You might think prepaid debit cards fall into the realm of trying to teach kids fiscal responsibility or those gifts you get in place of a cash rebate. But, Dash, a prepaid card is designed to play a role in helping you manage your expenses at work.
Prepaid cards mitigate some of the risks associated with adding your employees to the company card, and you don’t have to deal with the same application process associated with signing up for a credit card. As such, there are plenty of reasons to go for Dash as a small business owner—bad credit, tight budget, easy tracking, and so on.
We’ve looked at other ways to manage your expenses—some come built into your accounting tools like Xero Expense or QuickBooks Online.
Others, like Shoeboxed, are standalone apps with the capability to integrate into existing software.
Dash isn’t either of those things. While it doesn’t seamlessly connect to accounting tools—it does add some safeguards against overspending as well as some reporting features.
Here, we’ll look at Dash and see where it shines and where it comes up short.
What is Dash?
Dash is a prepaid MasterCard, which makes it something of an outlier compared to other expense management tools.
Anyone tasked with wading through piles of receipts to file an expense reports knows the process is a pain. Some organizations require paper receipts, stapled to a report—and the process can be burdensome for both the person paying reimbursements and the employee waiting for cash.
In an increasingly paperless environment, ditching the spreadsheets and crumpled receipts seems obvious. And, there are tons of apps available that keep paper counts low and store data in the cloud. Dash isn’t exactly like these solutions. Rather, it’s a prepaid card that automates funding employees and contractors.
Business owners can sign up for Dash as a means of regulating employee expenses. How it works is, you’ll add money to your employees’ cards, as needed. So—it makes things like a per diem for a work trip much easier than digging into petty cash and asking for receipts.
You can add team members to an account and approve or deny transactions in real time. And, Dash works like a credit card, so staff members on the go won’t have any trouble paying for items at any place that accepts MasterCard.
Beyond the ease of use, the reporting function is pretty solid, too. Dash allows employees to upload receipts, which will then be verified according to the records linked to the card.
While it’s not a full-scale accounting tool, Dash seems like it brings a lot of practicality to businesses tasked with juggling expenses from multiple staff members.
Unfortunately, the app does not allow users to use the PIN number to retrieve cash from an ATM. So, this is somewhat like those prepaid Visa and MasterCard gift cards. That’s not such a big deal, but you also can’t use Dash at an ATM to check the balance—which might be an issue if you’re in an area without service.
Ease of Use
Requesting money and funding the cards is a breeze. You don’t need to be tech savvy to get the hang of this platform, and there’s not much of a learning curve at play. If you do need some extra help, the site features documentation for the entire process and offers webinar training from time to time.
Unfortunately, the user-friendliness does not extend to the accounting process. Yes, you can download reports and export them to your accounting platform. But, the reconciliation process will involve some back and forth—flipping through captured receipts and employee transactions.
Pre-Paid Means Minimal Oversight
Small businesses now have an alternative to adding employees to the company credit card. The pre-paid card is loaded with approved funds only, so you’re not tasked with implementing spending policies and can see who needs what for what.
The built-in workflows and approvals are ideal for the harried small business owner. There’s no need for employees to fill out paper forms and there’s no real need to scramble around for cash or ask employees to front money for later reimbursements.
Here, you can stick to a tight budget by setting limits. The benefit is, you don’t have to think about this constantly—instead, constraints are already in place.
Card Access Open to a Wide Range of Businesses
New businesses or those with poor credit will have a hard time locking down a credit card that accommodates their spending requirements. Although Dash doesn’t allow for a line of credit, it does allow you the ability to add users and distribute funds accordingly, which wins some major convenience points.
One of Dash’s best features is the mobile app. Employees can request funds directly from their phone and once approved, money will instantly show up in their Dash account.
Dash provides users with the option to automatically approve employee requests, as long as each request falls within a pre-determined limit. You can customize limits for each employee and freeze or suspend cards if needed. This comes in handy if you’re working with contractors and haven’t build a strong relationship yet.
This freeze function may also come in handy if you have seasonal employees. You can freeze when the job period ends and reactivate accounts when staff returns.
That said, Dash sets some limits on funding. You can only have $100,000 at a time to your account, and you can transfer a maximum of $10,000 to each employee. Dash does not allow businesses to use accounts as an alternative to payroll.
Dash’s main selling point is that the tool is a prepaid expense tracking solution. The company states on their website that they can save you time and money.
And, the idea is pretty solid. If you’ve got multiple employees buying items on the company dime, setting pre-determined limits can reduce the stress that comes with putting your financial security in the hands of others. You’re also not putting contractors in the position of using their personal cards and sending along receipts later on.
The Dash app allows employees to request funds. To do this, you’ll log into the app and press, “request funds.” From there, you’ll fill out a form that will ask for the dollar amount and any comments. From there, the administrator can go in and approve the request. Funds are immediately transferred to the associated card, and the employee gets an email notification stating that their request was approved.
If the admin declines the request—the app deletes it, rather than asking for revisions. Employees don’t get any notification—which is kind of a pain.
Automatic Fund Reloading
Don’t want to deal with the approval process? Fine. You can opt into automatic find reloading, so employees don’t need to ask for money. You’ll still retain control, as you can view spending activity and remove funds from accounts at any given time.
The Dash debit cards can be used just about anywhere, so employees can go out to eat, pay for gas, and purchase items without restriction. For better record keeping, employees can photograph receipts while out and about and add a description.
You can add a PIN number for an added layer of security during checkout, but keep in mind; the PINs don’t enable ATM use.
Account administrators can opt to receive daily reports by email or text. This way, you can stay up-to-date on all transactions and see which employees are spending money or submitting requests.
Customize your Expense Categories
Your Dash account comes equipped with a set of expense categories for employees to choose from when they log transactions. But, you’re not limited to those categories that Dash deems most relevant. Add categories based on your project or department, as needed.
Unfortunately, nowhere on the site is there any information about pricing. Dash has a dedicated pricing page that features nothing aside from a navigation footer and a small announcement at the bottom.
This fine print basically says that signing up for Dash means you thereby agree to their cardholder terms and conditions.
Another thing you might want to think about before signing up for a card is, you’ll need to maintain a balance that covers all planned expenses, plus an extra 20%. That 20% cushion is meant to cover incidentals like tips or service charges and is relatively standard with prepaid cards.
We dug around to find whether Dash was an affordable solution, but we couldn’t track down any specific numbers. Some past users have reported that the service is relatively affordable–but again that’s not super specific.
Cloud-based and Mobile App
Dash exists on the cloud and can be accessed through your browser. Additionally, the mobile app adds to the tool’s attractiveness—you can approve requests on the go, snap pictures of receipts, and so on. Apps are available through the App Store and Google Play.
Integrates with Accounting Software
Unfortunately, Dash has labeled this functionality as an integration, but that’s not an accurate description. What they mean is, you can integrate Dash with QuickBooks by exporting your Dash reports into a CSV or Excel file and uploading that file to your accounting tools.
There’s no automation to be found here. Still, it’s not super difficult for users to perform this function. It’s just a bit of a pain, especially considering that Dash’s goal is to eliminate the busywork associated with expense tracking.
As we’ve mentioned above, Dash is quite helpful in providing documentation for all processes. The Dash Support tab comes with detailed information about adding a bank account, team members, and of course, what you’ll need to sign up for the account.
While the website is helpful in a lot of ways. They cover the full spectrum of questions, going over the features and benefits and how to get started. But, some information is missing. It would be nice to get a full understanding of the terms and conditions before signing up for an account.
We don’t know what the fees are, and because it’s not the most convenient expense management tool on the market, getting the full picture would go a long way in proving this company isn’t going to charge you a bunch of random fees.
The Dash blog is a mix of informational articles, mainly covering the benefits of using a pre-paid card for your business expenses. This section of the site features use cases from Dash customers, plus tips for fighting fraud and controlling costs.
Conclusion—Should You Switch to PrePaid Expense Management?
Whether Dash is useful for your business depends heavily on what your business model looks like. This solution probably works best for companies that require employees to work out in the field. Think sales reps, product demonstrators, or those who travel for work.
It’s also worth checking out if budgeting doesn’t come naturally to you. Dash doesn’t seem to integrate into your accounting software, and there are some issues with the notification process.
That said, adding Dash to your existing accounting lineup might be more complicated than you’d think. The fee structure isn’t made clear before you sign up and there are limited reviews out there from current users.
As we’ve mentioned, reconciliation is still a lot of work—you’re comparing receipts and records from multiple accounts that aren’t directly linked to the source of the money.
So, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons before committing. Other expense management tools integrate with accounting software. Downloading an Excel sheet seems like a bygone practice, and some automation capabilities could take this tool to the next level.
In any case, Dash does stand to help you save time, but only if expenses are a big part of your admin duties. Dash promises to save you from excessive data entry and worrying about the careless spenders on your staff. But, keep in mind, you may end up backtracking when it comes time to file taxes.