Pacific Coachways Charter Services, Inc. has built its reputation for excellent service provided by exceptional drivers and equipment since its 1989 founding. Specializing in intrastate and interstate travel, including over-the-road tours as well as student- and church-group travel, its fleet of 25 has grown to include full- and mid-size motorcoaches, school buses and a mini-bus serving the Southern California region.
Out-of-state travel, often required for school and church activities, has traditionally required a significant amount of readily-available cash for drivers’ per-diem pay, said Pacific Coachways General Manager Michael Giddens.
“Cash per-diem pay presented several issues that we needed to fix,” he said. “We obviously don’t like keeping large amounts of cash on hand because of the security problems that presents. Excessive bank trips and the logistics of physically handing cash were significant reasons for our securing a new solution.”
Giddens began looking for that solution in 2012, but he had trouble finding a prepaid card which fit his exact specifications. One sticking point, he said, was ATM access. Some prepaid card companies offered the features he was looking for, but the associated fees were cost prohibitive.
“It was important to us that the driver be able to access cash, if they need it, as well as make payments with the card itself,” he said.
The Commerce Bank Prepaid Expense Card
In 2016, at a trade show for college business managers, Giddens found his desired solution. Commerce Bank, a fellow exhibitor, was promoting its Prepaid Expense Card for businesses, and Giddens arranged for a follow-up call to discuss the program.
“I was impressed by the program’s simplicity,” Giddens said. “Our drivers typically use it just like a Visa® credit card, with the bonus of having access to cash. Once we were trained on how to load and unload funds, and given access to the web portal, we were able to begin instantly transferring per-diem pay to our drivers.”
Commerce Bank, dually-headquartered in Kansas City and St. Louis, MO, is over 150 years old with approximately $28 billion in assets. The Commerce Bank Prepaid Expense Card is a reloadable, prepaid Visa® card which can be used to purchase goods and services and to access cash from a large nationwide network of ATMs. The program costs a monthly fee (per card) with no extra charges associated with loading or unloading funds.
“The card gives employers complete spending control,” said Darin Paoli, account manager, for Commerce Bank. “It simplifies purchasing for employees while providing complete transparency for employers.”
After a one-time program set-up fee, the cards are available in two tiers: $1 per card, per month, for over 100+ cards with a $500 total monthly load per card; or $3 per card, per month, for less than 100 cards or 100+ cards with less than a $500 total monthly load per card.
Once implemented, the program allowed Pacific Coachways to set spending limits; limit where cards can be used; monitor spending online; and allow cash access. Funding is available through automated clearing house (ACH) from any bank; unloading available through an online portal; and real-time funding available with a Commerce Bank line of credit.
“The card is perfect for any employee that needs to make purchases on behalf of his or her organization,” Paoli said. “It works especially well in the transportation, school and non-profit industries.”
Saving time and increasing security
“In the motorcoach industry, many operators struggle with per-diem pay and the costs associated with moving around so much cash,” Paoli said. “This program has been so successful that we’re now finding that many clients will sign up for their drivers and end up using it in lieu of credit cards for their front-office staff.”
Pacific Coachways drivers, Giddens said, have reacted positively to the card’s ease of use (accepted anywhere that accepts Visa cards) and reporting functionality. Drivers are alerted when they receive funds and every time a transaction occurs, and monthly statements allow them to review their transaction history.
After a simple implementation, Giddens said his company has found the program extremely valuable, both in time saved and worries removed.
“I’d say the biggest benefit is reduction in time management,” he said. “Previously, we had to list which trips were ongoing and how much money we were going to need for the coming weeks. Then we’d have to write a check, withdraw that money from the bank and finally distribute it manually. Now, our operations manager handles all the same processes, online, one day before each trip.”
Added security has been another key benefit, Giddens said. The company is secure in the knowledge that funds have been distributed to the right drivers, and drivers know that their money is in a secure account.
“We don’t have to worry about the cash,” he said. “We don’t have to worry about actually handing it to the driver and having them worried about finding it. We have verified documentation that they’ve received the funds onto the card, which provides a level of transparency that really can’t be argued with.”
Per diem made easy
Paoli said that, like many companies in the motorcoach industry, Commerce Bank truly understands the importance of taking pride in customer service.
“We treat motorcoach operators with the same care and commitment they show their passengers,” he said. “The same team is with an operator from implementation and training to post-implementation support and service. We are on a first-name basis with our customers. That’s really important and it sets the company and the product apart.”