Containing travel and expenses (T&E) costs is a top priority for most finance departments. That's not surprising considering that U.S. businesses spent $171 billion on air, car, hotel and meals for domestic travel in 2006, according to PhoCusWright Inc., a travel research firm based in Sherman, Conn. Now, American Express Co. says its new Room Rate Analysis Report promises savings through increasing transparency by breaking out specific charges for individual products and services from the overall hotel bill. As a result, finance teams know exactly how much money is being spent in each of various categories, such as the daily room rate; room tax; food and beverages (and whether they come from restaurant or room service); parking, and such business services as faxes, Internet connectivity and photocopies. The precise data can be used to ensure, for example, that daily room rates match previously negotiated prices and fall within allowable employee expenses. The parsed information can also be used to negotiate new corporate rates, based on proven buying power or implement new policies to cut down on expensive and unnecessary costs. Corporations can also use the information to assess average, minimum, maximum and "most popular" ratings on hotels and cities.

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