Receipt-tracking apps keep you organized
Orrin I. Franko
Whether you are in private or academic practice or still in training, you likely need a system to keep track of receipts for professional expenses.
Truth be told, until the writing of this column, one of us (Matthew DiPaola, MD) always used a simple white envelope to track receipts for conference expenses. His system — carry receipts around for the day, then deposit and keep them in the envelope until it was time to write up the expense report. Although this is simple and efficient, it can be a hassle to carry around a bunch of slips of paper in your wallet and you will invariably lose some along the way.
Beating the envelope method
However, finding an app that beats the old “envelope method” can be trickier than you would think. Sometimes, apps can be deceptively time-consuming. The stiffest competition they often face is not other apps, but the “old” way of doing things. Another catch is that some employers require paper copies of receipts for reimbursement. Thus, a full digital solution may not be in the cards for everyone or every expense.
Regardless, your camera phone (in combination with an app) can, at the very least, act as insurance against losing important receipts.
The apps we highlight in this column are free, but sometimes extended features are available for a subscription fee.
Four free apps
Expensify is an app designed for tracking receipts and creating expense reports. Its main menu is intuitive and is categorized into expenses, reports and trips. The app allows you to snap pictures of your receipts using the “smart scan” feature. The app reads the receipt and logs the identifying information into the program. We found this feature slow, and it may be more reliable in most cases to add a few notes about each receipt yourself. In addition, the app allows you to track mileage and time using the GPS and stopwatch functions in your phone. Creating an expense is easy. Go to the “expense” tab and snap a picture of your receipt (or use the “smartscan” feature), then tag it with useful information. We found that when trying to create an expense report it was best to add the report title into the “expense” while creating the expense itself. We had difficulty creating a “report” de novo and with adding the existing expenses to this report.
One Receipt is another free receipt-tracking app. It is not as feature-rich as Expensify, however it tracks receipts well. Like the other apps in this review, you must create an account using an email address. It is not yet clear if you can email your receipts to someone else, a feature that comes in handy if you are having an assistant or accountant organize and submit them for you.
Paper Phobic is another free receipt-tracking app. Email the receipt to the company, and they archive them to be searched later. Interestingly, you can start your account by emailing the company your first receipt and they will send you a link to get your account going. There are three premium subscription memberships with fees of $4, $9 and $99 per month. The free version of the app is too lightweight for much meaningful use except for archiving. If that is what you are looking for you can probably just email receipts to yourself, but the subscription services show promise.
TinyScan is an interesting app. It is not a pure receipt-tracking app, but it can also serve this function. A more versatile app, it turns your camera phone into a PDF-generating machine. Take a picture of any document, crop it in the app and then fax, email or print it (print function only available in pro version) and bingo you have a PDF of your document. This app works well in lieu of a scanner. We especially liked the cropping function that allows you to scan and crop irregular shaped pieces of paper with a grid that stretches to meet odd shapes.
Of the four free apps reviewed, we like Expensify for its ease of use and TinyScan for its versatility. We hope you find this review helpful for your upcoming trips, conferences and general use.