Biggest Corporate Card Fails

We take a look at some of the funniest stories about how traditional corporate cards can be used, misused and abused!

November 30, 2020


An in-house corporate cards story

Let’s begin with a story of our own about corporate cards. One of our founders, Brad, loves to share it with a laugh, but when thinking coldly about it, you realise about the crazy world of corporate cards that we live in.

Brad used to run several teams in a payments startup, and the way software subscriptions worked was (like in many other startups) “if you need it, you can have it. Just don’t slow the business down”. It was all about speed. And that translated into Brad’s teams adding subscriptions like crazy every month, resulting in subscription chaos.

So what he did was basically charge all of these subscriptions to his personal credit card, and after three months he would cancel the card and see who complained about what. That way he could know which tools were people really using, enable them again, and trash those who were not claimed by anyone. And after three months, do it again. Not very civilised, but effective.

Similar was the strategy of another Brad, Brad Channer, CFO of a VR startup. We interviewed him last week and he confessed to us that SaaS subscriptions were his biggest enemy. So the first thing he did every time he joined a startup, was basically cancel everything and then re-enable those subscriptions that people complained about. And trash the other. A similar approach, similar results, equally uncivilised. But effective too.

You could say that both Brads have improved their SaaS manners with Cledara, and now manage subscriptions with better results and, what’s also important, with some dignity.

The Biggest Corporate Card Fails

We share with you the funniest stories that we’ve heard about how traditional corporate cards have been used (or misused…). There are dozens of them if you want to take a look, but we’ve picked for you the top 6 most bizarre ones to our eyes, which we have taken the freedom to name. Enjoy.

Number 1: Romantic fool

Wait until the end, this one is definitely our favourite.

“A co-worker was dating someone that also worked for our company. He used his company card to buy an addition to his girlfriend’s house. Something like a 20k addition. The accountants caught it and started digging around to figure out why we had bought so much wood, drywall, and other building materials. Finally, someone got the idea to start driving around and looking at the employees’ homes and found the addition to the girlfriends home. They were both fired for theft."

But wait, there is more.

"The BEST part is that it wasn't even her house, it was a rental. Once she lost her job she couldn't afford the rent anymore and got evicted. I'm sure the landlord was laughing his ass off at the whole thing, got a nice free addition.”

Number 2: Revenge is best served cold

“I was bartending one night. It was a Thursday so karaoke was going on. A guy walked in a business suit, walked up to the bar and said: "as long as I'm here everything is on this card." I said "sure enough what would you like to drink". He said, "when I say everything I mean every drink, shot, and food for every person". He stayed until close and tallied up a huge tab. Tipped 50%."

What a generous guy, you might be thinking. Well...

"I came to find out he had been let go but the company forgot to take his credit card. I don't know what happened legally but I made close to 1k in tips that night.”

Number 3: Being a nice Mum

“As someone who reviews our companies purchasing every month, I’ve seen some crazy things. Most insane? A cardholder paid for her daughter’s wedding.”

Number 4: Top of the class

“A buddy of mine found out that his parents had this corporate credit card in 5th grade with basically unlimited money. He managed to spend about $20,000 on online games such as Runescape and Habbo before his mother found out. You can imagine he was the coolest kid in class.”

Number 5: The Dumb & The Furious

“When the Army first went to a travel card system they initially used Amex. The cards had no limit and were activated at all times.

One of my soldiers went out and bought a set of rims for his personal vehicle to the tune of $2,500.

Now, there are limits and the cards are deactivated until needed”

Number 6: Honest worker

“I used to review credit card purchases. Employees would have to submit receipts and explain what line item was for. One guy bought a $500 watch and wrote down on his spreadsheet “watch to replace my broken one.”

Apparently, he felt his personal wristwatch was work-related and worthy of replacing with a Swiss watch with automatic movement.”

Bonus: Gadget boss

Since this is the dumbest list of things that happened with credit cards, we felt the need to include this one, even though it’s not card-related:

“A few years ago my boss (at the time) sent me with the company card to buy him a calculator. I asked no questions and promptly returned with said device… only to watch him open up Microsoft Excel and “finally be able to finish” his total column.”

Bonus: Starbucks is overpriced

This one also deserves to be on the list:

“The first day on my job, a Starbucks employee charged my corporate Amex card $4,500 for a latte, instead of $4.50.”

Lesson: corporate cards have some flaws

We thought of taking a fun approach this time, but in the end, we want to say the same thing: there are areas of the business where using corporate cards is inefficient and dangerous. And that is one of the reasons why we built Cledara.

Last month, we prevented one of our customers from being charged $20k for an annual subscription they thought they were getting for free (they are a non-profit). If it wasn’t for our system detecting the irregularity, they would now have a massive hole in their budget.

And the list is endless.

If you want to control your spending in the 21st century, you need to go a step further.

For the curious: tokenised physical cards vs. virtual cards

If you read that at the beginning and don’t want to leave without being unanswered, here it is.

At Cledara, we don’t issue virtual cards. We rather issue tokenised physical debit cards. Yes, it’s a technical thing, but it affects you more than you think. Virtual cards (which is what most fintech startups provide) often decline payments because they have a limited range, not all vendors accept them. That is not the case with our cards, which are tokenised physical debit cards.

If you want to learn more, drop us a line at We will be happy to help you and even book some time if you are interested.

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This post was inspired by questions provided by people like you. We love receiving new and interesting questions that help us think about data in new ways. If you found this post interesting and have other questions that you’d like us to help answer, drop us a line at

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