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For the second round of my internship interview, I took an Uber to the airport, then I was flown to the site and flown back in a chartered jet, and I took an Uber back home. The company paid for the chartered jet, and they agreed to reimburse me for the Uber rides, which amounted to some amount that was less than $50.

A few weeks after I sent them the receipts, they sent me the reimbursement, a $100 Visa gift card, which is a value much more than my expenses. Should I ask them if there was a mistake in handling my reimbursement?

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    How long was the flight? What kind of jet was it? How many seats? – Stephan Branczyk Dec 10 '19 at 11:31
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    Your currency hints at US, but plenty of places use dollars of some sort. Often a major reason to deal with expenses exactly matching receipts is that it avoids having to get involved in the tax system. Where daily expense allowances are more common ("per diem") this probably isn't an issue and they can just give you a reasonable daily amount, likely to be a nice round number - so where you are may matter – Chris H Dec 10 '19 at 16:30
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    2 ubers + 2 flights for "much less" than 150$? Where do you live? – Bakuriu Dec 10 '19 at 18:26
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    @Bakuriu The reimbursement is only for the Uber rides – Peter M Dec 10 '19 at 18:33
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    Chartered jet for an internship interview? – Tero Lahtinen Dec 11 '19 at 10:31
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It may very well be the case that the organization has a policy for standard minimum reimbursement amount, and your expenditure was lower than that threshold. So you get the minimum amount ($100) as per the company norms.

Also, are you certain that they did not mention any reimbursement (with or without the charge slips / invoice) for your time (for travelling on-site) and refreshments? Some organizations do provide a token amount as a gratitude for the time you invested, over and above the actual claim amount.

If you're sure they did not mention any additional payment, over and above the amount your claimed, just to be clear from your side, you can drop an email mentioning the over-payment so that they are aware of the incident, if indeed this was a mistake. There's no harm in coming clean.

Most likely, you'll get to keep the card and the amount, as it does not appear to be a mistake, rather as per the process.

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    I would say that notifying them of this would also make you seem honest and that could provide extra value for you. – M. Doe Dec 10 '19 at 8:40
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    It's quite possible that rewinding it now costs them more (in fees and administrative labor). So just notify them and probably that's the end of it. – ObscureOwl Dec 10 '19 at 10:12
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    @M.Doe exactly, There's no harm in coming clean. – Sourav Ghosh Dec 10 '19 at 10:13
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    @M.Doe Not even just seeming honest, but uncommonly honest. I was once overpaid by mistake, and it took me half a day to even get people at the company to understand what I was looking into-- it was unfathomable to them that someone might notice an overpayment and try to return the extra money. – Upper_Case Dec 10 '19 at 19:41
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    It's also possible that they're working from a table of standard reimbursements, eg. "$50 for a taxi ride, $0.58/mile for driving, etc." – Mark Dec 11 '19 at 3:30
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The most likely explaination is that they have some minimum reimbursement amount or whoever was responsible decided to not do the math or look it up and go for a round 100$ instead.

The reason this is likely is that a company who wants to interview badly enough to fly you in a chartered jet (!) likely cares nothing for a 50 bucks difference in uber reimbursements.

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    ...or their controlling department did the math and figured out that the communication and bookkeeping effort which would be necessary for handling lower reimbursements accurately to the cent isn't worth it. – Philipp Dec 10 '19 at 9:58
  • I once processed a corporate credit card transaction of $0.01. Do you know how hard it is to get a receipt for that? Unfortunately I am part of an NGO so I can't write that off. That one cent cost the NGO probably $20-30 of processing labor. – Nelson Dec 13 '19 at 3:39
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Clearly it was intentional, since the number is so round. This is simply how they decided to handle things, and there absolutely no reason to follow up on this.

I think you worry too much about it. It almost like a waiter being concerned if he is stealing from the customer by accepting a tip. Or, in the business world it's like, somebody asks you for 50 cents, but you give them a dollar.

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    Clearly it was intentional..except we don't know that for sure. :) – Sourav Ghosh Dec 10 '19 at 8:37
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    @SouravGhosh, We kind of do thought. A chartered jet is not cheap. Also, a gift card was given. That implies it's a gift. Otherwise, they would have given you a simple check. – Stephan Branczyk Dec 10 '19 at 11:32
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    @StephanBranczyk, the gift card could just be something they have on hand for small reimbursements like this, so rather than print a check and deal with the accounting that goes with it, they drop a gift card in the mail and it's done. The chartered plane goes to show this company doesn't really care too much about costs, especially when interviewing someone they potentially really want. The OP doesn't say what industry they are in, but this was a high dollar job at a high dollar company, so $100 isn't even a consideration for them. – computercarguy Dec 10 '19 at 23:56
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They owed you cash. You didn't get cash.

You are being partially paid for the inconvenience of being paid by a Visa gift card instead of the cash you are entitled to.

My friends often say "that item, plus $6, will get you a small coffee at Starbucks" to insult the valuelessness of the item. Actually, this thing, plus $6, will get you a small coffee + a $94 gift card + $6 cash ...

... if you normally pay cash at Starbucks. If you normally charge it, then you have to search for other places you normally pay cash, and use the value there in its place. Or, spend it instead of your normal card, then next month enjoy a lower payoff on the card if you pay in full, or a slightly lower monthly payment on the card for 30 years if you don't.

The inconvenience of having to pursue your money in that fashion is a reasonable reason for the increased value. Don't even begin to feel bad about it.

You could and should mention it to them. However, if you filed for actual reimbursement, you would need to assemble receipts and put it on a TPS report (make sure to use the new cover sheet!!), send it to the hiring manager for approval, then it goes over to accouning, they post it to the correct account in their Quicken, then they issue a paper check and the appropriate manager signs it, and a staffer posts it off to you. All this rigmarole will cost the company more than $100.

That is why they do $100 gift cards. It is business efficient.

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  • This should be the correct answer. – Rui F Ribeiro Dec 11 '19 at 11:13
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    While some stuff has to go through the full reimbursement process for full-time employees for legal tax tracking, the OP is not an employee and any process around it is wasted time and effort for the accountants. My company has a small stack of "petty cash" gift cards for small awards or reimbursements like this and just hands over the next-biggest size, win-win. – brichins Dec 12 '19 at 22:36
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It may be that they already have a stack of gift cards and it was easy for them to just send one out. Like was said above, if they can afford a chartered jet to fly out a prospective intern I don't think they're sweating the $50 difference.

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Instead of treating it as calling out a potential error, treat it as an opportunity to say thank you.

As others have said, the $100 gift card was probably intentional. There is a slight possibility that it was an honesty check. If you think that could be the case, I would respond as follows:

Dear HR,

Thank you for the $100 gift card. I wasn't expecting that, it exceeds the value of my expenses!

Looking forward to hearing from you regarding the job.

Vaguely related anecdote: when in the final negotiations with a client for a $200,000 project, something the client said made me realise we had done our sums wrong. The total at the bottom of our quote was about $5000 less than the sum of the individual items. Our sales director told me to add the $5000 back in, and not to apologise but instead thank the client for drawing our attention to the error (although that was not their intention.) It was an important lesson in how to put positive spin on things.

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  • +1 for thanking not asking, does the same job and is way more positive and confident. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Dec 14 '19 at 19:12
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I'm assuming by the dollar figures that this doesn't take place in the UK, but for completeness the answer under UK law would be: it could be the case that you now legally count as an employee of the company, and are entitled to minimum wage. This is explained on the UK government's website here: https://www.gov.uk/volunteering/pay-and-expenses

A volunteer or unpaid intern who receives any reward, payment or benefit in kind that more than covers their expenses (including a promise of future work) might be classed as an employee or worker rather than a volunteer. The government website gives four case examples:

Example 1

Ellie volunteers at a company to get some work experience. She’s given travel expenses even though she walks to work. This is payment, rather than out-of-pocket expenses, so she must be paid at least the minimum wage.

Example 2

Dave volunteers for an organisation tending local parks. All volunteers get £3 a week for travel but Dave is responsible for a park close to his home, so he walks there. This means the £3 is a payment and not a reimbursement of expenses. It could count as a contract of employment meaning Dave could be eligible for the minimum wage.

Example 3

Joe is an unpaid intern at a record company, but he’s given free CDs as a perk. The CDs are ‘benefits in kind’. They mean he must be paid at least the minimum wage.

Example 4

Amanda is an unpaid intern at a design company. She’s been promised that she’ll be taken on as an employee after 3 months. This counts as a reward, so she must be paid at least the minimum wage for the whole time she spends at the company.

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It was a round number, so someone decided that you should get $100.

I’ve heard of a place that always reimbursed $100 too much. If you asked for $216.59 they’d pay $316.59 as a final interview test to check if you’re honest - losing $100 is much cheaper than hiring a dishonest person.

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    Frankly I wouldn't want to work for a company that engaged in such tactics. Personally I wouldn't even care about the $216 it cost me to interview somewhere, and would really only be submitting the claim to avoid looking lazy. So I wouldn't really pay attention to the amount of the reimbursement and probably wouldn't even notice the extra $100. This is a terrible way of gauging someone's honesty – Cruncher Dec 10 '19 at 21:16
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    If it doesn't gauge honesty, then at least if nothing else it appears to gauge attention to detail ;) another desirable quality in job candidates – Patrick Roberts Dec 10 '19 at 22:18
  • @Cruncher, my dad tells a story about him delivering and fixing appliances. He had one customer that would leave out 2-3 $100 bills in the open. If the money disappeared, the couple wouldn't use the company again. It's simple, maybe crude, but effective. It would not be a big enough red flag for me to not work for a company. There's too many other good reasons to work or not work for a company. – computercarguy Dec 11 '19 at 0:01
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    Not hiring a fitting candidate that the company has just spend a lot of time, effort and money on for the sole reason that he overlooked that discrepancy (or simply hasn´t checked it yet) is a clear sign of an incompetent management with bad priorities. – Karl Dec 11 '19 at 0:21
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    That is the kind of HR mindgames as "not hiring those that passed the interview, but didn't send a courtesy thank you for the interview"; but HR is usually a dystopian bunch, even in good companies. My take: Hiring you costs thousands (recruiters, flight booking, hours spent interviewing & discussing you all, and not working for clients; training new hire; risk of not working out and restarting; ... ); you interview the company (salary, perks, atmo, work, ... ) just as much; so this overpaying your effort (and unclaimed dry-cleaning, haircut, ... ) is a CHEAP signal of 'good employership'. – user3445853 Dec 11 '19 at 17:40

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