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BCD Travel buyer survey: Travel and expense spend management is growing in importance

  • Ajay Singh, Vice President, Digital Payment and Expense Products at BCD

Simplifying processes is at the top of list when it comes to payment and expense.

UTRECHT, THE NETHERLANDS – According to a recent BCD Travel survey of 164 travel buyers worldwide, the importance of travel and expense spend management has increased in priority, reaching its highest level since 2020. In 2023, 88% of buyers regarded payment & expense management as “very important” or “extremely important,” compared to 76% in 2021.

In terms of payment and expense priorities, the ranking remains unchanged compared to two years ago. Simplifying processes remains at the top, followed by traveler satisfaction, combating fraud and frictionless payment and expense experience ranking equally. Operational efficiency, which translates into indirect cost savings, saw the most significant increase in importance.

When it comes to payment setup and administration, the biggest pain points for travel buyers are suppliers not accepting specific payment methods or charging extra fees (46%) and payment needs of non-employees (43%).

Looking at payment methods, corporate cards (84%) and central billed accounts/business travel accounts (71%) are the two most often used. Only 38% of those surveyed offer virtual payment to their travelers. Payment for guest travel provokes high interest from both virtual card users (49%) and non-users (42%).

In terms of expense management and credit card reconciliation, more than half report collecting receipts and missing invoices (52%) as the biggest challenge, followed by manual reconciliation (45%) and managing expenses for complex categories (45%). As for visibility into costs and compliance, almost a quarter of buyers have no insight into on-trip spend (24%) and out-of-program bookings (23%). Regarding the importance of pre-trip approval for controlling spend, opinions are split. While 44% rate pre-trip approval as “very important” or “extremely important,” just as many consider it “slightly important” or “not important at all.”

BCD also recently conducted a payment & expense survey of 1,349 travelers. The traveler and buyer surveys reveal some similarities and differences:

  • Buyers rate risk of fraud more important than travelers.
  • About half of both buyers and travelers are equally experiencing challenges with complex expense categories, such as hotel stays with meals and other incidentals paid separately.
  • 38% of travel buyers offer virtual payment to their travelers, while only 1% of travelers report using this method.
  • Buyers and travelers alike value expense tool features for automation the most: the ability for receipts to be automatically attached to expense reports (76% and 76% respectively), credit card transactions to be automatically matched to trip expenses (73% and 72%) and expense reports to be automatically pre-populated when travelers book a trip (69% and 67%).

“With the tremendous evolution and growth in financial technology and automation, the journey to transform the travel and expense spend management experience is well underway,” said Ajay Singh, vice president, Digital Payment and Expense Products at BCD. “We’re listening to our clients and travelers and developing adaptations to BCD Pay, our proprietary suite of spend management solutions. By using real-time virtual cards, artificial intelligence, machine learning and open APIs, BCD Pay will offer a frictionless, digital payment experience from procure to pay to account for T&E spend management.”

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She holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication & Mass Media from Panteion University of Political & Social Studies of Athens and she has been editor and editor-in-chief in various economic magazines and newspapers.