The Request for Proposal Process
When your organization decides to move forward with the adoption of
a new card program or modification of an existing program the Request
for Proposal ("RFP") process is a likely first step.
the right card program begins with preparing a comprehensive RFP that
will enumerate the appropriate program features to ensure the best
solution for your organization's payment needs. Whether building a
program from the ground up or enhancing an existing program to
comprehensively cover your organizations changing needs, you must start
by outlining your organization's specific requirements. An important
part of any RFP is the inclusion of important questions that will
enhance the proposed solution. Asking the correct questions, and making
the right requests, will result in the best possible solutions being
submitted for your evaluation.
This document is designed as a
guide for individuals charged with managing the RFP process. Though it
covers many of the steps and elements necessary to ensure receiving the
best possible proposal, it is not all-inclusive and may contain
reference to certain program features that your organization may not
require. You should select those portions relevant to your company and
You should begin your RFP process by summarizing your organization's current state and needs pertaining to relevant card programs, payments and procurement requirements:
- Current state: A summary of your current
environment is helpful in generating a complete and appropriate
proposal, and helping providers understand your change management needs.
type: Specifically state the programs covered by the RFP (e.g.,
MultiCard (One Card), purchasing card, fleet card, travel and
entertainment card or any combination of programs).
The communication of objectives for the card program is one of the most critical components of your RFP. You should dedicate significant effort to describing your specific objectives and expectations for the card program. Issuers will be able to offer customized solutions to goals ranging from process improvement, data access and reporting, to global spending coordination. If you do not have a clear set of objectives, you may not be ready to complete the RFP process. You should work within your organization to develop a better understanding of your goals for the program. And, up-front research of other firm's experience with payment programs may help you understand the possibilities. MasterCard maintains current cases studies to assist you in your gaining a better understanding of what other leading organizations have done with card programs.
In this section, provide contact details, such
as who to contact for the RFP, phone number, e-mail, address, etc:
Once you have clearly stated your overall objective and have
outlined all of the procedural issues, provide as much detail as
possible for background. The respondents will tailor their proposals to
the details you provide.
- Outline the procedure for submitting the RFP
(e.g., where, when and how). Any special requirements should also be
noted (e.g., questions should be directed to a specific person or are
required by a particular point in time).
- Define the format the proposal should be deliver in (e.g., hard
copy or electronic, number of copies).
- Any special conditions to the process need to be detailed (e.g.,
site visits, etc.).
- Contract terms should be explained (contract duration, option for
additional years, conditions of termination).
Provide details on what you expect the program to cover:
for each program type, the historic, current and projected program
size, i.e., how many cards, number of transactions, dollar volume, and
average transaction size.
- Provide a detailed description of current card program policy and
the desired implementation timeframe, including the need for a pilot
program and additional timing considerations, such as phased or single
point card conversion requirements.
- Define any specific
transactions types not to be covered by the card program (capital
expenditure, fuel, travel, entertainment and purchases over a certain
amount) or any specific or unique transactions that will need to be
addressed by the new card program (e.g., Lower interchange rates for
high dollar amount purchases).
- Consider a MultiCard/
Integrated solution that can meet all of your payment needs (a
combination of purchasing, travel and/ or fleet products) in a single
Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your potential partners will be a critical element of your decision making process. Ask issuers to provide basic information on:
Requirements - Getting the best response means sharing the
appropriate information and asking the right questions. Ask for as much
detail as possible from your potential vendors.
- Financial condition
- Key personnel, including the leadership of the commercial card
organization and your direct contacts.
- Experience in the commercial card industry and in the specific
cards represented within the proposal
- Focus area or sub segment within the commercial card industry
- Position and differentiation within the commercial card industry
versus other issuers
- Ongoing commitment to the commercial card industry (e.g., product
innovation, system investment, trade association involvement)
- Organizational structure, including the position of the
card organization within its parent organization and the organizational
structure of the commercial card organization.
- Summary of why the respondent should be chosen over other service
- Ask for referrals, see if other customers in the same industry
satisfied with their Issuer. You should speak to at least 3 existing
commercial card customers.
Respondents may use different platforms for the operation and processing of your card program. Understanding the fundamental capabilities of the each issuer's platform will support your process of choosing a vendor. Issuers should be asked to detail their capabilities to support the following:
- Program hierarchy - Define your current/ expected hierarchy needs.
- Billing account and card account types - Define your requirements
relating to billing structure (e.g., where billing takes place in the
organization) and your card accounts (e.g., department cards, VIP
cards, white plastic)
- Cardholder and program administrator profiles
- Any additional platform requirement currently needed or planned
the future (e.g., ability to accept data from third party expense
Spending and Fraud Control
Overall, look for the respondents to outline what precautions and controls they support to minimize fraudulent card usage by internal and external parties and maintain the appropriate level of control on spending within the organization. The RFP respondents should detail their ability to support the following requirements:
- Set transaction controls/ limits for each cardholder. This
segment may address controls for:
- Maximum transaction size
- Number of transactions in a period (e.g., day, week, month)
- Transaction dollar volume in a period (e.g., day, week, month)
- Monthly credit limits
- Total balance (high credit limit)
Issuers could provide a list of merchant category codes and/or
summarized merchant category groups where restrictions could be applied
- Merchant ID
- Additional controls required
- Set group limits for card pools or organizations within the
program. The segment may address many of the variables that are listed
in the individual limitations section.
- Screen transaction activity for fraud patterns. If issuers fraud
screen transactions, they should explain the screening process. If not,
issuers should state if this capability is planned for future
implementation and, if so, when?
- Provide statistics on fraud associated with their card programs.
- Offer employee fraud insurance. If this is desired issuers should
provide details on any stipulations or fees associated with the
- Provide details on any other circumstances where a restriction
may be applied.
Electronic Card Program Management
Most service providers provide significant resources to their client organizations through electronic or Web-based card program management systems. Summarize your company's requirements (e.g., of expected users, ability to access the Internet, and security concerns.) or make them implicit in your RFP questions, to allow respondents to tailor their responses to your organization. Areas you may want to focus your questions around are:
- Systems and software - What type of technology are the issuers
proposing and how will it work with other systems?
- Costs - What costs are associated with the use of the issuer's
electronic card program management system?
and technology support - The systems offered will likely require user
service beyond what is provided by standard customer service. Issuers
should provide a description of their support offering, including hours
of operation, service level commitments and skills maintained by the
- Security - What are the issuer's
security protocols, including mechanisms in place to prevent fraudulent
use of the system by company employees and external parties?
given to administrators - Administrators will use these systems to
manage many of the day-to-day tasks associated with managing the card
program. The capability afforded to this user class will be critical to
the efficient operation of your program. Issuers should describe their
Program Administrator facing capabilities.
- Real time maintenance - Some internet reporting tools allow
Program Administrators to request:
- New commercial cards online.
- Maintenance: close existing accounts, increase or decrease
given to cardholders - Cardholders may be expected to use an issuer
supported application to access and process card transactions. Issuers
should describe relevant capabilities offered to this group.
continuity of service - Issuers should disclose their downtime
statistics for the past 3-12 months and any continuity of service
precautions they have taken or are planned to maintain maximum uptime.
capabilities required - The issuer can be asked to illustrate the
process of using their system, as well as any offline alternatives.
Capabilities may include:
- User account and profile administration
- G/L references or map spending with G/L codes - Issuers
- Setup and testing timeframe/ process
- Mapping process (e.g., dropdown menus, freeform mapping
fields, card based mapping)
- Ability to unmap/ remap transactions if necessary and
their quality control and issue resolution process
with core systems - If your organization requires your card program
systems to interface with core operational systems, issuers should
detail the process of interfacing with your existing software (e.g.,
ERP, expense management applications, accounting systems) and explain
how this would be achieved on an ongoing basis, including any available
options to complete this interface. (Describing your current setup and
needs will assist issuers in responding appropriately to this section)
- Support multiple languages - If necessary, the issuer may
support multiple languages.
system upgrades - Issuers should communicate how often upgrades are
released and describe the upgrade process (e.g., will an application
upgrade require the user to load any software on their PC or server?)
- Typically, reporting is one of the most critical features of any
electronic card program management system. Issuers should detail what
your organization gets in terms of reporting capabilities and
illustrate the process of report generation. Variables in reporting may
- Length of historical data available
- Report types
- Periods/ times when available
- Average time to generate/ compile reports
- Time between when a transaction is completed to when it
is available in the reporting system
- Report delivery mechanisms available (e.g., FTP, email)
- Security precautions - Including passwords, encryption,
and restricted access to information
to track and report on 1099/ 1057 (minority/ woman owned) transactions,
the accuracy of this information and solutions for processing
transactions reported without separate sales tax, 1099 status or
minority/ women owned businesses
- Ability to report on merchant Taxpayer Identification
- Ability to provide customized reports and the cost
associated with these offerings
- Additional data requirements - In addition to the electronic card
program management system, your organization may require direct data
transmissions. Issues you may need to address:
- Period - Issuers should state their ability to
generate periodic (e.g., daily, annually) files needed at particular
frequencies or points in the year.
- Format - Specific record
type requirements (e.g., Statement Billing Files, EDI 810, custom file)
should be defined for review by potential vendors.
- Data Type
- Specific file requirements (e.g., 1099, 1057) should be defined.
Respondents should be asked to detail their capabilities to provide
this data for relevant transactions.
- Process - Issuers
should be asked to detail the process of uploading transactional data
to your existing software (e.g., ERP, expense management applications,
accounting systems) and explain how this would be achieved on an
- Discrepancy/ transaction matching resolution
- Issuers should describe their process of reconciling discrepancies
within the systems which house card spending data (e.g., Expense
management vs. Issuer provided files.).
If your organization requires paper reports to supplement those available through electronic means, this section should describe you needs and request a description of issuer solutions.
should be able to provide information on their available paper reports
and options available to your organization if what is available does
not fully meet the requirements spelled out in the RFP.
- Ask for samples of all applicable reports and statements.
available software and its functionality with the goal of understanding
if your needs can be better served by an online reporting system.
To the extent that your organization uses standard or enhanced transaction data, the ability of the service providers to acquire various types of data will be a major factor in your assessment of card issuers.
Issuers should provide a summary of their capability to provide the following data types:
I, II, III - Refers to the point of sale data capture capability. Level
III is the highest level of capture, providing full line item
- 1099 - Provides the incorporation status
of the vendor organization. Organizations should ask how 1099 reports
are provided and how often they will receive the data.
- 1057 - Provides minority and woman owned status of the vendor
- Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN)
- Hotel folio data - Refers to the detail behind hotel charges.
This data is not typically passed by standard means.
itinerary data - Provides the city pair or other ticket itinerary
(e.g., NY Kennedy to CA Los Angeles) information associated with
airline travel. This data is not typically passed by standard means.
Corporate and Card Services
card services will address the servicing aspect of your card
program. This segment should allow you to understand each respondent's
service and support offering.
- Customer service - This group will be one of your primary contact
areas within the service provider.
- Hours of operation
- Servicing standards
- Channels of communication available (e.g., e-mail, Web
- Description of overall services, including dedicate and
service - The high-level organizational program coordinators and
corporate stakeholders will likely have a specific point of contact.
Issuers should describe the roll and responsibility of the person or
- Technical Support - Issuers should describe the
technical resources available to your organization, and any additional
fees associated with the use of this group.
- Respondent should define any additional support provided with the
and support - You will want to have a clear picture of your level of
coverage in five main areas. Issuers can be asked to discuss or
describe their offerings in:
- Post implementation review
- Ongoing support and administration
- Ongoing program improvement
- Key variables in training and support include:
- Number of individuals assigned to the organization and length
- Dedicated vs. shared resources
- Skill level of training/ support staff
- Training provided for cardholders, card administrators and
systems support staff?
- Training materials including manuals, materials and tools
- Ongoing support services provided
section of your RFP allows you to understand the relative cost of
each potential vendor. Issuers should be asked to provide a summary of
cost associated with the following:
- Annual cost of card
- Per transaction fee
- Costs of implementing a purchasing card program - pilot program
details, if applicable
- Training offered. Details on costs, materials, tools, etc. should
- Electronic delivery capability - statements, reports and costs
associated with this capability
- Reporting - standard vs. customized, paper vs. electronic
- Consulting -cost associated with necessary business or technical
consulting, including an estimation of services required
- Fraud protection - issuers should detail any cost associated with
fraud screening and/ or insurance
- IT software and hardware costs - including annual maintenance,
license, upgrade fees, installation and technical advice before and
after warranty period Cost of a unique card design and production
- Cost of a unique card design and production
- Cost of "one off" products (e.g., convenience checks, relocation
- Currency conversion costs for transactions completed
- Penalty costs for failure to achieve dollar thresholds on annual
- Costs associated with fewer cards issued with higher activity,
rather than more cards issues with lower dollar volumes and vice versa
- Any other fees/charges (taxes and government charges) not
previously mentioned that may apply to the card program
is critical to the development of a quality card program that you
understand who is getting billed and where the liability for unpaid
bills resides. If you do not already know how you want to configure the
billing and payment aspects of your card program, you should solicit
input from your potential service providers on what type of structure
would service your organization most effectively.
- Billing/ Payment options: choose one of the following for each of
your programs (every option in not available with all program types):
- Individual billing/ individual payment
- Individual billing/ payment and central reimbursement
- Central (corporate) billing/ central (corporate) payment
- Individual billing/ central payment
- Special purpose central accounts (e.g., Control Accounts,
Ghost Accounts, Diversion Accounts)
- General questions that may be asked:
- What billing cycles are available?
- How will your organization receive billing statements?
- What are payment terms?
- What are the billing terms? How are things like balances and
late fees calculated?
- What options are available for the company to make payment
(e.g., EDI, ACH, check)?
- Describe electronic bill payment and presentment
- Describe how delinquent balances on contingent corporate
liability T&E cards are handled.
- Does the issuer have the capability of billing multiple
units and receiving payment from those separate business units?
- How does your program handle credit checks for employee's
- What are your electronic options for cardholder applications,
checking cardholder balances, etc.
- Describe the procedures for employee delinquency on a
card with employee or joint and several liability. Is there a possible
impact to an employee's personal credit rating?
- What are the liabilities of the company and employees in the
event of fraud, abuse or loss of a card?
ensure appropriate coverage and minimized disruption of your
operation, provide potential vendors with a list of current vendors.
Respondents should provide merchant status on your current set of
vendors. In addition, responders offer a plan to address vendors that
are not currently supported by existing coverage.
If additional coverage information is required, issuers can be asked
to respond to the following:
- Describe your current merchant base, related
data capture capability and acceptance in the areas that are relevant
to your company's card program.
- Outline programs/plans to increase your merchant acceptance in
new or existing areas/markets.
fleet programs, issuers should be asked to provide details on their
ability to support fleet prompts and enhanced data capture/ transfer at
their merchant sites.
has become an established practice in the commercial card industry
to offer rebates on card transactions and/ or signing bonuses to large
corporate customers. Respondents should be asked to specify any rebates
or signing bonuses being offered in association with your card program.
Ask issuers to provide:
- Total expected payments
- Calculations that are being used to arrive at the stated figure
- Any factors that may increase or decrease the expected payment
Advanced Purchasing Capabilities
on the use of the card program within your organization, you may
require one of the following advanced capabilities:
- Internal purchasing capabilities - Does the issuer provide a
solution to allow account holders to use their accounts to purchase
from internal merchants
- Cross-border purchase solutions and global capabilities - Payment
and settlement service for large ticket, cross border transactions.
Offerings may support compliance and workflow functions with your card
- "One-off" offerings
- Convenience checks - Provide the ability to use checks that
settle against a card account
- Relocation/ declining balance cards - Issue cards with a
company amount of value
Tax Tracking and Recovery
your organization needs a solution for tax tracking and recovery,
your card program provider may be able to assist in providing a
solution. The card industry has provided solutions for the following
activities: (partially addressed in 'electronic program management -
Services/ capabilities required - Reporting')
- Domestic tax tracking and recovery
- European VAT tracking and recovery
- Fleet (gas) tax tracking and recovery
programs have become a general accepted feature in corporate
card programs. There are various offerings and options available on the
market today. Issuers typically support programs with or without these
features, if your organization requires an affinity program, it should
be explored in this section.
- Offerings - offerings range from airline miles to cash back on
- Accrual - points can accrue to cardholder or the corporation
your organization requires a customized card, issuers should be asked
about the following:
- Approval timeframe should be stated for a customized card (fully
customized) and hot-stamp card (slight customization - logo)
- Lead time for creation of custom card stock
- Costs associated with customized cards
issuers to provide a detailed picture of the proposed program
implementation. Issuers should be asked to provide:
- Complete description of their implementation process
- Description of the various implementation tasks for each party
- Detailed implementation timeline that meets the requirements laid
out in the RFP
To gain a deeper understanding of the issuer's terms, stipulations, policies and procedures, issuers should be asked to provide a representative contract(s) for the programs covered by your RFP.
Ask for three references from three organizations that are of similar size to your organization. Close with an open-ended statement asking for any further information the responder would deem important to include regarding their proposed card service.
The information you share and the questions you ask in the RFP process will provide you with an unparallel opportunity to compare competing offers from issuing banks, as well as insure your final choice is competitive with this best the market has to offer and is designed to meet the specific needs of your organization. Getting a detailed response to your Request for Proposal will mean you'll be able to make the most informed decision on the right vendor to provide service for your organization. The time spent in the beginning of the process will pay off in the end.