PNC Bank Corp. and NationsBank Corp. have joined the Visa purchasing card program, bringing the number of issuers to 12.

Visa U.S.A. and MasterCard International have estimated the market for purchasing cards to be $300 billion annually. Only 1% of all such purchases under $5,000 are captured on cards.

MasterCard said 26 issuers have signed on to its purchasing card program. Comerica Inc. is expected to announce next week that it will issue MasterCard-branded purchasing cards.

"The need for a purchasing card is evident," said William L. Glascock, senior vice president and manager of commercial card services for NationsBank. "This level of cost is hard to justify when spending for maintenance, repair, office supplies, or even a personal computer."

PNC estimates that a company's small-dollar purchases average $250 and account for as much as 80% of total purchase volume. Internal purchasing processes, from requisition to payment, range from $50 to $150 for each transaction.

Businesses can reduce these administrative costs by up to 90% through this card, according to PNC.

"Everybody is trying to streamline and do more with less," said Stephen Rogers, vice president of product management at PNC. "This card will enable them to do just that."

With the Visa purchasing card program companies will receive transaction information through tailored reports, a computer-based reporting package, and electronic data files with complete transaction details.

Controls for each cardholder, such as limits on single transaction amounts and the number of transactions per day, will be set by the companies. Supplier categories are available at the company and cardholder levels.

For suppliers, this will do away with costs associated with traditional invoicing, reconciliation, and collection. It provides payments to suppliers in two to three days, as opposed to the 30 to 60 days with traditional invoices.

In a recent Visa survey of purchasing executives, 93% said their companies spend too much time on the entire purchasing process and 86% said they spend too much time processing small-dollar purchases.

"Corporations spend enormous time and money processing small-dollar purchases," said Robert Levaro, senior vice president for Visa's commercial card products. "With (our) purchasing card, companies can decrease their operating costs and increase productivity."

James G. Graham, senior vice president and manager for PNC Bank Treasury Management, noted that with purchasing cards "a company can control which employees purchase supplies and services, how much they can spend, and where they can buy."

The San Francisco-based association's status as the world's largest payment system was cited by both banks in explaining their decision to choose the Visa brand.

PNC, based in Pittsburgh, said its PNC Bank Treasury Management division will manage the Visa purchasing card program.

NationsBank, based in Charlotte, N.C., said it's the nation's leading treasury management services provider. NationsBank Treasury Management associates will offer the Visa purchasing card to its customers.

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