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Travel Payment Analytics and the Power of Virtual Card Numbers (VCNs)

Posted June 15, 2016


Travel companies are using data in all of its various shapes and sizes to help deliver extraordinary customer experiences. But what about using data to inform administrative process decisions? Payments professionals who employ digital payment methods like virtual card numbers (VCNs) to pay their suppliers have access to richer data that helps automate and streamline their processes while providing more insight into their company’s spending. Let’s take a closer look.

B2B Payments Process Data

Across the board, organizations are leveraging data to achieve process improvements, reduce costs and streamline workflows for employees and business partners. On the payments end of the spectrum, particularly in the travel industry, invoice reconciliation and manual processing are the biggest drains on staff resources. This is according to Phocuswright’s Payment Unsettled: Cost, Opportunity and Disruption in Travel’s Complex Payment Landscape, which also revealed the overall travel industry average is 12 staff per firm spending 20 hours a week on payment processing.

Most company leaders can get their hands on intelligence related to their payment processes to uncover, for example, that they’re spending X amount of time and X amount of funds on manual workflows. They can then make the decision to automate parts of their processes or find other areas to trim the proverbial fat. But what if the data staff employees are working with is actually what’s creating bottlenecks? What if the data itself isn’t “optimized” for efficient processing?

It makes sense that travel companies would want to ensure the efficient sharing and use of payment data. That is, gain access to higher quality data that can make an impact on payments processing while bringing additional value to the finance team.

For deeper insights, read Big Opportunities for Big Data in the Travel Industry and 3 Tips for Tackling Big Data in the Travel Industry.

VCNs Help Meet the Business Need for Better Data

Today, one of the biggest challenges facing travel industry payments professionals is the sheer volume of transactions they’re reconciling. The good news is they’re meeting the needs of many consumers; the bad news is that more data often means more time spent matching records, more errors, and ultimately, more overhead costs.

Plus, the data that accompanies booking transactions is usually different from what’s charged on the final bill, thanks to taxes and other extras. When using traditional credit cards for payment, matching and reconciling transactions can take longer than anticipated. There’s usually some degree of manual intervention required—and multiply that by the number of transactions and it’s easy to see why reconciliation is a payments pain point for many travel companies.

Automating this process is one of the benefits of using virtual card numbers (VCNs). Because a VCN issued for a single use, there’s a unique identifier for a booking, from purchase to payment: what was booked and what was actually paid. And VCNs provide a level of detail that isn’t available for traditional credit card transactions: data captured through the VCN transaction includes company-specific information like cost center and project code, and administrators can set specific parameters for each VCN (e.g. dollar amount and timeframe) which makes tracking and reporting on payments easier.

Innovative Data Solutions

GraspPAY, a WEX partner, offers travel management companies a complete ecosystem for managing VCN technology. (See WEX Selected by Grasp to Issue Virtual Credit Cards and WEX's Jim Pratt Talks GraspPay and B2B Payments with for details.) Their platform enables the automatic generation of VCNs within a travel manager’s booking flow, removing steps in the booking process and providing rich transaction data on the back end. All of the data, which can be combined with any other data types such as TMC back office, GDS, Expense, Credit Card and HR, is available for reporting and reconciliation in the GraspPAY Business Intelligence Portal. It’s helping travel companies make the most of their payments process and data, combining the best of both worlds.


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