Executive Summary: Purchasing Card Best Practices

10 July 2015

The NAPCP’s May 2015 report, “Purchasing Card Best Practices: The Key Elements of Building a WorldClass
Program,” is the fourth edition of this popular title. Past editions were published in 2000, 2006 and

This report focuses on the steps needed to build a strong Purchasing Card program, from the early stages
of program exploration and design, to the later stages of program optimization and expansion. Below, you
can see an abbreviated look at the process of creating a world-class P-Card program.

Program Exploration

Before a P-Card program can get off the ground, time should be spent examining the need for a program
and creating the necessary framework for it to succeed. This phase includes creating a cross-functional
team, with members from departments such as purchasing, accounts payable and more. The team would
research the various opportunities available in the market (ePayables, One Cards, etc.), develop a
business case for program implementation, and obtain management support for the program.

Program Design
After the exploration phase, the next step is to design the program. During this phase, it is important to
assign program ownership and oversight. The P-Card manager (or managers) can then work on creating
goals and objectives, drafting policies and procedures, and designing an effective control environment.
This is also the time to identify targeted transactions and suppliers for the P-Card program.

Program Partnership
This is where a request-for-proposal (RFP) is made. The P-Card team should write a comprehensive RFP
that conveys the applicable design elements and program requirements. Demonstrate to bidding card
issuers your organization’s P-Card status and potential by sharing where P-Cards fit within the
organization’s payment strategy. Selecting the appropriate issuer is vital, so ample time should be spent to
review proposals, narrow the pool of candidates, conduct meetings with potential issuers and finalize your

Program Consulting 
After a card issuer is selected, it’s time to get the program ready for launch. This phase can include refining
the program model initiated pre-RFP, establishing a mandatory training program, and communicating
program details to both internal audiences as well as outside suppliers.

Program Implementation
It’s time to get the program off the ground. A pilot program of around three months in length is advised, as
this will provide an opportunity to evaluate the benefits of the P-Card, test procedures, uncover issues and
refine the model. Full program deployment follows the pilot.

Program Management
Once the program is off and running, it’s important to provide ongoing management and oversight.
Necessary resources—namely, staff—should be allocated to keep the program churning along. The
relationship with the card issuer should continue to evolve, and periodic meetings should be scheduled to
keep communication open. This is also a time to improve upon existing supplier relationships and to seek
out additional suppliers for card acceptance.

Program Expansion and Optimization
Beyond program implementation, an organization should strive for efficient program management and
pursue optimization tactics that lead to greater rewards. When the infrastructure is sound, program
expansion is also a natural progression. Metrics play a key role here, as program managers should be
analyzing data in relation to the goals and objectives laid out earlier. Program managers would also be
wise to consider career development opportunities through organizations like the NAPCP, such as the
Certified Purchasing Card Professional (CPCP) Credential, to further set themselves and their programs


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