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Over recent years the travel industry has seen increased instances of fraudulent activity and cyber-attacks, largely due to the vast number of transactions conducted online between clients, agencies, and suppliers in many different countries.

In 2015, global online travel sales reached over $530 billion, and that is expected to surpass $760 billion by 2019. This equates to a huge amount of money being transferred on a daily basis, as well as sensitive personal data being sent across the internet which could be leaving buyers vulnerable to theft.

However, there are ways that businesses can help protect their data (and their money) from potential hackers and one which is proving to be becoming more popular is the use of virtual account numbers, or VANs.

What are VANs, and why should I use them?

Virtual account numbers are essentially a single-use Mastercard number. This means that they can be used for a transaction and then expire straight afterwards, making them incredibly secure for one-off payments.

The security benefits of VANs mean that the vast majority of users are B2B customers, and of this an awful lot of them are in the travel industry. Whether that is Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), suppliers, or tour operators they can all make secure payments via VANs to add another level of integrity to their own security processes.

As well as basic security controls like the single-use expiry, VANs can help protect companies from a number of things including ransomware, fraud, and even supplier default. Given the benefits to improved security, and the growing cost of attacks such as ransomware, it is no wonder that companies in the travel industry are trying to find more secure payment methods and with the uptake of VANs increasing this is definitely something to watch out for in the future.

Any other benefits?

VANs aren’t just making transactions safer, they are actually simplifying B2B payments as well. An example of the payment process with VANs would be a travel agent funding the Pay-in account, making a travel booking and requests a VAN, the VAN pays the supplier based on the booking, and the data is then sent back to the travel booking system.

The travel agency, in particular, has a wealth of payment systems but not all of them work with booking platforms which makes the payments inefficient. VANs, on the other hand, work wherever a supplier or travel agency accepts Mastercard online and can be used in over 30 currencies. This then makes them a more accessible option for many travel companies as well as simplifying the whole payment process. It also means that they are open to more people, with many VANs suppliers operating across the world. This then opens up the payment option to a huge variety of OTAs and travel suppliers and, of course, their customers and partners meaning that more people have a new, more secure way of completing their transactions.

Here to stay?

VANs are gaining traction in the travel industry due to the security benefits they offer and their ability to be used wherever Mastercard and Visa is accepted. As they continue to develop, we may see other major credit card companies and indeed industries picking them up to offer their partners a new payment option. They do still have some drawbacks at the moment, particularly when it comes to refunds as the number expires after a transaction, but they are definitely going to be here for a while and we can only hope that they become even more accessible and secure as they develop further.