NationsBank Corp. has introduced a Visa purchasing card that can also handle travel and entertainment expenses.
The combined card, which was rolled out last month, was developed for customers wanting one card for all business-related costs, NationsBank said.
Companies receive a single bill from NationsBank that includes all card expenses incurred by their employees.
William Glascock, senior vice president for NationsBank Card Services, called the card a "reengineering of the way companies traditionally use their purchasing and corporate cards.
"We believe this program will revolutionize the way many companies handle their expenses," said Mr. Glascock.
Industry observers reacted favorably to the concept. "What's different about this is NationsBank is combining two products into one, while not sacrificing any of the management-reporting function," said David Robertson, president of The Nilson Report, an Oxnard, Calif.-based industry newsletter.
James Accomando, president of Accomando Consulting Inc. in Fairfield, Conn., noted that "the whole point is not to increase the number of plastics in your wallet, but to increase your utility." He criticized the "segmentation and isolation" in the corporate card arena.
"NationsBank is combining the features of a procurement card with travel and entertainment, and that's the way payment systems need to go,"said Mr. Accomando.
Philip A. Skarston, vice president of marketing and development for Procard Inc. in Colorado, said that "it's a concept that several corporations have been already using without a lot of hoopla and fanfare." He said one with a similar program was Delco, a division of General Motors.
"The idea has been kicked around a while. NationsBank is the first to actually promote the concept," said Mr. Skarston. "For them, it's a great way to compete against the travel-and-entertainment giants, such as American Express."
A NationsBank spokeswoman said that Dow Chemical Co. was one of the first to request such a program, and that Dow would switch more than 13,000 purchasing and travel cards to it.
The commercial card market has been described as the "new frontier" for the bank card industry. Last summer, Total System Services Inc. estimated the potential U.S. business card market at $140 billion annually.
Of this, only 26% was being billed to a corporate card, Total Systems found. The rest went on personal cards or cash advances and other payment forms.
NationsBank's credit card receivables were $6 billion in November - 14th in the United States.
"NationsBank is an innovator and a leader," said Mr. Accomando. "They want to be, if not the largest, then one of the largest."
Visa's InfoSpan software reporting package, which generates on-line card transaction information, helps support the new program. Data is available in tabular, graphic, and chart formats, and can be sent to corporate accounts payable and general ledger systems.