Virtual card payments:
The what and the why
Virtual card payments aren’t anything new and have been used for years in the travel industry for online transactions. As we continue to enrich our corporate traveller programme through our Online Booking Tool (OBT), called Neo, and in light of recent changes in levels of fraud security, we are seeing a huge rise in our client’s adoption of virtual cards. As a direct response to this Travel Places have embarked on a partnership with fintech travel specialist, Conferma Pay.
We started the New Year by catching up with our Operations Implementation Manager, Hayley Backley, to chat through the latest developments with the Conferma partnership, and answer some of the virtual payment related questions that we are frequently asked by clients.
TRAVEL PLACES: So, Hayley, how would you best describe what a Virtual Card is?
HAYLEY BACKLEY: They really are what they say on the tin. A single use, 16 digit, secure card number that is generated through an online app or partner. Each card raised is unique for that purchase and so it makes the transaction highly secure and easy to reconcile. We spent a long time choosing the best partner and have gone with Conferma Pay as it specialises in connecting leading travel buyers with their suppliers, perfect for our clients needs.
TP: So we are using Conferma Pay, what does this mean for our clients?
HB: The benefits of using a virtual card rather than a traditional corporate card are endless. Most notably of course is the security aspect through reductions in fraud and misuse. Funds are easily transferred globally across the Conferma network, almost instantaneously and as the card numbers generated are single use, transactions and events are easily reconciled, creating further operational efficiencies and better data, ultimately driving savings for our clients. In addition, our service level to our clients is increased further through efficiencies on our side, estimated at over 300 hours a year through efficiency gains in the reconciliation process.
TP: Why are Travel Places using virtual cards more?
HB: The needs of our clients are changing. Where we were once just providing solutions for their group travel needs, many have seen the efficiencies that can be gained from putting all travel requests through a specialist Travel Management Company (TMC) so we have seen ‘transient’ travel for individuals increasing – be it a Football Scout on the hunt for the latest talent, Directors travelling for meetings or a Photographer heading out to sporting events across the globe. It makes more sense and definitely drives greater time and cost efficiencies to use a virtual card in this situation. The spending controls prohibit the card from being used for a purchase it’s not intended for, which means a safer, more secure solution that is future proof for our clients needs.
TP: What does it mean for the way we work with our clients?
HB: Very little will change in terms of booking and paying suppliers. The reconciliation tool within Conferma, SNAP, has made a positive impact on the efficiency for us removing manual requirement and allowing us to produce client invoices faster, which has been received positively.
TP: How many suppliers worldwide accept Virtual Payments?
HB: One of the reasons that we partnered with Conferma Pay was the globally established ecosystem they offered – over 45 banking partners, the 5 main card networks, 4 major Global Distribution Systems (including Sabre Red 360 upon which we operate), across 200 countries, 70 OBTs and platforms and 700+ TMCs. What all of that means is a seamless experience for our clients as they book through the OBT with the payment covered by a virtual card. The Conferma platform has a very simple invitation process to invite new suppliers to enable them access to the full card information and to upload a copy of the client’s final invoice to SNAP the reconciliation tool. It all makes for a smarter and more automated working process.
TP: That all sounds great for the big hotel chains, but what if we need to book with a smaller, independent hotel?
HB: Not a problem at all. Ultimately, if a hotel or supplier is set up to accept a card payment they should be able to accept a virtual card payment. All of the details supplied to them will be the same and allow for easier data protection and GDPR compliance. Whether booking via a GDS or direct with the hotel, they can access full card details so that the payment can be taken. The tolerance that we have pre set also ensures that should the client wish to add an ancillary to their final bill the hotel can still take this complete payment.
TP: When checking-in, a hotel will sometimes want to see the physical card the reservation was made on, how do we do this if we’ve used a virtual card for the event?
Through the Conferma Pay app a secure, single view of the virtual card is possible if required upon arrival.
TP: What if we need to issue a refund to a card? Where does it go?
If a booking is cancelled and a refund due, the supplier can refund the original card details. This shows clearly in the reconciliation tool as a refunded amount against the original transaction details.
TP: What do our clients need to do to be able to use Conferma?
HB: To get up and running the process is pretty straightforward. The client would need to make an application with one of Conferma’s integrated banking partners for a virtual card account, Travel Places will provide the set up information to Conferma via our portal and Conferma will then link the client account to our own. So far all clients have discovered that they already bank with a Conferma banking partner, which makes for an even easier implementation.
No doubt there will be more to come on this as our partnership with Conferma Pay develops. For further details and to talk to the team more about the efficiencies a virtual card could help bring to your organisation, don’t hesitate to contact email@example.com
After joining Travel Places in March 2014, Rob has spent the last 6 years as one of our Events Account Managers, working on events including the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda and The 2016 Paralympics in Rio.
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