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Purchase Cards: Streamlining Expense Management in Independent Filmmaking

Original publish date: February 28, 2024

In the dynamic world of independent filmmaking, managing production expenses efficiently is paramount to the success of any project. Recognizing the challenges posed by the conventional use of cash on sets, Media Services offers a valuable solution: purchase cards.

These reloadable debit cards serve as a strategic financial tool, providing production crews with limited cash access, streamlining accounting processes, and ultimately contributing to a more organized and transparent financial workflow. This service not only simplifies payroll procedures but also enhances financial control for independent filmmakers and producers alike. 

Someone handing a vendor their purchase card to complete a purchase for production.

What are purchase cards and how are they used? 

A purchase card, commonly known as a “P-card” or procurement card, is a specialized company credit card issued to employees, granting them the authority to make essential business-related purchases.

These cards prove particularly advantageous in situations involving numerous low-value, high-volume transactions, a common occurrence in fields like film production. P-cards find practical application in various aspects of film production, including small purchases that are too minor for the conventional purchase order process, location-related expenses like permits and fees, travel and accommodation bookings for crew and cast, procurement of meals or catering services, and addressing unforeseen needs such as equipment repair or replacement.

The utilization of purchase cards contributes to cost efficiency by reducing the reliance on invoices and facilitating real-time spend tracking. This method not only saves time compared to traditional purchase orders but also enhances cash flow management by consolidating multiple transactions into a single payment.

Additionally, P-cards offer improved spending visibility and control through advanced tracking and reporting capabilities, ultimately aiding in more effective monitoring and management of expenses. 

What are the benefits of P-cards? 

The benefits of a P-card are multifaceted and contribute to streamlined production. One key advantage lies in the efficient reconciliation process facilitated by the integration of P-cards with accounting systems, minimizing errors and ensuring a smooth financial workflow.

Moreover, P-cards enhance employee efficiency by enabling quick and necessary purchases without the delays associated with lengthy approval processes, ultimately saving time and boosting overall productivity.

The advanced tracking and reporting capabilities of purchase cards provide productions with greater expense oversight, offering valuable insights into expenditure patterns and identifying potential areas for cost reduction. This heightened spending transparency empowers production to make well-informed, rapid decisions based on up-to-date transaction data.

Additionally, P-cards contribute to improved vendor relationships by ensuring timely payments, which, in turn, can lead to more favorable terms. The faster payment process, eliminating the wait for mailed checks, not only benefits cash flow but also strengthens a production’s rapport with vendors through accurate and prompt transaction execution. 

What are some security features and controls? 

P-cards come equipped with robust security features and controls to safeguard against unauthorized or suspicious activities. Administrators have the flexibility to set customizable spend limits on each card, tailoring them to the cardholder’s role, departmental budget, or specific procurement needs. These limits, whether applied per transaction, per day, or per month, provide productions with a higher level of control over fund allocation, especially beneficial in managing high-volume, low-value transactions.

Real-time transaction tracking serves as a proactive measure against unauthorized or suspicious activity, with immediate notifications upon any transaction. The integration of P-card information into accounting software like MediaWeb and budgeting software like Showbiz Budgeting 10 ensures that real-time data is available, allowing producers and production accountants to monitor spending patterns effectively and promptly identify any anomalies.

Furthermore, purchase cards integrate with accounting and budgeting software, supporting automated invoicing and reconciliation processes. This integration streamlines expense management, with transactions automatically captured and categorized, reducing the risk of errors.

The internal controls of P-cards can be strengthened by restricting transactions based on merchant category, amount, or frequency, thereby minimizing the risk of fraudulent activities and unauthorized purchases. 

What are the challenges of using Purchase cards? 

The utilization of P-cards presents a set of challenges and considerations that productions must carefully navigate. Initially, purchase cards may seem unfamiliar compared to traditional cash transactions, requiring a comprehensive training program to overcome this hurdle and promote adoption.

Transitioning to P-cards necessitates a shift in financial processes and organizational culture, requiring planning and communication for a seamless transition. Enhanced security measures, including encryption and secure networks, are imperative due to the digital nature of transactions, mitigating the risk of fraudulent use or misuse by employees.

Implementing advanced monitoring and fraud detection systems is crucial for real-time identification of suspicious activities.

To address these challenges, best practices such as regular audits, expense reviews, and ongoing training are essential. Fostering crew collaboration is crucial, as is the continuous pursuit of improvements through internal audits and data analysis to optimize usage and identify potential savings opportunities. 

We’re here to help 

The implementation of purchase cards in independent filmmaking is a pivotal step towards financial efficiency and accountability. By limiting cash usage, these reloadable debit cards simplify accounting processes, providing a seamless solution for production crews.

Providing this service with payroll underscores Media Services’ commitment to supporting independent filmmakers and reflects a strategic move towards fostering transparency and control in managing production expenses.

As the filmmaking landscape continues to evolve, purchase cards are a valuable tool, contributing to the success and financial well-being of independent filmmakers and producers. 


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