A Royal Bank of Scotland subsidiary is offering small businesses a MasterCard service that allows companies to monitor credit card usage at the point of purchase.
Citizens Financial Group, which operates a single Citizens Bank branch in Fairfield County at RBS’ big Stamford facility, said it is the first financial institution in the country to offer the technology to businesses. It plans to make it available beginning in the second quarter.
In addition to monitoring purchases, companies can set spending controls using the technology, including dollar limits, where they can make purchases and product categories allowed or barred. The system allows also for the creation of limited-use, virtual card numbers so that a worker does not learn the actual account number.
Customers can monitor accounts using an online dashboard and can also receive alerts via text messages and email if account limits are breached.
RBS also has a large credit card operation in Bridgeport that employs more than 600 people. Steve Wooters, the head of Citizens’ U.S. commercial cards services, said the company has yet to finalize fee terms when the card is launched in the second quarter.
“This is something our small-business customers have been telling us they need,” Wooters said.
MasterCard Inc. already offers its inControl service to its largest corporate clients and in January announced it was a major factor in its securing a major credit card contract with SunTrust Banks Inc., which previously had issued credit cards administered by Visa.
The Purchase, N.Y.-based company also offers the technology to families as a way to corral any out-of-control spending tendencies by teens and college students carrying plastic; Wooters said Citizens may follow suit on that front for its own customers.
MasterCard cites a 2008 study by Dove Consulting that indicates small businesses use credit and debit cards for fewer than 10 percent of payments, largely due to a reluctance to let employees have cards for business purchases, preferring to instead issue checks or reimburse employees for charges they rack up on their own cards.
MasterCard said its own previous research suggests that fully half of small businesses would issue credit cards to employees if able to fully control purchases – it is about to find out how accurate a forecast that is.
“This inaugural implementation of MasterCard inControl for small-business cardholders will enable business owners to have greater control and visibility over their card spending than ever before,” Michael Fiore, group head of inControl at MasterCard, said in a statement. “The innovative tools and services offered through the MasterCard inControl platform not only empower our business cardholders to feel more confident and in control over their employees’ spending, but help our card issuers drive customer loyalty and differentiate themselves from the competition.”