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Virtual card technology transforms business-to-business payments

iStock 1403310875 e1669931249333 - Global Banking | Finance

598 - Global Banking | FinanceBy David Wood, chief product officer, Conferma Pay

Corporations have continued to develop their commercial payments processes in recent years, responding to the challenges of the pandemic and new technical solutions on offer. A key trend in the business-to-business (B2B) payments space has been the growth of virtual cards, with the benefits of the technology increasingly understood.

Put simply, a virtual card is a 16-digit account number, detached from any physical plastic form. It can be stored digitally – and can never be lost. Virtual cards are generated in unlimited numbers by providers, including Conferma Pay, with a new card created for specific purchases.

They offer a number of advantages when compared to existing payment methods, including increased protection against fraudulent payments and improved visibility over invoicing.

The success of any business is dependent on the effectiveness of its finance team. They have an essential role in planning future expenditure as well as managing day-to-day operations. To do their job effectively, they need visibility over all expenses, which is what virtual cards are able to provide.

How are virtual cards changing business travel?

Virtual cards are more convenient than physical cards. They can be generated and used instantly, meaning employees no longer have to spend their own money on business expenses, avoiding cumbersome invoice and expense processes.

Physical cards also usually have a fee per year to deploy, making them expensive to give to all employees. As the technology continues to evolve, virtual cards can be rolled out across a whole organisation, giving everyone the ability to make payments through the company and save their own money.

This is a mutual benefit for both user and the finance department, with the latter no longer needing to spend time going through expenses reports. The process can be automated. Companies also have the option to set limits on virtual cards; a set amount of money can be allocated to ensure it is only used for authorised purchases.

Employers also have visibility over how much vendors charge, which is a useful tool for adapting future spending decisions and making cost-savings. Virtual card providers like Conferma Pay, also offer the option to collect important data insights which can be analysed to map future spending patterns. This type of data is harder to collect from physical cards or cheques, as multiple payment methods are often used.

Virtual cards are built with security in mind. As they can be terminated after use, unauthorised individuals are prevented from accessing the card. Physical cards cannot be as easily closed and are often used for multiple trips over long periods of time which heightens the risk of fraud. Physical cards can be accidently left behind or their details can be stolen, which is not the case with virtual cards.

What do virtual cards mean for B2B Payments?

Beyond business travel, virtual cards are replacing physical cards and cheques. When payments are made with a virtual card, the payment comes from a single source, rather than from multiple different sellers, making it easy for internal finance teams to account for employee spending.

For example, if an employee needs to purchase a monitor or desk for their home office; the finance team can simply create a virtual card for this purpose and the payment would come directly from the company’s bank.

For supplier relationships, virtual cards are a gamechanger because they streamline the payment process for all parties. As virtual cards are created for each supplier, it makes it possible to pay multiple suppliers without sharing account details. With physical cards, the same card would be used with multiple suppliers which makes it difficult to track where the fraud originated.

The benefits of virtual cards also apply to professional services.

The company issuing virtual cards can use them to pay for ongoing Google ads or to bill customers for their time, for example. It also minimizes lock-up time – the period between when a payment is made and received. Lock-up time can be a headache for businesses as it impedes cash-flow. Payments made through virtual cards are instant.

Conferma Pay has developed an online desktop platform that simplifies the approval process for issuing virtual cards. Employees can login to the portal, fill out some basic information and submit the proposal for approval to their line manager. The platform allows internal finance teams to have full view of what the payment is for, the total amount, and who signed it off. Additionally, having two levels of approval on a virtual card is like having two signatures on a cheque.

Virtual cards can be used at scale and be integrated into account payable systems. Currently, most companies make payments via direct bank-to-bank transfers but integrating virtual cards can offer a number of important benefits. One is receiving a rebate from card issuers after each purchase. While the rebate percentage is low, the savings quickly add up when used over multiple purchases over a long period of time.

Global Banking & Finance Review


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