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Special fromThe Beat.
Carlson Wagonlit Travel and American Express Global Commercial Card signed a "multi-year, preferred supplier agreement" under which CWT will promote to clients in 21 countries the Amex Business Travel Account, Corporate Card and Corporate Meeting Card payment solutions.
CWT receives "economic benefits" for referring new business as part of the deal, but American Express will continue to directly handle card agreements with clients and offer payment solution support, according to CWT executive vice president for global supplier management Mike Koetting. As for financial advantages for clients, "We will try to make it beneficial to the client," said Koetting. "There may be opportunities in which that's the case, depending on client specifics and the country. In many countries, clients are still on an invoice or cash basis. In those countries, we'll work together to try to move clients to the card."
Koetting said he expects more countries to be added over time, but for now the deal covers Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Asked about traditional card rebate programs in the United States, in which clients are paid back a small percentage of their charge volumes, Koetting said, "Amex will continue to manage that side of the relationship with clients, so everything around the card economics--the credit check and all those things--remain as Amex does them directly."
CWT also earns referral fees for bringing business to other payment providers, and Koetting emphasized that while Amex is now preferred in the listed markets, relationships with AirPlus/UATP, Diners, MasterCard and Visa issuers are ongoing. "The Amex card for whatever reason will not be the preferred choice of some of our clients," said Koetting.
Partly to support its Card + Agency Reporting product, co-developed with TRX and launched in April, CWT is getting more involved with client payment solutions and attempting to drive greater plastic usage. Card transaction data takes the reporting tool beyond CWT's traditional client booking reports.
"CWT has a fair number of clients who do not have a mandated card program or any card program," said Koetting. "For those clients, we want to work with Amex to help clients identify the benefits. This [agreement] establishes some dedicated resources at each organization who will be working with each other to accelerate the evolution of this product--making sure our clients benefit from the best timeliness and consistency of global reporting and matching to agency data."
Koetting said this deal helps assure CWT that its clients receive data from Amex in an equally robust, accurate and timely manner as do any other travel management company clients, including those of American Express Business Travel.
CWT selected Amex for the preferred relationship after "a very lengthy review process of all the potential solutions," Koetting said. During that process, Amex bought GE Moneyand Discover bought Diners Club's international brandand network, but Koetting said, "None of those really influenced our decision. We did limit the solutions to those we felt were effective globally." [Carlson Wagonlit Travel is the TMC for General Electric, which uses the GE Money card program that American Express acquired.]
CWT's Agency + Card Reporting matches agency bookings with credit card transactions for air, rail, hotel and rental car services, and compares the results with client information and CWT's proprietary supplier databases. The variety of reports include summaries on travelers' compliance to preferred agency booking policies for air/rail, hotel and car rental transactions; spend reports for air/rail, hotel and rental car; and comparisons of actual versus negotiated rates. CWT also is looking into integrating expense report information.
Today's announcement between CWT and American Express Global Commercial Card does not impact American Express Business Travel's Card & Travel Variance reports service, launched in 2005.
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