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The New Generation of Commercial Cards

by Manish Kohli, Managing Director, EMEA Wholesale Cards Head, Global Transaction Services (GTS), Citi

Commercial cards, such as T&E (travel and entertainment) and purchasing cards have become increasingly popular as finance managers recognise the benefits of greater spending control and ease of reconciliation. As a global leader in commercial card services, Citi is now unveiling the next generation of payments processing, Citi® Virtual Card Accounts (VCA), increasing transaction security and purchasing control whilst further increasing purchasing convenience. Citi VCA is currently nearing the end of its initial pilot phase and will be distributed widely within 2010. In this article, Manish Kohli, EMEA Wholesale Cards Head at Citi discusses virtual card accounts in more detail and the potential advantages for corporates.

Introducing Virtual Card Accounts

We introduced Virtual Card Accounts in response to our multinational clients’ strong desire to increase commercial card use with even greater integration, richer data and flexible transactional control. For example, while the use of commercial cards for purchasing is now popular in many parts of the world, the right infrastructure does not yet exist in all countries. Consequently, we decided to launch a VCA capability to enable customers globally to take advantage of the control and convenience that cards provide, while embracing the next generation of security, reconciliation capabilities and process integration.

Citi has partnered with Mastercard to deliver a secure and convenient VCA service. This partnership is important since we have been able to leverage our existing shared infrastructure to deliver a single global solution minimising time to market and development costs, which has direct benefit to customers. Critically, the platform can be integrated easily with existing authorisation processes and card clearing systems, and provides strong reporting capabilities.

Instead of using a physical card, clients request virtual account numbers (VCNs) online based on pre-agreed authorisation controls, which are then presented back in real time (fig 1). This number is then used to complete the transaction with the merchant, who automatically submits the transaction to the authorisation and clearing network to validate the specifics of the transaction. This process is seamless for the merchant, but provides greater control for the purchaser. The payment is then processed as usual, with comprehensive reporting and data available to the purchaser and company.