes.
- Automated expense reports.
Ramp makes managing a team of traveling employees, freelancers, and salespeople as easy as generating new virtual cards with firm spending and category limits.
It takes care of almost all the rest—the recording, reporting, reimbursing, etc.—so you have more time to do what matters to you.
SAP Concur does that worrying thing where they won’t tell you how much their service costs until you speak to one of their representatives.
That means precisely one thing: It’s expensive.
Concur also makes it challenging to figure out whether Concur comes with all its features out of the box or if you have to subscribe to each one individually (for an additional monthly fee). Concur is primarily designed for large corporate companies and includes various products designed for large organizations.
- Automated expense management.
- Easily customized to fit your business needs.
- Automatically records receipts and processes reports.
- Integrates with a wide range of business/accounting software/systems.
- Single dashboard consolidates all travel data.
- Online booking tool for efficient planning of travel and lodging.
- QuickBooks Connector lets you import employee data, customers, classes, jobs, expense categories, etc, for seamless and automatic integration between Concur and your existing financial records
Zoho Expense is another mobile and browser-based service that starts free and charges modest subscription fees to unlock its more advanced features.
When we say modest, we mean modest.
The most you’ll pay for Zoho Expense is $8/user/month, which may be worth it if you're already embedded in the Zoho ecosystem.
If you're not already part of the Zoho ecosystem (CRM, bookkeeping, project management), this may not be the best fit. Regardless, it comes with features such as:
- Auto-scan, store, and track receipts.
- Track expenses and mileage in various formats, including per diem, multicurrency, and billable/non-billable.
- Easily create and automate expense reports.
- Set up an approval hierarchy for expense approvals.
- Quickly audit and reimburse expenses.
- Extensive options for automation and customization.
- Integrates with accounting, travel, ride-hailing, reimbursement, and HR systems.
Small business owners have no shortage of options for tracking expenses and generating expense reports.
Some platforms offer an impressive amount of functionality for free, though others may be a bit (or a lot) more expensive if you want to access some of their more advanced features.
Most of the more popular services will work fine if you decide to go with them, but remember to do your research before making your decision.