The magic of Declining Balance Cards.

No magic wand needed. Declining Balance Cards are readily available and can help resolve different pain points, such as managing expenses for infrequent travelers, capital projects, and meetings/events. Two end-users shared their experiences with me, highlighting the value of these cards. 

Successful Uses

Infrequent Travelers

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, which they call a Single Event Travel (SET) Card. Margie Strong, Senior Card Program Coordinator, summarizes the benefits of their 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.”

The program management team maintains a block of inactive cards, so they can readily be set up and issued. This includes establishing an appropriate 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. 

In Review: What They Are

A Declining Balance Card (sometimes called a Controlled Value Card) is related to a P-Card, but spend limits do not refresh each month; rather, a spend limit and/or expiration date are established up front, giving it a specific “shelf life” to accommodate a special project, purpose or budget. As such, the card might be called a Meeting Card, Project Card or similar.

 Consider how Declining Balance Cards could add a little magic within your organization to solve an ongoing problem.

Consider how Declining Balance Cards could add a little magic within your organization to solve an ongoing problem.

Communication is critical to their success. They post information about the SET Card program online, offer a fact sheet, promote within internal newsletters, talk with stakeholders, etc. Overall, the program provides an efficient and controlled solution to what was an ongoing problem in the past. For more details about the Intermountain SET Card program, including how they combat occasional acceptance issues due to no individual name on card, please visit the related webpage.

Capital Projects/Federal Grants

Declining Balance Cards can equally succeed in the public sector. JoAleen Ainslie, CPCP, is an advocate, recalling her previous job experience with a public school district. The cards worked well for multiple federal grants and a capital project related to the building of a new elementary school. She shares, “To me, Declining Balance Cards are a wonderful financial payment vehicle with built-in control mechanisms. The cards prevented anyone from going over budget and created all kinds of pertinent reporting data to track required documentation for retrieval prior to the grant expiration dates/clean up periods. Because of the ability to assign dedicated accounting elements, I could generate reports on demand, without waiting for a cost accounting reconciliation. We also utilized MCC controls to prevent the cards from being used for items not allowed in grant parameters.”

Given the various possibilities, Declining Balance Cards can enhance your payment toolkit. Have you explored how they could help your organization? 


About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

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