Not long after he introduced a lead carpenter system and began paying bonuses on jobs coming in under budget, Jeb Breithaupt, owner of Jeb Breithaupt Design/Build, Shreveport, La., found his crews asking about the possibility of a company credit card. Carpenters at the company all have The Home Depot credit cards. But they sometimes found themselves working far from The Home Depot's two Shreveport locations. Or, they needed an item not carried at the home center -- say, a special color of caulk -- and had to return to the office for the money to pay for it.

After searching for a year, Breithaupt arranged this March to provide a Visa card to five employees, including two lead carpenters, the production manager, office manager, and himself. The card is offered through AmSouth bank.

Office manager Ada Fann says that company management submitted paperwork to AmSouth -- a regional bank with more than 270 locations -- specifying the number of cards it wanted and setting spending limits for each.

The cards, she points out, "are not for major purchases." Cards are to be used for items not available from company vendors or in situations where the vendor doesn't have time to deliver a particular item. An appropriate use of the card, she explains, would be if an employee who was working near a Wal-Mart needed paint rollers and bought them there. Fann says employees must submit receipts for everything purchased with the card. Company Visa cards for lead carpenters have a $500 limit.