Invisible Payment for Business Travel

Business travel requires more than the convenience of invisible consumer tech

FinTech innovation has swept in hyper-easy, almost invisible, new ways to pay. However, all these innovations were designed for the consumer market. As they lack means of control, they haven’t yet crossed over to the corporate travel market.

FinTech made payments invisible

The FinTech (financial technology) revolution has made making payment extremely convenient for consumers thanks to one-click, mobile and voice technologies. The past few years have swept more innovation into the payments world than the entire three decades that preceded them.

FinTech has shrunk the task of paying for a product or service almost to the point of invisibility. You don’t even need to produce a plastic card any more. Just look at some of these examples of the FinTech revolution in action:

One click

Register your card with a retailer once. After that, the same card details are used to complete payment with a single click each time you use the service. Examples: Amazon One-Click, Uber, Deliveroo, AirBnB.

Mobile

No need to take your wallet or purse out with you. Instead you simply swipe and pay with your phone, which stores your card number electronically. This is already the standard way to pay in urban China, which handled US$5.5 trillion of mobile payments in 2016 — half the country’s gross domestic product. Examples: Android Pay, Apple Pay, Alipay.

Voice

Order and pay for shopping by giving a voice commands to a smart digital assistant sitting in your home. Examples: Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod.

IoT

Your domestic devices monitor when you run short of items and automatically re-order and pay for them. Example: Amazon Dash Button, Whirlpool (Whirlpool is trialling a washing machine which automatically buys fresh detergent).

So what do these FinTech innovations have in common? 

They were all developed for the consumer market. It used to be the case that technology created for corporate users blazed a trail for what consumers would eventually pick up on. Now it’s the other way round. 

A major barrier has prevented the new consumer FinTech payments from moving across to corporate use. To succeed in corporate payments, convenience is certainly crucial for the user but it has to be achieved without losing control of the corporate travel budget. So far, the control aspect isn’t really there, and that’s the prime reason why corporate payments are lagging behind.

Corporate payments require more that the convenience of consumer tech. Using effortless payments where you don’t stop to think about the price is fine if you are spending your own money. But failure to pay attention when it is someone else’s budget is not acceptable. And that’s exactly why invisible or seamless payments have so far failed to take off. So far, the control isn’t really there for the employers whose budget is being spent, and that’s why corporate payments are lagging behind.

This raises the most important, question: How can we give business travellers and other corporate payment users all the convenience of FinTech while retaining control for the employers whose money it is? 

Virtual card numbers, where convenience meets control

We can see that in the consumer space the mobile and invisible experience is becoming more secure and is presenting users with a detailed data trail of their individual spend. But what in the corporate space we require more. 

Where corporations will really benefit, is developments in corporate digital payment like virtual payments. Virtual payments are already here and they are already transforming managed travel programmes around the world. What they deliver is a combination of that seamlessness to corporate payments while adding essential spend and policy controls.

This is why travel managers are turning to corporate digital payments in such huge numbers. They are uniquely positioned to do both by simplifying the experience for travellers while giving travel managers more visibility and controls. They are a revolution in payment technology and help to reduce the cost and complexity associated with corporate payment programs. They improve compliance, control, security, and automate the reconciliation process. Payment restrictions ensure that the number can only be used for a specified amount and within a specified date range, transaction and booking data is automatically reconciled. They come with ubiquitous acceptance and crucially provide the liquidity corporations depends on.

Virtual payments optimise the managed travel experience by delivering controls to corporations and travel managers alike, alongside FinTech convenience to traveller, which also keeps them loyal to the managed travel programme and preferred suppliers. 

Even better news is that the control stays in the background. It’s much less in your face than big-stick measures like 20-page travel policies. Virtual payments will move invisible payments beyond the consumer world to the corporate payments market – and everyone will benefit.

You can take advantage of virtual payments now. Leverage you existing bank or travel management company as a strategic partner to capitalize on the opportunities available.