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June 15, 2018

Research: The Rise of Virtual Travel Payments




Travel payment is going virtual, ride-sharing is overwhelmingly allowed in business travel and gamification is not catching on, according to new research by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), in partnership with AirPlus International.

The study, Five Business Travel Payment Trends, dives into these key trends:

  • Travel Payment Goes Virtual
  • Ride-sharing Gains Acceptance: What Does this Mean for Payment?
  • Are Visibility and Control on the Rise?
  • Has the Expense Reporting Process Changed for Travelers?
  • Gamification Struggles to Gain Traction

“Mobile technology has become increasingly ubiquitous and business travelers are looking to use the same technology they use in their personal lives when they travel for business,” said Jessica Collison, GBTA director of research. “Virtual payments are becoming more popular while offering increased levels of payment security.”

“We see virtual payment and other technologies assisting us in relieving corporates and their travelers of the burdensome part of travel and expense management,” said Rebecca Kilby, president and CEO of AirPlus International Inc. “At AirPlus, we team up to allow businesses and their travelers reclaim their time.”

Travel Payment Goes Virtual

This comes as no surprise as more of our lives go virtual every day. Today, 56 percent of U.S. travel buyers report their travel programs use central travel accounts (CTAs). A CTA is also known as a ghost account or a lodge card, can be used by multiple employees and are most commonly used for air transactions. Additionally, 11 percent of programs use single-use virtual cards, although concerns about administration, supplier acceptance and visibility/control are keeping this number from growing faster.

Still, nearly a quarter of non-users say they are likely to adopt virtual cards in the future. When it comes to mobile wallets, 22 percent of companies’ primary corporate cards are compatible with them, while only 45 percent are not and another 33 percent of travel managers are unsure on compatibility. Additionally, 61 percent of non-users are interested in offering mobile wallets.

Ride-Sharing Gains Overwhelming Acceptance

Travel policies now overwhelmingly allow ride-sharing with 89 percent of travel programs allowing it, 10 percent without any ride-sharing policy and only 1 percent prohibiting it.

Conversely, only 26 percent of travel programs allow home-sharing and 56 percent prohibit it.

The study explores what widespread acceptance means for payment looking at how many travel programs have formal relationships with ride-sharing vendors and how many travelers commonly use corporate cards for ride-share payments.

Gamification Struggles to Gain Traction

New technologies give companies the ability to reward business travelers for cost-effective behavior. However, these are not widespread or widely used. Only 6 percent of companies have the ability to reward travelers for saving costs on business trips. One-quarter (25 percent) would consider rewarding travelers if there was minimal or no administration involved, but 42 percent would not even consider it.


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