Skift Take

Payment technology has never been the most exciting part of the travel industry, but agencies that don't offer expense solutions could lose out as companies restart their travel programs.

TripActions has extended its partnership with payments technology giant Visa, in a further sign of travel and expense management moving closer together.

The travel management platform said it will help customers in the U.S. streamline expense management as they get back to business, with contactless payments a focus for post-Covid travel.

Visa’s already a partner with TripActions, and has been since its launch of spend management platform TripActions Liquid in February 2020. But this new shift gives greater flexibility to TripActions as it targets enterprise-size organizations, while Visa steps up its presence in a market that stands to rebound quickly in some regions.

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“As economic and business recovery gains momentum, it is increasingly important for companies to have real-time visibility and transparency into their expenses,” said Terry Angelos, senior vice president and global head of Fintech, Visa.

In the last month, travel in the U.S. has rocketed to an average 1.2 million passengers per day, between March and April 2021, according to Visa Business and Economic Insights of Transportation Security Administration checkpoints. That figure represents a 45 percent increase since the start of the year, it added.

Staggered Recovery

“Visa sees travel and expense coming back, and when it does, they want to be a lot bigger part of it than before Covid,” said Simon Barker, founder and CEO of virtual payment specialist Conferma. “They’re the biggest (payment) scheme, but they’re thinking like a new entrant. They’re seeing how they can apply new technologies.”

Conferma also partnered with Visa last year on a new business-to-business payment platform, called Visa Commercial Pay, and Barker said Visa had developed a toolkit for travel and expense.

“Visa have all the tools, and they’ve been investing for some time in their Visa Payables Automation product,” he said. “The toolkit, add that with TripActions and the Silicon Valley mentality, it’s powerful.”

TripActions said the new collaboration will “increase access to flexible payment methods with built-in policy controls,” including the ability for companies to provide a card directly to Apple Pay or Google Pay while the employee waits for their card. It also includes marketing initiatives.

Companies increasingly want to have their travel and expense in one place, not least to know exactly where their employees are traveling.

“Having to take payment as a separate conversation is frustrating,” said independent consultant Chris Pouney. “The idea of having an integrated booking, payment, expense and reporting package could be appealing to the small and medium-sized market who lack the time and often scale to source and manage each component separately.”

Taking the Credit

The enhanced partnership could also give TripActions more access to the banks Visa works with, to help its customers.

“The other component Visa will be bringing to the market is liquidity and credit,” Barker added. “The banks around the world work on Visa. Businesses want liquidity out of the payment process, so Visa can bring that as well. If they don’t, TripActions will have to fund it.”

When it launched last year, Liquid was secured by a $500 million debt facility led by Silicon Valley Bank. If TripActions wants to win bigger companies, it can’t afford to spend billions of its own money.

TripActions also thinks virtual cards will pay a role in empowering remote teams, as distributed workforces can quickly make one-off purchases on demand, or even start spending before their card arrives in the mail.

“A partnership between TripActions and Visa is a natural next step in the product’s evolution,” said Michael Sindicich, general manager of TripActions Liquid. “Together, the two teams will collaborate on ways to improve the offered functionality to customers and implement tools to further reduce risk and fraud across the board.”

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Tags: contactless, coronavirus, digital payments, expense management, tripactions, tsa, visa

Photo credit: Contactless payments will be a focus for companies when they start traveling again. Jonas Leupe / Unsplash

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