Certify’s expense trends sees ride-hailing costs top meal expenses for 1st time

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Ride-hailing charges overtook spending on meals as a proportion of the total T&E budget for the first time, according to the 2019 Year In Review Travel & Expense Management Trends Report from Certify.

Ride-hailing services accounted for 17.5% of expenses and meal costs made up 16.8% of spend, the report shows.

Uber continued to dominate as the most-expensed vendor at 12.6% of all 2019 T&E charges, growing its share 1.6% from a year ago and continuing to pull away from Lyft, which grew only 0.9% for a total allocation of 3.7%. Uber’s closest competitor for most-expensed vendor was Amazon, which captured 4.9% of total 2019 expenses. Uber and Lyft also continued to decimate taxi services, capturing 95% of reported expenses by offering prices 25% lower on average and significantly higher user ratings on average, even as the disruptive businesses continue to lose billions.

Certify, an Emburse company, is an online spend management solution for companies of any size, providing cloud services and mobile applications to capture expense reporting worldwide. The Travel & Expense report aggregates data from over 50 million expenses and receipts submitted throughout 2019, measuring average costs, percentages of total expenses and user submitted ratings of respective services for purchases of food, travel, accommodations and other items used for day-to-day business.

Hotel and food expenses

Marriott displaced Hyatt as employees’ favorite hotel chain while also commanding the highest average cost of over $300 — more than 23% greater than the next nearest competitor, Hampton Inn. The higher cost seems justified in the eyes of traveling workers who assigned Marriott the highest user rating of any hotel chain at 4.5 out of 5. Courtyard by Marriott was also a strong contender, trailing the Marriott average user rating by just 0.1 while offering the lowest price among the top five most-expensed hotel chains at an average price 33% lower than Marriott.

The average expense for hotel lodging rose less than 2% over the previous year, according to the Certify report.

Starbucks was still by far the most-expensed restaurant when it came to eating out, capturing nearly a quarter of all restaurant-related charges.

And despite being the lowest ranked pit-stop with an average user rating of just 3.8 out of 5, McDonald’s captured 11.6% of restaurant spending, second only to Starbucks. Chick-Fil-A maintained its position at the top of the average user rating charts at 4.7 out of 5, while Panera Bread grew its presence in the catering space to attain an average cost per expensed order greater than $50.

Among highly competitive delivery services, DoorDash captured nearly a third of all reported expenses but trailed Seamless and Uber Eats in average customer experience. Seamless received the highest average user rating, but high prices from that service created an average cost of over $86 per order and resulted in just 5.3% of overall reported expenses.

Airfare and car rentals

Delta Air Lines had over 26% of all expensed bookings in 2019, despite being the highest average cost carrier. Average fares for Delta flights came in over 16% higher than the next nearest competitor, United Airlines, which had over 25% of all submitted expenses despite having a relatively low 4.2 average user rating.

National Car Rental was even more dominant when it came to vehicle rental expenses, recording almost 37% of all receipts in that category and leading average user ratings with a score of 4.5 out of 5. Expense managers also appreciated the reasonable prices offered by National, which were 21% lower than the most expensive competitor and just 3% higher than the cheapest and worst-rated option, Budget Car Rental.

Scooters, tolls and cellphones

In the realm of urban micromobility (scooters!), Lime and Bird captured over 90% of expensed scooter rides in 2019.

A few other notable trends were visible in the year-end report.

Medium-distance business driving appears to be on the decline as evidenced by a sizable drop in expensed tolls, falling more than 17% compared to 2018. But, cellphone expenses grew about 6%, and expensed shipping costs rose by 14%, potentially indicating that workers are relying more heavily on digital communication and shipping services instead of in-person meetings and deliveries.

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