A corporate credit card can play an important role in a company’s success by helping its travelers with costly up-front travel and entertainment expenses, leveraging the financial float on money spent, and utilizing the reporting data it provides to help populate automated expense management solutions.
In addition to these benefits, the idea of marrying pertinent corporate card data to Travel Management Company (TMC) travel reporting seems particularly smart given that much of the card spend is used for travel related purposes and the vast majority of organizations experience some degree of program “leakage” – a traveler booking air, car, and hotel trips outside of their company’s approved TMC. Corporate travel is a $1.5 trillion industry with less than 10% of that volume formally managed by a TMC so it makes sense that if an organization is leveraging the benefits of a corporate card, utilizing the data that comes from it makes perfect sense. Combining corporate card and TMC data should facilitate a clearer picture of total travel spend and a means to better leverage volume discounts with preferred suppliers. In fact, the practice of corporate card reconciliation to TMC data has become commonplace in the industry among those who issue and utilize a corporate card within their organizations.
It’s Not Easy to Reconcile Corporate Card and TMC Data
When I first started my consulting career at Ernst & Young, my Manager would remind me that data needs to be meaningful, measurable, and actionable to be useful. Corporate card data reconciliation tends to accomplish none of these basic goals when considering how to marry and leverage corporate travel information.
Hoteliers require detailed reporting to extend corporate discounts including the specific name of the hotel, dates of stay, room type, booked price, et cetera. At minimum, reconciling corporate card data to normalize a hotel name can be an impossible task. If you’ve ever seen a credit card statement where you can’t quite place a certain charge because of the way it shows up on the statement, then this observation may make sense. The TMC, hotel, and credit card does not typically show that the Hilton the traveler stayed at in Atlanta was the Perimeter Hilton Sandy Springs, for example. Without this basic ability to normalize all of the hotel names where travelers may have stayed, it becomes impossible to show a clear picture of total hotel purchases by property and as a result the information becomes unusable.
Airline requirements present an even greater challenge as most corporate card data doesn’t show essential trip details that are required to leverage better discounts – cities, routing, advance purchase information, cabin class, et cetera. Card data also can’t tell you if the fee was a fare, ancillary product or some other kind of charge. This is the critical information that TMC’s provide airline partners in support of client discount programs, typically not available in corporate card data.
Corporate Card Usage Accounts for a Very Small Portion of Corporate Travel Purchases
Among the less than 10% of corporate travel that is formally managed by a TMC, only about 25% use a corporate credit card and even less enjoy full participation. While statistics show that general use of credit cards is rising, that statistic doesn’t hold true for our largest corporate traveling population, the Millennial. In general, a Millennial carries less debt than their predecessors, have fewer credit cards, and love to travel using their own accumulated loyalty points which you tend to forfeit when using a corporate card. The same can be said for the vintage road warriors who may be looking forward to the luxuries of being able to travel in retirement using all of those accumulated points. We’ve encountered travelers who check their mileage statements daily to ensure the balances meet their expectations based on recent travel.
Corporate Card Data is Not Real-Time
Setting aside the data integrity issue, real time data is important to corporate travel programs. The pandemic has brought duty of care to the forefront for many programs. Real time data is critical. Beyond this, the ability to effectively manage user behavior and be proactive supporting market share agreements with preferred supplier programs gets lost if the data utilized by the corporate travel business owner is looking in her rear view mirror.
We developed CapTrav because we considered there must be a better way.
Keep an eye out for the next blog in this series, Part Two: The Problem with Expense Data.