The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Monday, March 4, 2024

Navan’s Unified Travel and Expense Management Solution Maximizes Control and Rewards Savings

Navan Unifies Corporate Travel And Expense Management
Mike Senecal

Written by: Mike Senecal

Mike Senecal
Mike Senecal

Mike Senecal draws on more than 20 years of editorial experience to update CardRates.com readers on industry trends, business news, and best practices in budgeting and credit use. Mike has worked for decades in academic and trade publishing, including roles as managing editor and technical editor at the University of Florida and as contributor to finance industry publications, including Surety Bond Quarterly and Independent Agent, among others. Mike holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of South Carolina, and he enjoys bringing his years of academic and industry expertise online to help consumers of diverse financial backgrounds.

See full bio »

Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro
Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience to the CardRates team. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Florida. Today, Lillian edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

See full bio »

Our experts and industry insiders blog the latest news, studies and current events from inside the credit card industry. Our articles follow strict editorial guidelines.

In a Nutshell: Navan started as a corporate travel solution combining the comprehensiveness and user-friendliness of personal booking platforms with enterprise-level policies, compliance, risk management, AI/ML for predictivity, and rewards. But it hasn’t rested on its laurels. Today’s Navan incorporates payments to simplify expense management and reconciliations, credit underwriting and cards through fintech partnerships, and card network partnerships for end-to-end expense management. Corporates of all sizes use the unified Navan platform to run their entire travel and expense system on autopilot.

When employees travel and spend company money, businesses of all sizes need controls to direct and account for it strategically, remove barriers to efficiency, and provide a user-friendly experience.

Unfortunately, most corporate travel and expense management solutions are piecemeal, locked into legacy technology, and inefficient because different parts of the solution don’t talk to one another.

They contrast significantly with modern integrated solutions for personal travel, which leverage the latest technology, including AI/ML, to predict, channel, and manage user intentions with minimal friction.

The result is time, money, and opportunity lost, with employee and back-office frustration the norm rather than the exception. Owners and managers want employees to do what they need to actualize goals, but that can’t happen when platforms get in the way.

Navan logo

That’s why Navan (formerly TripActions) has taken a leadership position in the corporate travel and expense space since its start in 2015. By growing and evolving to encompass all aspects of employee spend, Navan streamlines systems, generates higher-quality insights for better management, and provides an experience on par with the elites in the personal travel space.

Michael Sindicich, EVP, GM Navan Expense, said that’s due to Navan staying true to its mission to make corporate travel easier and better for companies.

“Clients can run their entire travel and expense system on autopilot with real-time visibility, leveraging card and calendar data,” Sindicich said. “The result is a delightful, really easy-to-use solution for corporates at all levels.”

The platform also invites adoption by allowing employees to blend corporate and personal travel. It pays rewards employees can redeem toward personal trips when they choose lower-cost corporate options.

“We find it dramatically reduces company spend because it gets the employee to think more cost-consciously,” Sindicich said.

Real-Time Visibility Enables Dynamic Reconciliations

The way to understand Navan is by understanding its evolution as a story of unification. The first goal in 2015 was to combine the travel agency function with a tech platform incorporating policies and compliance, duty of care, and consideration of user behavior and needs.

“In accordance with company policy, we understand your loyalty clubs, what you like to book, what your coworkers are booking, and where they’re staying,” Sindicich said. “We’ve leveraged AI/ML since the beginning to predict what you’re going to book when you do a search, and our users are more than 80% likely to choose one of the first three options we present.”

Navan integrates all inventory sources, pulling from the global distribution system (GDS), prominent travel booking sites like Booking.com, and airline and hotel chains. Keeping the data, the travelers, and travel administration on the same page is robust in-house support, including a popular chat function.

Michael Sindicich
Michael Sindicich is EVP, GM Navan Expense, at Navan.

Incorporating payments was the first step in building a comprehensive expense management solution. Payment processing allowed Navan to supersede the awkwardness of using ghost cards to book travel and asking the finance team to struggle with after-the-fact reconciliations.

Or companies needed to ask travelers to book with their personal cards, which suboptimally took the reconciliation burden off the finance team and put it on the traveler.

The next giant step was to take on credit underwriting. Fintech partnerships enabled Navan to perfectly reconcile bookings through one-time-use virtual cards or physical cards, allowing extremely precise policy control.

Navan Connect is the latest and greatest iteration of that approach because it connects external corporate and personal cards directly to the platform. Navan Connect links with the major card networks to let businesses access Navan’s travel and expense solution while retaining the benefits of their existing bank and corporate card partner. The technology powers Navan’s complete travel and expense system for Citi Commercial Bank cardholders, which rolled out in October 2023.

“No matter how you connect, you get the same level of notification, real-time visibility, and policy application anytime an employee swipes a card,” Sindicich said.

Flexible Rewards Drive Adoption and Cost-Consciousness

Rewards have been baked into the system from the beginning, but as of 2023, the company fully funds 100% of rewards, meaning customers no longer pay for a portion of the benefit. Employees can earn up to $100 in rewards.

When it comes to corporate, employees usually don’t treat company money as personal money. Although tight policy enforcement is one way to drive productive spending behavior, Navan pays employees to choose cheaper options. They can redeem Navan rewards for Amazon gift cards or personal travel.

When employees search for stays on Navan, the platform dynamically returns searches matched with corporate travel policy. Employees who save the company money by booking below the target price receive 20% of the savings.

Navan features
Navan handles all aspects of travel and expense management for users and admins.

“I’m going to New York on my personal dollar, I might do everything I can to match experience with savings,” Sindicich said. “Choosing the cheaper option saves the company quite a lot of money on top of already having policies and controls in place.”

Extensive double-dipping is also possible because the system connects with all sorts of cards and accounts. Hotel loyalty members can apply rewards for points. Employees can use personal cards and reap the rewards. Even travel managers and executive assistants can earn rewards when booking for others.

Furthermore, Navan sees rewards as driving platform adoption. Employees sometimes prefer to book travel through personal sites because the corporate site their managers compel them to work with doesn’t do the job.

With Navan, they have a vested interest in meshing with the platform and saving through rewards while boosting corporate efficiencies. It’s a multiple-win situation, with Navan reporting that some companies experience up to 15% travel cost savings and 19% higher adoption rates.

“Imagine if you’re a CFO or travel manager and half your employees don’t book on the tool because they find cheaper rates outside or don’t like the technology experience,” Sindicich said. “We’re paying you to save the company money, so there’s no reason not to use it.”

A Scalable Platform That Grows With Customers

The feature-rich Navan platform has broad adoption in the enterprise space, with Fortune 500 companies, including Netflix, Thomson Reuters, and Heineken, among its customers.

Global enterprises count on Navan to help them maximize efficiency and minimize costs through negotiated discounted rates, dynamic policy controls, and productivity features, including rewards. Out-of-policy spending can’t happen when Navan controls corporate cards. Predictivity and comprehensive customer support make the experience of using Navan a pleasure for everyone involved.

But Navan works seamlessly for small businesses and startups just as well as for enterprise-level firms and counts thousands of companies as customers. Streamlined travel and automated expense solutions are only a few clicks away for small companies, which can sign up on the Navan website and immediately create policies and manage your travel and expenses without spending a dime.

“We don’t have a segment that we don’t work with — we’re flexible and can scale based on your growth,” Sindicich said. “We’ve seen this with many of our customers, including companies like Zoom, Lyft, and Rivian, which were small when they signed on and have grown with us.”

No matter their priorities, spending extra money and time on travel and expense management is never among them. Businesses choose Navan to achieve greater control of expenses.

Proactive controls mean every employee can have a card. Some may have access only when they’re traveling. Others may have a broader policy, but spending always happens in-house for real-time visibility and control. With Navan, the days of painstakingly reviewing reports and matching arcane vendor terminology to expense line items are past.

“Our head of product sometimes describes the results as working like the screen in a Tesla — that screen is there for the person in the driver’s seat to ensure the system knows what’s happening around them,” Sindicich said. “That’s what we give our users. There’s never been an all-in-one travel and expense system like ours.”