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Spend Management
May 19, 2022

How approvals for physical card transactions improve compliance and control.

Written by
Laura Slauson
Laura Slauson
How approvals for physical card transactions improve compliance and control.How approvals for physical card transactions improve compliance and control.

Physical corporate card programs can feel like the Wild West of company spending. Unlike virtual cards, where all card spending is pre-approved, once a physical card is out in the world, charges to it aren’t reviewed until the transaction is ready to hit the GL. That leads to compliance risks. It also creates extra work for finance — when information is missing, or the coding is incorrect, they have to chase down the employee to fill in the gaps, or notify managers about charges that are outside of the budget.

Securing card approvals at the time a transaction occurs can improve control and compliance by ensuring that every transaction is:

  • A legitimate purchase.
  • Coded with the correct information, like category, tags, and notes.
  • Compliant with your company’s expense policies. 

This is precisely what the newest feature from Airbase does: It provides a simple workflow for approvals for physical card transactions to provide visibility and control before it’s time to sync the transaction to the GL. Let’s take a look at how this approval process doesn’t slow down employees, improves visibility and compliance, and saves time for finance. 

An employee has taken a client to lunch and wants to pay with a physical corporate card. As soon as they swipe their card, an immediate notification appears on their Airbase mobile app, prompting them to upload the receipt and fill out the required fields, including the category of the expense. By tapping Submit for Approval, the transaction details will be routed to the appropriate approver. And, just like that, their work is done. By dealing with the request on the go, they don’t have to do anything later. 

The details are automatically routed to the designated approver, based on the approval policy. Once approved, the transaction can be synched to the GL, with complete confidence that it’s coded correctly and the receipt is attached to the transaction record. 

Because physical cards are used in a variety of situations, a flexible process is essential, including the following features:

  • Ability to submit via mobile app or on desktop. It’s often easiest to submit a request on the go through a mobile app, but for other times, pending transactions should be easily accessed on desktop or within the app. 
  • Delegation support. An assigned delegate can complete the approval request, including receipt attachment, on behalf of their manager.
  • Prompts for completion. If the purchaser doesn’t have time to complete the fields right away, they will receive reminders to complete the details and submit for approval. 
  • Receipt inbox. Employees can forward receipts to a dedicated inbox as they spend. Once the employee forwards their receipts, they don’t have to worry about searching for the physical card transaction and attaching the right receipt later. The system automatically does that for them, saving time and a lot of hassle.
  • Auto-categorization. A smart system can recognize previous vendors and apply the previous category automatically. Take a lot of cabs? The system recognizes the cab company you use regularly as a vendor, so you don’t need to add the code. 
  • Bulk editing and submitting. It’s easy to submit multiple transactions for review at once.
  • The ability to find flagged transactions quickly. If a transaction is flagged instead of approved, it needs to be reviewed and amended before it can be synced to the GL. 
  • Customization. It should be possible to require approvals from only certain employees, or for purchases over certain amounts, and to adjust the approval policies as needed. 
  • The ability to add multiple approvers. Sometimes, more than one person needs to see and approve a transaction. Building more complex approvals into the process controls risk, without encumbering the flow of business.

To maintain control and visibility, virtual cards are often considered the best payment method for most transactions, thanks in part to their upfront approval workflows. But, particularly with the gradual return to business travel, some transactions, like client dinners, and hotel card-holds, are best on (and sometimes require) physical cards. Find out how Airbase’s physical card approval workflows help maintain compliance and improve visibility — book a demo with us. 

Laura Slauson
Laura Slauson
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About Airbase

Airbase offers a one platform solution to manage all non-payroll spend. It provides oversight and control over spending with real-time reporting and automatic syncing directly to your general ledger. Control all paymentsphysical cards, virtual cards, ACH, and checks – from one place. Close faster. Empower employees. Control spend.

To learn more about Airbase, contact us for a product demo.
Laura Slauson
Laura Slauson
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