The use of virtual cards, a subset of commercial cards, is accelerating at a rate never experienced before, due in part to circumstances caused by COVID-19.
Terri Brustad, CPCP
Manager of Content Services, NAPCP
Heather O’Neill, CPCP, MBA
Community Engagement Manager, NAPCP
While virtual payments are not a new concept and many organizations had adopted a variation prior to the pandemic, it forced organizations to embrace new solutions that help transition away from outdated processes and policies, such as printing and issuing checks, a concept that suddenly became nearly impossible to continue. With staff working remotely, traditional payment processes came to a halt, seemingly overnight.
Virtual cards came to the rescue by providing electronic payment to suppliers previously paid by check, providing a seamless and safe payment experience for the organization issuing payment and the supplier receiving it. Additionally, virtual cards have evolved to address the needs of business travelers, and, as they return to travel, the adoption of virtual cards in this category is ripe for growth.
With the Federal Reserve paving the way toward faster payments in the United States, solutions for B2B are evolving faster than ever before through third parties and fintechs. Virtual cards are poised to provide convenient buyer/traveler experiences, which are prevalent in B2C. With virtual payment solutions now available, buyers and travelers can facilitate payments from their mobile devices.
Virtual cards can uniquely provide safety and address data security concerns, as they can be accessed electronically or by a mobile device whereby no personal data is required or shared when issuing a card. The flexibility of the virtual card provides important controls and security as they can be locked down to a specific purchase, merchant category, or timeframe. You can’t lose a virtual card in the way a plastic card can be lost.
The advantages on the supplier side are substantial as well. Payment is guaranteed, cash flow increases, and manual deposit and collection activities in A/R are eliminated. In addition, by accepting virtual payments, a supplier might receive preferred status from an organization.
The game has changed
The COVID-19 pandemic permanently changed the perception of what is possible in B2B payments. Virtual cards solve new problems while efficiently addressing traditional payment challenges. Industry-best practices have evolved, reflecting recent lessons learned.
With the efficiencies and benefits derived via these products throughout the work-from-home era, there is every reason to continue the use of virtual cards moving forward.
As the world cautiously reopens, with people returning to the office and business travel approaching pre-pandemic levels, it’s time to think outside the plastic. The technology is available, making virtual cards the next big thing in commercial payments.
For more information about virtual payments, ePayables, and virtual cards for travel, become a complimentary subscriber at napcp.org.
The NAPCP is a professional association advancing commercial payments practices and professionals worldwide since 1999.