The Limits of SmartPay2

» Posted by on Dec 12, 2013 in Business Practices, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The El Dorado of any Government travel manager is having sufficient access to credit card data so that spend patterns can actually be used for trends analysis and proactive planning, as well as detecting potential fraud.  The GSA SmartPay program has improved considerably since SmartPay1 but despite the vastly improved databases now available from many of the SmartPay2 vendors, the same problem with the accessibility of level three data still plagues SmartPay2.

Level three data is the information that indicates what product or service was actually provided by a vendor when a credit card is used.  For the purposes of this discussion, I am referring to the travel card. This information is almost always available in an itemized  fashion to the buyer when she gets her receipt.  Unfortunately, most of the time level three data is not available to the Government, because the credit card companies say that the vendors don’t collect and transmit it.

The ability to transmit level three data was part of SmartPay1 and it is in the Master Contract again under SmartPay2, but we should not assume that we are going to get any more data than we did before.  Part of the problem is that the vendor  must pay additional fees and/or upgrade existing credit card interfaces to collect and transmit level three data.  There is a formidable disincentive in the banking system for smaller vendors to spend the extra money and put themselves to even more trouble to collect and transmit the data.  Since the information is so inconsistent, all of the credit card companies, including those under GSA SmartPay 1 and 2 can get away without actually honoring this contract requirement because it is in advance of the state-of-the-art in the marketplace.

Now the SmartPay2 database structures are a considerable improvement over those offered under SmartPay2.  In the case of some of the SmartPay2 vendors, I would even consider the database rather user-friendly and they can be used by managers to detect in almost real-time suspect store purchases and some canned trends analysis (much better than SmartPay1 where our office did this via a manual review and analysis).  However, the lack of level 3 data will still continue to plague Government managers and the SmartPay2 program.  Absent some type of requirement by the credit-card issuing banks that all vendors transmit this data, or perhaps some type of subsidy for the smaller vendors to upgrade their equipment (both highly unlikely in this economic climate), we are still not going to see the full range of available information we need under SmartPay2.

by Julie Speers

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