< PrevNext > 4. Amid Upped Demand for Virtual, Mainstream Payment Players Will Seek Bigger Role By Adam Perrotta / January 25, 2021 / Contact Reporter Share Increased hygiene and safety concerns amid the Covid-19 pandemic have sparked a surge in demand for contactless payments, according to numerous recent polls. That large-scale shift in sentiment finally could break the stalemate that long has hindered contactless adoption: merchants unwilling to accept a payment method seldom used by consumers, and consumers apathetic about a payment tool not accepted by most merchants. Meanwhile, in the context of corporate payments, contactless increasingly means virtual, given the advantages virtual payment cards offer organizations, including enhanced security, finer spending controls and more complete cost data—all of which have become even more important post-Covid. Taken together, those factors—increased ubiquity of contactless payments at large, and the compelling case for virtual corporate cards—have created to a ripe opportunity for payment providers. And while specialists such as Conferma Pay and GraspPay previously had led the way in fulfilling demand for virtual corporate payments, established card issuers and other mainstream payment players are taking note—and taking a more active role in creating new virtual payment offerings for corporate use. U.S. Bank has been prominent among established issuers pushing virtual corporate payments, last fall launching a corporate-focused virtual card dubbed Instant Card. Notably, the bank has sought to reach corporate users through integrations with expense management providers, including Concur Expense and TravelBank, a model that offers the added advantage of charges made with the card flowing directly into those platforms. For U.S. Bank, both partnerships offer access to a previously untapped audience. In the case of Concur, which serves mostly large corporations with existing card programs, U.S. Bank-issued virtual cards can be issued via the Concur mobile app for niche spending by contractors, job candidates and employees who don't have a permanent corporate card. Meanwhile, the other integration gives the bank access to TravelBank's client base of smaller companies, many of which don't have a traditional corporate card program. Other major corporate issuers emphasizing virtual payments include Bank of America—which has reported strong adoption over the past year for its corporate-focused Virtual Travel Card—and issuer/network American Express, which recently integrated its virtual cards into Coupa Pay's B2B purchasing platform.Payment networks have gotten into the game too. In November, Visa partnered with Conferma to launch a suite of corporate virtual payments services, including a platform that delivers Visa virtual cards to mobile devices. Earlier in the year, the two companies allied on an initiative to ramp up virtual card issuance by banks. And Mastercard in December announced a new service, launched in partnership with digital card platform Extend, to enable virtual corporate cards to be delivered to mobile devices for one-time purchases or longer-term use. It may have taken a pandemic to accomplish, but user demand and merchant acceptance have finally caught up to the business case for virtual corporate cards. And with the market likely to further heat up as business travel resumes in the months ahead, expect more established payment providers to look to get in on the action.