Expense management: go with the flow, Buying Business Travel

TMCs and virtual cards

TECHNOLOGY COMPANY MICROSOFT has used virtual payments to simplify processes at the same time as expanding reporting and monitoring to support compliance to its travel policy. In particular, its hotel programme used a range of billing processes, including travel accounts, corporate cards and paper receipts to track and reimburse travel expenses.

The company recognised that this created too much complexity with reconciliation. To streamline hotel expenses, Microsoft, working with its TMC, American Express Global Business Travel, implemented Conferma’s Virtual Payment Expert.

This virtual card solution creates a virtual card number (VCN) with 15 digits that works in the same way as a plastic credit card. Microsoft uses a single-use virtual card payment for each hotel transaction, allowing the company to set spending controls and capture vital travel data for reconciliation through one clear, streamlined process.

Now, instead of multiple bill payments and billing processes, all hotel payments are pushed through Virtual Payment Expert. It has allowed Microsoft to track, monitor, and reconcile all traveller spend in a single source, eliminated the employee reimbursement process entirely and created access to booking information using Conferma’s Trip Pay app on the Windows Phone platform.

The implementation gave Microsoft improved compliance, efficiency and programme visibility. Eric Bailey, Microsoft’s global travel and events manager, says: “The Conferma payment technology provides Microsoft’s non-FTE [full-time equivalent] travellers, such as recruits, with a better travel experience while reducing their out-of-pocket expenses from an average of US$1,000 per trip to less than US$150 per trip. Once again, technology has helped us reduce company and traveller risk while providing a better experience for travellers and travel agents.” Conferma CEO Simon Barker says this VCN technology provided what Microsoft required Amex GBT to deliver: “They wanted control, automation, simple reconciliation, compliance and efficiency, and they wanted it to be compatible with Windows-powered mobile devices.”

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