TravelBank has integrated a new U.S. Bank-issued virtual payment card into its travel and expense management platform, enabling managers to instantly issue virtual cards for purchases made within TravelBank’s online booking tool as well as to employees’ mobile wallets for in-trip point-of-sale purchases.
The deal is a bid to offer TravelBank’s corporate clients an all-in-one solution for booking, expense management and payment, according to the company. That strategy has become increasingly popularamong travel and expense management providers, with TripActions, Emburse, Expensify and Center among those adding payment products to their offerings over the past year-plus. Like those providers, TravelBank’s platform is geared toward small and midsize clients, some of which eschew traditional corporate card programs, relying instead on employees’ personal cards and/or small business cards.
For such client companies, adding a payment tool to existing travel and expense management services offers advantages including tighter spending and policy controls, along with more accurate expense capture and reporting, according to proponents of the integrated model.
Meanwhile, the increased emphasis on hygiene and safety in a Covid-19 world has increased the value proposition of virtual cards stored in mobile wallets, which can be used to make touchless payments via Near Field Communication technology. That capability could prove essential to corporate travel’s recovery, according to many observers.
“Mobile wallets are key for travel resumption, and the use of this technology is going to continue to rise, including in the hospitality industry for checking in to hotels,” said Duke Chung, co-founder and CEO of TravelBank.
For U.S. Bank, partnering with TravelBank gives the corporate card mainstay access to a new potential audience of smaller companies that wouldn’t otherwise be a target market for the bank’s traditional corporate card platform.
“Through our partnership and direct integration, we can help … small businesses take advantage of the benefits that larger corporations have had for years,” said Bradley Matthews, senior vice president for U.S. Bank’s corporate payment systems. “Because U.S. Bank and TravelBank are now directly integrated, no IT resources are needed on the client side, so this is a great solution for any company that doesn’t have the resources to implement a traditional or virtual card program, as it eliminates the traditionally heavy IT lifting.”
The virtual card—dubbed U.S. Bank Instant Card—is available under Visa network branding now, with a Mastercard version coming later this year, Matthews said. TravelBank is the launch partner for the Instant Card, but the bank is exploring additional distribution opportunities, Matthews indicated.
The U.S. Bank partnership is the latest in a string of recent moves by TravelBank, which in August kicked offa new TMC distribution channel strategy with the announcement of a gray-label booking and expense management tool built for World Travel, Inc. using TravelBank’s technology platform. And in July, the company began offering its expense management services through the platform of unmanaged and lightly managed corporate travel booking specialist Upside Business Travel, the first step in a planned strategic partnership between the companies.
According to TravelBank’s Chung, the spate of deal-making isn’t part of any particular concerted business strategy beyond furthering the company’s overall mission and value proposition.
“The string of partnerships we’ve announced have all made sense on their own,” Chung said. “Our priority has always been powering all-in-one experiences that align with a smooth travel journey and empower businesses to manage expenses.”