7 Modern Expense Cards for Contract Employees: An In-Depth Guide

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Hey there!

As an independent contractor myself, I know firsthand how challenging it can be to keep business expenses organized and cash flowing properly. The old-school method of fronting costs with personal funds and waiting for reimbursement doesn‘t cut it anymore.

Fortunately, a new generation of fintech solutions is revolutionizing expense management for contractors through dedicated employee expense cards. These cards provide flexible funding along with superior oversight and control.

In this guide, I‘ll be sharing my insights as a contractor on why expense cards are so valuable for managing our unique business costs. I‘ll also provide detailed recommendations on the top 7 card solutions based on extensive research into features, user feedback, and expert reviews.

My goal is to help you find the ideal card for your contractor workforce to maximize convenience and financial savings. Let‘s dive in!

Why Employee Expense Cards are Essential for Contractors

As a contractor, having to cover travel, equipment, software, and other work expenses yourself until the client reimburses you creates some obvious problems:

  • Cash flow disruption – Floating potentially thousands in business costs wreaks havoc on your finances. This especially impacts early-career contractors without large cash reserves.

  • Missed opportunities – Turning down a project because you can‘t front the associated expenses hurts your income potential. With a card, you can take on more opportunities.

  • Limits growth – Covering lots of expenses out-of-pocket isn‘t sustainable as your client base expands. A card solves this.

  • Administrative hassle – Manually tracking numerous purchases and receipts then submitting reimbursements is time-consuming and frustrating.

  • Lack of visibility – Relying on after-the-fact reimbursements means less visibility into real-time spending for your clients.

That‘s where employee expense cards customized for contractors truly shine! They provide you immediate access to expense funding directly from the client. There‘s no need to go through the hassle of using personal funds and filing for reimbursement.

Plus, expense cards offer helpful advantages like:

  • Having pre-loaded funds from clients in advance
  • Clear oversight of where every dollar is going
  • Rewards and cash back on purchases
  • Seamless integration with accounting systems
  • Better expense reporting for clients

Overall, these cards streamline the entire process of managing project expenditures start to finish. It‘s a win-win that saves time and money for contractors and clients alike!

Below I‘ll provide my recommendations on the top 7 employee expense card solutions available based on extensive research. Each offers outstanding benefits that will turbocharge your contractor business!

Overview of the Top 7 Contractor Expense Cards

After comparing dozens of expense card offerings focused on the unique needs of contractors and freelancers, these 7 stood out from the pack:

Pleo – Excellent overall card management paired with superior categorization and reporting tools.

Brex – Ideal for startups and tech contractors with generous rewards programs.

Envelope – Great automation and accounting integrations for streamlined spend control.

Divvy – End-to-end expense reporting all the way from purchases to approvals.

Expensify – Hassle-free receipt scanning and matching with handy mobile app.

Soldo – Robust custom budgeting and spend oversight capabilities.

Spendesk – User-friendly expense features combined with international support.

Now let‘s explore each of these top picks in more detail and see why they offer exactly what contractors need.

1. Pleo

Pleo is a frontrunner when it comes to expense cards and management designed for the realities of contractor work.

This company issues "smart cards" that are extremely convenient to use. You can instantaneously create virtual cards right from the mobile app. Physical card delivery is also quick and simple.

Pleo card creation screenshot

From my experience, one of Pleo‘s biggest advantages is how it handles categorization so well. I never have to stress about coding expenses to the right project or client. The app automatically categorizes based on merchant, so it‘s a breeze to generate reports later for clients.

Pleo also makes receipt tracking painless. I just snap a photo through the app and the system matches it instantly with no manual data entry. Their receipt OCR is incredibly accurate in my experience.

On the client side, Pleo shines too. The platform integrates smoothly with popular accounting tools like QuickBooks. This allows my clients to easily sync expenses from Pleo virtual and physical cards.

The built-in reporting functionality is robust. Clients can export detailed reports filtered by time, projects, contractors, categories, and more. The visualizations make it simple to analyze expense data.

When it comes to rewards, Pleo offers an awesome perk where you earn points on purchases that can be redeemed for gift cards. And they have partnerships with major brands like Uber, Apple, and Amazon.

Pleo checks all the boxes when you consider the specialized requirements of contractors and clients:

✔️ Smooth receipt tracking and categorization

✔️ Integrations with accounting platforms

✔️ Customizable reporting for client oversight

✔️ Rewards programs help you earn back

For these reasons, Pleo is my top choice for contractor expense management. The convenience and automation can‘t be beat!

2. Brex

Brex is another standout option that‘s ideal if you work with lots of startup or tech clients.

A huge Brex advantage is they don‘t require a personal credit check or guarantee to qualify. I know contractors just starting out may not have a long credit history, so Brex makes getting set up with an expense card easy.

The Brex platform itself is lightning fast – you can get both virtual and physical cards issued almost instantly. If you need to quickly make travel arrangements for a client gig, this speed is clutch.

Brex card dashboard

From the client perspective, Brex offers seamless accounting integrations. I work with a few early-stage startups that use QuickBooks Online and connectivity has been smooth and painless.

One of my favorite Brex perks is their rewards program. You earn points on all work expenses with no limits or maximums. I‘m talking flights, hotels, ride shares, software, you name it. The points can be redeemed toward exciting rewards like Apple products or brand gift cards.

Other handy Brex features include:

✔️ Zero foreign transaction fees for international gigs

✔️ 1.5% cash back on rideshares like Uber and Lyft

✔️ Cell phone protection up to $600 per claim

For contractors catering to startups and tech companies, Brex is a stellar choice that will supercharge your rewards earnings!

3. Envelope

If you‘re seeking serious automation to simplify expenses, Envelope is for you. This platform combines virtual/physical cards with robust accounting integrations.

Envelope offers top-notch tools I really like for configuring expense rules and restrictions. I can set detailed parameters on what purchases the card allows by category, merchant, date, etc. This helps keep my spending aligned with client guidelines.

The Envelope mobile app provides real-time notifications whenever I make a purchase. This allows me to review transactions and catch any errors immediately. I also love that I can lock my card instantly if it‘s misplaced for peace of mind.

Envelope app dashboard

For clients, Envelope delivers automated expense reporting that‘s a massive time saver. Transaction data flows directly into accounting platforms like QuickBooks so my clients have up-to-date visibility without any manual work.

The Envelope API is another big advantage. One client of mine leveraged the API to build a customized integration between Envelope and their ERP platform. This level of flexibility is amazing.

Key benefits that make Envelope a top expense card pick:

✔️ Rules engine prevents mistaken or unauthorized purchases

✔️ Direct accounting system integrations

✔️ Real-time spend notifications to stay on budget

✔️ Custom API for advanced system connectivity

If you want to seriously cut the time spent on expense admin, Envelope is a top choice to consider.

4. Divvy

Divvy is a leader when it comes to automating the entire expense reporting process from purchase to approval.

A huge Divvy benefit is how it eliminates receipt headaches for me and clients. I can easily snap photos of receipts right in the mobile app. Divvy uses optical character recognition (OCR) to extract key details.

From there, expense reports are automatically generated based on card transaction data supplemented by receipt images and details. This saves me hours I‘d normally spend manually creating reports.

On the client side, Divvy comes with tools I constantly hear praised for simplifying approvals. Managers can easily review generated expense reports in a simple dashboard interface. Approvals happen with just a few clicks.

Divvy also offers deep accounting system integrations similar to Envelope. Both my Xero and QuickBooks data flows automatically into Divvy. This gives clients real-time reporting that mirrors their books.

For contractors like myself who handle expenses for multiple clients, Divvy excels with features like:

✔️ Multi-client functionality keeps everything organized

✔️ Xero, QuickBooks, and Sage integrations

✔️ Photos of receipts are directly attached to card transactions

✔️ Managers can batch approve multiple reports with bulk actions

By fully automating reporting and approvals, Divvy is a great choice when your priority is making expenses painless for managers.

5. Expensify

If you want simple and easy receipt tracking, Expensify is the way to go. The Expensify mobile app offers the most user-friendly receipt capturing I‘ve used.

After making any purchase over $5, I‘m prompted by a push notification to snap a photo of the receipt. This makes it nearly impossible to forget to capture a receipt! No more frantic searching through papers after the fact.

Expensify app receipt scanning

The image upload process itself takes seconds – just align the receipt, snap a pic, and confirm the details. Optical character recognition (OCR) scans the critical data like date, merchant, total, etc.

For managers, Expensify automates receipt reconciliation. Transaction data automatically syncs from my expense card. The system matches the receipt details to each purchase, eliminating tedious manual cross-referencing.

Beyond receipt tracking, Expensify offers handy expense features like:

✔️ Mileage tracking for vehicle expense reimbursement

✔️ Foreign transaction support in 130+ currencies

✔️ Policy enforcement to restrict purchases

✔️ Bill pay through integrated payment processor

If you want to seriously simplify receipt management for yourself and clients, Expensify is a stellar pick. The mobile UX for capturing and uploading receipts is top-notch.

6. Soldo

For contractors who want superior spend oversight capabilities, Soldo leads the pack. Their platform goes beyond expenses with tools for managing payments, budgets, and AP/AR.

Soldo offers incredibly robust budgeting tools I haven‘t seen matched by other expense providers. Custom budgets can be created for clients with granular categories and spending limits on my contractor card.

The Soldo system prevents me from making purchases that exceed or don‘t match my client-defined budget categories. This helps prevent mistakes while keeping me aligned with client requirements.

For managers, Soldo provides automated spend alerts that trigger when I approach or exceed a budgeted amount. This real-time visibility allows clients to refine budgets easily.

Soldo custom budget dashboard

Other notable Soldo features include:

✔️ Multi-level approval workflows for large purchases

✔️ Transaction rules engine to enforce policies

✔️ Integrated accounting through platforms like NetSuite

✔️ Secure virtual card storage in app wallet

Soldo truly excels when it comes to holistic spend management. For contractors handling large, complex budgets, it‘s a stellar choice.

7. Spendesk

Spendesk rounds out our list with their easy-to-use, contractor-friendly expense card packed with helpful features.

Right off the bat, Spendesk makes it simple for clients to issue cards to contractors. Virtual cards can be created and shared instantly. Physical cards are mailed quickly. I‘ve been able to start purchasing for gigs faster with Spendesk.

From a client oversight perspective, Spendesk allows expenses to be coded to customizable categories, projects, departments, etc. This makes generating reports for clients a breeze.

For international contractors, Spendesk is a top pick thanks to their support for domestic and foreign currency transactions. This even includes exotic currencies like the Hong Kong Dollar or Danish Krone.

Other useful Spendesk features include:

✔️ Add receipts by taking mobile photos or forwarding email copies

✔️ Create shareable links for receipts clients can view

✔️ Match merchant details from card transactions to receipts

✔️ Define approval rules and limits by contractor profiles

Spendesk receipt capture on mobile

Spendesk offers an easy yet powerful solution. Their tools simplify expense processes while providing control and transparency for managers. Definitely give Spendesk a look!

Key Factors to Consider For Your Business

With lots of great expense card options out there, it can be challenging to select the right fit for your business. Here are some of the most vital factors to keep in mind:

Your client mix – The types of clients you serve should factor heavily in your decision. Do you work mostly with startups who use QuickBooks? Or larger enterprises that require custom integrations? Match your card solution to your client profiles.

Management and reporting needs – How you manage your business and your client‘s needs for oversight should drive your choice. If you handle many expenses across clients, reporting and categorization tools are crucial. For clients who simply want receipts and basic reports, a simple solution may suffice.

Travel frequency – If you travel regularly for clients domestically or abroad, make sure to choose a card with no foreign transaction fees. Features like travel insurance and mileage tracking can also be big perks for frequent travelers.

Billing and invoicing – Consider how you handle invoicing for clients currently. If you bill based on expenses, synchronizing the expense card data with your accounting system and invoices will be hugely beneficial.

Mobile experience – The capabilities and user experience of the mobile app matters a lot for contractors on the go. Easy receipt capture, notifications, and real-time reporting from your phone allow you to stay on top of spend from anywhere.

By carefully evaluating your own processes and client needs, you can determine the must-have features which will guide your card selection. The right card helps both you and your customers achieve expense success and savings!

My Top Recommendation

After extensively evaluating the leading card solutions using the criteria above, I recommend Pleo above the rest for most contractors.

Here‘s why Pleo edges out the competition:

  • Superb categorization that simplifies client reporting

  • Smooth receipt management with automated matching

  • Intuitive mobile app optimized for contractors

  • Rewards program helps you earn back on expenses

  • Integrations with popular accounting platforms

While all 7 of my top picks are great choices depending on your needs, Pleo comes closest to the ideal end-to-end solution for most contractors and freelancers. Their product has the right mix of convenience, reporting, rewards, and integrations to alleviate expense headaches.

Go Forth and Spend!

Whew, we covered a lot of ground here!

As you can see, contractor employee expense cards are a total game changer when it comes to taming the spending beast. You should be feeling empowered to pick the perfect card for your business.

No more waiting weeks or months for reimbursement checks. Or chasing down receipts and manually creating reports. It‘s time to step into the future and see firsthand how expense cards can upgrade your processes.

Even if you hate spending time on business finances as much as me, these cards make it (dare I say) enjoyable with mobile apps, automation, and seamless client oversight.

When comparing expense cards, be sure to keep the factors we discussed at the forefront – your clients, reporting needs, travel tendencies, and accounting systems. Selecting the right solution will pay dividends.

I hope this guide to employee expense cards for contractors has been helpful as you evaluate options. Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m always happy to chat and share learnings from my experience.

Now go pick the card that aligns to your needs and start reaping the many benefits. Happy spending my friend!

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