Payments solution firm Ixaris is touting its virtual credit card technology which it says allows online travel agencies to avoid card charges when booking flights and combat fraud.
The system creates a new unique virtual credit card for each transaction and is being made available to agents either through a web browser with log-ins or a direct API link.
Ixaris said it only decided to offer the service on a business-to-business basis only after it found consumers already using its service were booking a lot of lowcost flights.
Most airlines levy a credit or debit card charge, often many times more than the actual cost of processing the payments, and get around regulations by saying the charge is voluntary.
They can only do this by offering a free payment option which they do by choosing the most obscure and least popular forms of payment card, like Visa Electron in Ryanair’s case, which most banks do not issue.
However, the Ixaris system can issue these types of cards automatically enabling online agencies to book as many flights as they wish while avoiding the charge. Currently the system is being trialled by Bravo Fly, an online travel agent covering southern Europe.
Alex Mifsud, chief executive of Mayfair-based Ixaris, said: “The reason we got involved in the travel industry is we discovered a lot of our customer were using us for lowcost flights.
“Our own ideas do not compare with the ideas we get from how our customers use us. It’s been a very successful strategy.”
Mifsud said online agencies using the system are able to better reconcile payments with actual orders because each has its own unique card attributed to a specific booking.
Due to the large volumes of transactions OTAs process consultants are routinely given access to credit cards with large limits of up to £30,000 to £40,000.
Mifsud said: “If an agent were to slip in a couple of holidays for friends you are not going to be any the wiser. There is a lack of control. We issue a card for every single order so the agent is associated with a unique card for a unique order.”
Another benefit of the Ixaris system, according to Mifsud, is that it can help with agents’ cash flow because the funds can be made available to the supplier on a ‘just in time’ basis.
This is currently being used by US golf specialist Nichlaus Travel allowing customers to book things like green fees and ancillary product as part of their package without tying funds up upfront.
“This could be really important for online companies that are working on commissions but are spending marketing funds now and not making their money until many months later,” said Mifsud.