How Card Payment Data Helps Finance Work Smarter, Not Harder

Managing the finance workload with a lean team requires a keen focus on efficiency. One tactic used by busy finance managers is to take advantage of the wealth of data stemming from business credit cards. This information provides unique insight into spending and streamlines expense tracking. 

"...take advantage of the wealth of data..."

How Card Payment Data Helps Finance Work Smarter Not Harder

Lighten the admin load on your finance team

Tech companies are often looking for data- and tech-driven efficiencies for managing finance and accounting. Linking card data to expense apps can streamline expense-report processing and card-account reconciliation, and make it easier to enforce expense policies.

In a typical integration scenario, employees who use credit cards for company spending — both for purchasing and travel and entertainment — log into an expense app to find their card transactions already uploaded. They can add or confirm company-specific information such as cost center or expense codes, and attach receipts. In most cases, the expense apps can be set up to require those steps before the cardholder submits the report. That saves the finance department time spent chasing supporting documents and information required to properly account for an expense.

Feed financial analysis with integrated card data

Accessing up-to-date card transaction data allows you to rapidly determine whether budgets are being maintained and employees are sticking to purchasing policies. For example, generating a consolidated view of a category, such as office supplies, is a straightforward process and helps show how much the company is spending with each merchant. With that information, you can consider cost-saving procurement strategies such as negotiating a favored-supplier contract. Or, if such a contract is already in place, it allows you to see who may be spending with an out-of-policy merchant so that you can investigate why.

Also, keeping careful control of expenses is a key part of managing and understanding your burn rate

Identify your best access and integration approach

Finance teams using credit card accounts have several options for tapping transaction data, but the most common is to set up integration with an expense reporting app. Consider which may fit your situation best:

  • Startups or smaller companies that use fairly informal tools such as spreadsheets to report and track expenses can use a tool such as Mastercard's SmartData to improve those processes and provide analysis capabilities without adding cost (assuming they're using Mastercard credit cards). Individual cardholders can review and annotate their transactions through SmartData, as well as attach receipts or other documentation, then pass them on for approval. Finance managers can set up reports and export files in standard formats that can be read by accounting software.
  • Companies that are considering investing in expense management software can choose a configuration capable of ingesting a data feed provided in Mastercard’s standard CDF3 (Common Data Format). This enables the more sophisticated reconciliation and tracking functions available through these packages. Because the expense software packages typically link into accounting apps, this data should also be available to your operational software.

Choose software that syncs with your data plan

Most leading expense management apps sell packages that will accept a CDF3 data feed, but not every configuration in their lineup may support it. Some entry-level expense products use screen-scraping technology via a third party to pull in card transaction data, which may introduce delays. Make sure that the system you select can directly ingest that industry-standard feed to increase the likelihood that the data is always up to date.

Involving the experts at SVB early in your decision process will allow us to share our advice and experience. Feel free to reach out to your SVB Relationship Manager to get started.

This material, including without limitation the statistical information herein, is provided for informational purposes only. The material is based in part upon information from third-party sources that we believe to be reliable, but which has not been independently verified by us and, as such, we do not represent that the information is accurate or complete. You should obtain relevant and specific professional advice before making any investment or other decision. Silicon Valley Bank is not responsible for any cost, claim or loss associated with your use of this material.

About the Author

Dennis Flaherty is a Senior Global Treasury & Payments Advisor with SVB. In this role, he consults SVB’s corporate finance clients on global cash management and payments strategy, including disbursements, receivables, and corporate card solutions. With 15 years of experience, Dennis has helped clients of all stages with their treasury needs.

Prior to joining Silicon Valley Bank, Dennis held Treasury Advisory sales positions with Wachovia Bank and Wells Fargo, working with a range of clients including large financial institutions, correspondent banks, and foreign based corporate clients. He currently lives in Philadelphia and works with clients along the East Coast.

Dennis holds a bachelor’s degree from Gettysburg College and an MBA from Drexel University.