MasterCard has developed technology designed to provide greater control over corporate travel accounts.

"We want companies to be able to manage travel and entertainment spending more effectively, and with better data to inform their corporate travel program," says Richard Crum, the group head of global travel and entertainment (T&E) products and solutions at MasterCard.

MasterCard on Oct. 21 began testing Travel Controller, which uses an account number to identify each T&E transaction. That's an enhancement to the lodge card model, in which a corporate payment card is held in a company's name at an approved travel agency. The traditional lodge card is used to book and pay for all of a company's travel arrangements, such as air tickets, car rentals and hotels.

By giving each transaction a specific account number, each payment has a separate identity within a larger portfolio of corporate spending. The data collection and analysis is improved, as is the ability to find specific details, Crum says.

"We gather a lot of data on travel payments, and because of the unique account number, we match each expense that a corporation incurs against a transaction, so the corporate client can have a fully reconciled centralized travel account," Crum says.

The technology is based on inControl, a MasterCard corporate spending tool that's used by banks and other companies to provide one-time use numbers for corporate payments, as well as set parameters for corporate spending.

MasterCard will test Travel Controller over the next month with a group of card-issuing banks and travel agencies in anticipation of a broader rollout. The transactions will not carry new fees, Crum says. "It's based on the existing infrastructure that banks are already using. Banks that have inControl can use that technology to power this new product," Crum says.

Under the traditional lodge card model, it's possible for some transactions to not get completely recorded, nor not be fully included as part of a corporate's book of travel expense with all available data on that transaction, Crum says.

He did not elaborate on specific reasons why this would happen, saying it's a result of how the travel is booked by the user. "The lodge card is good," with more than 90% of data recorded, he says. "But for a large company, even a couple of percentages of travel expense not getting recorded fully can be a challenge. With the new [account number] model, you can get 100% of the information."

The new travel product works by generating numbers that, through an application programming interface, can be integrated into a travel agency's workflow.

"As the agency is booking an expense, they pull up a profile that has information on that person's employer, what department that person is in, what the travel policy is for that person," Crum says. MasterCard captures that information and attaches it to an account number, which MasterCard sends back to the travel agency to execute the travel transaction, he says.

Other companies offering corporate travel payments technology include Wex and American Express, which recently partnered with an investor group led by the investment firm Certares to expand the card networks' global business travel operation. 

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