Virtual expenses not yet ready for business travel

The idea of moving to cashless mobile payments and virtual cards is an attractive one for business travellers and finance managers.

It would mean no more currency conversion, notes or coins; no more trying to decipher paper receipts and bills collected in another country.

Instead all expenses would be managed and tracked seamlessly as business travellers simply have to swipe a card or their smartphone to cover any costs.

With virtual cards, a unique credit card number is created for each business trip, allowing companies to keep a tight control over employee spending.

At least, that’s the theory.

But one expert has warned that these kind of innovations are still a long way off becoming a practical reality in the world of corporate travel.

Mario Kriebel, vice president of commercial payment solutions company, BCD Travel, says that virtual cards and mobile payments currently pose more problems than they solve.

He identifies the complexities finance teams face when trying to manage mobile payments remains a barrier to them being used for business travel.

He said: “The reality is that in corporate payments, there is no mobile payment yet.

“We see the first movers; Apple Pay is open for corporate cards now, but this is relatively new. It works with American Express, but I don’t have one real example where a company uses a new form of mobile payment.”

Digital expense management solutions

Currently, companies can only access mobile payments by using an existing intermediary system, such as Apple Pay, Android Pay or Samsung Pay.

But Kriebel predicts that credit card providers will start to develop their own solutions, allowing travellers to make company card payments directly from their smartphones.

While mobile payments may still be some way off for business travel, technology has already helped to significantly remove the hassle from overseas expenses.

With an expenses management system such as webexpenses, any paper receipts can be instantly turned into a digital format and uploaded to the user’s account from wherever they are in the world.

It means that business travellers no longer face the pain of processing bundles of foreign receipts when they return back to the office.

It also means that finance managers get real-time data on employee costs during business trips, rather than having to wait weeks for claims to be processed.

You can find out why the webexpenses app has become an essential tool for business travellers here.