To mark the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first corporate credit card in the UK, Barclaycard has released the findings of a survey that highlight shifts in travel and client entertainment expense habits over the decades.

Potentially thanks to changes in expense processes, such as the introduction of corporate cards, business travel claims have shifted dramatically. In the 1980s and 90s, nearly half of employees claimed for hotel accommodation in each decade. Today, only a quarter expense hotel stays.

The same goes for air fare, which hit its peak in the 1990s and 2000s, when 19 per cent of respondents claimed for airline bookings. This is compared to 12 per cent in 2018.

Offering a possible explanation for the change, survey respondents cited a number of noticeable advancements transforming travel expenses over the decades. Thirty-six per cent said the process is becoming more formal, while the number of items eligible for business expenses is narrowing (32 per cent. The introduction of the corporate card (14 per cent) and the disappearance of petty cash drawers for small purchases (11 per cent) were also highlighted in the study.

Self-service expense management has also become more prevalent. One in five respondents said that 50 years ago, the office personal assistant processed their expenses for them. Today, the same is true for only 17 per cent of the workforce.

Technological advancements can also explain a drop in claims for taxis hailed on the street – 22 per cent of employees filed these expenses from the 1980s to the 2000s, compared to 14 per cent in 2018. On the other hand, pre-booked taxis are growing in popularity, with 15 per cent of expenses in 2018 covering this area compared to 8 per cent in the 1960s.

The heyday of client entertainment appears to be over, as only 10 per cent of respondents saying they often claim dinner with a customer on their expenses – less than half the proportion of employees who did so in the 1960s (34 per cent).

Only 7 per cent of employees submit expense claims for a clients’ drinks these days, but 27 per cent did so in the 1980s.

The expectations of travellers have also changed with the introduction of expense management technology. One in ten retired workers said the expense process had become more digital over the course of their career. Today’s employees said their ideal system would include an app that can both help them pay for business purchases and automatically complete the necessary fields for claims (30 per cent). Twenty-six per cent said they would like to use a scanner that takes pictures of their receipts to automatically complete their paperwork.

Marc Pettican, managing director of Barclaycard Commercial Payments, commented: “Business spending has changed dramatically since Barclaycard introduced the first corporate credit card back in 1968. This was a major moment in the development of UK companies and how they managed because suddenly an entire generation of workers gained more flexibility in their day-to-day working lives.

“Fast forward 50 years and companies have become more complex and diverse, with very different needs. This is reflected in the range of expenses and the methods of claiming them that were popular then and now. Building on our rich heritage of payments innovation, we will continue to support businesses by introducing new methods of commercial payments, such as with virtual cards, to ensure they’re fit-for-purpose for another five decades.”

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