AP Holds a Winning Card Hand

Will 2019 finally be the year in which the key stakeholders within your organization happily, or at least willingly, support Commercial Cards? For some, accounts payable (AP) is the biggest holdout, but, as we all know, their stance on card solutions can make or break a program. This is especially true for organizations wanting to implement or expand an electronic accounts payable (EAP) option like Virtual Cards, which AP typically manages. A common tactic by a stubborn AP manager is to say the ERP system cannot accommodate such payments. Then no one questions them because AP is viewed as the expert in this arena. To reopen the discussion and start making progress, following are insights from an AP veteran and a four-step approach to try in an effort to get through to AP.

AP’s Attitude Affects Everyone

Sometimes even senior management backs down from AP, but this can be the worst outcome for everyone. Accounts payable expert Mary Schaeffer, AP Now, shares, “When I hear someone say that they are going to wait until so-and-so retires before moving forward with a new project it saddens me. Usually it is because the person in question is either difficult to deal with or completely resistant to change. This is not a good situation either for them or for their organization. The reasons it’s not good for the organization are obvious. It gets left behind, less competitive, and doesn’t progress as much as its competitors.”

Mary continues, “The employee in question is also putting themselves in jeopardy. The business world, including the accounting and accounts payable space, is evolving rapidly. The contrary employee is serving as a roadblock to progress, usually coasting for a few years until they can retire. Plain and simple, they may not get those few years. Management may decide their position is no longer needed and they will definitely be at the top of the list for any headcount reduction initiatives. Personally, they’ve missed a great opportunity to try something new and enjoy their last few years of working.”

Organizations may also be experiencing a conflict between AP and the procurement department regarding card payments. In response to an AP Now industry survey, Internal Controls in AP, one AP manager for a large company commented, “P-cards pose problems with duplicate payments. Coming from an AP standpoint, they are disliked, however our Supply Chain seems to love them…” As disheartened as I was to read this (I’m the lead researcher for the survey project in progress), it represents an opportunity.

Getting Through to AP

  1. Recognize AP as an important part of the card program and initiate a respectful—versus confrontational—discussion. To prevent AP from feeling ganged up on, consider a one-on-one meeting to open the door to better communication.

  2. Recap the benefits of Commercial Cards and the organization’s related goals. Encourage questions to ensure AP has an understanding. Sometimes resistance to cards is rooted in a lack of knowledge.

  3. Find common ground; for example, supporting internal goals, making AP’s job easier, etc.

  4. Ask AP about their concerns and challenges. Step through the related processes together to identify the facts. Invite them to brainstorm with you on possible solutions. Everyone wants to feel valued and heard.


  • If they cite duplicate payments as a problem, determine the extent of the issue, the control gaps that allow it to happen, and how to resolve it.

  • If their challenge pertains to reconciliation, maybe they are making the process harder than it has to be. Inquire about the pain points and share ideas for process improvement that would still retain satisfactory controls.

  • If they view the ERP/accounting system as a roadblock to Virtual Cards, involve the system vendor. There might be functionality that AP is not aware of.

As with most problems, productively working together can lead to positive results. AP’s support of the card program can be a game changer—for them and the organization.

Related Resource

Will your organization win or lose? AP often controls the stakes in the high risk/reward world of B2B payment strategies.

Will your organization win or lose? AP often controls the stakes in the high risk/reward world of B2B payment strategies.

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About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With 20 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

Top 5 Commercial Card Posts of 2018

Internal fraud, interchange, payment industry realities, and Commercial Card program communications—the most popular blog posts by Recharged Education in 2018 span a wide range of topics. Did you miss valuable content and tips? Offered below are the top five posts and an introductory description of each.

  1. Why Employee Use of Personal Cards is a Gamble

    If your organization still allows employees to use their personal cards for business expenses and then get reimbursed, it is worth another look. This post notes how employees can alter electronic receipts (e.g., emails, PDFs) to receive a higher reimbursement amount.

    Update: Within their emails, Uber now includes a link to download a PDF receipt. Someone recently told me that these PDFs are not editable (making them better than the email version), but I could still edit an Uber PDF from this month.

  2. Get a Clearer View of Interchange

    Educating suppliers about card acceptance can be a daunting task, but it is often necessary when implementing or growing a card program. This post features an article by CardConnect that addresses the interchange portion of card acceptance fees, providing key information that could help in your next discussion with a supplier. 

  3. Internal Fraud Results in Prison Time

    False mileage reports, false expense reimbursement requests, and personal use of the company card comprise the crimes committed by a former Allina Health vice president. Read the post to see what he did and how it was caught more than 10 years after it started, as well as tips to glean from the case.

  4. The Payments Iceberg: Innovation and Realities

    While at the 2018 Cards and Payments on Campus Conference by PDG, I attended sessions about emerging technology that dazzle the mind and represent the tip of the iceberg. Yet, I also encountered—as I do every time I am at an event—challenges that have plagued end-user organizations for decades. It’s the reality that sits solidly under water. As a result, I formed three conclusions, as shared in this post.

  5. Open Up Your Card Program Communication Plan

    What’s left to do after you have perfected your Commercial Card training options? Answer: Maintain the momentum. Training should not be left as isolated events. Supplement those efforts with a broad communication plan that goes beyond email. This post describes eight ways to keep the learning opportunities open. 

Contribute to the Blog

If you are looking for a way to share your payments expertise with the industry, submit a contact form to request more information. Recharged Education welcomes input from end-users and providers.

In 2018, various individuals contributed, including: Karla DeSimone, end-user; Julie Miguel, CPCP, Tension Corporation; Jennifer Hart Barb, CPCP, James Madison University; Angelo Grecco, CardConnect; and Mary Schaeffer, AP Now.

About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With 20 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

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Where Do Best Practice P-Card Programs Go Next?

What do you do if your Purchasing Card program has already adopted the full range of best practices? Is it time for autopilot mode? I suppose this is an option, but it would be contrary to the spirit of best-in-class programs and the conscientious professionals who led the way. Instead, take your program to the next level. That’s right. Another level is always possible. It is what makes P-Card program management both challenging and enticing. The necessary foundation for program optimization is there. You just have to go for it. Following are five ways to achieve a new level of greatness.

Beyond Best Practices

1. Conduct a Satisfaction Survey

Your program might look good on paper, but are the participants happy? Is there something you can do to maximize their satisfaction? For example, maybe improving the readability of the policies and procedures manual would be a welcomed change that leads to greater card utilization.

2. Address the Problematic People

P-Card best practices do not necessarily fix people. There will always be challenging cardholders, managers, and/or others (e.g., AP). Perhaps they would benefit from some one-on-one attention. Help them reach peak performance in their card program role. See more on cardholder management.

3. Improve Program Management Efficiency

Besides people, what still drains your time? If, despite following best practices, the majority of your time is spent on program operations (versus program strategy/growth), then something is not quite right. For instance, are you generating and distributing reports each month that are not used for any particular purpose? What can be eliminated, scaled back, changed, or automated? What does not add value?

4. Pursue Expansion Opportunities

This is an obvious option and, chances are, you have already identified the opportunities. Put an action plan into motion. Expansion means more: more cardholders, more card types, more card-accepting suppliers, and/or more allowed purchases—anything that increases spend or transaction volume.

5. Increase Program Visibility

This is a broad avenue to explore. Look further than the best practice of regularly sharing P-Card program metrics. Take the initiative to become aware of internal pain points that P-Cards could address. In my program management days, I was able to help my IT contact resolve a need related to tracking fixed assets. Since P-Cards were used to purchase the assets, the related data came in handy for his purposes. A more structured approach would be to participate on any internal committees or work groups pertaining to procure-to-pay processes.

Final Thoughts

Even if you opt for autopilot over the noted possibilities, someone might come along who messes up your perfectly performing program. Too often, program managers encounter a new executive with old ways of thinking. You find yourself being pushed backward and having to fight to retain the best practices you worked so hard to achieve. In these cases, “same level” can be just as rewarding as “next level.” Perseverance is a good quality to have when managing a card program.

See additional resources on P-Card program management and growth.

Where will you take the card program next?

Where will you take the card program next?

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About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With 20 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more