Travel and entertainment cards are distributed to employees for business travel and related expenses. T&E cards, with balances typically payable when billed, were the first designed exclusively for businesses. The pioneer, American Express Co., began issuing them in 1970. American Express remains the largest issuer, with U.S. Bancorp of Minneapolis second.
Purchasing cards are issued to corporate employees for buying supplies and business services. The cards can streamline paper-based purchasing systems, cutting costs through automation and economies of scale. The cards quantify purchases made from individual vendors, thus helping with budgeting and obtaining volume discounts. Visa leads the purchasing card market, with U.S. Bancorp, First Chicago NBD Corp., and NationsBank Corp. the top issuers.