[Newsletter] Realtime Expense Reports are Here! (And so much more…)

David Barrett —  August 24, 2015 — 3 Comments

Hi! It’s been a while since I’ve written because we’ve been hard at work, but I’m very happy to take the wraps off our latest feature (or really, series of features): Realtime Expense Reports. I know I’ve been hyping this up for a long time, and you’re probably wondering why.

I honestly think this is the most significant development in the expense reporting space since we introduced SmartScan. That might sound bombastic – especially for something that’s easy to overlook if you’re not paying attention – but let me explain.

(By the way, if you’d rather watch this in action, sign up for our live walk through next week here or watch the video below.)

The Days of SmartScan Past

Prior to SmartScan, Expensify was built around the notion of manual data entry. Our UI made it very easy for users to manually type in expense data on mobile and web, and the entire application was built around that assumption. However, when we introduced SmartScan, the whole need for manual data entry went out the window: just SmartScan your receipt, and we do all the typing for you. This one feature totally changed our design philosophy, and it’s really taken years for that to fully trickle down into every layer. Our totally new mobile UI (check it out if you haven’t already) is the final product of that, where everything is designed around a single giant button. Just press that button, take a picture of your receipt, and throw it away. At this point, if you’re putting receipts in your pocket — you’re just doing it wrong.

SmartScan is really the culmination of years of expertise in automating away manual data entry. It feels so magical that once you experience it, you just can’t go back to typing in expenses by hand.

How Realtime Changes the Game

Realtime Expense Reports feels equally magical, but its trick is making the expense report itself… disappear! It works like this (and all of these features are individually configurable, so you can have as much or as little automation as you like, and dial it up gradually over time):

  1. It starts with “automatic report creation” and “auto-reporting”. Before, you needed to create your expense report before you could put anything on it. However, reports are a construct for accounting — they don’t really mean anything to the individual submitter, who really thinks in terms of one receipt at a time. So now, we just create the report for you: just take a picture of the receipt (or make a purchase with your corporate card) and voila, the report appears exactly as your accountant wants, with the expense automatically placed on it.
  2. Next are “realtime visibility” and “admin submit.” Before, expenses would only be visible to the policy admin after the report is submitted. Now, admins can see the expense the moment it’s added to a report. This is a very subtle shift, but an important one: this means your accountant doesn’t need to wait for you to submit your report (because honestly, nobody submits on time). Rather, admins can monitor all the open expense reports centrally, and submit them on behalf of the user without needing to wait.
  3. This next one is really interesting (and my personal favorite) “automatic harvesting.” Rather than clicking the “Submit” button every time a report needs to be submitted, every report is automatically submitted every day. Actually, to be more precise: only those expenses that are ready to be submitted (i.e., no policy violations, have auto-matched to the credit card, etc) are submitted, with the rest left behind. This means your thousand-dollar reports are no longer hung up over that one Starbucks receipt that didn’t get categorized — the bulk of your expenses just move forward automatically without being held hostage by that last straggler.
  4. Then there’s “automatic approval” and “auto-reimburse”. These features automatically approve and reimburse violation-free reports under whatever threshold you define. Why did we do this? The vast majority of reports are actually quite small and boring, and aren’t worth anybody’s time to actually sit down and review manually.
  5. Finally — and a major boon to the cash-tight submitters out there — we’ve added real “next day reimbursement.” Everybody claims to have this, but what they really mean is “the money will be mailed out tomorrow (but will take 4-5 days to arrive).” Not with Expensify; our money arrives tomorrow. This is a tricky feature to offer and we’re rolling it out slow, so “supersonic reimbursement” only accelerates the first $100/user/day by default (but with daily reimbursements, you’re usually under $100/day anyway). This way, everybody gets a taste of true next day reimbursement. Not on it yet? Ask your finance team to reach out to get added to the waitlist as we expand coverage to larger amounts.

So these new features are great, but these are just the notable changes; there are a hundred smaller changes across the product that you’ll never notice but that are critical for making this whole “realtime” experience actually work in practice. Regardless, the net result of all these changes — both visible and invisible —is an experience that you’ve just got to try to understand. Basically, with Expensify all you do is take a picture of your receipt… and that’s it. We’ll take care of scanning, reporting, submitting, approving, and reimbursing — all so fast that the money is in your bank account literally *tomorrow*.

Anyway, realtime expense reports are the future, and you can begin experiencing the future today. But we’re not stopping here: we’ve still got a ton more in the works to make it even better (especially for admins and accounting firms), so keep your ears perked for even more crazy levels of automation on the way.

As always, thanks for using Expensify, and I look forward to your comments!

To get the Expensify newsletter directly in your email inbox , go to Account Settings > Preferences to update your settings.

David Barrett


Founder of Expensify, destroyer of expense reports, and savior to frustrated employees worldwide.

3 responses to [Newsletter] Realtime Expense Reports are Here! (And so much more…)


    Is there any way to turn off automatic report generation? This new feature may make the system unusable for our company. It is important to us to capture all the related expenses of a single meeting or trip on one report. Some of these are billed back to the client, in which case we send the client a copy of the report and receipts with their invoice. Now Expensify seems to turn every individual receipt into a report, necessitating a laborious process of canceling out those reports one by one so as to create new reports aggregating related expenses.


    Hi Sue, sorry for the trouble! Yes, it’s possible to turn off automatic reporting at Admin > [Policy Name] > Reports. Once you toggle off the “Automatic Reporting” option, this feature will be disabled. Thanks for sharing your use case, and hopefully this is something we can streamline in the future!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Expensify now supports QBO’s Items | Spend Forum Research Group - September 2, 2015

    […] there, it’s Matt from the Success Coach team in Expensify. Straight off the success from our Real Time Expense Report feature launch, you can now import Items from QuickBooks Online and use these Items in place of […]

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