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The Federal Travel Regulations state that travelers have the right to choose their lodging as long as it is within agency policy. When the traveler is booking hotel accommodations using the E-Gov electronic travel system (ETS) and has an individually billed government travel card (IBA), the traveler has the option to select the hotel they want to stay in giving first consideration to FedRooms. However if the lodging is being charged to the Centrally Billed Account (CBA), the traveler may have to stay at an alternate hotel.
When lodging is being charged to a non-point of sale CBA, someone within the agency that is authorized to use the CBA would need to place a telephone call to the hotel and reserve a room. When calling to make a reservation, the only charges my agency allows to be placed on the CBA are for room and taxes. The amount of the room needs to be within the per diem rate for the location. There is always a possibility there will not be a room available within the per diem rate. Prior approval would be required to reserve a room at a higher rate. I had this happen to me while making reservations for a traveler that was traveling to Boston, MA. I contacted four different hotels before I could find an available room. All the hotels were sold out due to college graduations so the traveler did not get to stay at the hotel they preferred.
The Travel Management Center/Commercial Travel Office (TMC/CTO) is unable to make hotel accommodations that will be charged to the CBA through the ETS. They would also have to place a telephone call to the hotel to reserve a room. By not having the ability to make hotel reservations using the ETS or TMC/CTO, booking information such as real room-night data cannot be captured, which can influence rate negotiations.
Once the room has been reserved, the hotel will electronically mail (email) a confirmation notice to the email address provided by the agency. The hotel requires the agency to complete and return a third party credit card authorization form which is faxed or emailed to the agency. Types of information requested on the form by the hotel include the travelers’ name, arrival date, departure date, reservation/confirmation number, type of charge card (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Diners Club), charge card number, expiration date, cardholder’s name, billing address, and the type of charges being placed on the CBA. Some hotels require the person making the reservation to provide the hotel with a photo ID, either a valid driver’s license or government ID, a photocopy of the front and back of the charge card being used to make the reservation, and certify that the person signing the form will be personally responsible for damages to the hotel room during the traveler’s stay. Since the reservation is being made on behalf of a federal government traveler, damages or charges other than room and tax would fall on the responsibility of the traveler, not the agency. Typically when a traveler checks in at the front desk, they are required to give a personal credit card to cover other expenses.
If for some reason the traveler has to cancel the trip, the hotel must be contacted by telephone to cancel the reservation. Cancellation policy fluctuates depending on the hotel. If the reservation is not cancelled, a no-show fee is charged to the CBA. During the CBA reconciliation process, I have contacted hotels regarding no-show fees. If the hotel had other rooms available on the night in question, they will usually reverse the charges. However if the property was sold out, the charge is valid and the agency is liable to pay the amount of the no-show charge.
Due to security reasons, my agency prefers not to fax or email the back of the CBA charge card to the hotel. A non-point of sale charge card for my agency is issued in the name of the agency; it is not linked to an individual. A signature is not required on the back of the card. The signature of the authorizing individual on the third party hotel credit card authorization form will eliminate the need for a photocopy of the back of the CBA. Also, the reason for a non-point of sale card is to allow an agency the ability to have multiple travelers use the same charge card when it is required to carry out the agency’s mission. Non-point of sale cards can be compromised just as easily as a personal credit card so the less information provided, the safer the card remains.
By: Sue Burton
The contents of this message are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the Government or my agency.