Monday, April 4, 2011

High-dollar transactions moving to p-cards

By Mark Brousseau

Purchasing card (p-card) volume growth remains strong, Aaron L. Bills, founder and chief operating officer of 3 Delta Systems said this morning during a wide-ranging interview at NACHA Payments in Austin, Texas. “We never saw a slow down as a result of the recession,” Bills said. 3 Delta Systems expects to build on this growth with the release today of a new scalable platform that can handle any payment.

As evidence of the growth of p-cards, Bills points to a milestone that his company reached last month: for time, 3 Delta Systems processed over 1 million p-card transactions, representing more than $1 billion in value, in a single month.

“Part of this growth is the fact the economy is coming back, but the major driver is the increased use of buyer-initiated payments in accounts payables,” Bills said.

For instance, one 3 Delta Systems customer, a healthcare supplies firm, processed $11 million in p-card payments in March, representing just 11 transactions, he said. “And it would have only been two p-card transactions if the company’s payments processor could handle transactions of more than $1 million each,” Bills added.

“This may be an extreme case, but there are versions of this story unfolding all over the place. P-cards are really starting to step up,” Bills said. “P-cards are picking up a greater share of business-to-business transactions at more organizations.”

Bills said he isn’t surprised by the growth of p-cards, given their maturity. “P-cards are established, they are ubiquitous, there is a financial infrastructure in place, and all of the parties understand the rules,” he said. What’s more, merchants are willing to accept p-cards, “as long as they are not getting a 4 percent haircut,” Bills noted.

“From the point of view of the companies using p-cards, they earn a revenue share for every purchase that they make,” said Daniel L. Miner, CTP, general manager, Treasury Services, 3 Delta Systems. “At a time when money is tight for most companies, p-cards provide an opportunity to turn a cost center into a revenue-generating cost center. We’ve seen a lot of companies jump on this concept.”

Miner notes that financial institutions are helping to drive p-card volume growth. “There’s an incentive for issuing banks to get p-cards out there. They are looking for alternatives to consumer cards,” Miner explained. “We’re seeing more banks talking to their corporate customers about moving p-cards to the next level to earn a greater revenue share, and the corporates are responding.”

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