July 13, 2021
Product update

Announcing merchant restrictions: first-of-its-kind ability to approve or block merchants on your card


Blocking bad merchants on your card is now as easy as blocking spam callers on your phone, thanks to Ramp’s launch of merchant-level controls. For the first time ever, you have complete control over how your employees use their corporate cards, down to the vendor level. 

Merchant restrictions give you the ability to define who employees can spend with, which vendors can be charged on what card, and how much they can charge. With merchant-specific cards, the threat of fraudulent charges from stolen or compromised cards is reduced to near zero. Merchant restrictions solve long-standing concerns for finance teams and finally give them the security and flexibility they need. 

"Blocking bad merchants on your card is now as easy as blocking spam callers on your phone"

Ramp is the first and only card company offering this level of granular control. Our goal is to develop the most secure and flexible corporate card for businesses. It comes from our belief that spend control belongs in the hands of cardholders. 

Businesses are leaking money from loose card controls

Corporate cards have become relatively secure in recent years with features like unique 16-digit virtual card numbers, category controls, and auto-locking ability. 

Yet when it comes to managing business spend, finance leaders are still fighting to plug several leaky buckets.

Do these internal issues sound familiar?  

  • Teams go over budget on things like T&E costs and advertising spend
  • Employees submit inflated expense reports or false reimbursement claims
  • Subscription creep spreads with purchases of redundant or unapproved tools  

Now pile on losses driven by all kinds of merchant abuse, large and small, such as:  

  • Charges from fraudsters who steal or intercept insecure card details
  • Excess charges from software trials. Often vendors auto-charge credit cards once the trial period is over, even if you have no intention of purchasing their product.  

These prevalent issues and others are why payment card fraud is expected to rise to $34.6B by 2022, according to The Nilson Report. No wonder finance leaders assume they have to give up the operational efficiency of modern tools like virtual cards to achieve better security, e.g. by sticking with cumbersome ACH payments

Yet given the technology that’s available today, businesses shouldn’t be forced to sacrifice efficiency for security. Inefficient AP/PO processes waste valuable time that can be spent on more strategic finance work. Finance tools like corporate cards and spend management software should be built to equip businesses with the highest levels of security and flexibility. 

Merchant restrictions give finance teams total control  

Ramp cards provide that perfect combination of security and flexibility, with our category controls, transaction limits, and auto-locking capabilities. With merchant restrictions layered on top, our cards now provide unparalleled security.

"With merchant restrictions layered on top, our cards now provide unparalleled security"

Merchant restrictions enable finance teams to: 

  • Block unapproved vendors from charging cards 
  • Restrict cards to one or more vendors
  • Allow specific vendors on top of other category controls

These 3 options may seem deceptively simple but they’re packed with incredibly powerful benefits. 

How merchant restrictions prevent internal finance issues

If you worry about employees using their corporate cards irresponsibly, lay your concerns to rest. Merchant restrictions allow you to issue cards to your employees with total confidence.

By creating a merchant-restricted virtual card for each vendor you work with, you can set spending caps to prevent budget overspend (or miscellaneous charges from the merchant). These limits can reset on a daily, monthly, or yearly basis for recurring charges like Facebook, Salesforce, and AWS.

For situations where you want employees to only use an approved set of vendors, like employee benefits and enterprise licensing agreements, issue cards that are restricted to a list of specific merchants. You can use Ramp’s card programs to generate these cards at scale.

As for T&E policies, now you can give employees cards that are restricted to approved categories and merchants. By moving away from personal reimbursements for employees, you'll improve your T&E management and reduce the risk of fabricated expense reports.

How merchant restrictions stop fraudulent charges 

Merchant-restricted cards also neutralize the risk of excess and fraudulent charges.

By issuing vendor cards with hard spending limits, you know the maximum amount a vendor can charge you in a given time period—no more surprises. For free software trials, create vendor cards that auto-lock before the trial completes, preventing auto-charges and SaaS creep. 

Dealing with a vendor who’s making you jump through hoops to cancel your account? Create a rule on your card that blocks charges from them. 

Best of all, with vendor cards, you can rest easy knowing that the card is highly unlikely to be misused by a fraudster even if its details are stolen. Merchant restrictions simply make the theft of Ramp cards much less economical, further driving down the chances of fraud—like you, fraudsters hate wasting their time! 

Streamline vendor payments and save time

Now that you’re able to control payments down to the merchant level, it’s time to get rid of clunky AP/PO processes impeding your team’s productivity. That's what job search platform WayUp did, according to its co-founder JJ Fliegelman: "We can create rules for vendors and specific categories that automate spend management. The more we can automate, the better, and that’s the power of Ramp."

"The more we can automate, the better, and that’s the power of Ramp"

Imagine using this setup with each of your vendors:

  1. Create an approval policy that specifies who needs to review card requests, based on the spend amount.
  2. When a team member requests a card, issue a virtual card that’s restricted to the vendor that the team member will be working with. No need to give vendors access to your bank details. 
  3. Ditch the vendor invoices. Set spend limits that align with your allotted budget and safely give the vendor permission to charge your card automatically.  
  4. Avoid processing delays. Go from a 3-5 business day wait with ACH payments to instantaneous transactions that net you 1.5% cashback. 
  5. Automate accounting reconciliation by creating rules that map transactions to your general ledger and chart of accounts. 

How much time would your team save by streamlining your operations? Many finance organizations have already migrated to virtual card payments to achieve greater efficiency. In fact, Juniper Research projects that virtual card usage will exceed $1 trillion in annual transaction volume by the end of 2022. So if you’ve been holding back from switching your vendor payments to virtual cards because of security concerns, it’s time to re-evaluate.  

Innovation that aligns with business interests

It’s worth asking why other card companies haven’t built the ability to restrict merchants for their cards. After all, we’ve had the ability to block spam calls since the 1960s. Why haven’t we been able to block charges from rogue merchants? 

The answer lies in card companies’ DNA. Most corporate cards are born from consumer credit card companies, who have a vested interest in supporting the merchants on their network. They’re naturally inclined to create points systems and other perks that incentivize spending rather than savings. 

In contrast, at Ramp, we’re focused on building a strong financial payment stack for businesses from the ground up, with the singular goal to help you reduce expenses. Our technology auto-maps merchant codes to categories and merchants, making it easy for you to specify which categories and merchants a card can be used for. 

It’s our hope that other card companies will start to offer features like merchant restrictions to their customers, for the sake of everyone’s security. It’s not just businesses that need this level of card security—consumers need it too. We predict that in time, security controls like merchant restrictions will make their way to the consumer world, where there’s very little financial protection currently.  

Get merchant restrictions with Ramp

You shouldn’t have to choose between security and flexibility for your fast-growing business. With the first-of-its-kind merchant restrictions, Ramp now offers the most secure corporate card for businesses. It is also one of the most flexible with our sophisticated set of controls and spend management platform. Give Ramp a try and level up your financial operations. 

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Geoff Charles
Head of Product, Ramp

Geoff has been building financial services for over 10 years, ranging from management consulting at Oliver Wyman to product development at LendUp, Nomis Solutions, and Mission Lane.

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