Solving the reconciliation conundrum: a Tourvest case study

Insufficient and unreliable data combined with discrepancies between invoicing and credit card timeframes can present serious challenges for travel management reconciliation processes.

Tourvest used to adopt a manual reconciliation process that was immensely time consuming and resource intensive, says Mahomed Asif Sultan, gm of Business Applications. “We received credit card statements from American Express, which would then be downloaded to Excel. A manual reconciliation would be done, after which the client received a statement.” The details provided on such a statement were problematic, as they were not granular enough for most clients. Transactions would simply read ‘TTS’ and did not show any specific details.

The biggest issue concerned the electronic data interchange (EDI) report. “We used to download data from our financial system and send it to clients,” Sultan says. “Very often the data would not match their statements; we always had discrepancies that became a disaster to reconcile.”

While an EDI is based on the invoice date, Sultan says credit or lodge card information is recorded when the client receives the product or when the card is charged.

Imagine it is the middle of the month and two transactions have been declined. Tourvest’s invoicing system would not reflect the declined card transactions, but the sales would still show on the invoice. Those purchases would also not reflect on the card statement.

Another example concerns the cut-off date for statements, which is usually the 21st of each month. Say the TMC invoiced the client on the 21st and submitted the EDI. Transactions made that day would not reflect on the statement, as the client would be charged only the following day.

Tourvest subsequently became the first TMC in SA to sign up for BTAPowerlink, Sultan says, hereby eliminating the need for EDI files. “We could simply tell clients to go to BTAPowerlink and download the statements.”


The automated route

American Express was the first to develop and market a fully PCI DSS-compliant solution to address the industry’s cumbersome expense reconciliation issues, says Privesan Naidoo, Nedbank head of Corporate Issuing and Amex Merchants.

“We developed BTAPowerlink after identifying this desperate need from TMCs to improve their reconciliation processes and it has become a key differentiator for Amex in SA,” he says.

Amex has integrated into TMC systems to pull their invoicing data into the BTAPowerlink environment; any client with a BTA card has access. The tool gives clients the ability to audit the TMC reconciliation process from their desk without having to wait for month-end. It enables 24/7 access to travel statements and the ability to dispute any unauthorised transactions.

American Express continues to work with its TMC partners and clients to develop the tool. An important functionality currently under development will enable all documents and invoices to be uploaded and downloaded to and from the system. “Clients can then look at their transactions on BTAPowerlink and immediately download any applicable documents or invoices related to the transaction,” says Naidoo.

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