As business travellers blur lines between personal and professional lives, Barclaycard sees increasing call for mobile wallets and virtual cards

The term ‘cash is king’ is becoming less relevant in a world of digitalisation and technological advancements. We have become accustomed to using alternative payment solutions such as debit and credit cards and increasingly in recent years accepted contactless payments, online payments and developments such as mobile wallets and virtual cards that would have been frowned upon years ago are now common payment methods.

New research from Barclaycard reveals that this personal finance trend is spreading into the business travel environment, especially as the lines between personal and corporate travel blur and the so-called ‘blesiure’ market takes off. The banking and payments specialist sees the increasing use of mobile wallets and invisible payments in the corporate travel sector as businesses adapt to the requirements of its staff.

The Barclaycard survey of 250 travel buyers found that ‘bleisure’ travel is becoming accepted by employees with 94% of decision makers revealing that their company allows employees to extend their business trips with a few additional days of leisure – this averages about four days with approximately two thirds of employers believing it makes staff feel more valued. This blurring between the personal and working lives of travellers means payment solutions need to better linked between the two environments.

This is backed up by the findings of the survey with just under one in three (29%) of travel managers saying that requests to pay via mobile wallets have increased over the last year. Over a quarter (26%) have seen a rise in the number of travellers who want to book their trips on a supplier mobile app, with 37% seeing an increase in the use of virtual cards over the past five years. Across the same period, 49% have noted an increase in the use of digital or mobile wallets with a similar growth also recorded in the use of physical corporate cards.

Two thirds (66%) of travel buyers anticipate that the use of mobile wallets will increase over the next five years with more than half (58%) of survey respondents expecting to see an uplift in the use of ‘invisible payments’ when card details are input once into an app for repeat purchasing. Around one in three (30%) say that widespread acceptance of digital payments by suppliers will help drive their adoption.

The findings suggest a changing payments mindest across the travel sector. “As consumers become accustomed to different ways to purchase their leisure trips, including mobile and invisible payments, they expect their business travel bookings to be just as easy,” says Maria Parpou, director of Barclaycard Commercial Payments.

It is clear that as this trend evolves, corporations and suppliers alike will need to look more closely at how they make and take payments, but these solutions available that will help businesses meet their changing needs are already available and being adopted in the personal banking sector.

“By taking advantage of digital payment methods such as mobile wallets and virtual cards which are rich with data, payments can become the thread that ties each booking—no matter where or how it was made—into a complete trip. This means companies can respond to traveller demands while balancing their need for compliance and control,” adds Ms Parpou.

According Barclaycard, this shifting mindset is generating some points of concern that mean employers and employees will have to adapted their travel practices. One-third of travel decision-makers surveyed expressed frustration with employees not using corporate cards for payment, and instead using personal accounts, which makes monitoring that expenses stay within corporate policy more difficult.

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