The academic sector is adopting smart solutions for managing traveller payments and expense reconciliation.
Trends in travel payment and expense management indicate that Australian universities are adopting market-leading solutions to streamline their travel programs. According to FCM Travel Solutions’ academic specialists, universities are increasingly leaning towards invoice accounts and virtual payment solutions, to streamline their payment and reconciliation processes where possible.
The upshot of these trends? There is less reliance on travellers having to use personal or business credit cards to pay for work-related transport; including flights, hotel accommodation, meals purchased at their hotel, rail or transfers. Additionally, university finance teams are significantly reducing the manual processing associated with reconciling card-in-hand transactions.
Making Travel Management Easier
FCM Academic Regional General Manager, Kristy Fennell, said that currently most universities utilised numerous payment systems including credit cards, charge cards, virtual payment solutions or an invoice account that was set up with their travel management company (TMC).
Ms Fennell said however, there was a definite shift towards consolidating payment solutions to make travel management easier for staff and invoice reconciliation smoother for university finance teams.
“Universities still have travellers using credit cards to pay for smaller incidental purchases such as grab-and-go sandwiches or coffees, but it’s the shift towards making the bigger components of an itinerary seamless, which is where we’re seeing the most movement,” Ms Fennell said.
“These changes are the result of universities restructuring their travel programs and introducing new processes; and on the supplier side … new supplier partnerships or innovation in platform integration. The advancements are creating truly seamless, end-to-end experiences for travellers and organisational finance teams.”
Streamlining Corporate Travel Programs
FCM parent company, Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG), recently announced a new partnership with ride sharing pioneer, Uber, that will see Uber for Business’s services fully integrated with FCTG’s corporate travel platforms for traveller profiles, booking, mobile apps, reporting and reconciliation.
Uber bookings will appear in traveller itineraries and invoices, just as flights, a hotel or car hire booking would, making it easier for travellers and for finance teams reconciling travel invoices.
Ms Fennell said that in the past 18 months or so, more universities had adopted an invoice solution, whereby all travel bookings were invoiced against the TMC and the client was issued a monthly, consolidated statement to pay.
“There are many benefits of an invoicing solution,” Ms Fennell said. “A good TMC will work with you to establish suitable invoicing terms, you’ll receive consolidated reporting so there’s no need to chase different suppliers for information plus the invoices are tailored for your university and include enhanced data.”
Virtual Cards and Payments
Ms Fennell said the use of virtual cards was also on the rise in Australia’s larger universities.
“Virtual cards are becoming the new standard in payment solutions for organisations with large mobile workforces. Not only are they simplifying travel payments for travellers, but the time organisations need to spend on reconciliation is considerably less,” she said.
“Additionally, more universities are recognising the organisational-wide benefits of virtual payments.”
Benefits of Virtual Payments
For your university’s finance department
- Automated reconciliation of purchases and payments
- Reduced risk of fraud or overspend
- Automated integration with expense management, general ledger or ERP systems
- Lower processing costs for travel and finance partners
- Can be used with existing banking partners
For your HR department
- More visibility of staff travel spend
- Compliant payment process for all full-time or contract personnel
- Safer payment method for travellers
- Ability to link each transaction by employee number
- Globally consistent solution
- No need to carry cards
- Swift payment with automated upload to online expense tools
- Invisible (traveller need not know about payment method)