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Receiving a corporate credit card is a professional milestone. Not every employee enjoys that privilege, so you know you're doing something right when your boss hands over company plastic. Still, this is more than just a feel-good moment. Using a corporate credit card can help you advance your career goals and earn personal perks.

Corporate credit cards are lines of credit you use on behalf of the company, but the structure of business credit card programs varies by organization. Some businesses issue cards from a central corporate account, and their accounting departments pay off the charges each month. Others allow employees to open business accounts under their own names and then reimburse them for their monthly expenses.

Both scenarios offer benefits to the company and the card-holding employees, although the latter option affords staff members more flexibility. Using a corporate credit card gives you greater autonomy and allows you to prove yourself as a reliable, trustworthy member of the organization. In some cases, using a business card will help you earn travel rewards or other perks — plus, it can boost your credit score.

If your company allows you to open a business account they'll reimburse, here are some tips for making the most of this opportunity:

Understand the Terms

Get a clear understanding as to which expenses will be reimbursed and how the expense documentation process works. Depending on your company's workflow, you may be able to link your account to an automated platform that catalogs business purchases instantly. Or, you may be required to document expenses by hand. Make sure you know the rules so you receive compensation in a timely manner.

Many business cards include opportunities for earning cash-back bonuses, airline miles, and other loyalty rewards. Ask whether you're entitled to use these bonuses as you wish or whether they need to be applied to future business expenses. Although it would be nice to use your air miles to visit family in Florida in the middle of winter, you don't want to break company policy.

Honor Spending Limits

Find out what your allotted budget is in each of the particular categories. How much are you cleared to spend on client meals? Are there restrictions on which fare classes you can buy when booking flights? Is there a cap on hotel rates? Even if spending limits are fluid, use discretion. Don't take clients to unnecessarily lavish dinners or upgrade your seats on every flight just because you can.

Making smart, reasonable purchases shows that you're mindful of the company's budget and that you're not greedily taking advantage of corporate funds. Your boss will notice this, and you can bet he or she will remember it when considering you for new responsibilities.

Pay the Bill in Full and on Time

Although your company is reimbursing you for your business expenses, the card is still in your name. Treat it as you would any personal credit card, and apply reimbursements directly to your monthly balance. Not only is this a sound financial habit, but it's also the professional approach to corporate money management.

However, there is one way in which you'll want to treat a corporate credit differently than a personal one: Never combine business and personal spending. If you're picking up supplies for a team retreat, do not put family groceries on the same bill. If you're out of town for a conference and you meet up with an old friend, resist the urge to treat him or her to dinner on the company's dime. Any perception that you're taking advantage of the company could have negative consequences.

Using a corporate credit card is a privilege, one that could open other doors. As you build your reputation as a dynamic and fiscally prudent team member, your bosses will favor you for additional opportunities. You may even get a free vacation along the way.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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