From the November 2007 issue of Treasury & Risk magazine

Silver AHA Award Winner for Tool of the Year

Last year, airport merchants submitted more than 13,000 invoices with about 350,000 paper vouchers totaling more than $13 million for products and services purchased by distressed travelers biding time due to a delayed or cancelled flight. Continental Airlines reckoned it could save a money, and employee time if it could develop an automated approach. It turned to Citi--its electronic payment systems partner. The result: Travelers land-bound because of unscheduled airline interruptions are now handed at the gate a boarding pass-like paper card with a maximum spending limit encoded in the electronic voucher. MasterCard, more accustomed to processing plastic, is also a partner.

From Continental's perspective, the solution has resulted in more than just savings in resources. The virtual credit card allows Continental to track the progress of the voucher and monitor where and for what it is used, explains Tracy Stover, Citi's head of payment sales for North America. Each virtual card number remains inactive until the voucher is issued; then each transaction using the card triggers a report that includes the vendor and purchase information.

While the use of payment cards has been on the rise, this is a novel approach--using even unconventional materials for the card--but one, according to Stover, which underscores the ability of payment card technology to supplant almost any kind of paper-intensive processes where electronic settlements can be leveraged.

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