Decentralized Spend: What You Can’t See Can Hurt You

By The Center Team on January 21, 2020

We all have optical blind spots — the visual field of where we’re simply unable to detect an image. Decentralized employee spend is the business equivalent.

We all have optical blind spots — the visual field of our eyes where we’re simply unable to detect an image. Decentralized employee spend is the business “blind spot” equivalent.

Uber charges, office supplies, travel expenses, and other employee-driven credit card purchases all float just outside of the financial team’s view. And while your brain has learned to “fill in” your visual gaps, without the right tools, your team is at risk of being blindsided by what lands in theirs.

“More and more spend is going on a card, and there’s no easy way to manage that.” 
Controller, 500-person software platform company

Today’s Card Spend: Going in Blind

In the age of Uber, employee spending is just a click away. Company travel, once funneled through corporate travel sites, is often booked by employees with airlines and travel sites directly on their mobile devices.

Digital ad platforms like Facebook and Google Ads require payment by credit card for each marketing campaign, and software subscriptions are at everyone’s fingertips. A Lyft ride here and a Prime Now order there rack up quickly when every employee has the ad hoc authority to spend.

Uber is the most frequently expensed vendor in 2019*, and 41% of business travel was booked through a mobile phone**
*SpendSmart Data **CWT2

Transactions that used to be invoiced and easily tracked through traditional systems now hide in your team’s blind spot, often obscured in lengthy credit card statements or buried deep in expense reports. Not even the shared p-card is immune, as a variety of staff use it to order office supplies, book team lunches, and cover hundreds of small expenses that fly under the radar.

Searching for missing details becomes a month-end ritual, matching each expense to the proper GL code is a chore, and any forecasting or trend analysis of card spend is simply impossible. Your team is flying blind.

“Abuse is not what puts you over budget. It’s all the other spend that adds up.”
CFO, 800-person IT software company

Expanding Your Field of View

It might be tempting to try to implement policies that restrict credit card use in an attempt to put the reins on discretionary spend. But, the truth is, card spend for business purchasing is the new normal, and how you choose to manage it (or not) can have a material impact. Without visibility into these charges, which can add up to 20% or more of your company’s annual budget, hitting budget and profitability targets can be a challenge.

25% of the business owners and managers we polled had “no idea” how much of their budget goes toward travel, meals, entertainment, subscriptions, office supplies, and other typically employee-controlled expenses.
Center, The State of Corporate Budget 2018

It’s not too much to ask to have systems help “fill in” your team’s blind spots. You have systems in place for payroll and invoices, but what about card spending? More and more company spend is moving to cards, and only a portion is managed through your current expense system. Imagine what your team could see if they could implement customizable card controls, track projects, or allow each Amazon Prime charge to be visible in real time.


Center’s Spend Insights make it easy to analyze and report by specific expense categories, cost centers, vendors, and employees to inform better decisions and empower budget owners to take action. When you use CenterCard® in place of personal cards and shared p-cards, expense data is automatically captured at the time of purchase. You collect information on departmental spending in real time, so you can see who made each purchase, for what purpose, and for which department—exactly the data you need to analyze and optimize that employee-initiated spending. Learn more about how Center can help your finance team achieve more.