REIMBURSEMENT FOR 99% OF TRAVEL EXPENSES
By Rabbi Yisroel Belsky
QUESTION 87: REIMBURSEMENT FOR 99% OF TRAVEL EXPENSES
I often have to travel for business, and I put the hotel
travel expenses on my credit card. My credit card gives
me 1% back for my total yearly expenses as a cash bonus
at the end of the year. I'm reimbursed for travel expenses
from my company. Should I be claiming from my company the
whole 100% of expenses, or only 99%, since I'm going to
get back 1% from the credit card company. Does it matter
that the expense department at my work would find it difficult,
or odd, to refund 99%, when this would not match the hotel
Let's analyze this situation. It just so happened that you
used your credit card to pay for your expenses, and as a
result, you get the 1% returned. Let's say that you didn't
pay with your credit card. In that case, you obviously wouldn't
get the 1% back. When you pay by credit card, you are
essentially paying 99%, while if you don't pay by credit
card you pay 100%.
If you did not use your credit card, you certainly would
have claimed 100% of your expenses. As it happened, you used
your credit card, and as an extra bonus you got 1% returned.
The company agreed to pay all the expenses. In other words, it
doesn't matter how you chose to pay, they will reimburse you
for 100% of your expenses. I think it sounds very high-principled
to consider giving to your company the 1% you got back.
The Gemora (Talmud) describes a situation where one was
appointed a messenger to take money from someone and make
a purchase. He came to the store, and dealt with the owner.
The owner sold him the goods and gave him a little gift for
buying this expensive item, which is sometimes given to a good
customer. The Gemora asks who gets the gift? Is it the messenger,
who made the purchase, or is it the person he is purchasing the
The Gemora discusses the question, and then decides that it's
divided in half. The reason is because the seller really gave
it to both of them. He gave it to the person who made the purchase,
who came to his store, and who favored him over other merchants.
He also gave it to the owner of the money, who is the real customer.
Although our case seems the same as the Gemora's, they really
are not the same. In our case, the credit card company gives an
added bonus as an incentive to encourage people to use their
credit card. It is not like you were a messenger on behalf of
your employer, using his money, with your employer doing business
with this credit card company. Your job agreed to pay for your
travel expenses since they are business expenses. It did not matter
how you paid, or whether or not you got the 1% bonus back. The
company would have reimbursed you fully no matter how you paid
Since you chose to pay with your credit card, we must say that
you, and not your company, was doing business with the credit card
company. Therefore, we really can't say that they should also have
an equal share in the 1% bonus, like the ruling from the Gemora.
The credit card company only gives a bonus to the person who uses
their card, as a special gift for using the credit card. In this case
that person was you, so the extra bonus is 100% yours to keep.
You must know that it requires a lot of thinking and hard work to
correctly analyze a situation. It's not something that comes to
you all at once. You have to struggle, and strain your mind to think
it through clearly. There is an important lesson to be learned from
this. Whatever you do, there's a world of a difference between whether
you thought it out carefully beforehand, or if you just did it hastily.
The baal nefesh (conscientious person) is the one who is the
master of his nefesh (soul) and doesn't do things by instinct.
Think through things carefully. Make sure all ideas are well
thought-out. Only through proper understanding and careful
analysis will you come to the right decision.
NEXT WEEK'S QUESTION 88: BRINGING FOOD INTO ARENAS AND THEATRES
Some public places, such as theaters, have policies that
prohibit patrons from bringing in their own food. In other
words, if you want to eat a candy bar, or even drink bottled
water while watching the event, you can't bring your own food.
Their policy requires you to buy the food from them, usually
at inflated prices. Is it okay to ignore this policy and bring
in your own food anyway, possibly hiding the food when you enter?
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