Skift pointed to virtual cards as an example of a digital solution that integrates payments, expense management and policy. Virtual cards are flexible, can be limited to a certain amount of uses, and have fixed spending amounts. Travel managers can also set rules for how they’re used. Data is tracked in real time, expenses can be pushed right to a finance and expense system, and business travelers have less to do.
There are technical and practical considerations for making it all work. In Skift‘s example, some automated expense solutions consolidate all travel costs into one payment method with a single payment issuer. That’s not realistic for programs with multiple suppliers and multiple payment partners.
“Expense management is a reactive process,” said Singh. “Plus, there are all these different traveler profiles — VIPs, road warriors, infrequent travelers, even non-employees — who all have different requirements, and that causes a lot of pain for travel managers.”
Companies must assess what will work best for them and their travelers and then work with their travel management company and technology partners to build it. Transforming payment and expense will happen steadily, but perhaps not rapidly.
“The digitization of corporate travel is going to go through a phased transformation that will shape out over the next few years, requiring training and early adopters to come on board,” Singh said. “But there’s a tremendous value proposition that these new solutions are bringing to the industry — merchants, their clients, service providers like us, and the traveler.”