Many organizations, in their travel expense management efforts, face the dilemma of how to address employees who travel for business only occasionally (e.g., less than twice per year). For Intermountain Healthcare, the best answer is Declining Balance Cards known as Single Event Travel (SET) Cards. They shared more about their program with Recharged Education in 2015.
SET Card Program
Margie K. Strong, Senior Card Program Coordinator, Intermountain Supply Chain Organization, summarizes the benefits of their Declining Balance Card program, “Prior to implementing SET Cards, infrequent travelers submitted reimbursements, creating not only a large loss in rebate to our card program, but a significant loss in recapturing state sales tax due to our tax exemption status. Also, our employees no longer need to use their personal cards and wait for reimbursements—a double win!”
The program management team maintains a block of inactive cards, so they can readily be set up and issued. They also manage SET Card requests, working with the card issuer. This includes establishing the card limit, travel-related Merchant Category Codes (MCCs) and expiration date. When loading the limit, one lesson they learned early on was to add some padding to the employee’s estimated travel expenses to help prevent transaction declines during the travel period. They have established guidelines for what the pad amount should be, based on estimated expense totals.
Because a SET Card does not reflect a specific employee name, they occasionally encounter acceptance issues, such as a hotel refusing the card. To combat this, they instruct employees to travel with their Intermountain employee ID and an authorization letter confirming the legitimacy of the card to present to any vendor who questions it.
- Estimate travel expenses pre-trip
- Complete the SET Card request form
- Obtain manager approval
- Provide electronic approval of Intermountain’s internal card agreement
- Complete online training
- Use the card for possible travel expense within company policy
- Retain receipts
- Review transactions post-trip (or designate a proxy to do so), per the policies and procedures
About the SET Card Request Form
The employee specifies the following information, as directed on the form:
- Department name and number
- Employee ID
- Employee contact information
- Travel destination
- Purpose of travel
- Departure and return dates
- Estimated expenses, including airfare, ground transportation, lodging, meals and tips, conference/event fee, and any anticipated miscellaneous expenses
Key to Success and Benefits
Communication is critical. They post information about the SET Card program online, offer a fact sheet, promote within internal newsletters, talk with stakeholders, etc.
Overall, the program works really well for Intermountain, providing an efficient and controlled solution to what was an ongoing problem in the past. Because travel expenses are charged to a company card, they also receive the benefit of the travel data and are eligible to earn a rebate on the SET Card spend.