12 Simple Solutions to Aid P-Card Program Management

Earlier this year, I witnessed something on a flight that made me think about P-Card program management and the positive impact of simple solutions. The situation involved a toddler, who never once made a peep on the three-hour flight and, yes, he was awake. The source of his fascination was a “toy” from his mother that was both quiet and inexpensive: a plastic cup filled with various soft pompoms—like what you can get at a craft store—that he could sort, count, and take out of the cup and put back in. As a result of watching him, I was inspired to compile simple ideas for a card program that might save time, strengthen card usage, improve compliance, and/or increase cardholder satisfaction. I hope you can find at least one to try.

Simple Solutions

  1. Develop boilerplate language concerning card acceptance that can be incorporated into requests for proposals (RFPs) and contracts with vendors to help boost card usage. Be sure to address things like Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance and surcharging.

  2. Apply default budget/accounting codes for cardholders whose purchases tend to require the same coding. This will minimize manual keying, making their job easier.

  3. Assign a proxy “transaction reconciler” for cardholders who are not at a computer regularly, such as maintenance staff.

  4. Take advantage of online transaction reconciliation tools, including receipt imaging if available. Some organizations still base this task on paper statements. While I readily admit this “simple” solution takes time to adopt, taking advantage of technology should be a simple decision.

  5. Create an email template to use when contacting a cardholder and/or manager about a mistake or possible issue. Not only does this prevent you from having to start from scratch each time, it supports the delivery of a consistent message. Before you finalize a template, obtain management approval to ensure the language strikes the right tone.

  6. Within your policies and procedures (P&P), whether a PDF or web-based, add links within the table of contents (TOC) to each topical section and, within each section, add a link back to the TOC for user navigation ease.

  7. Add short video clips, where meaningful, to the online P&P to show users how to do something. This tactic fits right in to our YouTube world.

  8. If you administer online quizzes, add a link within each question that leads to where the quiz takers can find the answers. After all, the ultimate goal is for program participants to pass the quiz, even if they have to look up the right information.

  9. Schedule reports from the issuer to push to you via email each month to eliminate having to manually generate the desired reports within the issuer’s technology.

  10. Proactively review an “available limit” report once or twice per cycle. Take appropriate action, as needed, in an effort to prevent transaction declines, which can frustrate users and vendors alike, as well as intrude on your day.

  11. If you create regular graphs within Microsoft Excel to showcase program metrics, save your perfected graphs as templates. (Right-click on a finished graph and select Save as Template). This allows you to apply the same formatting to future graphs to more easily achieve a consistent look. (On a newly created graph, right-click and select Change Chart Type to access and apply a saved graph template).

  12. This last one might sound crazy to most people... Issue and distribute cards to individual cardholders versus storing the cards in a central location. Tiffany Lovelace, CPCP, Commercial Card Sales Leader, SVP, Regions Bank, told me about a client who keeps cards in a three-ring binder that employees have to check out and then return again after usage. As she remarked, “Cards are such an amazing tool, yet there they are—trapped in a binder.”

Final Thoughts

Overall, P-Cards should be easy, not hard. If you already have a best practice P-Card program, the tips offered herein might be old news. However, based on the work I’ve done related to middle market organizations, I know that many programs are doing things the hard way too often.

Visit the P-Card Program Management section of the website to access additional resources, including a past blog post on making cards easier to use.

Within the realm of your P-Card program, what can you do to get into the easy lane more often?

Within the realm of your P-Card program, what can you do to get into the easy lane more often?


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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

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

Do You Treat All Cardholders Equally?

Word gets out if you treat cardholders differently—particularly if you allow some to get away with breaking the rules. One risk is cardholder resentment, which can shine a poor light on the program. Even worse, it can lead to card misuse and abuse by the “favored cardholders” who know they can likely get away with it. As such, it is critical to consistently enforce card program policies and procedures, regardless of an employee’s job role/position. This requires some planning, so following are three action items to support this Commercial Card best practice. 

Three Action Items

1. Determine the Consequences for Non-compliance

To prevent a debate over what to do every time a rule is broken, identify the appropriate action up front. Consistent consequences are part of consistent enforcement, but they should be based on the severity level of a particular infraction. Consider the different types of issues, which vary widely. Examples include:

  • ordering a higher quality good than what is allowed
  • using a non-approved vendor
  • late reconciliation of transactions
  • missing or vague receipts; some organizations offer a “missing receipt form” for cardholders to complete, but be aware that receipt issues could indicate fraud
  • personal use of the card that the cardholder presents as a legitimate business transaction; in other words, fraud

Some things might warrant a warning and/or additional training, but it could depend on whether it is a cardholder’s first offense or part of a repeated pattern. Fraud should be grounds for termination and never tolerated.

Ensure you also decide how to address the “approving manager” associated with a non-compliant cardholder. After all, they fulfill an oversight role. Their sign off on cardholders’ transactions represents that the transactions are legitimate and comply with program policies and procedures. 

2. Create Template Email Language

Besides ensuring a consistent message when communicating an issue, having a ready-to-use template speeds up the process since you will not have to start from scratch. The tone of the email should align with the severity of the issue, as well as your organization’s internal culture. Before finalizing the template, obtain approval from management. 

3. Establish a Way to Track Infractions

Finally, tracking infractions by cardholder provides documentation to support the consequences. In addition, the ability to review and filter infractions organization-wide can help instigate change by highlighting: 1) possible gaps in the training and/or 2) unclear/vague policies and procedures.

See more card program management content from Recharged Education.

Do your communications with different cardholders all add up to be the same, consistent messages?

Do your communications with different cardholders all add up to be the same, consistent messages?



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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