Centralised payments: the barriers to simplification

In business travel, booking and payment processes are becoming simpler and more seamless, resulting in a more user-friendly experience and a reduction in processing costs. Some challenges remain, however, limiting the relevance of innovative practices.

From lodged accounts to virtual cards and process automation, driven by technological innovations, centralised payment systems are becoming more common. Airplus International, the payment solution specialist, believes that the process optimisation achieved through the deployment of a centralised payment solution can deliver savings of up to 30 % on the management of business travel expenses. As a result, more and more companies are making the transition and adopting innovative solutions in this area.

Whether they opt for corporate cards or lodged cards, the popularity of these solutions is growing because they simplify the financial processes resulting from agreements concluded with accommodation and transport providers and create a more seamless user experience for travellers. Virtual payment solutions – automatically integrated into booking channels – are also gaining more ground, particularly in emerging economies such as Brazil, Russia, India and China.

However, the steps towards simplification also face challenges. Companies are often obliged to use two different suppliers, one for lodged cards and another one for Corporate cards, and the number of payment suppliers is even higher in the case of multinational companies. There is consequently growing demand from companies that wish to have access to all products in all markets, so that they can deal with only one supplier and therefore benefit from a single data stream for the analysis of all their expenses.

Like Airplus International, American Express offers an increasing level of simplification. Technology plays an essential role in achieving this by delivering a high degree of automation: the link to expense report management software enables users to make expense claims simply by photographing the receipt on payment. It should be noted, however, that this simplified functionality is not used across the board, because in many countries, a paper version of the expense report must still be provided for tax purposes.

It is also worth considering certain practices. When employees travelling outside of the European Union make payment with an Airplus card, they are invited to pay either in the local currency or in euros. In this case, the payment solution specialist recommends payment in euros, as it is not uncommon for vendors to offer a higher exchange rate than the conversion rate offered by Airplus. Far from home, employees on business trips don’t have the option to choose the conversion rate.  Some Airplus corporate card customers have expressed concern about unfavourable discrepancies of this nature during business trips.

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