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MasterCard improves receipt management for business credit cards

by Peter Andrew

On March 21, MasterCard unveiled important innovations that could help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across America and beyond to streamline further their management of business expenses. Building on its existing Smart Data electronic reporting solution, the company has introduced a number of new or enhanced services, perhaps the most important of which is one that could eliminate the need for paper receipts among holders of MasterCard business credit cards.

Business credit cards and the demise of the paper receipt

This particular innovation is based on the new Smart Data Mobile Receipt Capture App, which comes in iOS (Apple), Android and Blackberry flavors. Cardholders download this onto their smartphones or tablets, and then use these devices to take pictures of receipts as they make payments. Those images are then uploaded, to be matched and attached to the transaction when users next file an expense report.

And voila! Those holders of business credit cards who choose to adopt the system are for ever freed from one of the worst chores of those who claim expenses: keeping safe increasingly crumpled piles of loose receipts until they next file. Could this really be the end of those periodic panicked searches of glove compartments, desk and bedroom drawers, wallets, and the bowels of briefcases and handbags?

Driving forward better expense management

The second key innovation in MasterCard's announcement is one that helps fleet operators to acquire more accurate and timely data. The Mobile Fleet e-Receipt App allows a range of such information (how much fuel was bought, price per gallon, odometer reading and so on) to be uploaded directly from the gas station.

Other Smart Data enhancements that are being introduced include one that allows companies to customize their reports more easily, and another that provides immediate access to filterable reports in a graphic form, which can refine a manager's understanding of current spending patterns.

Most business credit cards can ease expense management

Of course, each of the four main card networks offers its own online expense-management services to holders of business credit cards. American Express has Standard Expense Reporting (SER), Discover has Mobile Account Management, and Visa has VIS Select. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and, if you're considering applying for business credit cards, it's worth examining which meets your company's needs best when drawing up a shortlist of candidate plastic.

Of course, it's just one of the selection criteria you're likely to use. And it may be a minor one when placed alongside credit card rates (unless you zero your balance every month), rewards, perks, prestige, credit limits, terms and conditions, and so on. In fact, especially if yours is a very small business, expense-management services may not interest you at all.

But, at a time when many enterprises are anxious to cut costs and enhance efficiency, better understanding and controlling what's being spent, by whom and on what are things that must appeal to many bosses -- especially if that knowledge and control can be achieved with the minimum management overhead.

Published 03/27/13 (Modified 11/15/13)


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