In the old days it was simple. Top bosses were given a corporate credit card to pay for meals and flights. The company picked up the bill and the card-users let the company know the reason for it. These days, corporate cards are given to a wider range of employees and, while they are much less of a headache for the finance director, they can be less of a perk for users.
Corporate credit cards have been around for 20 years. It is only relatively recently that they have been transformed from a status symbol and reward into an indispensable part of a company's budgeting system.
The story goes like this: a few years ago, Visa launched into the European corporate market. This shook to the core Britain's cosy old oligarchy of Diner's Club, American Express and their much smaller rival, Mastercard, and they set out to do battle with Visa for the hearts and minds of Britain's finance directors. Happily, this renewed enthusiasm, plus a rise in the number of banks offering Visa cards, coincided with a revolution in technology that allowed card marketers to offer more services than they had in the past.