Ask an Expert: Why Virtual Cards are Hot in Business Travel

Virtual cards have become a hot topic in the travel industry.  The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) recently published a study, Buyer and Supplier Outlook on Virtual Payment Solutions, virtual cards are the topic of discussion for several education sessions during the upcoming GBTA 2015 and according to a BTN Group survey, travel buyers rate single-use virtual cards as the superior solution for solving travel payment pain points.

Why are virtual cards at the heart of some of the corporate travel industry’s most exciting discussions? In our quest to answer that question, we sat down with our VP of Travel Solutions, Juliann Pless, to discuss the emerging trend of virtual cards for travel.

Why do you think virtual cards are such a hot topic at GBTA this year?

Companies have experienced security breaches and fraud like never before. When ghost cards or lodging cards are kept on file with hotels around the world, there’s an increased risk of those card numbers getting in the wrong hands. The security features of single-use virtual cards solve this pain point.

Additionally, the corporate travel industry is becoming more aware of the savings and efficiencies that come with virtual card technology. We are able to automate a lot of manual processes that are often involved with managed travel programs.

What do you think is the biggest hurdle to more widespread adoption of virtual cards in travel?

Virtual cards have been a growing part of our business since 2009. They’re not ‘new’ yet they are new to the travel industry. So there’s a learning curve that we need to breakthrough. Events like GBTA and heightened media coverage from outlets like BTN are certainly helping. When I am speaking at an event or talking with prospects, our conversations today are much different than they were one year ago when people had little to no knowledge of what a virtual card was.

People today have done their homework and have a good understanding of what virtual cards are – now they’re trying to understand how they will impact their business. Like any new system implementation, concerns are usually focused on costs, timing and disruption to their day-to-day. These are easy obstacles to overcome with CSI because our system does not cost anything and our implementations are quick.

Do virtual cards replace the need for plastic cards?

No. Virtual cards are an addition to the purchasing program in place. Virtual cards bring added security to certain parts of the travel program but there are certainly times when plastic cards are still needed. For example, virtual cards are great for hotel expenses and incidentals, but they are not yet practical to use in a restaurant where they’re accustomed to accepting a physical plastic card.

This is another one of our unique features at CSI. Our travel payment solution includes not only virtual cards but also plastic T&E cards and mobile payments – three payment methods that meet 100% of a company’s travel expense needs.

You’re preparing to host a panel discussion at GBTA 2015. What are you most looking forward to?

I’m excited for the opportunity to continue educating the audience on the benefits of virtual cards. We’ve got a great panel that includes points of view from a payments expert, corporate travel manager and TMC. Together I think we have a great opportunity to show that virtual cards aren’t so ‘new and scary’ and how they’re being used to help facets of a managed travel program.

Attending GBTA 2015? Don’t miss this exciting panel discussion:

  • Title: Beyond the Trend: Why Virtual Card Payments are Hot in Business Travel
  • Track: Expense Management
  • Day: Monday, July 27, 2015
  • Time: 10:00am – 11:00am
  • Location: 304EF

Juliann Pless joined CSI in 2010 and since 2014 has led the team responsible for driving strategy and execution for the globalVCard brand in the corporate travel industry. Juliann shares her knowledge about the use of virtual cards in travel at national speaking events. She is also active in CSI’s charitable giving program and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Stetson University.