Whether it is the current European political volatility or the emergence of disruptive technologies, companies are spotting new opportunities in the transforming world. This is certainly true when it comes to payments, and the perfect example is the growing importance of “contactless” payments for business travelers. Despite the uncertainty that comes with change, forward-thinking businesses are reaping the benefits by embracing this growing payment type, including greater efficiency and convenience.
The rise of “contactless” payments
Change in the corporate sphere is closely related to what is happening with consumers. Still, there tends to be a lag between the two: Innovations are usually developed in one sphere, and take some time to be introduced and implemented in the other. However, for the types of innovation that usually begin among consumers, the lag is shrinking. Employees are increasingly combining business and leisure travel, and as people get accustomed to new innovations as consumers, they are starting to expect the same capabilities in a business context.
One example of this is the development of contactless payments. So far, most corporate clients have not seen the need to adapt, as most card usage has been above the amount limit for contactless transactions. Recently, however, the increase in areas where chip and PIN is inapplicable has led to the rising attractiveness of contactless payments. For example, travelling around London is more convenient with contactless payments, since contactless bankcards are effectively replacing legacy contactless travel cards (Oyster card) on trains and buses. There has also been a rapid growth of contactless payments in general, as evidenced by the 148% year-on-year spending growth and over 108 million contactless cards issued in the UK, according the UK Cards Association. Following this change in demand, issuers are now adding contactless to their commercial card product offering.
Opportunities and challenges
Change involves both opportunities and challenges. One of the immediate concerns we hear from clients is that of reconciliation, and whether it’s easy to approve business expenses made via contactless transactions. However, barring a few exceptions, most merchants still provide a receipt for contactless transactions. Moreover, many companies have embraced the changing travel environment and adapted their T&E policy to not require employees to submit receipts for low-value transactions. In this way, the company’s requirements are met, while business travelers can enjoy the convenience enabled by the quick tap of a contactless card.
The next big area of change is mobile payments for T&E expenses. Not only are mobile devices useful for access to and exchange of payment-related information, but they also have a huge potential when it comes to the payment process itself. Many have already embraced mobile solutions on the consumer side, and companies are following closely behind. According to David Voss, head of Commercial Cards, Global Transaction Services EMEA, at Bank of America Merrill Lynch: “Mobile devices have the potential to replace the physical payment card in the coming years.” Moreover, mobile solutions also add security to the list of gains from technological development. For mobile solutions, beyond the ease of not needing a physical card, they entail great possibilities when it comes to authentication and tokenization. Using biometric data like fingerprints or facial recognition, payments can integrate with, and enable better security in, the eCommerce environment.
Closing the gap
As is often the case, the real challenge is adapting to change. Familiarity is a big part of why old habits die hard. As more consumers embrace this change, the challenge will become even easier for businesses to overcome. The gap is closing between consumer and corporate behavior, enabling businesses and business travelers to enjoy the increased efficiency, visibility and security made possible by advances in technology.