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Corporate cards 


they are now integral to many companies’ management systems. Brian Merry believes that, “The ideal is


to pay for everything on T&E corporate card and then the card company submits files directly to the electronic expense management programme and the traveller simply has to populate his expenses with internal details.” Corporate cards can give total trip cost


so that managers can work out the return on investment from each trip. But most corporate cards were developed from consumer card technology so the data can be limited. For example, you can see how much a trip cost but not the class of travel to see if the trip was compliant with corporate travel policy. That fuller data is available from a lodge account because it was developed to align with the travel management company booking system. Yael Klein is keen to point out that the AirPlus (UATP) system gets another kind of data – that directly from the supplier. “We get the pro-rated data that the airlines use literally to talk to each other. This means you don’t see only what was paid to the first carrier – you see what was spent with whom on every leg. Customers want this data to negotiate,” she says. Centrally billed accounts can gain even


more data if they employ virtual cards. Sometimes referred to as Vcards or single use cards, virtual cards work by a Visa, MasterCard or American Express number being generated at the time a travel booking is made. It is most commonly used for hotel bookings. The number is connected to a single booking so data captured identifies the traveller as well as including a break- down of spend. Many prefer this to the


traditional hotel billback system whereby the hotel company would send the TMC one invoice at the end of the month and its admin team would then have to decipher what each line item might be for. Vcards are for travellers who, for one reason or another, do not have a corporate card. Paul Raymond, director of strategic


Whichever type of card you opt for,


the needs of various stakeholders in a company could be very different. Yael Klein says, “The travel department


will look more for what they can get out of it in terms of negotiation. The finance department will be more interested in controls and optimising processes.” Finance will also be conscious that


“ The travel department will look more for what they can


get out of it in terms of negotiation. The finance department will be more interested in controls and optimising processes





relationships for Conferma, the company that has pioneered virtual solutions, points out that because the virtual card is tied to both the booking and the payment it is the 'true end-to-end' tool. Myles Stephenson, CEO of CorporatePay, which offers a Travel Virtual Payment programme, adds that this credit-based solution offers the additional benefit of accessing a line of credit if pre-depositing funds is not appropriate.


different cards have different costs. If you are a very large corporate, you could expect to negotiate with the card provider for a rebate based on the amount of use. This is not, however, a pure volume equation. Every card has an associated cost so two companies may have exactly the same spend, but the one with a profile of fewer card users but a higher spend per card will receive a greater rebate than one with many users and a low average transaction value. By the same token, card companies make money from foreign transactions so


the more international spend there is, the greater the rebate is likely to be. However, if – like most companies – you


are not large enough to receive a rebate, the way to make a card cost effective is through fees. Cards are issued for ‘free’ but transactions will carry different fees, especially foreign ones. Carefully check the fees you are being charged – they are often negotiable. For those that do not have a card, a


prepaid cash card can be a solution but it will mean a negative cash flow (money must be added before it is spent) and the


 THE BUSINESS TRAVEL MAGAZINE 33


HOTEL CARDS


TRAVEL suppliers also offer useful cards for the corporate buyer and booker, including hotel groups. Hotel ‘business account’ cards are a relatively new


product for the corporate market. Like the Premier Inn Business Account, the Accor Business Account can be managed either centrally as a lodge card or individuals can be given their own cards. The account owner receives one monthly itemised VAT invoice for all the transactions on the account which can mean up to 45 days’ free credit from the stay. For both the Premier Inn and Accor cards guestrooms,


meetings and extras such as meals or newspapers can all be charged to the account and the business can set spend limits. The cards carry no set-up fees and can be used at any of Premier Inn’s 600 UK and Ireland properties or Accor’s UK properties. Each transaction will be shown and the management information can be fed straight into the corporate’s data systems. But there are differences. Premier Inn is a single brand which does not offer corporate rates or loyalty cards, two enhancements which Accor, a multi-brand global hotel company, does. Jo Stevenson, sales director – global sales UK and Ireland


at Accor, says the card “is especially beneficial for volume hotel users who require a range of brands – potentially someone who needs to consolidate their invoicing and payments and wants to use one or a limited number of suppliers on the hotel front. “They can use this payment solution to settle hotel


expenses across the spectrum from budget hotels through to five-star properties.” Stevenson points out that a card also negates the need


for the company to apply for credit at each individual hotel. “Control is really important to the SME client. Using the central account platform there’s someone back at base controlling the purse strings and in charge of who is spending and where they’re spending it.”


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