Why Do Some Groups Embrace One Card Programs While Others Resist?

To explore the topic further, the National Association of Purchasing Card Professionals (NAPCP) conducted a poll January 26 through February 10, 2012. Open to end-user organizations only—those that do and do not have One Cards—it yielded 117 responses. The majority (71%) indicated using some form of a One Card program—a percentage that might be higher than the industry reality. (While all end-users were encouraged to respond to the poll, it’s possible or even likely that those with One Card program were most compelled to participate.) Why did these organizations implement a One Card program? Poll results revealed the following five top drivers.As the name implies, a commercial One Card program brings a mix of purchase types together within one program. An organization can provide one piece of plastic to an employee, allowing P-Card-like purchases (i.e., goods/services), travel and entertainment expenses (T&E), and, possibly, fleet-related expenses. Such a program eliminates the need for employees to carry two or more cards (e.g., P-Card and Corporate Travel Card). While it sounds simple enough, there is rarely a simple answer to the question of whether an organization should utilize a One Card solution to replace separate card programs.

Top Five Drivers for Implementing a One Card Program

When an organization is considering a One Card solution, a key consideration should be the overlap between employees who require P-Cards and those who require Corporate [Travel] Cards. The overlap should be meaningful enough to support the business case. Yet, poll results indicate that some organizations may have overlooked this. A separate poll question asked, “For your last fiscal year, what percent of cardholders actually used their card for both purposes—business travel and the purchase of goods/services?” The most common response, cited by 21%, was “too difficult to determine this.” Other responses were all over the board, ranging from “fewer than 10%” to “90-100%.”

What about other potential benefits of One Cards? The graph above highlights some. For example, streamlining card program administration may result in a reduction of full-time equivalents (FTEs), offering an organization hard-dollar savings. Further, consolidating card spend—one program with one provider—can yield efficiencies for the end-user organization and provider alike.

On the flip side, what might prevent an organization from pursuing One Cards? Some organizations may struggle with the corporate (organization) liability aspect of a One Card program, preferring individual liability Corporate Cards that allow the organization to easily deny reimbursement to employees for out-of-policy transactions. Even organizations with One Card programs might acknowledge some drawbacks or challenges, as shown in the poll results. The top two challenges cited were:

  • Different policies and procedures may apply, depending on the expense type

  • Managing appropriate controls (e.g., merchant category codes) to address the different expense types

Overall, each organization is unique, so its approach or decisions related to One Cards will depend on various factors, such as its size, culture and purchasing activity. For more information, please visit The complete poll results are accessible to NAPCP members and complimentary subscribers.



To further explore One Card programs, the NAPCP Annual Commercial Card and Payment Conference (April 16 – 19, 2012) will include a session, Will One Card Eventually Win the Game?, by Frank Martien of First Annapolis Consulting. Frank will elaborate on the poll results as part of his presentation, as well as discuss the current set of issues surrounding this card type. For conference information and registration, visit


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