Virtual cards ‘help boost commercial cards sector’

Spending on European commercial cards has experienced strong growth in the last year, driven by an increasing use of virtual cards for travel-related and business-to-business (B2B) payments.

This is according to RBR’s Commercial Cards in Europe 2018 study, which revealed that there were 58 million commercial cards in Europe in 2016 – up six per cent on the previous year. In total, commercial cards represent just four per cent of all cards, highlighting the opportunity for expansion.

Commercial cards were used for 2.4 billion payments worth €299 billion, according to the report, accounting for just three per cent of European card payments. However, the proportion of expenditure is much higher at 10 per cent – as such cards tend to be used for high-value purchases.

RBR also expects use of commercial cards for B2B spending to become more significant, as acceptance among smaller businesses increases and as companies recognise cards’ potential to improve the procurement process by reducing administrative costs.

The study notes that virtual cards remain at a relatively early stage in most European countries, but predicts that they will account for almost a quarter of commercial card spending by 2022 – as they are increasingly used for high-value B2B and travel-related expenditure.

RBR forecasts that the number of commercial cards will rise by 17 per cent in Europe between now and 2022, and the number of payments will increase by 50 per cent, as companies use cards to a greater extent and increasingly mandate this form of payment for business expenses.

“Commercial cards have the potential to reduce administrative costs and enhance control and convenience,” said RBR’s Chris Herbert. “This will support their use as the payment instrument of choice by more businesses and for a greater range of purposes. Virtual cards have already made a significant impact and have the potential to transform the sector.”

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