Should you be using Emburse for your spend management?
Emburse's spent management offering is downright confusing. We explain what they offer and provide the framework to decide whether Emburse is the best option for your business.
We can probably guess why you’re here. You’re looking for a new expense management tool for your organization and have found a handful of solutions that look like they’d do the job. Now you’re having a hard time choosing. We’ve all been there.
We’ll be exploring one of those numerous options—Emburse.
Emburse offers various tools for businesses looking to 'humanize work' by automate expensing to free up employees for more meaningful tasks. Perhaps that tagline is what got you. But there’s quite a lot to learn about Emburse before making your decision.
What is Emburse and what’s it used for?
Emburse is an expense management toolkit that enables finance stakeholders—employees, approvers, and CFOs—to automate manual tasks. After a series of mergers and acquisitions throughout 2019-2020 of companies in the Travel & Expense, Accounts Payable, and Corporate Card fields, the group now offers a confusing suite of products to meet different needs, each with its own pricing structure:
- Emburse Abacus: expense reimbursement
- Emburse Captio: travel expense management for mid-large sized corporations
- Emburse Certify: automates expense reports and accounts payable functions
- Emburse Chromeriver: for complex global enterprise companies and professional services organizations.
- Emburse Nexonia: expense reporting, timesheets, travel management, and accounts payable
- Emburse Tallie: receipt capture technology
The company also offers Emburse Cards, a credit card solution that integrates with their suite of expense management products.
Emburse software categories
Emburse falls into a few software categories because of the multiple products it offers. Understanding which ones will help you determine whether it’s the option you’ve been searching for and whether it can meet your spend management needs.
- Expense management software: Deals with the entire process of making funds available to employees for company spending.
- Travel-management software: Focuses on offering a seamless travel management platform so businesses can minimize time and funds exploring, booking, and managing trips.
- AP automation software: A system for automation of AP tasks such as invoice processing, payables approvals, and executing payments
Several other products measure up to what Emburse offers, which we’ve profiled as alternatives at the end of this article, such as Expensify, Rydoo, and Lola.com.
Does Emburse help you control spend?
Yes, it does.
Modern spend management tools are designed to empower employees to make business purchases while offering the finance team an easy way to manage those expenses—ideally, as they’re made. Emburse excels at this function.
Using Emburse Cards, finance teams can issue physical and virtual credit cards tied to a flexible budget, which is adjustable in real-time. Employee expenses are logged to the finance team’s dashboard, where they can be approved, queried, or rejected.
With Emburse’s detailed spending rules, you can either auto-approve expenses under a certain dollar amount, from a specific type of merchant, or other customized criteria. Rules can determine what category of transactions must include receipts or require manual-approval.
However, Emburse’s spending controls are not to everyone’s liking. For instance, once an employee makes a certain number of expenses without attaching receipts, Emburse automatically shuts them out of the system. The only way to regain access is by manually reviewing all transactions and submitting receipts for those pending.
Does Emburse give you visibility into spending?
To control spending the moment it happens, you first need the ability to see it as it takes place. Visibility is the secret sauce to controlling spend, and Emburse does a great job at providing this.
The Emburse finance dashboard serves as the source of truth for all user transactions. Once an employee makes a transaction on their company card, it registers instantly for approval. Using the app, users can submit receipts for every transaction at the point-of-spend.
In combination, this serves as a full spend visibility solution for watching expenses as they happen, so your finance team can control them at the point-of-spend.
Does Emburse help you analyze spend?
Yes, it does.
Emburse’s business reporting engine helps finance teams make sense of all the data accumulated by employees as you can segment, filter, and convert raw data into actionable reports and dashboards for stakeholders across your organization.
Data exports mean that you can collect reports and insights from Emburse and forward them anywhere you need them within your organization.
When you combine the real-time visibility the Emburse dashboard offers with the more detailed reports you can generate on-demand, Emburse offers a reasonable spend analysis function for teams of all sizes.
Does Emburse work well with the rest of your software?
No matter how great your spend management tool works, it’ll still fall short if it doesn’t play well with the other tools embedded in your operations. That includes your ERP, accounting software, communications and collaboration tools, etc.
Emburse integrates with several tools you probably already use, ranging from Slack (for submitting and approving expense requests via chat) to Xero and QuickBooks so you can route spend data to your bookkeeper for reconciliation.
Likewise, Emburse’s suite of tools, such as Abacus, ChromeRiver, and Nexonia, support an even wider range of tools and apps such as Rippling, Lever, and of course, Zapier.
With Zapier, you get the freedom to explore more integrations with several other tools on the market so you can get all your data to work cohesively.
Emburse features & benefits
Depending on your organization’s needs, Emburse offers a travel management solution—Tallie Travel— that promises to speed up reconciliation and keep your travel expenses within policy.
Tallie Travel is one of the other confusing companies under the Emburse umbrella that should just be bundled into one place.
Tallie Travel is built on top of travel tech provider AmTrav and lets you negotiate prices, book flights, and adjust travel details around the clock. Tallie retains your finance team’s control over the entire travel expensing process, with travel data automatically reconciled to a central dashboard.
Physical and virtual credit cards
Emburse lets you issue physical and virtual MasterCard credit cards within your organization. These cards, which are linked to a line of credit provided by Emburse, are tied to specific budgets and spend policies that determine what employees can spend on, which expenses require reports, and which ones get auto-approved. This empowers users with the freedom they need to make trackable expenses down to the individual level.
For example, using associate ghost cards (separate cards tied to the same budget), different employees within the same department can make expenses without restrictions or confusion concerning who spent what.
Given it functions as a typical credit issuer, Emburse requires your company’s financial history to determine the credit line they’ll be able to offer.
The Emburse card
At the center of it all is the Emburse card. Let’s take a closer look.
Does the Emburse card help you control spend?
The Emburse card equips employees with expensing cards and empowers your finance team with the tools needed to control them.
Emburse credit cards are tied to a budget that determines how much an employee can spend per month, with dynamic limits that limit spending to specific categories and either auto-approves or requires receipts for certain transactions depending on preset factors such as transaction value.
Does Emburse eliminate the need for expense reports?
Unlike traditional spend management that demands that employees manually submit reports for each expense, Emburse cards simply notify employees so they can take a picture of any receipts they generated, capture with OCR, and submit them to the finance team’s control dashboard.
Can everyone have physical and virtual cards?
With Emburse, you can issue physical and virtual corporate cards to everyone across your organization and manage their usage right from one place.
Is the Emburse card credit, debit, or prepaid?
The Emburse card is a credit card and upon signup, Emburse evaluates your company’s credit score to determine how much credit it should offer you.
Does the Emburse card offer rewards?
Emburse offers rewards on individual card spending, plus perks like budgets for meals, ridesharing, and gym membership.
Emburse offers a 30-day free trial. Beyond that, you’re charged a flat rate of $15 per active cardholder per month, with a minimum of 3 active users.
At $15 per user, Emburse quickly gets pricey. For instance, just 20 employees add up to $3,600 over a year. And it keeps growing. Emburse doesn’t seem to offer a free trial or any volume discounts if you’re bringing on a larger workplace of, say 100 employees—a whopping $18,000 in annual fees.
So, Emburse puts you in an unfavorable position no matter your company’s size.
If you’re a smaller organization using just the basic spend management features, there’s no free tier to manage your lite spend management needs.
On the other hand, if you’re a startup (10 -14 employees) and you choose to start with Emburse, you may spend between $150 – $200/month in your first few months, but as operations start expanding, your bill will start running in the thousands.
Before trialing their solution, consider whether you’re okay with risking getting locked into their ecosystem as your company grows and it becomes more difficult to switch out.
Emburse doesn’t offer live chat or any real-time support channel. You know, the kind we’ve all grown to expect from a company that can impact how your business’s finances run. Instead, you can reach Emburse via email or by calling one of their office reception phone numbers.
Not ideal if you’re an agile company that values speed and efficiency.
Who should use Emburse?
All in all, Emburse offers a robust solution for what they do—albeit one that complicates spend management beyond what it should be.
Emburse does a great job with basic spend management if you have the experience to untangle all the different tools they bundle together to do what other companies offer with a single solution.
So, who should use Emburse? Emburse would be a great fit for your organization if:
- You have the patience and expertise to decipher which of their various products meet your company’s needs
- You have no qualms with being locked into the Emburse ecosystem, and you intend to never explore a better spend management solution in the future
- Budget is not a problem, and you’re comfortable with spending ever-increasingly as your company’s headcount grows
- You’re okay with drawing a line of credit just to issue expense cards. If you have enough funds to cover your monthly expensing needs, you’d be better off with a solution that equips your team with debit cards instead
So, on the other hand, try your best to avoid getting into the Emburse ecosystem if:
- You’re a startup or a small business with simpler spend management needs that don’t justify Emburse’s pricing
- You have enough cash on hand to not require credit for your monthly expensing needs
- You’re looking for a more equitable spend management system that enforces compliance without resorting to super-rigid controls
- You’re open to considering better alternatives in the future, and you’re looking for a tool that’ll make it easy to export your data
- You want better support that’s right there the moment you need it
Better alternatives to Emburse
Emburse offers a passable spend management tool but that doesn’t explain why it’s complicated to make sense of, quite overpriced, and tends to lock users into its ecosystem. Luckily, there’s a handful of tools to consider instead:
Expensify offers corporate expense cards tied to a budget, with 360-degree transaction reporting built-in so your employees can get all the flexibility they need to manage work expenses. Expensify eliminates the headaches associated with making payments and managing a paper trail of expense reports and reimbursements.
On your employees’ end, Expensify comes equipped with cutting-edge OCR that helps with capturing receipts in real-time.
Expensify offers the perfect balance between a tool that’s simple enough for both your finance team and employees to work with and powerful enough to handle your expensing end-to-end.
Unfortunately, Expensify only offers a free tier if you process fewer than 25 receipts monthly. Beyond that, pricing is between $5/user per month for the lowest tier that doesn’t offer expensing cards (essentially unusable) and up to $9/user per month for their full-stack plan.
Rydoo is an older spend management tool with a modern makeover and combines spend and travel management under one roof.
For one, Rydoo doesn’t offer expense cards built-in and instead, you have to link your credit cards to Rydoo to pull your expensing data. Similarly, Rydoo doesn’t even make an effort to eliminate reimbursements, and instead, you have to stick with whatever expensing tools you already use and just use Rydoo to report all that data.
Essentially, all Rydoo does well is grab your scattered expensing data, pull it into a dashboard where you can make sense of it, and offers a developed platform for managing business travels more efficiently. But if you’re looking for a tool that doubles down on empowering employees without losing control, Rydoo isn’t the tool for you.
Yes. We built it. And Lola.com ticks so many boxes, we had to include it here.
Lola offers simple spend management powered by employee expense cards that your finance team can issue and control in real-time. Combined with a robust travel management system, Lola is designed to eliminate expensing headaches so you can do more. Lola offers:
- Expense cards with detailed spending policies for controlling cardholders
- A generous free-tier that offers the essentials for most small and medium-sized businesses
- Powerful spend reporting and analytics that offers insights into real-time expensing
- Robust integrations with Slack, Xero, etc.—the very tools you already work with
- Fixed pricing for higher tiers so you can save money whether you have 25 or 250 employees
Lola essentially does away with the biggest pain points you’ll have to tackle while using Emburse, Expensify, or some other alternative.
Why? Because we believe spend management should free your time up to focus on what matters.
Take Lola for a spin here.