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Which is better for corporate payments - AMEX or VISA/MC

I'm looking for the best payment card option to cover business travel and departmental purchases (say $100K/month). My experience suggests that AMEX has the best reporting, however, lower rewards (.5% cash back) and more limited acceptance. Our bankers offer Visa/MC, however, with no rewards. I think ideal solution would be Visa/MC with rewards (higher than AMEX) and acceptable reporting but I do not know if finding this arrangement is possible and worth the effort (...I already have a contact with AMEX that I've worked with over the years).

Answers

Anonymous
(Controller) |

I am dealing with the very same issue at this time.

We are currently using a MC through our bank and the reporting is less than ideal, however our banker is able to provide us with support that I know would nearly be impossible through any other arrangement: temporary card limit increases, permanent card limit increases and the ultimate trump card on escalations. Its a MC so very little issues with card acceptance. They already get monthly financial reporting so it is just convenient for underwriting.

AMEX has tier 3 reporting which is great but at a start up can sometimes be more than is needed. AMEX also has a great online portal whereas despite recent upgrades our MC is still very rudimentary. Also AMEX sets a pretty high minimum for a true P-Card system and your spend will not get you there. AMEX is also not as widely received in the EU which can be an issue if you have a lot of business there, and also if you do have subs in the EU AMEX will have you separately underwrite those for an EU AMEX, and you will want the pin & chip cards in the EU.

The other option is Chase offers a business MC with tier 3 reporting, where each of the cards has the option of being a P-card or a T&E card with no minimums. Also if you have EU operations they can handle both, although if you want them for a EU card program they will require they be the US card program as well. Apparently there is not as much profit to be had on the EU card programs as compared to US card programs.

If I was banked by Chase I would choose their system. However since I am not banking with Chase, the convenience of our current situation trumps the nice-to-haves of the AMEX and Chase programs, so far...

And for the record we use the Concur T&E system to handle our T&E spend, with a direct feed from MC into Concur, so the reporting issues maybe a little more manageable because of that, although I have heard that the Tier 3 reporting combined with Concur is pretty amazing.

Anonymous
(Financial Reporting Manager) |

We currently have MasterCards issued by CSI Global/Comdata. The cards link to a MasterCard user interface which allow cardholders or managers to have visability to their cards with a lot of flexibility in reporting structure. On the backend their is a seperate system for administrators to manage temporary spending increases or authorizations. Its proved to work well for our needs. We currently have two accounts with them for our two operating companies and approximately 110 cards, including fleet vehicle cards which allow gas and repair shops only. Hope this helps! Good Luck.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

I've used AMEX as the corporate card, but both work.

The question of which is best is two fold.

1. Where are you using it?
2. Do you need credit limits?

1. Where are you using it? AMEX is great, but more and more mid to small vendors (unless tied to the hospitality industry - especially in Europe) won't take it.

2. The AMEX small business doesn't have individual card credit limits, the Corporate Card does. MC/VISA depends upon your account.

Larry Gammel
Title: Looking for my next challenge
Company: Procurement | Buyer | Purchasing Agent |..
(Looking for my next challenge, Procurement | Buyer | Purchasing Agent | ) |

BMO offers a credit card program and offers rebates depending on spending tiers. Try putting copier leases on the BMO card and watch those rebates add up. Some IT vendors accept the CC for payments. Vendors don't like to pay the fee but they get their money immediately instead of waiting 30, 60 or 90 days.

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

I vote for Chase V/MC if you opt away from Amex. Great rewards, excellent to work with and accepted everywhere.

The comments concerning Amex are valid, we have had to companies ask us for different payment methods or they wanted to charge us a 5% processing fee. Amex charges the highest rate on transactions.

Just a side note, Discover is very low interest rates, the down side is it's not accepted everywhere, depending on where you are traveling. There new Discover It has a lot of rebates and cash back options.

Lynn Zeiner
Title: Business Manager
Company: DME Alliance, Inc
LinkedIn Profile
(Business Manager, DME Alliance, Inc) |

We use Bank of America for business and currently receive equivalent to 1% cashback. It is a very easy to use program, however, there are no special reporting features. We pay our balance in full each month so we pay no interest, so essentially we are "making money" on Bank of America in that we receive cashback but pay NO fees or interest.

Steve Kahn
Title: Controller
Company: Carolina Lumber & Supply Co.
(Controller, Carolina Lumber & Supply Co.) |

We primarily use AMEX -- you can get a decent rebate (up to 5%) assuming your usage is sufficient. For the few places that don't accept AMEX, we use a Chase card that has nice rewards (minimum of 1% -- 3% on certain purchases). As for vendors wanting to charge a fee for using a credit card, my experience is that it doesn't vary with the type of card; if they charge for one, they charge for all.
My credit card rules are simple:
1) pay off the balance on time in full every month
2) don't pay a fee for having a credit card
3) get some sort of reward for using the card
:-)

John Harmon
Title: Owner
Company: John Harmon CPA
(Owner, John Harmon CPA) |

I think all the above comments are great. One other consideration is that more affordable venues tend to accept MC/VISA and shun Amex. Issuing Amex cards can have the effect of funneling your employees towards more expensive hotels and restaurants. Whatever the cash back rewards are, it's unlikely to compensate for recurring luxury meals.
Having used Amex in the past, I did find lots of places didn't accept it. Rather than research it, we just went to pricier places with the correct assumption that they'd normally take Amex.
This of course is not a universal rule and most chains accept Amex.

Jill Nickerson
Title: CFO
Company: In Transition
(CFO, In Transition) |

We have a considerable amount of international travel and have found Amex just doesn't provide the coverage necessary. If your company does business in Europe, make sure your MC/VISA cards have the new security chips or even those cards won't work any longer.

Christine Speedy
Title: Global Business Development
Company: CenPOS
(Global Business Development, CenPOS) |

Which is more important? Reporting or vendor acceptance? Often the people traveling are not also the ones buying from suppliers. If you have that separation, it would be ideal to issue Amex for travel other employee expenses, and Mastercard for A/P to purchase from vendors.

Regarding fees, there is a substantial difference for vendors. A merchant could pay as little as 1.2% in fees, though usually more like 1.8%, for business/purchasing cards, but more like 3% for American Express. That's why some will not accept it. By using MC or Visa instead of Amex, you may also be able to negotiate better deals for larger purchases.

Linda Tenda
Title: C-Level Finance & Operations Consultant
Company: Tenda Consulting
(C-Level Finance & Operations Consultant, Tenda Consulting) |

It is my understanding from my Amex rep that the merchant fee for Amex will be reduced to the Visa/MC/Discover levels very soon, if not already. This should increase the willingness of merchants to accept the card with no differences. You can request the special pin cards for international travelers I understand as well.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

That would be a very smart move by AMEX since they are loosing market share by the day.

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