Companies that bill their meeting expenses to the American Express card and use the StarCite meeting spend-management tool heard some noteworthy news last month: The companies are integrating those products, allowing — among other things — planners to reconcile charges without rekeying them into the spend-management tool.

“It's been a long time coming,” says Michele Snock, CMM, global manager, meeting services at Cisco Systems, San Jose, Calif., who expects to see time savings and improved data accuracy with the new system.

Michael Boult, president and CEO of Philadelphia-based StarCite, says his company has 120 clients that use its spend-management tool, and 75 percent to 80 percent of them also use the American Express card for meetings. Cisco is one such client, and Snock looks forward to the time when her team isn't spending 30 to 45 minutes per meeting entering spend data by hand.

Boult cites five improvements that planners will see from the partnership.

  • Meeting charges will be aligned with budget categories, and planners will be able to drag and drop the actual charges into the spend-management tool. By the middle of next year, Boult expects the system to “auto-reconcile the charges. … So if the budgeted figure is within a certain tolerance of the actual figure, they'd be considered matched and move straight to payment,” he says. “It would only be the exceptions you'd be dealing with when reconciling the budget.”

  • Planners will be able to check charges posted on their American Express card before they're billed. That way, Boult says, planners can resolve disputes early.

  • Authorized planners will be able to apply for an Amex card within the StarCite system, which is helpful because many companies use a new card number for each meeting.

  • Preferred rates and special offers that planners get for using the Amex card will be integrated in StarCite's online Marketplace.

  • “Perhaps most important,” Boult says, “is the real reporting that's now going to be available. Actual, real, full, complete reporting.”

The first iteration of the StarCite/American Express product is expected in November. “Obviously, we've got a lot of hard work to do,” says Boult. “Lots of further product releases into next year, and then roll out into certain markets in Western Europe and Australia.”

The American Express/StarCite partnership follows a July announcement of a similar integration plan between Toronto-based Arcaneo's strategic meeting management technology, Metron, and Visa's commercial payment cards.