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Costly Corporate Credit Card Programs

Here's the graceful way to cancel them without hurting morale.

For most road warriors, racking up points on corporately issued credit cards while travelling on business seems like the bonus for being pulled away from family and enduring security lines and germ-infested airplanes. Indeed, a year of regular travel can garner a flight to Disney for the family or a gift to the in-laws of a flight home for Christmas.

But for employers, these programs can be expensive. There is a general maintenance fee, and corporations are also charged when points are redeemed.

Initially when setting up a corporate card program, many corporations may welcome a rewards program as a way to soften the blow of forcing travellers away from their own cards to the company card. But in tough times when corporate travel managers are forced to look in every nook and cranny for possible savings, cancelling these points programs may seem like an obvious way to save money.

The whole issue of taking away points programs has proven to be a touchy subject as we set about researching this topic. The signs? Nobody, and we mean nobody, wanted to talk about it. And the sources who would share their thoughts did not want to be named.

“There is still a strong focus in business to reduce costs and it is a perfect time to do such things,” said one corporate travel manager who asked to remain nameless. “We get less push back since employees are just concerned about keeping their jobs. Also since travel and entertainment spend has been reduced, these types of programs don’t look so lucrative since the employees don’t have the same level of spend on their cards.”

Another source agreed that with a little information, most employees will accept this move as a sign of the times. “Most employees are not aware that even though they pay a small fee to collect points, it does cost the company money in the back end every time a redemption is made. This cost can be significant depending on the number of employees who take advantage of collecting points. After the last year we have been through I think employees understand the need to drive out costs where possible and I think they would rather see these types of perks go versus someone losing a job.”

However, it is possible to do so without hurting what may be an already waning morale. Here are a few best practices:

Be Honest. Be upfront about the potential savings to the company if the points program is folded. Employees want to be savvy consumers as well, and having this knowledge could curb any resentment from a perceived loss of benefit.

Share the Data. If few points are actually being redeemed by business travellers, show them the data to prove it, which will help them understand that the company is paying out to the corporate credit card company for little benefit on the employee side.

Tout the Positive. Be sure to remind business travellers that they are still able to collect points on their Aeroplan or Air Miles cards during the travel they do for business.

Five best practices when revealing not-so-fun information to employees.
New Westminster, B.C.-based communications consultant Deborah Folka, principal consultant at DLF Communications, says when there's bad news to communicate, do so like you would take off a bandage: swiftly and completely. “How you and your business cope in tough times is a reflection of true character,” says Folka. “How you communicate during those tough times reflects your values.”

Here are Folka's top tips for giving bad news gracefully to your workers:

1. Plan ahead. When you know you're going to make an unpleasing announcement, carefully craft your key messages and potential question-and-answer scenarios, says Folka. “Do a brainstorming session with your senior management and role-play how you will handle things as they unfold.”

2. Fully inform management. Once the news has broken, employees need to be able to go to their direct managers with questions—and those managers need to have enough information to give confident and informed answers. 

3. In person, if possible. “This will give employees the chance to ask questions and gives you a chance to give human expression to the news,” says Folka. “To paraphrase Maya Angelou: long after people have forgotten what you said, they remember how you made them feel.”

4. Make it available in written form. “People need something to refer to after hearing verbal information,” says Folka. She suggests posting news and information surrounding the decision on the company website or intranet.

By Janet White Bardwell

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