The commercial card market has been shrouded in secrecy these past few days. There was potentially major news from Apple, but only in the form of a patent filing and analyst musings on what that patent could mean for the commercial card industry. Then there were the mixed earnings from American Express and Capital One, both major players in the business credit card space, and both leaving out exact figures for their commercial card performances. The one sector with some straight-forward news this week? Read below.
"It’s complicated” might be the best way to describe Apple Pay’s relationship with the commercial card industry. Card issuers have been linking their corporate products to mobile solutions as of late, most recently with MasterCard announcing plans earlier this month to provide tokenization services to its corporate card issuers in order to allow them to load commercial cards onto mobile wallets. And, only days ago, Fifth Third Bank revealed its own effort to mobilize the corporate card by launching a new mobile banking app allowing business customers to gain visibility into their corporate card transactions on-the-go.
Some may argue, however, that Apple has been stifling the mobilization of the commercial card sector (or, at least, not fueling it). Last August, American Express became the first major card issuer since Apple Pay’s launch to integrate its corporate card products onto the mobile wallet, nearly a year after American Express noted in the fine print of its Apple Pay webpage that corporate cards would not work with the service.
Last week, analysts caught wind of a very subtle move made by Apple that could open the floodgates for commercial card integration into Apple Pay.
[bctt tweet=”Apple could open the floodgates for commercial card integration into Apple Pay”]
A new patent filing by the technology firm signals a new level of authentication for Apple Pay headed our way. The patent filing seemingly allows for profiles to be uploaded into Apple Pay with a manager controlling rules for each profile, including spending limits and other restrictions.
It’s exactly the type of service that a corporate money manager would need for employees to use Apple Pay, reports said.
But while the market waits to see just what Apple will do with the new technology, the week for commercial card issuers was pretty mixed.
American Express, whose commercial card business is seemingly the glue holding things together for the company, released lackluster quarterly earnings numbers last week. While the company didn’t release exact figures for its corporate card business, Amex reported a 26 percent decline in Global Commercial Services net income (compared to the year prior), which hit $151 million in Q3 2015. Overall, Amex saw a 14 percent net income decline to $1.26 billion in the quarter. Analysts pointed to the company’s heightened spend on technology and marketing, and while U.S. card use rose 4.2 percent compared to Q3 2014, international business declined.
Meanwhile, Capital One released its quarterly report last week, too, and despite a $1.11 billion profit (up from $1.08 billion one year ago), the issuer similarly declined to specify the performance of its commercial card operations. The bank did note, however, that its Commercial Banking unit saw a 5 percent year-over-year increase in loan balances.
The one area that wasn’t shrouded in smoke and mirrors was the fleet card sector.
In the U.K., fleet card issuer The Fuelcard People announced the launch of the One Fuelcard, a product that gives fleet managers access to wholesale gas prices for their vehicles and the ability to avoid sticker shock at the pump.
BP unleashed a new service, too, for its fuel cards, with the BP Target Neutral venture, an initiative that automates fleet managers’ calculations of their carbon footprint using card data. The program also allows these managers using BP Fuel Cards to automatically offset those CO2 emissions by linking a fee of every monthly invoice to go to an array of CO2-offsetting projects run by BP Target Neutral.
Lastly, there was a bit of unique news to top off the week in commercial cards: Corporate private jet charter card provider Magellan Jets is offering its business clients a new Corporate Membership program. The new card is geared toward business travelers that require at least 100 flight hours of private jet flight and allows bookings with as little as six hours notice. It’s certainly the most luxurious commercial card option this week, providing Wi-Fi, catering and no jets older than 2004, the company said. It’s no private jet service, but we’ll go out on a limb and say most businesses will be eyeing the potential to use their commercial cards through Apple Pay this week.