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Deep Dive: What are Expense Rules?

Sonia Liapounova
Sonia Liapounova Expensify Success Coach - Admin, Expensify Team Posts: 210 Expensify Team
edited October 2021 in Deep Dive Docs
Expense rules allow you to automatically categorize, tag, and report expenses based on the merchant name.

When creating an expense rule, you will be able to apply the following rules to expenses:

  • Merchant: Changes the name of the merchant, e.g., “Starbucks #238” could be changed to “Starbucks”

  • Category: Applies a policy category to the expense

  • Tag: Applies a tag to the expense, e.g., a Department or Location

  • Description: Adds a description to the description field on the expense

  • Reimbursability: Determines whether the expense will be marked as reimbursable or non-reimbursable

  • Billable: Determines whether the expense is billable

  • Add to a report named: Adds the expense to a report with the name you type into the field

    • Create report if necessary: If no report with that name exists, a new report will be created

  • Apply to existing matching expenses: Will apply the new set of rules to any expenses that match the rule. Tip: Click “Preview Matching Expenses” to see which expenses your rule matches.


  • If you'd like to apply the rule to all expenses (think “Universal rule”), rather than just one merchant, simply enter a period [.] and nothing else into the When the merchant name contains: field. Note: Universal Rules will always take precedence over all other rules for category (more on this below under “How expense rules are applied”).

  • You can apply a rule to previously entered expenses by checking the Apply to existing matching expenses checkbox.

  • To see if your rule matches the intended expenses, click “Preview Matching Expenses.”

  • You can create expense rules while editing an expense. To do this, simply check the box for "Create a rule based on your changes" at the time of editing: Note, the expense must be saved and then reopened and edited for this option to appear.

To delete an expense rule, go to Settings > Account > Expense Rules, scroll down to the rule you’d like to remove, and then click the trash can icon in the upper right corner of the rule:

How expense rules are applied

In general, your expense rules will be applied in order, from top to bottom, i.e. settings will be applied to matching expenses from the first rule, but if they also match the second rule, those settings would then be applied to the expense, and so on. 

However, there are other factors that can affect how expense rules are applied, for example, if you use an accounting integration. Here is the hierarchy that determines how rules are applied:

  1. A “Universal Rule”, i.e. a rule that applies to all expenses (when [.] is entered in the “When merchant name contains:” field). Note: A Universal Rule will always take precedence over any other rules for the category of an expense – rules at the bottom of your list of expense rules which would otherwise change the category will not override the Universal Rule.

  2. If Scheduled Submit and the setting “Enforce Default Report Title” are enabled on the policy, this will take precedence over any rules trying to add the expense to a report.

  3. If the expense is from a Company Card that is forced to a policy with strict rule enforcement, those roles will take precedence over individual expense rules.

  4. If you belong to a policy that is tied to an accounting integration, it is possible that the configuration settings for this connection will make changes to the expense details (e.g., to a tag for “Department”) upon export, even if the expense rules were successfully applied to the expense.

Note: Expensify also utilizes the concept of implicit categorization (think “sticky” categories). 

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