UTRECHT, NETHERLANDS – As business travel bounces back, so has the relative importance of travel and expense spend management, according to a recent survey of 106 travel buyers responsible for T&E spend around the globe. Leading travel management company BCD Travel conducted the survey from Oct. 12-26.
On the list of program priorities, 76% of travel buyers consider payment and expense very to extremely important, an increase of 8 points compared to 68% in the previous survey in April. The top three priorities for payment and expense are process simplification (91%), traveler satisfaction (88%) and travel data insights (80%).
“Companies are plagued by cumbersome payment forms, manual processes, siloed systems and obscure spend visibility,” said Ajay Singh, Vice President of Digital Payment and Expense Products at BCD Travel. “With BCD Pay, our single, cloud-based platform for T&E spend management processes, these frictions are gone. BCD Pay provides a smooth, automated, digital experience that gives travelers the convenience they crave, and travel and finance managers a simple process with the quality, enriched data for end-to-end spend visibility.”
Finance, travel management and procurement are the most relevant internal stakeholders to payment and expense management in business travel. Finance is typically the primary decision-maker, especially when it comes to selecting payment and expense solutions and VAT reclaim.
When it comes to forms of payment used to settle travel costs, corporate cards are the most popular (used by 94%), followed by central billed accounts (56%), invoices (41%) and virtual cards (37%). Travelers on the road mainly use corporate cards (90%). The use of personal cash (32%), cash advance (24%) and consumer cards (22%) is nowhere near as prevalent. When asked about data quality, corporate cards are ranked first, followed by central billed accounts, invoices and virtual cards. Interestingly, travel buyers who are using virtual cards think differently and rank virtual cards second.
Travel buyers say the biggest pain points experienced around payment setup and administration are:
- Managing payment needs of non-employees
- Managing payment methods in multiple countries and emerging markets
- Suppliers not accepting certain payment methods or charging extra fees
“BCD Pay provides customers the flexibility to use the right form of payment to each booking, whether for different categories, suppliers, travelers (non-employees, infrequent travelers, remote workers) or markets,” said Singh. “For example, clients can use corporate cards for air bookings or virtual cards for hotel and car bookings in one or more markets. BCD Pay removes the complexity associated with disparate manual processes and multi-channel and supplier payment orchestration through automation and a single, cloud-based payment hub”
Respondents also shared their views on what trends they think will be shaping payment and expense:
- Popular today are contactless payment (55%), paperless expense solutions (52%) and higher transparency and control over expenses (47%)
- Expected to gain traction in one to three years are mobile payment (41%), wide adoption of expense management apps (35%) and biometric authentication (35%)
- In five years from now, 52% expect to be using virtual cards more frequently, while the use of cash and invoices will go down.
“Virtual, digital and mobile payments are the future of B2B T&E payments and spend management,” said Singh. “Virtual payment is becoming more important for our clients, as it makes it easier to centrally pay for hotel or car booking for employees, recruits, interns and consultants. By automatically generating a new virtual card number for each transaction, the risk of fraud is greatly reduced. When it’s time to reconcile, all charges on the virtual card account are automatically matched to bookings, saving time and resources.”