Is Putting Business Expenses On A Personal Credit Card To Earn Miles “White Privilege”?

Provided an employer is financially solid enough to make the payments, and processes expense reimbursements quickly, there’s few things better than being able to charge business expenses to your personal credit card. This makes it easy to earn initial card bonuses, as well as threshold bonuses that might help you keep elite status, and ultimately generates lots of points for you to use later. Imagine being able to charge plenty of airline tickets (at 5x) and conferences at hotels (3x) in large volumes!

But there are several big “if’s”

  • There’s risk that the employer isn’t actually solvent, and by the time you route your reimbursement they won’t have the cash

  • There’s risk that the reimbursement isn’t processed quickly, and you’ll either need to cover the credit card bill with your own money, or pay interest

  • There’s risk that the charge won’t be approved

It’s important to understand how your employer works with reimbursements, and that it has the cash to cover, and it’s important to know with certainty that an expense will be approved before making it.

Diners Club used to offer “60 days to pay” and this was an employee’s best friend. You didn’t have so much to worry about with timeliness of reimbursements, and could probably even wind up making money off the float. I used to just deposit reimbursements into by BankDirect checking account, which would earn American Airlines miles while I waited for the credit card bill to come due. (Of course having big bills on a card can reduce your credit score through higher card utilization.)

An employee at a startup who is expected to put business expenses on a personal card and take reimbursement (at a successful company that processes reimbursements quickly) writes in to The Washington Post to complain. I don’t think doing this should be mandatory, and anyone in a position to do it who can satisfy the risk conditions should be happy if only with a 2% cash back card.

The author calls this white privilege, having a credit score and liquidity to handle business expenses on a personal card.

I’m a Black man with not the greatest credit score, living on a tight budget, and although my boss is an ally who tries to drive diversity and inclusion, it feels like a “White privilege” issue that he assumes I somehow have liquidity to cover these purchases.

It’s available credit more than liquidity that is at issue here. And that’s not always tied to income, let alone race or class. Issues of race aside, an employee may not be able to manage expensing business purchases. And some people aren’t good at managing money, either setting aside the reimbursement money so it’s only used to pay off the credit card rather than dipping into the cash for personal purchases (so that you spend more than you otherwise would, seeing the reimbursed money in your account).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I think anybody here could sit down with this guy, look over his financial situation and come up with a game plan in 5 minutes to improve his creditworthiness. But nah, evil white man made me feel bad.

  2. Business expenses on a personal cash back card might work for a private company but not if the company is the US federal government. Getting any kind of cash back on government expenses will run you afoul of anti kickback laws. This is the same set of rules that prevents you from using drug copay coupons on Medicare subsidized part D prescriptions

  3. Welcome to 2021 where things the left doesn’t like are “racism” or “white privilege” and things the right doesn’t like are “socialism” or “cancel culture.” Maybe one day intelligent discussion might make a comeback.

  4. “ It’s available credit more than liquidity that is at issue here. And that’s not always tied to income, let alone race or class.”

    I expect this comment from some of your subscribers but find it surprising from you, Gary. And it could be both, no?

    There are so many complications to this question. I won’t go into all of them but being “expected” to put business expenses on my own personal credit card for a business that I do not own is a major risk/problem within itself regardless to if the company is “successful” or not. Many companies were “successful” until covid reared its head. And at the end of the day, the bank only cares who’s CC it is charged to. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for that. Secondly, with a simple google search you will “discover” that Af Ams / Blacks are paid less, have significantly less wealth, and don’t have access to the same “resources” as Whites from a result of simple societal constructs. You don’t have to look much further than FTU/miles and points conferences. How many Black people are in the room (feel free to count the people on the speaker panels too)? Zero? One? So to answer your question…yes! Yes, it is white privilege.

  5. After learning from National Geographic last week that fireworks are racist, for some reason I’m not shocked……

  6. It’s kind of absurd to make this a race thing, this is a class issue that affects all races. I am fortunate to not have to worry about floating a large purchase for a company for a month but I realize many others are significantly less so. Not to mention there are a ton of reasons even if you do have good credit that you may not want to float your company’s purchases. For example if you are shopping for a house/mortgage and want to keep your utilization low and your credit score high.

    The boss should recognize not all may be as fortunate or have as much financial flexibility but to make it about race is also ridiculous.

  7. The only racist here is the whiner with the attitude and the bad credit score.

    Which would disqualify him from employment at my place anyway. Too bad, so sad. It’s not racism. It’s a reflection that you don’t know how to run your life.

  8. Lets concur for a moment that this is an aspect of white privilege.

    If this aspect of white privilege has risen sufficiently up the list of aspects of white privilege that it is in WaPo, I think we can call it a day.

  9. ITT: Folks that do not understand superficially non-racial policies can be de facto racial. Case in point: Jim Crow laws.

    When the financial system requires education that blacks disproportionately do not receive, is run by folks that disproportionately do discriminate against people with “non-white” names (yes, this is really a thing; research racial bias in hiring), and blacks are already disproportionately impacted by a dearth of wealth due to hundreds of years of enslavement and theft (recent-ish example: redlining)… it’s systemic racism. Doesn’t mean his boss is racist.

    Clearly, the guy was made uncomfortable by this situation, and feels it wouldn’t happen to a white person. He can be wrong on the individual level (guy just needs a corp card), but still have a point about systemic racism disproportionately making black folks in these situations more likely to feel uncomfortable.

    This dude should have a talk with his boss, but I assume the WaPo’s point in publishing it is to encourage others to think about how their actions may be contributing to this situation, even in small ways. In that regard, kudos.

  10. @TheAnswerIsYes


    1) “White privilege” does NOT exist! Did my friends who got past up for good paying jobs because they WEREN’T black a result of white privilege??? Or another friend of mine who couldn’t get food stamps when he hit a particularly rough patch in life for the exact same reason? Only racists claim white privilege exists.

    2) I DO agree that the average black make less and have less wealth than the average white , but that is due to personal choices. Black folks tend to engage in crime to a much greater extent than white folks (just check FBI statistics, racist) and who wants to hire a felon whatever their race? Also blacks folks are less likely to educate themselves and when they DO go to college they under-perform all other races since they rarely put in the effort or they take useless or over-represented majors like African Studies or Business. How is someone going to make a decent living with THAT?? They are also more frivolous with money and don’t save as much as other races. I used to study sociology so I’m aware of these things. Another friend of mine is a marketing executive for a major retailer and doubles my salary… he is black but he refused to go down the typical path of his racial cohort. He did NOT father 5 kids before he was 17 or wind up in jail, or do drugs. He worked his ass off to get where he is. He graduated with honors, worked hard until he made his name, got married THEN had kids (there’s an idea!), spends wisely, and saves for retirement…. AND he grew up dirt poor as did I. There is no white privilege, everyone can make something of themselves if they put in the legwork! NO MORE RACIST EXCUSES FOR BAD BEHAVIOUR!!!!

  11. James, I came from a family of 13. Dirt poor. Don’t put your racist comments on me.

    In my family some of us have done well, some have died penniless, but were great softball players. We all had different abilities and all started from nothing. We had choices. We don’t blame each other. It has nothing to do with privilege. It has everything to do with work ethic on top of skills.

    The world is your oyster if you are of color and have similar capabilities and determination.
    I have grandchildren/step grand children who are white, hispanic, asian, and black. It saddens me that there are racist policies and attitudes from people like you against my white grand children.

  12. The race card can be overplayed.

    But this Black man in WaPo has a point, and it has nothing to do with credit lines or reimbursements or the solvency of a corporation.

    The whole circus of getting reimbursed for business travel on personal credit is a relic of OLD BOYS CLUBS which are de facto 100% White.

    Thus the presumption somebody is comfortable participating in this type of reimbursement scheme, is absolutely a manifestation of White privilege.

    Calling out White privilege is very important for society to improve and be more inclusive.

  13. I’m white and have had a pretty good life, but there have been occasional negative experiences.
    I wish I had an all-purpose excuse for anything in my life that didn’t go exactly the way I would have wanted. If I get stopped for speeding and give the cop a surly attitude, he is likely to give me a ticket. If I’m polite, I may get off with a warning. That seems to be a big surprise to the “I’m special; You owe me; Give me” people.
    I think most people are sick of the current obsession with “racism” as promoted by the Washington Post. It’s having an effect on me, but it’s the opposite of the one the Wokesters want.

  14. Let him carry on. Just about everything at this point supposedly carries some element of racism. The more this happens, the more it proves this is all a big crock of poo.

  15. Ok, we whiteys are finally busted. It’s all just a small section of the rules for white privileged folks. James T Crow Rule 539 I think. “Black people should be burdened with paying for business expenses out of pocket to only be reimbursed when they act properly around whites. No corporate cards should be issued and if they complain to white management we are to make them use Concur to do their expense report in the future.” I’m so glad this is finally exposed for what it truly is. The sad part is that some people would actually believe this due to echo chambers in the liberal media.

  16. People who use the term “white privilege” suffer from race and sucess envy. ITs best to ignore them, this guy suffer from an oppression delusion.

  17. I’m sure all the Korean grocery store owners in south central LA would love to lecture this guy about “privilege”.

  18. Floating your business of the backs of your employee’s credit scores might be many things, but “white privledge” ain’t one of them.

  19. As a white man early in my career, I had the same issue working for a major corporation. I wasn’t making much (certainly below $15/hr) and I definitely wasn’t high enough up in the ladder to get a corporate card. But I wanted to travel for work and that was how the company said it would be done. It was a struggle to pay the bill for traveling and have enough available credit to do it. I remember the only two cards I had were my Apple Card (barclay’s) or my synovus visa. Ihg turned me down. (That was before Dave Canty ruined their program) Almost everyone goes through this early in their careers. This is a first world problem and definitely not white privilege. It’s not us vs them – we have more in common than WaPo wants us to believe.

  20. I feel like two questions here that are either or are:
    – Is it white privilege to assume that the ‘wink-and-nod” perks of credit cards are a desirable form of compensation?
    – Is it white privilege to assume that this is possible for any given employee?

  21. White privilege is a lie used by non-white leftists to make excuses for their own failures

  22. As a left of center moderate, I really urge those to my left to stop with the “defund the police” and white privilege nonsense, as well as “wokeness.”
    It just gives the clowns on the far right fringe ammunition to disparage efforts to address the really important issues, and it also turns off people around the center, on either side of the left/right divide, who might otherwise support reasonable progressive policies.
    And btw, if the guy originally bemoaning his “not the greatest credit score” wants to blame someone, he needs to first look in the mirror. Racism is real, but it’s not the sole reason for your personal problems, dude.

  23. This is so ridiculous I don’t even know what to say! The cancel culture / race card issue in this country has gotten out of control! Unfortunately our current administration is only adding to the problem instead of trying to reign things in and preach tolerance.

  24. Yeah, Morgan. If only the current administration could be as rational, honest, ethical and tolerant as the last administration. Those were the days, huh?

  25. Bill, The last administration had its share of issues however this post is about what is going on now so why are you dwelling on the past.? The problem NOW is that many people do not accept any personal responsibility for their actions and chose to blame others who are successful for their problems. The cancel culture, white privilege, wokeness are relatively new terms that allow others to use so they don’t have to take any personal responsibility for three current position / status in life. My wife is Asian. She came from a dirt poor family and everything she now has she earned. Instead of blaming others for her situation she worked hard and is now successful. Too bad others can’t share this same philosophy.

  26. Sorry if you’re feeling “cancelled,” Cmorgan. And good for your wife. She sounds like a quality person. That said, nothing you’ve said changes the fact that there are serious, legitimate issues to be addressed, despite some unfortunate foolishness by both sides.
    Be well.

  27. Every technological innovation and modern comfort is white privilege because nearly all of these were invented by whites. White genes confer the intellect, beauty, and creativity to do what other groups can’t do. Some can’t build a wheel with picture directors. Some can only copy (China) and don’t have the upper level creative gene to design.

    For the record, shouldn’t a lot of stuff be called Jewish privilege? Jews are 3% of the population and control nearly every industry. Just look at social media founded by Jews which control the industry: Facebook and Google. 3% of the population.

  28. Wait… this article really addresses an economic question:

    Should any company expect an employee to incur personal expense for corporate engagements?

    As someone who has been in the tech industry and traveling since the IBM PC came with two floppy drives, the answer is no.

    And in the various companies for which I’ve worked, it was AGAINST company policy to use personal cards or book travel through non-corporate approved portals.

    Could smaller companies be under pressure and have people use their own cards? Yes, but there is a greater chance for fraud, and that is why most do not do this,

    Finally, unless you are to the manor born, EVERYONE getting a start in business is unfairly burdened. It just costs a lot of startup money and time to find a path to success in America.

    Does the initial quote about assuming that the individual have a credit line being “white privilege have a valid point?


    But it is the vast economic disparity that exists in the USA that makes this happen.

    People who are black have known for 300 years that they do not get access to a seat at the table like the white majority. So do not be surprised if some of the minority in the USA speak out about it

    After all, isn’t that what the 14th amendment was supposed to address? The right to equal treatment under law?

    So why do we have this becoming such an issue in our culture today?

    It’s the erosion of the working class in America due to the weakening of unions and the impact of “right to work” laws. And that, in a nutshell, explains the Trump phenomena: white folks that suddenly realize that their quality of living is slipping and looking for a reason and someone to blame. And Trump loves to blame other people.

    For those who refuse to recognize the economic disparity, you may want to Google the lyrics of “Whitey on the Moon”.

  29. Poor persecuted employee. No one forced him to even take the job. Forget that the policy applies to all in the company, most of which are no doubt White. If he doesn’t like it move on and get a new job…he start with the sympathetic NYT. Another cry baby.

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