The business travel industry has embraced virtual payments over recent years, which see hotel bills settled using virtual cards, with payment made directly from the employer’s bank. The approach removes the need for employees to pay with their own method before reclaiming through an expense report, drastically simplifying back-office finance administration and providing companies with the ability to better control travel spend.
Some hotels have experienced problems accepting virtual cards at the property, slowing adoption of virtual payments across the industry. Historically, virtual card numbers were sent to the property using legacy methods like fax, with front desk staff required to manually input card details in order to make the payment.
But, contrary to widely held industry perceptions, new data from virtual payments leader Conferma Pay shows this historic problem has largely been solved, with fax representing just 8% of all virtual card communication between 01 June and 01 October this year. In fact, fax’s share of virtual card communication has fallen from 13% to 8% during the course of 2022.
David Wood, Chief Product Officer, Conferma Pay said: “Companies, travellers and TMCs all prefer virtual payments but there’s always been the achilleas heel of hotel acceptance. Training for hotels has improved the situation but it’s really the move away from fax, to new methods like secure email and APIs, that mean hotel acceptance is no longer the barrier it once was.” He continued: “We hear commentators citing hotel readiness as a reason not to modernise payments, which is why we’ve decided to break with tradition and share our own data.”
Across all the virtual payments made via Conferma Pay since June 2022, around 95% were successfully received by the hotel, without the need for manual intervention. Fax was responsible for 80% of the failed communications seen during 2022. But when hotels used the Conferma Connect service to select their preferred communication route, typically secure email or API, 99.33% of virtual cards were successfully communicated to hotel properties.
Wood added: “If you’re a hotel that serves business travellers or works with Online Travel Agencies, then it’s increasingly likely your customers and partners will make payment with a virtual card. It’s quick and easy to register with us, so we can send virtual card details digitally. If the growth of secure email and APIs continues, we could see fax phased out completely within two or three years.”
Significant work is still required in the US where fax remains the primary communication method for virtual cards, representing 42% of all virtual card communication in the first half of the year. Consequently, only 93% of communications in the US are successful without manual intervention, 2% lower than the global average.