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Dear Money Helps: Last fall I left my job at DaimlerChrysler for another opportunity. I had an American Express card for business expenses and filed my last expense report a week after I left. It took months for DaimlerChrysler to process the report, and when it finally did, it didn’t cover $300 in late fees. Isn’t the company responsible? My wife and I are buying a house and are worried that this will hurt our credit. - Mark Moores, Albuquerque

Answer: You’re right to be worried about your credit score. When your company gives you a corporate card, it’ll cover approved business expenses, but it’s your name and FICO score that suffer if there are late payments or other problems.

DaimlerChrysler spokesman Kevin McCormick admits that it took an unusually long time to process your expenses. That’s partly because you were no longer an employee and couldn’t submit your report electronically. So the paperwork took its sweet time finding its way to the right department.

But the company isn’t willing to absorb all the blame: Your ex-employer has a policy that expenses must be submitted within 10 working days of the completion of a trip in which they occurred. And you, like many of us, procrastinated. Some of the charges were months old. It may seem like DaimlerChrysler is being unduly fussy over what is corporate pocket change, but the automaker isn’t alone in cracking down on expense report rules: 63% of companies scrutinize employees’ T&Es more than in the past, according to a 2006 survey by American Express.
McCormick says that DaimlerChrysler will pick up $233 of the $300 balance on your card to cover late fees for items that were within the 10-day window. But you’re still on the hook for the $67 in fees incurred from expenses that you should have submitted before you left the company.
In better news, American Express had yet to report the delinquency to the credit bureaus, so your score didn’t suffer. (The issuer says it typically won’t rat on cardholders until they’re at least six months overdue, though that’s not a hard-and-fast rule.)

Lesson learned: When you have expenses to claim, the sooner you submit them, the better. Now if only somebody could find a way to make the task as enjoyable as racking up charges on the company dime…