MD of Commercial Cards at Allstar Business Solutions Thore Vestergaard shares his insight with Payment Expert on the ‘new normal’ for business payments as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Thore Vestergaard
Thore Vestergaard

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult to manage for many businesses. With countries around the world now slowly reducing lockdown measures, business managers and their staff are heading back to work and back on the road, while essential workers continue to keep the country afloat. 

During this time, it is of the utmost importance for any business to keep staff safe and respond effectively to changes in the micro and macro environment, along with any policy updates from the government. As the pandemic has progressed, this has taken different forms for different companies, but it often involves managing behavioural changes.

One such change is altering the way employees pay for work essentials, from drivers buying fuel at refuelling stations to those who can’t work from home buying the equipment needed to carry out jobs. 

What’s more, as we emerge from the lockdown, we’re likely to see an increase in purchases and transactions. With that said, there are certain payment methods that will reduce the risk to employees and go some way to stem the spread of the virus. 

Removing cash from the way staff pay

First and foremost, the amount of cash that staff are handling should be reduced as much as possible to stop the transfer of germs from person to person. In our current climate, this payment method may accelerate the spread of the virus around the general population.

Instead, staff should have the option to pay with cards, provided there is capacity for regular disinfecting of terminals and keypads, and contactless card payments. 

With card payments becoming a must as the pandemic has progressed, many supermarkets and other workplaces have outwardly expressed their preference that customers pay this way.

What’s more, many banks and card schemes have supported the notion and put measures in place to support the use of cards by increasing the contactless payment limit from £30 to £45. Businesses can make use of these changes when keeping their staff safe as they enable them to make larger purchases using contactless, making the transition more practical and easier.

Choosing online payments 

While the rule changes surrounding card use have been a positive step for employees needing to make payments in-store or while on the road, the payment method has also been highly beneficial for eCommerce, which has seen a huge surge in online payments during the pandemic.

If employees have access to company-managed expense cards, they too can go online to buy essentials. This completely removes the need for them to interact with anyone or – for those working from home – leave the house at all.  

What’s more, with many retailers closed during this time, the need to purchase through alternative online suppliers has eased the burden on those companies who otherwise would have struggled to secure the goods required to maintain operations. Cards allow businesses to gain access to these suppliers and benefit from the best deals available online. 

All of this begs the question – why are there still inefficient “pay and reclaim” and “cash advance” processes? These should be eliminated once for all, as it is important to empower employees to get on with their daily business without being out of pocket and first and foremost staying safe in the process. 

With the level of controls offered by modern B2B payment cards there really is little excuse for employers to maintain these antiquated processes. Furthermore, the right card solution can also take away receipts and manual paper-based expenses processes, eliminating “dirty” receipts from being passed person to person.   

Maintaining security standards 

However, if businesses do make the move to card payments, it’s essential that they’re able to keep on top of security and fraud. While the mass migration to online shopping has worked wonders for many eCommerce businesses, it hasn’t come without its issues for them and their customers. 

To help prevent this, it’s important to remind employees to check expense and procurement policies, which are likely to have changed somewhat due to this crisis. They need to be well-informed about what expenses they’re allowed to incur, and which they are not. Also, it is essential to remind them to be vigilant with their online security.

Managers should check invoices and statements for any unusual activity and take corrective actions against any spending which is against internal policies. Ensure you have switched on online authentication services, such as Verified by Visa for all your cards. Also, contact your card provider immediately if you notice any suspicious activity or have any questions on how to make your card programme more secure. 

Heading towards a new normal 

With new rules in place and more payment options available to pay for goods more hygienically, it’s now up to us all to keep ourselves, our staff and the general population safe. As we begin to emerge from lockdown and the virus starts to abate, the way we pay for goods has noticeably changed and this could continue for the foreseeable future. 

Enabling staff to use safe and secure card payments will not only help businesses adapt to this new normal, but it will also help prevent the spread of the illness.