Since the pandemic began, companies in the B2B sector have been increasingly using virtual credit cards. This new payment method offers security and reduces administration work.
The B2B sector is increasingly using virtual credit cards. According to a study by fintech company Pleo, the use of virtual credit cards increased by 61 percent in 2020. Juniper Research predicts that virtual card transactions, which are expected to total USD 1.9 trillion in 2021, could reach USD 6.8 trillion in 2026.
The coronavirus pandemic is one of the factors driving this development, as traditional payment processes were no longer able to be modelled regularly due to the increase in people working from home. Processing paper-based supplier payments posed a particular challenge for companies, while supply chains around the world also collapsed. To maintain their business operations, companies needed to find new ways of procuring materials through platforms such as Ebay or Amazon. This brought a challenge for finance departments: How can these new suppliers, who are mostly unknown suppliers and not in the ERP systems, be paid quickly and securely?
Situations like this explain the rise in popularity of virtual credit cards during the pandemic. Virtual credit cards are secure, digitally generated credit card numbers that can be used for payment transactions and enable multiple transactions to be consolidated in a collective invoice. They can be generated via a web portal for both single and multiple payments. Different parameters can be defined for each card, such as the period of validity, the maximum number of payments that can be made or which suppliers the number can be used for. The underwriting process can be directly carried out via the portal too. Data that is relevant for accounting, such as the cost centre or type of expense, can be stored from when the card is issued. This means that the respective payments can be allocated directly and, ideally, processed directly in a systematic way.
The advantages of a virtual credit card
Virtual credit cards offer companies numerous advantages in that they are a secure payment method. Instead of issuing various physical cards, companies can generate their own card number for each transaction that is specifically tailored to the payment parameters, thereby significantly reducing the risk of being misused. In addition, only the card number is passed to the beneficiary when paying with a virtual credit card; the account number associated with it is not disclosed.
Another advantage is the reduced administrative burden for companies, as using virtual credit cards means that there is no need to retain multiple suppliers in ERP systems. This is particularly beneficial for one-off transactions, as data records are not created and therefore do not need to be maintained. The ability to automate processes makes it possible to streamline accounting processes too.
Last but not least, virtual credit cards offer companies financial advantages: They are free to issue, meaning that payment costs are reduced. Banks also often offer discounts to large customers through re-crediting a percentage of their monthly invoice amount.
Many experts expect that this transformed working culture is here to stay. It is not yet clear to what extent supply chains will change in the future. Companies must adapt their processes and structures to the changed conditions. Virtual credit cards allow payments to be made flexibly and securely, meaning that they are likely to be a popular payment method in the B2B sector in the future.
Author: Matthias Wahnschaffe is vice president for transaction services at ING Wholesale Banking
Guest article in DerTreasurer 04/2021