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Certify review

A powerful and easy to use end-to end expense management package

Our Verdict

Certify provides everything most small businesses will need in expense management software, with solid features for both mobile employees and finance staff back in the office. One downside is that Certify only currently integrates with accounting package QuickBooks.

For

  • Excellent OCR and autofill
  • Good support and an easy learning curve
  • Clear, usable mobile apps

Against

  • No accounting integration beyond QuickBooks
  • Reports of minor bugs

Let’s face it, tracking expenses is a pain, for everyone concerned. Cloud-based SaaS expense management solutions deliver a dose of morphine by automating many of the most onerous parts of the expenses process. 

Certify is a robust expense management platform aimed at businesses of all sizes. Like all good expense management software, it has to satisfy two distinct users. Employees who clock up expenses while on company time need a simple and efficient way to record, track and submit receipts and reports, and will look favourably on solutions that offer the quickest route to reimbursement. At the same time, businesses need a sophisticated back-end solution that integrates with accounting software, aids compliance and adds a layer of analysis and control over company spend. Certify does a very decent job of satisfying both of those requirements.

Features

  • Excellent OCR for receipt capture
  • Useful location-based recommendations
  • Comprehensive admin controls
Certify specs

Free trial: 14 days
Software type: SaaS
Mobile: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry
Support: Email, phone, knowledge base, FAQ

Certify offers various pricing plans, though most small businesses will be happy with the cheapest option, which comes in at $8 per user per month. Larger businesses may prefer the $9 a head option, which offers up to 200 seats. You can pay per transaction, as opposed to per user, if you prefer.

User features

It doesn’t matter how good the back-end technology is, if employees can’t or won’t use the software, your expense tracking process is fatally flawed. Luckily, Certify makes capturing, storing and reporting expenses easy. Expensify is known for its user friendliness but we think Certify matches it in this regard.

Certify is certainly full-featured from a user point of view. Receipt capture is particularly impressive. Take a photo of your receipt in high, medium or low resolution mode, accept it or reject it as you wish, and, when you’re satisfied with the results, hit the Enter Expense button.

This is really where Certify excels. Its Optical Character Recognition technology (OCR - the ability to convert printed, written or typed text into text a computer can recognise and use) is among the best in its sector. Press the autofill button and Certify will do a very good job of reading the text on your receipt. In our experience, it was mostly accurate, though of course you have the option of correcting any mistakes manually afterwards.

The mobile app also lets users sync receipts and expenses, tidy up any expenses that, for example, violate company policy, and create expense reports that can be submitted to one or more approvers. If your manager has a query about a particular expense, you can view and answer it in the app.

These basics are done very well, offering a thorough end-to-end expenses solution for SME employees. On top of that, Certify offers geo-location services, recommending hotels, restaurants and other services nearby, and lets you book flights right from the app. There is also a useful mileage tracker and the ability to store receipts without an internet connection.

Certify Now

(Image credit: Certify Now)

Admin features

Certify boasts a full set of admin functions, letting you monitor and control company spending from the software’s neat dashboard.

The software offers cloud-based receipt storage, so you never need to worry about running out of storage space, and receipts are always available. It automatically holds customer data for the required seven years.

Certify features a thorough analytics suite, so you can monitor spending and identify areas for improvement. This is extremely useful for small businesses, who now have the information they need to easily monitor the habits of high spending staff, pinpoint ways to control spending and find cheaper alternatives to habitual purchases. Certify is particularly useful when it comes to travel expenses, providing listings of local hotels, for example, that meet your spending specifications.

Certify can easily create spending reports so you have the statistics you need at your fingertips. In addition, easy access to all the information surrounding an expense report - receipts, tickets, bills and so on - makes reconciliation and reimbursement fast, easy and accurate.

Like all good expense management software, Certify lets you set spending policies, but it offers a level of control that many others don’t. The software allows you to enforce spending caps, and will notify both employee and manager when a receipt exceeds a specified amount in its category. It will also remind users of company expense policy at point of purchase (if, for example, a purchase exceeds a maximum allowable amount in that category). In addition, a powerful feature called lowest logical fare identifies the best rates for any proposed travel itinerary.

Interface and usability

  • Easy learning curve
  • Excellent tutorials and training resources
  • Clear design

Certify is easy to use, and employees will quickly get the hang of capturing receipts, categorizing expenses and sending reports. The mobile application is straightforward to set up and simple to navigate.

By necessity, admin functions are a little more complex to master, but even here Certify does a good job of guiding you through the onboarding process in a simple and logical manner. You don’t need to be experienced in using SaaS software or expense management tools to set up Certify, and the programme quickly directs you to some excellent resources, including its comprehensive Training Camp.

After that, getting started is really a case of completing a few simple steps. Set up departments (users have to be assigned to a department), add required categories of expenses (obvious examples include food, entertainment and travel, but you can customize this feature), set mileage rates if required, and add users. Users who are invited to Certify use a simple setup wizard to guide them through their own onboarding process, including setting up the mobile app, adding credit cards, and so on. Again, there are various tutorials and other training resources to make the task more straightforward still.

At this point, everybody is ready to go. When you get started, you will find a clear web-based dashboard, with easy links to all Certfiy’s features, and one click access to all receipts, expenses and reports. From the dashboard you can also check the status of an existing expense report - whether it is approved, queried or due for payment.

All in all, Certify is a comprehensive solution with an easy learning curve. Employees and admin alike will quickly get to grips with even its more advanced features.  

Performance

  • Easy integration with QuickBooks (but only QuickBooks)
  • Good mobile apps

Like all expense management software, Certify will make your life easier, and markedly so if your previous expense tracking experience involved nothing more sophisticated than wallets full of crumpled receipts and an unwieldy Excel spreadsheet.

Certify automates many of the processes that both employees and admins hate. The ability to - on one side -  digitally capture, categorize and report expenses, and - on the other - quickly reconcile and reimburse, is a significant time saver for your business.

Certify does all this well, and represents a complete end-to-end expenses solution. The software also offers free integration with QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online, which means you can easily upload expenses into QuickBooks’ general ledger. That means there is no longer any need for your company to deal with manual spreadsheet expense reports.

This is a strength of Certify, but also a weakness. If you use QuickBooks, all is well. If you use another accounting package - Xero, Zoho Books, Sage et al - things are trickier. You can integrate Certify with some high end accounting packages but not at the lowest ($8 per user) price point. And even at the higher price points Certify staff will have to help you set the integration up.

Aside from that quibble, Certify is a complete expense management package. The mobile app is free and is available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and even Blackberry. It works well in every format.

Verdict

Good expense management software can save you a lot of time and hassle, especially when it comes to the storage and capture of receipts. Certify’s excellent OCR technology means that it automates this process better than most, accurately auto-filling expense forms from a simple mobile phone image.

It also offers a host of other features to make life simpler for you and your employees. Comprehensive spending controls are good for your business and bring peace of mind to staff, who need never contravene company expenses policy again. Excellent analytics and reports give you a clear idea of who is spending what, where and why, providing valuable insight that can help reduce expense spending or target it more profitably.

Certify is not perfect. The absence of accounting software integration beyond QuickBooks is unfortunate, and some users have also noticed minor bugs and operating instability. No OCR is ever 100% reliable, so some manual correction will be required.

Despite that, Certify is an excellent end-to-end expense management tool that makes life easier for both employees who spend company money and the individuals or departments that have to approve that spending and reconcile and reimburse it. In short, Certify is a match for any solution on the market.