With the growing use of prepaid cards in the business travel arena, the big card companies are also marketing their payment solutions for meetings, conferences, and exhibitions.

Increasingly familiar are prepaid cards for infrequent travelers — MasterCard's Per-Diem Travel Card and Visa's TravelMoney Card are two examples. With MasterCard's product, companies can set spending limits and designate where the cards can be used, guaranteeing that attendees will use approved travel vendors. And the potential for meeting attendees is still being explored. Consider the benefits of a trackable card for lower-level training attendees who don't qualify for a corporate credit card.

The big issuers have also created cards tailored to corporate purchasing and project management. Both Visa's Commercial line and MasterCard's Project cards can be adapted to meeting planning uses, allowing all expenses to be charged to a specific client or budget.

MasterCard's Meeting Card can be loaded with the budget for a meeting, limiting expenditures to fit within the budget at the time of purchase. “This card is designed for paying the hotel bills, meeting planning costs, the caterers,” explains Steven Harrison, vice president of product development for MasterCard. “The card allows planners to pay the incidentals — florists, catering, entertainment — rather than waiting for all those individual invoices to come in, which can lead to bills arriving after the fiscal year has ended or the budget line has been closed out.” MasterCard and Visa also offer prepaid Payroll cards that can be used to pay temporary or contract employees.

American Express, on the other hand, has found that its clients aren't interested in prepaid cards for meeting expenses, mainly because they don't want to tie up the funds in advance, says Melissa Abernathy, spokeswoman for American Express corporate services. Instead, American Express' Meeting Card is a purchasing card that may have set limits, but is used to separate meeting planning expenses from other expenditures. American Express is also rolling out a new “defined-expense” card, which will have some of the advantages in tracking and controlling expenditures that a prepaid card might, but without committing the funds up front.