The U.S. energy industry continues to grow. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that natural gas production in the U.S. is expected to increase to 90.0 billion cubic feet per day in 2019. The use of natural gas in electric power plants is expected to increase to 35 percent while coal is expected to decrease to 28 percent. As the energy industry grows so will energy business spending. With the greater need to manage expenses energy prepaid cards pose a solution.
Solar generation is expected to increase to 303,000 megawatt-hours per day in 2019. Altogether, wind, solar, and other non-hydrogen renewables are expected to comprise 11 percent of the total output. Regardless of which sector energy businesses might be in, the industry’s increase will require more energy installers. These installers may benefit from energy prepaid cards to help them to pay for travel and other installation expenses.
What is an energy installation technician?
Energy installation technicians work in different sectors within the energy industry, including the following:
- Battery installers for the microgrid
- Oil and gas
People who work as energy installation technicians are responsible for assembling, repairing, and maintaining different types of equipment that are needed to keep the energy system functioning properly. Most installers have to travel for a significant portion of their jobs in order to reach work sites that might be distant.
Travel for energy installer jobs
Because of the nature of their jobs, energy installers have to travel frequently. Many job sites may be located at long distances from the companies for which they work. Installers may find that they spend many hours each week in their cars traveling to job sites, and they might spend significant amounts of time in hotels.
Installers have to spend money on behalf of their companies for installation and travel expenses. According to the IRS, some of the expenses that may be deducted include the following:
- Travel by car, train, bus or plane to the business destination if it is not the regular place of business
- Taxi fares
- Shipping costs from the regular workplace and the temporary workplace
- Business-use portion of rental car costs
- Actual expenses if you use your own car when traveling
- Meals and lodging
- Laundry and dry-cleaning
- Business calls
- Tips for services
- Other necessary and ordinary expenses
If energy businesses use the most common methods of expense tracking, the installers may have to log everything, track their own expenses, make certain that they stay within their employers’ budgets, save receipts, and submit expense reports. All of these things can eat into the time that the installers have available for their actual jobs. Businesses that give their installers energy prepaid cards to use can help to reduce the amount of time that their employees might be forced to spend tracking and logging all of this data.
Why it is important to have a good travel expense management policy
Managing travel expenses can be a real headache. It is important for energy businesses to have a strong energy expense management policy in place to make expense tracking simpler and more transparent. A strong expense policy can allow your employees to understand the types of expenses that are allowed and which ones are not authorized.
You can start to gain control over your business expenses by drafting a good travel expense policy. You should then train all of your employees about the policy so that they do not make inadvertent mistakes.
Different expense management systems used by traveling energy installers
There are several current expense management systems that are used by traveling energy installers, including the following:
- Credit cards
Each of these systems has its own benefits and downfalls. Cash systems may involve companies giving their installers daily per diem rates that are set at a specific amount. The employees may then spend that amount each day without having to track every single purchase. However, cash systems may fail if the workers have unexpected expenses that are above the daily per diem rate. Employees may also not spend all of the per diem money that they are given each day, meaning that the businesses may have spent money unnecessarily.
Some companies issue checks after they receive requisition forms from their installers. This can allow the businesses to make certain that they know exactly how much is spent on a specific purchase. Check systems may have high transaction costs, and the employees may be forced to halt work while they wait for their requisition forms to be processed. Checks are also often targeted for fraud.
Energy credit cards may be given to installers to use for their business expenses. This can cut down on some of the paperwork that the employees have to complete. However, energy credit cards charge interest if the balances are not repaid in full each month, and they may be targeted by fraudsters.
Alternatives to current expense management systems
Good alternatives to the current expense management systems that are used by installers in the energy industry are energy prepaid cards. Also know as energy debit cards, these cards offer enhanced controls so that energy businesses can manage their expenses more effectively.
Business owners can restrict each energy business prepaid card that they hand out to their installers. The installer prepaid cards can have daily or weekly spending limits set on them. Once the limits are reached, the cards will not work. Business owners can also restrict the cards according to the locations where they can be used. Finally, they can also turn the cards off when their employers are not working so that the cards can only be used at the specific times that the business owners choose.
Fraud risks and how to reduce them
Energy businesses face many different types of fraud. It is important for businesses to take steps to mitigate their risks of fraud. Energy prepaid cards can help businesses by offering fraud protection. With the controls that are offered by energy prepaid cards, businesses can mitigate against fraud risks.
Business fraud happens much more often than you might think. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimates that business fraud results in $4 trillion in losses to businesses around the world every year. When you use energy business prepaid cards to manage your expenses, you can effectively prevent fraud because of the heightened controls that energy prepaid cards offer.
How ending reimbursements can benefit your accountants and your employees
Installers have enough to deal with without having to worry about waiting to be reimbursed for expenses that they have paid out of their own pockets. Energy businesses that rely on expense reports and reimbursements may cause their employees to grow resentful while they wait for weeks to get their money back from the company.
Accountants also find reimbursement systems to be a hassle. They may spend significant amounts of time trying to track down receipts and to process expense reports. Prepaid cards for energy businesses can help companies to eliminate reimbursement systems. Prepaid cards for installers can also help employees to remain happier with their companies because they will not have to spend their own money or to keep labor-intensive records of every purchase.
Types of controls that an energy prepaid card should have
There are several different types of card controls that the best energy prepaid cards should have. With the right energy prepaid cards, you should be able to choose how much money to allocate to each of the prepaid cards for installers that you distribute.
Good installer prepaid cards should also allow you to set different limits on each of the energy prepaid cards. You should also be able to turn off your energy prepaid cards at any time by clicking or tapping a button on your mobile device or computer. You should be able to generate energy business prepaid cards for single purchases or that can be used for specified durations of time.
Bento for Business offers prepaid cards for businesses with their Visa business debit cards. The cards feature all of the types of spending controls that benefit energy businesses while reducing the risk of fraud.
Bento is a recognized player in the expense management industry and has earned numerous positive reviews from customers and from national publications. The company allows energy businesses to schedule live demos so that they can get a clearer picture of how the cards might work for them. Bento also offers a 60-day free trial, allowing you to try the cards before you decide whether to purchase them. To learn more about prepaid cards for energy businesses, call 866.220.8455.