Metrics that Turn the P-Card Tables Around

If your management fails to see the value of Purchasing Cards beyond the potential rebate, then you might need to beef up your metrics. First, be sure you are quantifying and sharing the positive impact of P-Cards within your organization (e.g., process savings). However, you might need to go a step further by painting the picture of what your procure-to-pay processes would look like and cost without cards. After I recommended this action within the previous post about rebates, a subscriber asked me how to begin and what metrics to include. In short, the exercise involves quantifying how accounts payable (AP) would be affected and outlining the resulting added burden on other employees. Keep reading to see the details. Would such an approach grab your management’s attention?

Additional Invoice Volume = Additional Staff

If there were no P-Cards, how many more AP full-time equivalents (FTEs) would be needed to process the increased invoice volume and how would this translate into dollars (e.g., average salary of an AP FTE)?

First, how many invoices are processed by one AP FTE per month today? Using data from various AP Now surveys, 2000 invoices per FTE per month is within the realm of possibilities. It will vary by organization, based on the invoice process and extent to which technology is used. Find out what applies to your AP staff.

Now let’s assume a modest P-Card program of $10M per year. If you divide this by an average transaction amount like $400, this would be 25,000 transactions per year or nearly 2100 per month. Moving the P-Card volume back to AP would require an additional AP FTE. Again, pull the applicable data for your program to make the metrics meaningful.

More Suppliers = A Ballooning Master Vendor File

Non-card payments mean adding suppliers to AP’s master vendor file (MVF). Based on your P-Card data, how many suppliers would this be? Would even more AP FTEs be needed to manage it? Think about the supplier information that would be required and the added burden on your 1099 reporting process.

No Cards = Tedious Procure-to-Pay Processes

In addition to the metrics noted above, map out the various potential procure-to-pay (P2P) processes in a “non-card” world and make comparisons to the efficient P-Card P2P process currently in use. For example:

Limited Use Suppliers

Consider all the suppliers currently paid via P-Card for a one-time purchase. Not only would you need to set up these suppliers in the MVF, the procurement aspect would likely be more difficult. Identify a common example from your P-Card data; for instance, employees needing to register and pay for a business conference. Without a card to easily take care of it, what would an employee need to do? All of the options are tedious and slow for your employees and suppliers.

Recurring Suppliers

The procurement process might remain the same with suppliers from which cardholders order through a designated website today, such as Staples and Grainger. However, you would need to work with the applicable suppliers on the desired invoice process. How would invoices arrive? Would AP need to manually break down by cost center? Maybe some suppliers would send an appropriate electronic interface file to eliminate manual keying by AP, but this requires extra work, too, to establish.


There are all kinds of P-Card metrics to demonstrate the status of a program, but sometimes the most eye-opening metrics are the hypothetical ones.

You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.
— "Big Yellow Taxi," Joni Mitchell

Related Resources

If management can’t see past Commercial Card rebates, present the costly realities of a payment strategy without cards.

If management can’t see past Commercial Card rebates, present the costly realities of a payment strategy without cards.

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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

Use P-Card metrics to keep a program on target.

Do you ever wonder how other P-Card professionals utilize metrics? What do they track and why? I recently had the opportunity to dig into this topic with industry veteran, Karla DeSimone. With nearly 20 years of program management experience, she has successfully used metrics to drive growth, while also juggling 10 different P-Card programs under the umbrella of the parent company. Keep reading to learn how she met the related challenges through a combination of metrics and communication, and subsequently achieved a $140M card program.

Managing Multiple Programs

Q: Did the parent company require its affiliates to use P-Cards?

A: No. As the parent company acquired additional companies, they allowed these “affiliates” to conduct business as usual—however they saw fit. P-Card usage was encouraged, but was not mandatory.  

Q: Many P-Card professionals struggle with the politics of managing disparate programs. What was your communication strategy?

A: My goal was to get them to trust me. I was always in touch and very accessible to them. I provided advice about how they could grow their P-Card programs, including sharing examples and the estimated benefits. I also encouraged the different affiliates to talk with, and learn from, each other.

Program Goals

Q: How did you drive program growth?

A: Each year, I asked the affiliates about their P-Card goals, quantifying them in terms of spend and transaction volume. We then provided quarterly metrics that compared quarter over quarter and year over year, so they knew exactly how they were tracking. Also, the parent company returned 100% of any earned rebate back to the affiliates quarterly. 

Q: How did their goals impact the overall program?

A: Based on the collective goals of the affiliates, I made projections five years out and purposely pursued an aggressive contract with the card issuer. When our program was growing significantly, there were times I would use these projections to initiate a new contract before the expiration of the current one, ensuring I was returning the best rates to our affiliates. 

Q: What happened if an affiliate did not meet its goals?

A: Because P-Card usage was not mandatory, there were no consequences if an affiliate did not meet its goals. However, there were monetary consequences if the company overall did not meet the contract terms with the issuer, but, fortunately, this never happened. Metrics provided a road map to me and I closely monitored each affiliate’s program. If one was tracking down, I knew I had to recoup that volume elsewhere. Often times that meant revisiting an affiliate that had not yet joined the program or determining how I could get an existing affiliate to utilize the program more. 

Q: How did you approach an affiliate that was falling short of goals?

A: In addition to the robust quarterly metrics we provided, mid-year I would make suggestions on how they could get back on track. For example, I might suggest the issuer perform a “vendor match” to see who accepts cards. This allowed us to get a feel for the affiliate’s potential versus their actual card usage. At times this caught the attention of upper management, depending on the potential. Then, at year-end, I would highlight opportunities they could capitalize on in the new year. 

Metrics Tracked

Q: Which metrics did you track and how often?

A: On a monthly basis, we tracked:

  • Transaction counts and spend for the month plus annualized
  • Average monthly spend
  • Estimated earned rebate
  • Large ticket (for which the rebate was lower)
  • Non-qualifying/non-rebate spend (e.g., rush cards, fraud, etc.)

We also tracked fraud:

  • Monthly fraud by affiliate and who had the most fraud exposure
  • Annual fraud percentage by affiliate and for the whole program overall
  • Outcomes; for example, if all the money was not returned, we called the bank at 90 days to ensure credits were applied, balancing to zero

Q: Were process costs evaluated as well? 

A: No, it was not possible for us to evaluate process costs due to the size of our organization and eclectic nature of our company. We did not follow any one process, nor use any one ERP system across all our affiliates. As we bought companies, we allowed them to remain independent and then manage/incorporate their business into our operational management.

Q: What would you report to management?

A: We used a dashboard style (single page) on a monthly basis, which included the following by affiliate and aggregate.

  • Monthly metrics: Spend, transactions, card count, estimated rebate, and a fraud summary
  • Card administration: Cards issued, cards canceled, credit limit changes, MCC changes, misc. changes (address, default accounting, name changes), cards reported lost/stolen
  • Concur administration: Employees added/deleted, policy/rule set changes, approver changes, accounting changes, etc. 

Related Resources

Access the metrics section of the website to learn more, including tips for refining or building a metrics plan, how to present numbers/statistics with flair to your management, and more.

More About Karla 

Karla DeSimone has been a Commercial Card professional for nearly 20 years. Most recently a privately held publishing company, headquartered in NYC, recruited Karla to implement and manage the operations for their Commercial Card program.  Prior to that, she managed a large program for a pharmaceutical company in California. Karla has been selected to speak at many card-related conferences over the years and has been recognized by the industry for her outstanding program management. She is currently seeking new employment opportunities in the card arena. Feel free to contact her at

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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Can you explain your program data?

If, without warning, senior management asks you to explain one or more pieces of your card program data, would you be prepared? No matter the topic, you do not want to be fumbling around for an answer. Memorizing key metrics is a good start, but understanding what is behind the numbers is more meaningful. This post describes four things your management may wonder or ask about, and what you should know to shine in the spotlight of their scrutiny.   

Process Savings from Card Usage

Sharing your organization’s process savings via your Intranet and/or in a report to management showcases the value of your P-Card program, so be ready to explain:

  • how you calculated the process savings 
  • how P-Cards save time and money for your organization compared to your other internal purchase-to-pay processes
  • why your organization’s savings are higher or lower than industry averages (RPMG Research is a great resource)

Card Spend

Relaying progress toward goals and how the current year compares to past years helps keep management informed; see examples below. Ensure you can explain any dips and/or upward spikes.

As a program manager, I once had to ask the organization president to sign off on the payment to our card issuer due to the unusual large dollar amount. While face to face in his office, he asked why the total was so high. Fortunately, I had researched that before approaching him, so I was able to answer.  

Revenue Share

Announcing the revenue share (rebate) received from the issuer is always exciting, but do not stop with the dollar total. Include a note about where your organization stands, based on your current contract terms. Are you maximizing the revenue share opportunity? Why or why not?

Internal Fraud/Compliance

Apprising management of the compliance level with card policies and procedures is equally important.

  • If you do not have issues, it is something to highlight, including the reasons for the success. Perhaps you maintain a current risk assessment that drives you to close any control gaps.
  • If you have had internal fraud and/or compliance issues, be able to articulate the contributing factors and related remedies. Also, if there are more compliance problems today than in the past, determine why. Has compliance always been on the poor side, but new/better auditing is uncovering more now?

Internal fraud data, as well as process savings, are two things included within the P-Card Risk Analysis Template from Recharged Education. It is available for purchase or, by attending next week’s virtual workshop, you will receive a complimentary copy.

Ensure you can answer "yes" if management asks whether you can explain a particular piece of card program data.

Ensure you can answer "yes" if management asks whether you can explain a particular piece of card program data.

Analysis without interpretation is just numbers.
— Included in an ad for Emory University, Goizueta Business School

More Resources

Visit the P-Card Metrics webpage for related information.

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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