Why Virtual Card Payments are an Essential Part of Managed Travel Programs

BTN’s Business Travel Buyers’ Handbook is “the industry’s definitive guide to building a managed travel program”. The 2016 handbook has just been released and showcases the increase in virtual card payments in the travel industry – primarily driven by security concerns. With that in mind, we sat down with Juliann Pless, Senior VP of CSI Travel. We asked Juliann to share her knowledge about the travel industry and the emerging trend of virtual cards for travel.

What is the single biggest challenge that the travel management industry faces in the next 12 months?

There are quite a few challenges within the industry today – policy compliance optimization, accurate data collection and the decision to incorporate the “sharing economy” within travel programs. However, I think the largest challenge is the concept of “open booking.” When companies allow “open booking” within their managed travel program they lose control, visibility into their program and data. When business travelers book through any tool of their choice, without direction, companies can’t guarantee the travelers are using preferred vendors to get contracted pricing, nor do they get the necessary data to reconcile those trips:

  • Why did the trip take place?
  • What project was this for?
  • What employee was traveling?

Additionally, what about “duty of care” – who is monitoring the employees and where they are traveling to? The solution, of course, is to provide a single platform, like CSI Travel, for managing all travel to ensure compliance, visibility and data integrity.

How can managers help their employees on the road if there is an emergency?

I think travel managers gain greater control over their policies and programs by implementing as many tools as possible that complement and enforce a “managed” travel program: travel management companies/agencies, standardized travel and T&E policies and updated use of technology including mobile functionality.

Tell me a little about CSI’s partnership with TMCs. What benefit do these partnerships bring to travel managers?

Four years ago CSI developed the model for our travel solution and we determined that working with partners was going to bring the greatest success to the program instead of going direct to market. As we started to onboard TMCs as partners, we saw how it enhanced our solution with the added support, knowledge, and data provided by the TMC to both CSI and the corporate customers. The relationship between TMC and travel manager is an extremely valued one, so you imagine the litmus test we’ve gone through with each of our TMC partners. They want to make sure we can meet and exceed customer service standards just like they do and that we provide a reliable product to the market. Additionally, when we evaluated our TMC partners we made sure they aligned culturally and ethically with our organization and customer portfolio.

From the beginning we work with our TMC partners to ensure they fully understand our solutions and products and have all of the knowledge and resources they need to support their customers. In many cases, our partners use the solutions – virtual cards for their internal travel, mobile application for hotel check-in – so that they can provide an even greater service back to their customers. This benefits the travel managers in so many ways because the TMCs can “walk the walk” and “talk the talk” with the mutual customers.

What do you envision as the future for virtual cards in the travel industry?

Virtual cards are really starting to make headway in the travel industry and are being used many different ways – from automating the hotel direct bill process, enhancing data for reconciliation, streamlining the car rental direct bill process, and covering agency fees related to reservations. Even though they bring so many benefits to a managed travel program, there are still some frustrations being experienced by travelers, travel managers and travel coordinators such as hotel acceptance, data accuracy and mobile capabilities. As a provider, we have a lot of opportunity to continually enhance virtual cards and their functionality by educating merchants, collaborating with industry leaders to develop best practices for acceptance, and build out our mobile technology to be more ‘traveler-centric”. I’m excited to see the progress that can be made with innovative & collaborative efforts across all influential industry players.

Watch this video to hear from one of our TMC partners, FROSCH, as they explain why they recommend CSI virtual card payments to their corporate travel customers.

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. In 2014, Juliann was honored among the top ’40 Under 40’ rising business stars in the region.

B2B Travel Payment Automation

Accelerate the payment process and enhance the customer experience.

Learn More