The recently announced TripActions Liquid corporate travel payment tool represents a convergence of three ongoing trends in the corporate travel sector: the rise of in-house payment services being offered by corporate travel service providers; the steady penetration of virtual cards into the market; and the continued growth of the Silicon Valley-based travel management firm, which has expanded its services and landed nearly half a billion dollars in funding over the past two years.
Visa-branded TripActions Liquid is designed to work with the company’s existing travel management platform, funding corporate travel bookings and expenses occurred in-trip. Travelers get an easy method to pay for expenses without having to keep paper receipts, while managers benefit from trip budgeting, fine-tuned spending controls and direct tracking of expenses, according to TripActions.
With Liquid, TripActions has added its name to the growing list of corporate travel and expense providers that have rolled out companion payment products over the past several months—a roster than includes Expensify, Emburse (the recently rebranded expense conglomerate, including Chrome River and Certify), the just-launched Center and BCD Travel, which late last year became the first TMC to issue UATP payment accounts.
Long siloed as a separate service provided by a card- issuing bank, corporate cards are a natural fit with a larger T&E services suite, according to advocates of that unified model. Along with the client benefits of improved data capture, tighter spending controls and simplified reporting and reconciliation, there are spoils to be had for providers as well; by capturing a cut of the transaction fees merchants pay for card purchases, those providers gain access to a new source of ongoing revenue.
One App to Rule Them All
TripActions Liquid also includes a virtual card for pay-ahead purchases, such as flights and hotels. And because the virtual card exists within the TripActions app, travelers can present it for booking at hotel check-in, helping solve the long-running issue of front desk friction.
By storing virtual cards within mobile wallets, the cards can simply be presented during check-in and scanned with an NFC reader, eliminating the faxes-and-friction model. While virtual card specialists such as Conferma have launched standalone apps to create mobile-based virtual cards, TripActions Liquid leverages the company’s existing travel management app to produce the card, which can be stored in a mobile wallet such as Apple Pay.
TripActions Liquid is the latest step in the expansion of the company itself. Founded in 2015 to provide travel management to SMEs, the firm has steadily scaled up to serve larger enterprises—and has racked up plenty of investment dollars to support that growth. Liquid’s launch brings yet more funding, in the form of a debt financing facility of up to $500 million—money TripActions will float as credit to clients using Liquid.
While Liquid is a solution for SMEs, TripActions is also positioning the product as an alternative to established card suppliers, hoping to win over large clients with the promise of more control and visibility for managers, and an improved experience for travelers.
While time will tell if TripActions Liquid can wrest any significant turf from legacy corporate card programs, the company isn’t shy about its ambitions, which is no surprise given the compelling reasons for that confidence.
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