We’ve put together answers for the questions you should be asking if you’re travelling for business, managing currency for business or managing expenses. This is the start of our ultimate guide to travelling for business. Simply click on the question to get the answer.
- What should I use overseas? Cash, credit card or prepaid card?
- What are allowable expenses for employees?
- What is subsistence allowance when travelling for business?
- How should you expense business travel?
- Do business expense cards work in the UK?
- How can I save money on foreign exchange rates?
What should I use overseas? Cash, credit card or prepaid card?
All debit, credit and prepaid cards usually have Chip and PIN security – a more secure way to spend than carrying lots of cash. But there can be fees attached to using credit cards overseas. These charges vary across every provider and can prove costly for a business sending employees oversees. Many credit card firms charge a conversion fee every time you use your card abroad which can be as high as 2.99%.
You can avoid fees by using a prepaid card (also known as corporate/business expense cards), such as the FairFX Prepaid Corporate Mastercard®. There’s no charge for using a FairFX Corporate Card for point of sale transactions, such as in restaurants and shops. Plus, managers load the cards with the money staff need, when they need it. This enables you to keep complete control of employees’ spending, topping up only what they need for a trip while avoiding fees in shops or restaurants.
Topping up their cards in an instant through the FairFX App and Expenses Platform also means employees are not out of pocket by paying for items themselves before claiming them back.
As well as prepaid cards providing a safer way to carry cash, allowing your employees to buy travel cash means you can’t choose the exchange rate. Make sure employees know never to buy currency at the airport. These bureaus always offer the worst returns and prey on disorganised travellers so having a prepaid card organised in advance of travel will save on company costs.
What are allowable expenses for employees?
When employees travel on business, they need to be mindful that anything they claim that is not a ‘necessary cost to travel’ will have to be reported to HMRC as earnings.
A business trip should never result in an employee’s financial gain. Claiming for parts of the trip that are leisure and not business is also forbidden. Make sure employees understand the importance of submitting accurate documents and receipts.
The rules and regulations around what you can claim will be different for every business and it’s important this is communicated to employees before they set off. Using an expenses card such as the FairFX Corporate Card is a great way to have better oversight over employee travel spend. Money can be loaded onto the card to cover costs on the journey, the business has accurate visibility and employees won’t be out of pocket when they travel, meaning there is less chance of questions over expenses.
What is subsistence allowance when travelling for business?
If your business requires an employee to travel or stay away from home overnight, they’re entitled to claim for the cost of food and drink incurred on their travels. This is known as a “subsistence allowance” which you can claim tax relief on as long as the costs are incurred “wholly, exclusively and necessarily” in the performance of your employees’ duties.
How much do I have to pay?
Companies typically pay subsistence allowance through scale rate payments. You can either agree a scale rate with HMRC, or use HMRC’s benchmark scale rates.
What are HMRC’s benchmark scale rates?
- Breakfast: Up to £5.
- One meal rate: Up to £5 paid when an employee is away from their normal place of work for at least five hours.
- Two meal rate: Up to £10 when an employee is away for at least 10 hours.
- Late meal rate: Up to £15 if the employee will finish work after 8pm having worked their normal working day and it’s necessary for them to buy a meal they’d otherwise have at home, or a total of £25 if an employee is away from their normal place of work for at least 15 hours.
If you agree with HMRC to use its benchmark scale rates, you won’t need receipted evidence of each transaction, but you will still need to report the payments. You don’t need to deduct or pay any tax or NI.
Can I pay more than the benchmark rates?
Yes, but you’ll need to agree a bespoke scale rate with HMRC. If you agree to a bespoke scale, you’ll also need to put a checking system in place to ensure your subsistence payment system is being used fairly by your employees.
How should you expense business travel?
Using several methods of payment while you’re on a business trip can create a lot more work when expenses are submitted. Employees using their own credit cards and claiming back expenses could end up paying fees too.
Giving staff a prepaid expenses card means employers can over costs while they travel. It also allows you to have more control over what is spent from a set budget, without incurring any additional fees that debit and credit cards charge abroad.
Do business expense cards work in the UK?
The FairFX Corporate Card is a great way of managing employee expenses overseas, but it is also commonly used to take control of expenses right here in the UK.
There are many use cases for a business expense card with prepaid functionality. FairFX customers also use their prepaid cards to manage petty cash, pay contractors and freelancers all over the world, and to purchase goods and services online.
How can I save money on foreign exchange rates?
Whether you need currency for personal or business travel, or for paying suppliers overseas, it’s always best to plan ahead with your currency. That way you can take advantage if the exchange rate moves in your favour and you can avoid any shocks to your bottom line. Remember that exchange rates can be volatile, especially around large political or economic events such as Brexit or general elections.
Whatever you do, don’t leave currency until the airport as this is where you’ll find some of the worst exchange rates in the country. In the case of business travel, this also leaves choosing the exchange rate to the employee, if employers take responsibility for managing travel expenses then they have more control on choosing the exchange rate that is right for them.
Before your staff go abroad, make sure you also tell them to beware of the double exchange rate dupe. Often shops, hotels, restaurants will ask if you want to pay in local currency, the answer is always yes. If the price is converted back into pounds, they will choose their own exchange rate, which can be considerably more expensive.