How to...

Make the most of corporate cards

The Scout Association is a long-time user of corporate cards, but the ways in which it deploys them has changed



STEP 1: THE BACKGROUND. The Scout Association provides youth work support to 638,000 young people and adult volunteers across the UK. A long-term Barclaycard customer, its staff have typically used corporate cards for a range of travel and subsistence costs.

STEP 2: STREAMLINING. “While the kinds of things we purchase with our cards have stayed consistent over the years, we have taken advantage of technological developments to speed up our reconciliation process with Barclaycard,” says The Scout Association’s Simon Carter.

As a result, it now reconciles its corporate card expenses digitally every month. Carter explains: “We try to do everything electronically. We used to reconcile expenses by hand, but we conducted a study that showed it would save time – and therefore money – to move to digital reconciliation.”

He continues: “As a charity, you want to put as much money as possible into your cause rather than the back office.”

STEP 3: GO PRE-PAID. Every four years, the organisation sends 4,000 young people from the UK to The World Scout Jamboree, which takes place in destinations all over the world – mostly recently in Japan in 2015. At the event, in addition to those who already had company credit cards, The Scout Association provided 40 staff with a pre-paid Barclaycard corporate card, which they used for car hire, food and other travel expenses.

“The cards mean we can control costs really easily,” says Carter. “We can see what our teams are spending on, and we don’t have to provide them with lots of cash.”

STEP 4: NEW LIMITS. At times, corporate cards have also helped the team resolve challenging situations. “After a Jamboree we hosted in Thailand finished, we sent 400 young people on a home hospitality visit to Malaysia,” explains Carter.

“I was woken up at 3am by a phone call from the head of our contingent in Malaysia saying that, for various reasons, the planned accommodation wasn’t available. I called our director of finance, who contacted the Barclaycard out-of-hours service, who in turn raised the credit card limit of the person on the spot to £25,000. “The leader of the contingent then sourced safe and secure hotel rooms for 400 young people and their leaders. It was so simple.”

STEP 5: THE BENEFITS. Corporate cards are key to The Scout Association’s operations, whether it’s for resolving unexpected situations or simply paying for food and drink.

“Cards make it easy to control costs and provide excellent visibility on spending,” says Carter. “The key thing for us is the flexibility they offer. We use a traditional purchase order process for most of our regular costs, but sometimes you simply don’t have time to wait – you need to pay for something there and then and a card makes that possible.”