Payment Methods

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E-Travel Price Resistance

»Posted by on Feb 4, 2015 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

When e-travel first came to our agency, some of the strongest resistance came from this new database cost transparency; all the different fees were a significant point of stakeholder resistance and later an indicator of evolving cultural change.  Price sensitivity has been changing as people become more accustomed to e-travel. As E-travel came on line, some of the most vocal complaints that we heard from the program offices and individual travelers involved the sudden “appearance” of fees for booking online or going through an agent.  The fee schedule was confusing and could be complex.  Many claimed that they had never had to pay the fees before (they had, but often they were considered part of the ticket price), and there were a lot of complaints about...

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Government Travel Program: An Active Duty Perspective

»Posted by on Feb 3, 2015 in Electronic Travel Systems, History and Overview, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The history of the Government Travel Program from the active duty perspective is long and varied.  Knowing the history of where Department of Defense travel has been makes it easier to understand the changes being made now and the path to the future. When one examines travel from the active duty perspective you can see there are two major periods that have impacted travel payment processing: the pre and post Government Travel Credit Card era, and the pre and post Defense Travel System (DTS). Before the advent of the government travel credit card most Temporary Duty (TDY) travel was limited to a small cadre of individuals.  Service members often could not afford the added expense of traveling without an advance payment.  Travel advances created a series of...

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CRS, GDS & the E Gov Travel System

»Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Airlines, Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

In the 1950s the airlines began using computers to keep track of reservations and the seats available on their flights. By the 1970s airlines such as United Airlines, American and TWA began to install computerized systems in travel agencies. These systems were the first airline computer reservation systems and allowed travel agencies to obtain information and make reservations for several airlines. A computer reservation system (CRS) is a computerized system designed to create and maintain a database concerning reservations and links distributors and suppliers to a centralized storehouse of information for the primary purpose of making reservations. In the beginning, CRS’ were used to make airline reservations only. By the late 1970s airlines were installing...

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Understanding Accounting

»Posted by on Jan 28, 2015 in Hotels, Industry Postings, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Billing is often the final step of the transactional process wherein vendors have the opportunity to frustrate, or even infuriate, the client. In the case of hotels, a traveler who made a reservation, checked in, stayed at a hotel without issue, and enjoyed a smooth checkout process is not entirely free of potential problems until the bill has been paid. To assist with the reconciliation process for Individually Billed Accounts (IBA), Centrally Billed Accounts (CBA), and Direct Billed Accounts, some elementary materials communicating a base-level expectation of the kind of billing and terms vendors should expect could prove useful. Particularly in heavily franchised industries, the dissemination of rudimentary information explaining proper invoicing could prove...

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PER DIEM

»Posted by on Jan 21, 2015 in Hotels, Industry Postings, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The General Service Administration (GSA) establishes per diem rates for the continental US, which are referred to as CONUS. The Department of State establishes rates outside the continental US, which are OCONUS. These are generally referred to as foreign. Per Diem rates are reviewed on an annual basis. A government traveler is eligible for per diem when they perform official travel away from their official duty station. The traveler must be in a travel status for more than 12 hours in order to be entitled to per diem. Lodging, meals, and incidental expenses make up the per diem allowance of a government traveler. The allowance is an amount that is allowed for each day. The travelers Temporary Duty (TDY) location determines the maximum per diem reimbursement...

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Premium Class Travel

»Posted by on Jan 16, 2015 in Contracting for Travel Services, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Recently, I heard a Government manager say, “Perception is reality”. Nothing could be truer when it comes to Government travel.  As public servants, we are traveling on the public’s dime, so to speak.  We must remain cognizant of this at all times.  Even the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) brings this point home in §301-2.3: “You must exercise the same care in incurring expenses that a prudent person would exercise if traveling on personal business.” One of the areas where this is extremely important is premium class travel. Premium class includes both business class and first class.  It is best described as any class other then coach class for air travel and any class other than the lowest class available on a train.  It is...

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SmartPay 2

»Posted by on Dec 31, 2014 in Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The current SmartPay program enables many Federal organizations to obtain purchase, travel, fleet, and integrated charge card products and services through what’s known as Master Contracts.  GSA has established these contracts with Citibank, Chase, Bank of America, US Bank, and Mellon Bank.  At the higher level, government agencies issue task orders against these existing contracts to obtain credit card products and services.  Due to the current existing contracts expiring in November 2008, the new credit card contracts, which are known as GSA SmartPay 2 were awarded during the summer of 2007. Within my office we offer and manage many different credit card programs for the many customers whom we provide travel services for.  Lately we have been heavily...

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TRX & Business Intelligence

»Posted by on Dec 30, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The contract with TRX to implement a Business Intelligence system is absolutely the logical next step. Even with ETS and DTS, the federal government still has too many vendors transmitting data to effectively track and manage their travel programs. Having a single consolidated data warehouse from which reports can be generated will provide the government the appropriate tool to manage travel. What was surprising to me about solicitation TFL06-RH-1040 was the vast scope and limited timeline of the project. The project requires that TRX establish data feeds with not only DTS and the three ETS vendors, but also with: multiple charge card vendors (presumably GE Capital, Chase, Citibank, US Bank) every government TMC/CTO (which I understand there are approximately...

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Government Individually Billed Travel Charge Card

»Posted by on Dec 28, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

The Government Travel Charge Card program is known as GSA SmartPay.  The GSA SmartPay program provides government charge cards to agencies throughout the United States government, through master contracts negotiated with major national banks.  In June 2007, the Office of Charge Card Management awarded the GSA SmartPay 2 master contracts to Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, and U.S. Bank.  Through these contracts, agencies can obtain a government individually billed travel charge card (IBT) as well as a number of different types of charge card services to support their mission needs. The Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) requires mandatory use of the government travel charge card by government travelers.  However,  each agency policy can mandate when an IBT should be...

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Developing Interface Requirements for an E-GOV Travel Application and Accounting System

»Posted by on Dec 19, 2014 in Electronic Travel Systems, Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

Many aspects surround developing an interface between an EGOV travel application and a financial system.  Understanding the type of documents the EGOV travel application produces and how the financial system handles each document type is very important.  Determining the vendors required for each transaction type is also essential in this assessment.  Accounting requirements of the financial system will also have a significant impact on the design of an interface.  The type of travel specific information passed to the accounting system is important and has great impact on the reporting capabilities of the financial system. The basic document types an EGOV travel application can produce include an authorization, a temporary duty voucher, a local voucher, and...

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OMB Circular A-123 and the Government Travel Card

»Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 in Government Traveler Comments, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued Circular A-123 that is used to define management responsibilities for internal financial controls in all Federal agencies.  Two of the items addressed in Appendix B of the circular directly relate to government travel credit cards.  The circular requires that agencies pay for Individually Billed Account (IBA) charges using a split travel disbursement and also requires that agencies perform a credit worthiness evaluation for all new travelers that receive a government credit card. Performance of a credit worthiness evaluation only applies to new card applicants and must be performed prior to issuing the card.  To meet this requirement our credit card provider obtains the credit score on all new...

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Transparency in Federal Travel

»Posted by on Dec 8, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

With the U.S. national deficit at its highest, Federal agencies are being tasked to reduce spending at all levels, including Federal travel budgets.  A presidential advisory team recommended a $400 million reduction in the Federal travel budget by 2015.  Federal travel spending is being more closely scrutinized by Congress, the media, and the general public than ever before.  The media and others are sponsoring websites such as junketsleuth.com in order to gather and present Government travel spend data to the public. With all of this attention focused on the Government’s travel spend, agencies are required by regulation to provide requesters with any information they may request (with a few exceptions) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or under...

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Central Contracting Registration

»Posted by on Dec 5, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Hotels, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

On October 1, 2003 in order for any supplier to be awarded federal government contract it became necessary to be registered on the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) Database.  When this directive was mandated, our national sales team took the initiative to educate our hotel community and assisted them in completing this registration process. Registration on the CCR needs to occur once per year to maintain an active status.  Because having an active CCR standing is now and “absolute” in terms of doing business with the federal government, we have consistently observed that more contracting officers, meeting planners, third parties and other business drivers are insisting on having this information upfront in the solicitation process. Recently, we have...

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ETS Receipt Management Tool

»Posted by on Dec 4, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Payment Methods | 0 comments

On September 22, 2006 the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) was amended to mandate the use of the Receipt Management tool within an Electronic Travel System (ETS).  Within the Per Diem section of the FTR a statement was added, which states that hard copy, receipts should be electronically scanned and submitted with your electronic travel claim when your agency has this capability available with the use of the ETS.  Additionally it is stated that Approving Officials are now required to review the attached electronic receipts during their review/approval process. At our agency, Travelers are responsible for making sure that their receipts are attached correctly and the attachment is legible.  All receipts for air, lodging, rental car, and any single expense greater...

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Benefits of Travel Charge Card Requirement

»Posted by on Nov 29, 2014 in Business Practices, Industry Postings, Payment Methods | 0 comments

On January 27, 1998, Public Law 105-264 mandated the use of a government furnished travel charge card and the implementations regulations were later published in the Federal Register, July 16, 1999. The FTR was effective May 1, 2000. In support of this activity, Public Law 105-264 mandated the reimbursement of travel expenses by agencies to its employees within 30 days. Not only have the government and its travelers benefited from this law, but the TMC/CTOs have benefited as well. The greatest benefit is that the TMC/CTO could process payments for travel services fees much more rapidly. This also speeds up the processing time for tickets and reservations of government employees if they are in a rush to have a ticket issued. The TMC/CTO receives the payment...

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The Final Frontier: SmartPay 1

»Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

Established in 1998, the GSA SmartPay program provides government agencies with commercial charge card procurement and payment solutions through “Master Contracts”.  The SmartPay 1 program expired on November 29, 2008.  The new program, SmartPay 2 (SP 2), will expire on November 29, 2018. During the transition, GSA was very visible.  The Office of Charge Card Management provided support to Agency/Organization Program Coordinators (AOPC).  They provided a copy of the new Master Contract timely enough to allow AOPCs to review the information.  They also provided tools to help with agencies’ selection process and transition.  A timeline detailed recommended activities to ensure agency transitions were completed.  Conference calls were routine as...

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Split Disbursements… The best Idea Ever!

»Posted by on Nov 13, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

Section 4.4.3 of OMB Circular A-123, Appendix B mandates split disbursement and salary offset for travel charge card holders.  However, agencies may request exemptions when they determine that the cost of implementing split disbursement and/or salary offset exceeds the benefits.  Agency heads must request such exemptions from the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in writing, and provide the reasons therein.  The Director of OMB, in consultation with the Administrator or General Services Administration (GSA), will respond no later than 30 days after receiving the request for waiver or exemption.  Due process requirements for salary offset are contained under section 4.4.4 of Chapter 4 OMB Circular A-123…” Split Disbursements is a...

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Payment Methods

»Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

There are four types of payment methods in the eGov Travel application.  The methods include;  Traveler, Gov-CC, CBA, and Direct.  Expenses that the travelers select have a pre-determined payment method selected in the eGov Travel application, but payment methods for expenses can be customized for each agency.  The standard expense assignment will be covered here. Expenses with payment method of Traveler are to be reimbursed directly to the traveler’s personal bank account.  The eGov Travel application assigns the following expenses to the method of reimbursement of Traveler: meals and incidental reimbursements, taxi expense, privately owned vehicle (POV) expense, and parking and/or toll expense. Expenses with payment method of Gov-CC are to be paid...

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Government Travel Charge Card Payment Problems

»Posted by on Nov 9, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

The payment of Government travel charge cards (IBAs) and the liability placed on individual travelers is an interesting topic.  At the agencies I have been a part of as a travel administrator, travelers who are expected to travel at least twice a year are either strongly encouraged or required to get a travel charge card.  When travelers apply for the travel charge card they do it with the understanding that they are liable to pay their statement each month.  Even if they have yet to receive reimbursement from the Government for their travel, travelers are required to make full payment or their travel charge card. I’ve seen this become a tense situation when several travelers were left without travel reimbursement for almost two months, despite their...

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GSA and States Need to Partner in Setting Per-diem Rates

»Posted by on Nov 9, 2014 in Hotels, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The 50 states across the United States all adopt some sort of a travel reimbursement program.   A majority of the states adopt the GSA per-diem rate as the benchmark to reimburse travelers.   There are some problems that States with this methodology.   Some properties will only honor the GSA per-diem rates for federal travelers.  The other problem is some properties will not honor per-diem rates at all due to the market being under valued. According to the GSA; getting a per-diem rate adjusted in a market that may be undervalued, can only be requested by a federal travel manager.   This provides a real problem for states that have markets where federal travelers do not travel too.  A prime example is along the Oregon coast.  One city along...

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SmartPay2 Charge Cards

»Posted by on Oct 26, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

Public Law 105-264, January 27, 1998 mandated the use of a government furnished travel charge card and the implementation regulations were published in the Federal Register July 16, 1999. SmartPay2 was implemented November 29, 2008 following a generation of several other vendors and cards.  My agency currently has JPChase Morgan as it’s vendor for our SmartPay2 cards. These cards are unique in that our agency has all hotels, rental car, and airfare, taxi, centrally billed on individual card holder’s cards.  This makes it easier for our card holders, and provides our agency with less delinquency rate than a lot of other agencies face. We also have the traditional centrally billed cards which we call corporate cards, which can be utilized for infrequent...

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Fees, Fees, Fees, – When Will They Stop

»Posted by on Oct 25, 2014 in Government Traveler Comments, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

Over the past ten years that I have been working in the travel arena, the one most common complaint I hear about from my travelers are fees. They complain that every time they turn around, another fee has been charged to their government charge card. But what about these fees, why do there appear to be so many fees on a travel voucher? Since TMC’s are no longer working on commission, they have to be paid somehow for their part in making travel arrangements, thus the fees begin. The TMC that my agency uses set there TMC fees into two categories, touched and non-touched transactions. Touched transactions are just what they sound like, reservations that need to be touched by a TMC agent before completed. Non-touched transactions are reservations that are made...

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Payment Methods

»Posted by on Oct 23, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

Our E-Gov Travel System (ETS) uses a variety of payment methods to reimburse the federal travelers.  Some of the payment methods that we use are: Individually Billed Accounts (IBA) Centrally Billed Accounts (CBA) Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) Direct Bill In 1998, a Public Law mandated the use of a government issued travel charge card.  Our travelers are issued IBA’s in accordance with the SmartPay 2 guidelines.  Each traveler uses their IBA for expenses such as airline, hotels, rental cars, etc.  The CBA is used when a traveler does not have an IBA.  Generally in these situations, the traveler is new to the agency and has not yet received their credit card. Other expenses that the traveler incurs are reimbursed via EFT directly to the...

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The Travel Card: Official Business or Personal Use

»Posted by on Oct 20, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

The DOD Travel Card Program provides federal government travelers a safe method to pay expenses associated with official travel.  In 2008, GSA awarded Citibank the contract for the Smart Pay 2. The Travel Card Program contains both the Individually Billed IBA and Centrally Billed Accounts (CBA). IBA’s are individual accounts managed by each traveler. CBA’s are managed by one person in an organization for several travelers. The program was mandated under the Travel and Transportation Reform of 1988.  This act basically states, “The travel card must be used in conjunction with official travel only”.  In order to receive standard travel card with a credit limit of $7,500 a traveler must have a credit score of 660.  Every traveler with a score below 660...

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Charge Card Fraud, Misuse, and Abuse

»Posted by on Oct 19, 2014 in Business Practices, Industry Postings, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Fraud can be defined as a deliberate deception practiced with the motive of securing unfair or unlawful gain.  This would be an attempt, by someone other than the cardholder, to complete a transaction that is not part of official government business and applying that transaction on your government travel charge card.  You should take all necessary steps to protect your card and yourself.  Below are a few tips to keep your government travel charge card from fraud. Keep your government travel charge card in sight at all times and exposed no longer than necessary.  Skimming of a charge card occurs when someone to whom you have given your charge card for payment (such as a cashier or waitperson) swipes the card into a portable electronic device, gathering all the...

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Data Collection and the Importance of Mandates

»Posted by on Oct 12, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

One way to measure the cost savings is through reporting from the TMC.  The collection of data will break down air, car, hotel and credit card spend with Ad Hoc reporting capabilities.  However, a non-mandated travel program makes it difficult to ensure cost savings to the organization. Reporting to Senior Management should reflect true costs associated with your program, unfortunately, as noted, all data may not be captured.   It is important for management to realize the benefits of mandating the use of the TMC and preferred vendors to better leverage discounts for the organization. Some of our greatest savings are obtained by mandating hotel bookings through our program.  As an example, we used to capture 50% of bookings through our on-line booking tool or...

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Payment Methods

»Posted by on Oct 8, 2014 in Business Practices, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Late November of this year the Government established a new SmartPay program, which is a primary method of payment for travel.  This new program GSA SmartPay 2, is accompanied with various improvements, enhancements, benefits, and protection for the government agencies and its travelers. The Government partnered with several contractors (financial agencies) to take on this new endeavor. Some of these financial agencies were part of the first SmartPay program and one of its major partners, Bank of America, failed to submit a proposal to continue business with the government. While reading this particular section I was curious of the reason/s why Bank of America decided to depart from this enormous program. Some of the most important improvements established for...

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Proper Use of a Government Issued Travel Charge Card

»Posted by on Oct 6, 2014 in Industry Postings, Payment Methods, White Papers | 0 comments

In today’s world of instability and financial woes, people are struggling to survive.  Government employees are included in those people who are struggling.  People are relying more and more on credit cards to get by in this tough economic time.  That is why this is the perfect time to review the proper use of a government issued travel charge card. The number one thing for cardholders to remember is that the government issued travel charge card is to be used for “official government travel only”.  Even though the charge card is in the cardholders’ name and goes against their personal credit history, it is still only to be used for government travel.  It is hard for some individuals to understand that since the financial responsibility of the card is...

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Payment of Travel Expenses

»Posted by on Sep 30, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

The primary way for paying for Government travel is through the GSA SmartPay 2 program.  GSA’s SmartPay 2 program provides Government agencies with commercial charge card procurement and payment solutions through master contracts established the program in 1998.  GSA issued contracts to four credit card companies to issue cards on behalf of the Government.  To date over 42 million cards have been issued and is the largest program of its kind in the world. SmartPay program cards can be issued to either individuals or agencies.  Individual Billed Accounts or IBA’s are issued to individuals for use during official travel.  These credit cards are issued in the travelers name with the traveler having full responsibility for payment and reconciliation.  A...

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Electronic Fund Transfer

»Posted by on Sep 28, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

In 1997, GSA supported the implementation of the electronic funds transfer (EFT) provisions contained in the debt collections improvement act.  The government makes payments by EFT through the automated clearing house.  Eft is mandatory for all federal payments including travel payments to government employees.  When the traveler submits a voucher for payment, the expenses that are owed to the traveler are made directly to the traveler’s bank account.  The charges that are made to the travelers individual government credit card are paid directly to the bank by split disbursement.  Split disbursement payments became mandatory for government agencies in october 2005.   With split disbursement the traveler doesn’t have to worry about making a...

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Delinquency: Pay Your Bill

»Posted by on Sep 19, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

One of the major issues within travel departments throughout government is delinquencies. Individuals who perform travel to perform their work use their government issued charge card to pay for expenses but do not pay their accounts off timely, or individuals using their government charge card as a personal card when they are not traveling at all. Both of these scenarios lead to higher delinquencies within an agency. Luckily, the Treasury Department has kept their delinquency rate down to below one percent. This is as a result of stringent rules within the Bureaus.  At the Bureaus of Public Dept we have taken several steps in the right direction to keep our delinquencies down. First, we have implemented the mandatory use of split disbursement. We have identified...

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City Pair Program

»Posted by on Sep 18, 2014 in Airlines, Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The GSA City Pair program has helped save millions of taxpayer dollars since it’s inception in the early 80’s.   This program allows government employees to travel on negotiated flat airfares in most markets with up to 70% discount on refundable airfares.  Government contractors, however, are not allowed to participate in the CPP with GSA, but can negotiate with airlines on their own. Working for an FFRDC proves to show significant differences between GSA CPP rates and corporate rates.  As airlines continue to struggle to make profit in today’s world due to fuel hikes, competition, union employees, airport fees, mergers, etc., corporate contracts have been revamped to tiered programs which provide small discounts on published airfares with heavy...

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Payment Methods

»Posted by on Sep 17, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

The two payments discussed in the course are the government charge card and centrally billed accounts.  These two methods are available to all travelers via Defense Travel System (DTS) or manually. How the travel processes through the system is the difference between the two methods. When processing an authorization via the DTS for a member that has a credit card the system will automatically default to the method of payment that is in accordance with the Department of Defense Financial Management Regulations Volume 9, Chapter 3.  With the credit card there are no advances, if the traveler does not have a credit card he can request an advance. The advance is then routed to his personal bank account via electronic funds transfer. This method of processing...

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E-gov Travel Simplifies Travel Voucher Processing

»Posted by on Sep 9, 2014 in Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Implementation of E-Gov Travel simplifies the voucher processing.  When I began my career in administrative accounting 19 years ago, our agency used the paper-based system for processing travel reimbursements.  A traveler submitted a manually prepared travel voucher with original receipts to his/her approving official.  The voucher and receipts arrived at the administrative office for payment by internal mail or hand delivery.  Prior to issuing a reimbursement to the traveler, the administrative office reviewed the voucher and receipts.  Every detail of the trip was analyzed for compliance to the Federal Travel Regulations and any pertinent accounting regulations to assure the claim for reimbursement was proper and valid for payment.  Upon validation of the...

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Because We Need Them

»Posted by on Sep 7, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

Our government agency processes payments for several customers.  Therefore, it is common for us to receive a telephone call regarding a travel reimbursement.  We can issue reimbursements in four ways: electronic funds transfer (EFT), individually billed accounts (IBA), centrally billed accounts (CBA) and checks.  The flexibility is necessary to accommodate different travel situations. The following three scenarios show three travelers going on the same trip.  All of the travelers need a flight on Tuesday from Washington, DC to Atlanta, GA for a three day conference.  Each traveler will take a taxi to and from the airport and stay in the same Atlanta hotel, but their method of reimbursement will be different. Traveler 1 will start to work at his government...

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SmartPay 2 Transition

»Posted by on Sep 5, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

by Cindy Moore The new SmartPay 2 contract was effective November 30, 2008.  Our agency was very much involved in the travel credit card transition.  All card holders were issued new cards under a SmartPay Master Contract administered by the General Services Administration. As a Government travel card holder, I was kept informed of the changes as they occurred in this transition.  Our agency services many other government entities.  Therefore, it was our responsibility to keep them informed of the changes as well.  Guidance was sent to them outlining the changes along with the following step-by-step instructions: The current SP 1 contract expires at 11:59 p.m. on November 29, 2008, at which time the current travel charge card will expire regardless of the...

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The Responsibility of a Cardholder

»Posted by on Aug 30, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

As the holder of an individually billed government travel charge card (IBA), it is the responsibility of the cardholder to reconcile the account.  When a government employee travels on official government business, their transportation and lodging costs along with the Travel Management Center/Commercial Travel Office (TMC/CTO) booking fee will be charged to their IBA.  Other items such as meals, parking, tolls, excessive baggage, rental car, and  gasoline for the rental car may also be charged to the IBA.  An important thing to remember is to keep all the receipts for charges made during the trip; it will aid in the reconciliation process.  The IBA is to be used for official TDY travel only.  Once a traveler returns to their residence/duty station, there...

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Questions About the SmartPay 2 Travel Card

»Posted by on Aug 29, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

I’m sure that there are many questions about the use or abuse of the Government SmartPay 2 travel card, and I will try to explain a few of the issues I have encountered in my Government travel experience. One question is in regards to the type of travel card an agency chooses to use.  My agency has chosen an individually billed travel card that travelers use to pay for hotels, rental cars, and other travel expenses.  Airline tickets are generally charged to my agency’s centrally-billed account.  I wonder, though, why my agency has not chosen a travel card where the lodging is directly billed to the Government.  As an agency, we could save a lot of money because a number of localities waive lodging taxes when the lodging costs are billed directly to the...

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Roles and Responsibilities in Travel Management

»Posted by on Aug 25, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Not long after graduating college, I became a travel specialist. At the time I saw it as just a stepping stone to my career that would eventually lead me to a job more closely related to my major.  I now realize that when I started I had no idea how large the travel field was, and all of the parts involved.  I thought it was simply learning how to use the ETS system and being able to read a few regulations, with no regards to the other pieces involved.  It takes a great deal of cooperation from a number of individuals, teams and offices to effectively manage a Government travel management program.  These different components work together in varying degrees.  Some may not work directly at all, yet they indirectly have an affect on the work of others.  These...

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The Evolution of Government Travel

»Posted by on Aug 22, 2014 in Airlines, Electronic Travel Systems, History and Overview, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

Twenty years ago I was assigned to the office that was responsible for travel processing.  In 1989 very few employees had computers and most of the work continued to be done as it had been for decades – by paper.   At that time a traveler would work with their secretary to complete a multi-carbon copy travel authorization.  The per diem rates were looked up in a GSA published book and the secretary would complete the estimates after calling the airline and hotel to make reservations.  Once the paper authorization or voucher was completed it was sent to several people for signature and eventually ended up in the Finance Office. Once the Finance Office received the documents, a technician verified the per diem rates and quarter day calculations for first and...

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Promoting Efficient Travel Spending

»Posted by on Aug 21, 2014 in Hotels, Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 1 comment

Last year I wrote about the emphasis on reduced travel budgets and gaining cost savings and efficiencies related to Federal Government travel.  Since that time, the Congress and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have further reduced travel funding.  The President signed an Executive Order entitled “Promoting Efficient Spending” dated November 9, 2011 asking agencies to review policies and procedures to find savings and efficiencies related to official travel, and in other areas such as fleet, IT and printing.  The Order calls for reductions of not less than 20% below fiscal year 2010 budget totals, effective by 2013. The Order states: “As they serve taxpayers, executive departments and agencies also must act in a fiscally responsible...

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Matched Versus Unmatched CBA Transactions

»Posted by on Aug 18, 2014 in Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

Each month I am involved in the CBA (Centrally Billed Account) reconciliation process for our largest government client.  This client’s current bank card vendor is JP Morgan Chase. Each month our agency receives an electronic file from JP Morgan Chase for this client’s 19 CBA accounts.  This file is generally received by our accounting department around the 8th of each month for the previous month.  After receiving the file we have approximately 3 to 5 days to match transactions in the data file to information in our back office.  Our reconciliation team works relentlessly to match all data as accurately as possible in order to provide the information to the client in a timely manner so that they may pay their bill which is due around the 20th of each...

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Macro economics and U.S. Government Travel

»Posted by on Aug 17, 2014 in Airlines, Industry Postings, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The material covered in 4a (Payment Methods) has a particular significance in understanding some of the relationships between government and the current economy. In essence, it covers how payment is ensured to the airlines and the issuance of credit by the banks to the government for travel expenses. In essence, the macro relationship is that the banks extend credit (via IBAs or CBAs) to the government, which purchases travel from the airlines. The credit extended by the banks is paid back by the government using funds from various taxes (income, transportation, levies on financial transactions). A short, open source search did not reveal if the airlines pay more or less in taxes than they receive in government travel income. Likewise, it is unknown the ratio...

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Travel Payment Methods

»Posted by on Aug 16, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

GSA now has “Smart Pay 2” as its travel card, but it was not the first or even second card to be used by GSA.  While I am not old enough to have first hand knowledge I do have a dinosaur around the house (love you honey) who happened to have used three of the four GSA issued credit cards during his military and government service. The first was Diners Card while it may be one of the oldest credit cards in the world it was not taken in many place within the United States such as fast food places, small chain motels/hotels, and rental moving trucks, which many lower level GSA/military personnel often used to stay within their per diem rate and reimbursable expenses while traveling or relocating for business. However the Diners Card did not have these same...

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Flexibility in Payment Methods — Because We Need Them

»Posted by on Aug 14, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

Our government agency processes payments for several customers.  Therefore, it is common for us to receive a telephone call regarding a travel reimbursement. We can issue reimbursements in four ways: electronic funds transfer (EFT), individually billed accounts (IBA), centrally billed accounts (CBA) and checks.  We also receive funds from travelers when they have been overpaid.  The flexibility is necessary to accommodate different travel situations. The following scenarios show travelers going on the same trip.  All of the travelers need a flight on Tuesday from Washington, DC to Atlanta, GA for a three day conference.  Each traveler will take a taxi to and from the airport, stay in the same Atlanta hotel and eat the same meals, but their method of...

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Government Travel Management: A Summary

»Posted by on Aug 12, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, History and Overview, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Background: In the old days and before the 1978 Airlines Deregulation Act, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) used to decide the fares between any two cities. They decided which airline flew from/to cities and how much they should charge. Well, the 1978Airline Deregulation Act changed the dynamics and working ways of the airline industry. It allowed airlines to decide where to fly and how much they can charge. Competition was the name of the game. What was the government reaction to the deregulation act? In 1980, the government using the sheer volume of business it controls was able to negotiate and establish “government fares or CITY PAIR PROGRAM”. “Fly America Act” requires the use of US flag carriers or US Code Share flights. These fares were to become...

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FTR Workshop

»Posted by on Aug 10, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, History and Overview, Payment Methods | 0 comments

In January of this year I had the privileged opportunity to attend a FTR Workshop, which was hosted by the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Department of Defense (DOD). GSA & DOD collaboratively enlisted the help of an outside contractor to assist with the task of researching the feasibility of creating a streamlined and updated Federal Travel Regulation draft. Any new draft of the FTR would need to be approved by various high-level government entities, including OMB, and the US Congress on Capitol Hill. During the FTR workshop, the brainstorming sessions became very interesting, as we discussed various possible directions we could take with regards to the FTR. One of the options mentioned (and the most favorable) was to eliminate a lot of the...

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Payment Methods/Business Intelligence

»Posted by on Aug 9, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Payment Methods | 0 comments

In sections 4a and 4b of the Certified Government Travel Professional Training Course, the areas of Payment Methods and Business Intelligence, Data Mining, and Data Warehouse are explained. These are relatively short sections but included a lot of great information. The electronic payment and reimbursement procedures used by the U.S. Postal Service are very easy and efficient. All authorized personnel who travel on a regular basis are issued VISA GSA SmartPay 2 cards. When we make our reservations thru our online Omega procedures, our credit card information is already in the system and our airline charges are automatically billed. Upon return from travel, we have a system called “E-Travel” and we enter all of our authorized travel expenses in the program. It...

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Airlines- _CA Fares

»Posted by on Aug 5, 2014 in Airlines, Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

One of the most misunderstood and under advertised benefit to Government travelers is the _CA fare. This is the capacity-controlled coach class fare mentioned in Section 2B Airlines. During regular training classes on our E-Gov Travel System, I continue to be astonished at the misperception and fear of choosing these _CA fares. These fares are still fully refundable, fully changeable; but they are not last-seat availability. If travelers can make their arrangements far enough in advance, sometimes airlines will offer a certain number of seats at the lower _CA pricing. This can save an office $20.00, $40.00, even hundreds of dollars per leg off the full YCA fare. Travelers misunderstand the capacity limit to mean that they either will not get a seat on the aircraft...

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The Payment Method Mapping for Expenses in the EGOV Travel Application

»Posted by on Jul 28, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

This posting will be a discussion of the different payment methods for various travel expenses in the EGOV Travel application.  Four types of payment methods exist in the EGOV Travel application which include Traveler, Gov-cc, CBA, and Direct.  Expenses that the travelers select have a pre-determined payment method selected in the EGOV Travel application, but payment methods for expenses can be customized for each agency.  This posting, however, will just discuss the standard payment method mapping. Expenses with payment method of Traveler are slated to be reimbursed directly to the traveler’s personal bank account.  The EGOV Travel application maps the following expenses to the method of reimbursement of Traveler: meals and incidental reimbursements,...

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Payment Methods

»Posted by on Jul 22, 2014 in Industry Postings, Payment Methods | 0 comments

There are different types of payment methods that are used in the E-Gov Travel Service. These methods are used to indicate how an expense is to be reimbursed. The four types of payment methods I am going to be focusing on are: CBA, GOVCC, Traveler, and Direct. Most of the expenses will have a default payment method. However, travelers and document preparers must make sure they select the correct method of reimbursement. The CBA or Centrally Billed Accounts are paid directly by the government to the bank. Agencies establish these accounts through task orders. Many times if a traveler doesn’t have a government credit card, this account is used for airfare and lodging reservations. The GOVCC or Individually Billed Accounts are paid by the employees who...

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Payment Systems

»Posted by on Jul 9, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

My agency uses both the Centrally Billed Accounts (CBA) and Individually Billed Accounts (IBA) for travel expenses.  Agency travelers are required to use their GSA SmartPay2 program cards (government travel charge cards) issued by US Bank to pay for lodging and rental car expenses.  Previously, travelers also used their IBA to pay for airfare expenses, but all transportation expenses are currently being paid by a CBA, along with the e-travel transaction fees.  After a traveler submits an expense report, our agency financial system issues split disbursements through Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT).  Charges made to the IBA are paid directly to the bank and out of pocket expenses owed to the employee (miscellaneous expenses, taxi, parking, etc) are made directly...

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Approving Official’s Responsibilities

»Posted by on Jul 5, 2014 in Business Practices, Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

The responsibilities of an Approving Official include a variety of knowledge and understanding in the Federal Travel Regulations. Even though the traveler must also have knowledge of the FTR and agency travel policies to ensure their travel claims are entered correctly within the guidelines of the policies, the ultimate responsibility for verifying expenses are valid and necessary for official business and meet the agency’s mission lies with the approver. Along with the FTR the approver should be knowledgeable of their agency’s inner policies and that their travelers abide by them as well. When reviewing authorizations the Approving Official should make sure the traveler has entered reservations and expenses as any prudent traveler would, in making sure...

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Forced Transactions Allowed

»Posted by on Jul 5, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

An Agency/Organization Program Coordinator (A/OPC)  has overall responsibility for the Travel Card program within his/her Agency/Organization.   A/OPC’s make every effort to control government traveler abuse when cardholders use their Individually Billed Travel (IBT) charge card.  Each agency puts several controls in place such as running specific reports to detect abuse, applying monthly credit limits and ATM withdrawal limits, and blocking several non-travel related Merchant Category Codes (MCC) as well. One form of what I consider “abuse”, is the fact that merchants can “force” a transaction through the pipeline financially and the charge will post to the cardholder’s account.  The merchant has the ability to override a...

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Travel Financial Transactions

»Posted by on Jun 21, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

How do I travel without a cash advance and without writing a check to pay off my IBA? OK, the question is slightly misleading but it got your attention I hope.  My method doesn’t work 100% of the time, but way more often than not. Here is what I DON’T want to do.  One, I DON’T want to request and then make sure I receive a cash advance prior to leaving on a trip.  (And I certainly don’t want to have to concern myself with returning a cash advance if my trip gets canceled.)  Two, I DON’T want to have to write a check or otherwise make a payment for my personal travel card after the trip is over. Let assume a “normal” trip – airfare, rental car, & hotel. I make my airfare, rental car, & hotel reservations online in our E-Gov Travel...

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FAR Part 301-52

»Posted by on Jun 10, 2014 in Business Practices, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

In reviewing FAR Part 301-52, which was covered by this chapter, I was interested to find out about the late payment fees required of the Government when a filed voucher is not paid within 30 days. According to this FAR provision, when the Government fails to meet the requisite deadline, it becomes liable for a Prompt Payment Act payment which must be equal to or in excess of what the employee may be charged by the credit card company, or where the employee pays the bill, what he or she would have been charged. Interestingly enough, the language concerning the tax consequences of these payments is far from clear. In this regard, §301-52.22 notes that the payment is not reported as wages, but rather, is “in the nature of interest.” The section goes on...

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Lines of Accounting in Financial Systems (Get To Know Your Budget Folks)

»Posted by on Jun 7, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

Interfacing ETS systems with financial systems is an intricate process that plays a major role in travel operations.  To begin with, for people that are not very familiar with financial systems, lines of accounting can seem very complicated and intimidating.  When I first started working as a travel administrator a few years ago I had to become familiar with financial system lingo, and accounting structure.  Travel preparers, especially new preparers, would contact me inquiring what line of accounting they should use for their traveler. The problem I would have is that their specific team/office may have several accounting codes to choose from, but I had no idea which code they needed to know.  This has happened at every stop I’ve been at.  During my...

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Where Do We Go From Here?

»Posted by on Jun 6, 2014 in Airlines, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Hotels, Payment Methods, Rental Cars, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

Let’s take a look at where government travel will be in the future. To see what a government traveler will experience, we’ll need to look at the various aspects of the travel system covered in our course, and extrapolate the current trends ten years down the road. The major trends in the Global Distribution world are connections across the internet and controlling distribution costs. In the next few years we are likely to see suppliers using focused distribution channels rather than the GDS to control their costs. By distributing on more effective channels, the suppliers not only safe, but gain more control over their inventory. No doubt, these channels will be internet based as the new systems coming online now are all web riding. This trend will impact...

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Expense Account Reconciliation – we are all sharing the same pain

»Posted by on Jun 3, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

From what I remember, the private sector about 10 years ago was working on a way to have the credit card charges on corporate issued Individual Billed Accounts (IBA) linked to an internal website where the traveler would do their expense account and submit it for payment. The government saw this as a way to start driving more compliance with their charge cards and adapted the same basic system. It used to be that if you charged an expense on your card, you did not have to submit receipts for those expenses. Life seemed really good then as all those paper receipts were not always required. You of course had to add “Manual Expense Items” basically those items that you would pay in cash for things like a cab ride. It really did not take that much time to...

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Travel Agency Reservation Process

»Posted by on Jun 1, 2014 in Global Distribution Systems, Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

In making a reservation with a TMC/CTO travel agent, the traveler first provides their name to the agent. Upon learning the name of the traveler, the agent will pull up the traveler’s profile, which pre-populates the relevant fields in the Passenger Name Record (PNR) or travel record. The traveler then tells the agent the basic requirements of their trip, including, but not limited to: origin; destination; time preferences; dates; lodging preference; car rental; and any other requirements the traveler may require. Upon gathering the aforementioned basic travel information from the traveler, the agent will use the GDS to search for the appropriate air, lodging and car rental. The government rules and regulations are scripted into the GDS in a master profile...

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Cardholder Statement into Travel Voucher, Can The Two Be Joined?

»Posted by on May 30, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Is there a more efficient way for the travel charge cardholder to track charges and make payments or for agencies to monitor misuse of the individually billed travel charge card? The individually billed travel (IBT) charge card is issued to individuals to be used for approved official government travel expenses.   Expenses that must be charged to the card include common carrier charges such as airfare or train, lodging facilities, and rental car.  When practical, the card can be and should be used for meals, parking, tolls, taxi fares, and other miscellaneous allowable travel expenses.  When necessary, the card can be used for cash advances for those out of pocket expenses that are more convenient to pay with cash.  While the government travel card becomes...

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Seize The Spend

»Posted by on May 24, 2014 in Industry Postings, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Seize The Spend, maximizing card usage improves data. The more spending we capture through our SmartPay Card Program, the better the data and reconciliation with greater benefits. What are the traits of high-spend capture organizations? Companies that capture at least 75 percent of travel and entertainment spending on a corporate card is good but not excellent. The lower capture group is mainly looking at reconciliation processing, a basic utilization of card data in the managed corporate program.  ACTE and Citi recommended the following tactics to capture the largest possible portion of T&E spending on cards: Secure a senior management champion with influence across the enterprise to sponsor the program and communicate the policy. **We at the Galley have...

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Federal Travel Regulations

»Posted by on May 17, 2014 in Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Post payment auditing is a service we provide to our customers. These audits are performed using the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR). Our goal is to make sure that the travelers are reimbursed in accordance with the FTR. The Post payment auditing that we perform is on the voucher in the E-Gov Travel Service System and our accounting system. We conduct the audits using a Statistical sampling checklist, which is used on each voucher that is sampled. The amount of audits conducted can vary from month to month. This is determined by the number of vouchers that were paid the previous month. The vouchers are reviewed using the Statistical Sampling Checklist, which outlines multiple items to ensure the voucher is in compliance with the FTR. The voucher is...

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The Government Hotel Program

»Posted by on May 5, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Hotels, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The government has implemented an excellent hotel program providing great benefits to its agencies while lowering cost to provide the best services to its travelers. Hotels have contracted with the government per diem rates, different types of properties, special amenities and charge cards, special negotiation rates and specialized lodging programs. The travelers have access to great hotels, meeting their needs and beyond. In addition to the great hotel services and amenities the travelers are provided with a convenient payment charge card and/or direct billing to their federal agency. This helps eliminate out of pocket payment.  This is a great advantage as many other public or private companies fail to provide these services to its employees.  For example, I...

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Payment Systems

»Posted by on Apr 29, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

My agency uses both the Centrally Billed Accounts (CBA) and Individually Billed Accounts (IBA) for travel expenses.  Agency travelers are required to use their GSA SmartPay2 program cards (government travel charge cards) issued by US Bank to pay for lodging and rental car expenses.  Previously, travelers also used their IBA to pay for airfare expenses, but all transportation expenses are currently being paid by a CBA, along with the e-travel transaction fees.  After a traveler submits an expense report, our agency financial system issues split disbursements through Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT).  Charges made to the IBA are paid directly to the bank and out of pocket expenses owed to the employee (miscellaneous expenses, taxi, parking, etc) are made directly...

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TMCs and the SmartPay Programs

»Posted by on Apr 19, 2014 in Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

Since the inception of the federal regulation, public law 105-246 on January 27, 1998 which mandated the use of a government furnished travel charge card, TMC’s and TSS agencies had many benefits from this program.  Most importantly, TMC’s could process payment for travel services and their fees immediately, processing ticketing and reservations for government employees. A TMC receives this payment through either the CBA, centrally billed account, or IBA, individually billed account, and sends payment to ARC.   This eliminates the risk of the TMC/TSS not being paid.  Government travelers are required to reconcile their bills, confirming the services provided, and submit a voucher for payment internally, as they are individually responsible for payment to...

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How do I travel without a cash advance and without writing a check to pay off my IBA?

»Posted by on Apr 16, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

OK, the question is slightly misleading but it got your attention I hope.  My method doesn’t work 100% of the time, but way more often than not. Here is what I DON’T want to do.  One, I DON’T want to request and then make sure I receive a cash advance prior to leaving on a trip.  (And I certainly don’t want to have to concern myself with returning a cash advance if my trip gets canceled.)  Two, I DON’T want to have to write a check or otherwise make a payment for my personal travel card after the trip is over. Let assume a “normal” trip – airfare, rental car, & hotel. I make my airfare, rental car, & hotel reservations online in our E-Gov Travel system.  Airfare is reserved – and paid for – with a centrally-billed account...

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Centrally Billed Travel Account Reconciliation – What is the Best Practice?

»Posted by on Apr 10, 2014 in Electronic Travel Systems, Industry Postings, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The reconciliation process for agency centrally billed accounts (CBA) varies widely across government.  Agencies have developed a best practice for what currently works for them.  Some agencies have an all manual process and use nothing but paper.   Some use electronic reports provided by their Travel Management Center (TMC) and their charge card vendor.  Others make use of a CBA reconciliation module within their eTravel system (ETS).  I don’t believe there is an agency that is totally electronic in the reconciliation and payment process as there is probably a manual interruption somewhere in the process. How many individuals or departments are involved in the reconciliation and payment process?  In some agencies, the reconciliation consists of...

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E-Gov Travel Partnerships

»Posted by on Mar 22, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

E-Gov Travel is a Government-wide initiative that is mandated by the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) for all federal travelers and is one of 24 E-Gov initiatives outlined in the President’s Management Agenda (PMA). The E-Gov Travel vision is to deliver a unified, simplified service that delivers a cost-effective travel experience, supports excellent management and results in superior customer satisfaction. The E-Gov Travel goals are defined as follows: develop a government-wide, web based, world-class travel management service; establish a cost model that reduces or eliminates capital investment and minimizes total cost per transaction for the government; and create a policy environment based on the use of best travel management policies. The E-Gov Travel...

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Payment Methods

»Posted by on Mar 10, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

I have worked with several government agencies and the SmartPay cards has improved the prospects of booking groups into hotels when compared to hotels accepting a group paying with a Purchase Order. The SmartPay has cut the payment process so much, that hotels who would not accept a group are actively seeking Government business. When groups were booked in a hotel prior to the SmartPay the hotel and the Travel Management Company (TMC) had to process the invoices for services thru a Purchase Order and this process was sometimes challenging to get the payment in a timely manner. It usually takes 2-3 months after the event took place to get reimbursed. The Centrally Billed Account (CBA) card is especially great for booking emergency travel for groups over the weekend...

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SmartPay 2

»Posted by on Mar 1, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

The GSA SmartPay program provides government agencies with commercial charge card based procurement and payment solutions through “Master Contracts.” The period of performance for the Master Contract is 10 years and is due to expire November 29, 2008. My agency, along with our customers, currently uses the program to meet their needs through Travel, Procurement, and Fleet cards. We have already selected a provider for purchase, fleet, and travel charge card services for the next Master Contract starting November 30, 2008. The next Master Contact is called SmartPay 2. Agency representatives took part in an evaluation panel and conducted a thorough evaluation of the participating banks’ card program services as part of the GSA SmartPay 2 Contract. We...

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Federal Travel Regulations

»Posted by on Feb 25, 2014 in Electronic Travel Systems, Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

Post payment auditing is a service we provide to our customers. These audits are performed using the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR). Our goal is to make sure that the travelers are reimbursed in accordance with the FTR. The Post payment auditing that we perform is on the voucher in the E-Gov Travel Service System and our accounting system. We conduct the audits using a Statistical sampling checklist, which is used on each voucher that is sampled. The amount of audits conducted can vary from month to month. This is determined by the number of vouchers that were paid the previous month. The vouchers are reviewed using the Statistical Sampling Checklist, which outlines multiple items to ensure the voucher is in compliance with the FTR. The voucher is...

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Business Practices

»Posted by on Feb 25, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

The travel manager role, as this chapter mentions, does require great talent in multi-tasking. During implementation, a good project plan is vital to make sure all tasks are accomplished. The travel manager has to ensure all TMC profiles are loaded, lines of accounting are loaded, and that the routing chains for all travelers are established. Charge card information has to be loaded and correct so that tickets are issued timely as a self-service transaction. An organization with thousands of travelers causes this type of workload to grow exponentially. Normally, the travel manager is not only responsible for all the E-Gov Travel tasks, but has to provide policy guidance as well. Although the E-Gov Travel system has automated many aspects of the travel document...

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Credit Cards – Getting A Bad Rap?

»Posted by on Feb 22, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The GSA website provides an interesting perspective on the issue of the misuse of Government Smartpay credit cards. We have all seen stories about Government employees using Smartpay cards to make outrageous purchases, but are these articles the tip of an iceberg of misuse or an abberation? A reading of various FAQs on the site suggests that the credit cards have received a bad rap not because they are widely misused, but because the system readily discloses such misuse, exposing those who try to use the cards for improper purposes. GSA contends that misuse accounts for only a very small percentage of overall use. According to GSA, banks under contract to the Smartpay program must provide an assortment of protections against misuse. Under the program agencies may...

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Split Disbursement

»Posted by on Feb 13, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

With the use of a credit card, whether personal or business, comes the headache of reconciliation and payment.  Travelers now have a tool when traveling for the federal government that helps minimize the pain.  Agencies also have a tool that helps them reduce delinquencies and late payments.  Even though the travel card is government issued, it is the responsibility of the traveler to ensure that it gets paid timely.  Within the last 5 years, OMB passed Circular A-125 that now requires most agencies to use split disbursement for at least part of a traveler’s payment.  Split disbursement is an option that allows travelers to send a portion of their travel reimbursement directly to their credit card. With the eTravel system, any reservation that a...

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EFT and Hardship Payments

»Posted by on Feb 12, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

After the Department of the Treasury issued their final rule on September 25, 1998, all Federal agencies have to comply with the laws and regulations concerning the use of electronic funds transfer (EFT) for most Federal payments, including Federal Travel, starting January 2, 1999.  This was required after the President signed into law the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 (DCIA). Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) is the preferred method of payment for government payments because it is more secure and less costly for the Government to make an electronic disbursement than a disbursement by paper check.  It is more cost effective and efficient to comply with the EFT guidance but one time travelers may be issued checks. The government makes payment by EFT...

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Post Payment Audit (Sampling) of Travel Vouchers

»Posted by on Feb 11, 2014 in Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Our division as well as many others, has developed a simple sampling (audit) plan for conducting quality control  reviews in compliance with the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR).  The main objective is to ensure travel and travel payments are in compliance as determined by the FTR.  Our staff will complete a Travel Voucher Statistical Sampling Checklist on each document selected for audit. At the beginning of each month a random selection of documents is made from vouchers paid the previous month.  The Travel Voucher Statistical Sampling Checklist comprised of  multiple tests per document is conducted on each randomly selected document.  The Statistical Checklist is comprised of questions such as:  Were required receipts provided?  Was ticketed...

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CBA Reconciliation Issues

»Posted by on Feb 10, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

Introduction One of the more vexing issues for some agency travel managers is the reconciliation of government Centrally Billed Account (CBA) charge card transactions originating from the agency’s chosen E-Gov Travel Service (ETS).  While in some cases the responsibility for CBA reconciliation lies with the ETS contractor and its embedded Travel Management Center (TMC), there are other cases where the agency is responsible and must match transaction data provided by the agency’s SmartPay® bank with authorization and voucher data provided by the ETS contractor.  This becomes particularly problematic if and when there is no ETS authorization number in the bank-provided charge card statement to use as a “key” to tie it back to the ETS authorization.  A...

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SmartPay2

»Posted by on Feb 7, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

Smartpay 2 is the biggest change in payment methods that most agencies have experienced in 10 years. The original Smartpay program took years to enhance and develop, but most agencies are extremely proud of their partnerships with the charge card vendors. It absolutely revolutionized the micro purchase process throughout the Government and has eased the burden of incurring travel expenses on Government travelers. One major shock of the Smartpay 2 solicitation was that a current Smartpay vendor – Bank of America, who serviced several Government agencies, decided not to participate in the resolicitation. This meant even agencies that were comfortable with their electronic access systems and reporting processes would be forced to choose a new vendor. Most...

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SmartPay 2

»Posted by on Feb 6, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

Smartpay 2 is the next generation of the Government charge card program put forward by the General Services Administration’s master contract. Smartpay 2 offers the added functionality for the agencies to choose an integrated Government charge card. This allows Federal employees to have the ability to charge purchase card transactions, travel card transactions, and even fleet card transactions on one individually issued plastic card. Another functionality that is not widely in use is the ability to centrally bill travel transactions. Our agency has taken advantage of both of these functionalities since the first Smartpay contract and they have worked so well; this white paper aims to explain more about these benefits so others can consider and take advantage if...

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Centrally Billed Account

»Posted by on Jan 24, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

A Centrally Billed Account (CBA) is an account that is used by government agencies to purchase air/rail/bus tickets, hotel accommodations, and Travel Management Center/Commercial Travel Office  (TMC/CTO) fees for official government travel.  The agencies establish the accounts using written task orders against the General Services Administration (GSA) master contract and the selected bank card vendor. Centrally Billed Accounts are reconciled by the agency and paid directly to the charge card vendor via Automated Clearing House/Electronic Funds Transfer (ACH/EFT) following guidelines set forth in the Prompt Pay Act.  The most frequent uses of the CBA are for invitational travelers, new employees that have not been issued an individual government travel charge...

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Reducing Travel Card Delinquency

»Posted by on Jan 14, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

The Travel and Transportation Reform Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-264) (TTRA) was signed into law on October 19, 1998. One of its main purposes is to reduce Federal travel costs and to streamline Federal travel processes. Among its provisions, it requires employees to use Federal travel charge cards for payments of official travel expenses. It provides for the payment of a late payment fee to employees when an agency fails to reimburse them for approved expenses within 30 days after submission of a proper voucher. It gives agencies the authority to collect undisputed, delinquent travel charge card debts through salary offset. It authorizes GSA to approve a limited number of agency pilot programs for cutting travel and relocation administrative expenses. It requires...

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Payment Methods

»Posted by on Jan 10, 2014 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

The United States Government used to buy transportation services with what we call GTR (Government Transportation Request). This method of payment is being phased out and will be replaced with charge cards. In 1998 a law was introduced to mandate the use of charge cards to pay for travel expenses; thus the GSA SmartPay was introduced.   GSA SmartPay: This program provides transportation purchase for over 350 Government agencies and organizations. This method expired in 2008 and was replaced by SmartPay 2.   GSA SmartPay2: With new technology and expanded services, these uniquely numbered for recognition as Government issued charge cards, were issued by 4 contractors: GE Capital Finance, JP Morgan chase, Citibank, US Bank.  Cards issued to agencies or...

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An Evolving Role of a Travel Manager on a Shrinking Travel Budget

»Posted by on Jan 4, 2014 in Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

Back in the days, you will say, we are in the airline business, being politically correct now you will have to say, we are in the transportation business. Because transportation – not airline and aircraft – is what the customer buys. The Travel Manager’s role in these specialized environments varies and keeps on evolving. In this day and age, to capture Travel and Expense data will need all the tools to generate reports from the system to assist Travel Managers to understand how travel is purchased and managed. With the right integration of tools, Travel Managers will make important choices of how to use their travel budget wisely. The new age of data aggregation is Travel Manager’s best friend. On my “Seize to Spend” forum paper under Business Data...

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Post-Payment Travel Voucher Audits

»Posted by on Dec 29, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

We perform post-payment travel voucher audits as a service to our customers.  These audits are not punitive in nature, but rather, they are meant to serve as an educational tool so that travelers can avoid making the same mistakes in the future.  A checklist is used when performing the audit, so only items that are on the checklist are of concern.  We audit both the ETS part of the voucher and the accounting system entries.  The ETS part of the voucher is audited to ensure compliance with Federal Travel Regulations (FTR). The first item on the checklist is verifying that required receipts are attached.  This is perhaps one of the most frequently misunderstood parts of the voucher.  Travelers are often unsure whether some expenses require receipts or they...

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Individually Billed Account

»Posted by on Dec 24, 2013 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

The government travel card that is issued to individuals and authorized to use for official travel are called Individually Billed Accounts (IBA).  A traveler can place charges for their airline reservations, train, rental car, lodging, meals and miscellaneous expenses such as parking, gas for rental car, taxi etc. on their government card as long as the expenses are used for the official travel.  Cardholders are responsible for using the card appropriately and making payments timely. As of  October 1, 2005, split disbursement payments became mandatory for government agencies.  Split disbursement offers travelers a higher level of convenience by sending their credit card payment directly to the credit card company.  This eliminates the hassle of writing a...

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GSA Smart Pay Purchase Card

»Posted by on Dec 24, 2013 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

GSA has been responsible for contracting for purchase card services since 1989. The most recent purchase card contracts were awarded in November 2008 to Citibank, GE Capital Financial, JP Morgan Chase and US Bank. The purchase card was initially adopted as a management tool.  The purchase card replaced the paper-based time consuming purchase order process. The Smart Pay purchase card currently saves the government approximately $1.2B annually in administrative costs. The government also receives refunds from GSA contractor banks in excess of $50M.  As a managerial tool, agencies have various mechanisms in place in order to oversee the program.  GSA mandated the contractors provide electronic reports to agency managers.  These reports are secure and easy to...

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Planning a Government Business Trip

»Posted by on Dec 15, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

Government travelers within my agency are required to use an electronic travel system to book business trips. The first step a traveler must take after being hired into a position with the government is to provide their direct deposit banking information to the office that will be issuing their travel payments. If required by the agency, the traveler should apply for their government issued credit card before traveling. This information is stored in the traveler’s profile and his/her travel reservations, along with some other expenses, will automatically be charged to their government issued credit card. Based on the automated travel system my agency uses, the first step is to gain access to the travel system by a one-time registration process. A first time...

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The Limits of SmartPay2

»Posted by on Dec 12, 2013 in Business Practices, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The El Dorado of any Government travel manager is having sufficient access to credit card data so that spend patterns can actually be used for trends analysis and proactive planning, as well as detecting potential fraud.  The GSA SmartPay program has improved considerably since SmartPay1 but despite the vastly improved databases now available from many of the SmartPay2 vendors, the same problem with the accessibility of level three data still plagues SmartPay2. Level three data is the information that indicates what product or service was actually provided by a vendor when a credit card is used.  For the purposes of this discussion, I am referring to the travel card. This information is almost always available in an itemized  fashion to the buyer when she...

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The GSA SmartPay Program

»Posted by on Dec 3, 2013 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

The conception of the SmartPay cards has proved to be a massive undertaking to keep track of expenses of over 350 agencies/organizations participating in the GSA SmartPay program. There are five master contracts with charge cards at Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorganChase, Mellon Band and U.S. Bank. Through these contracts, different types of charge card products and services can be made. Purchase cards are used for purchasing general supplies and services. Travel cards are for official government travel while fleet cards are for fuel and supplies for government vehicles. The integrated card is also an option. The scope of this program boggles the mind. The GSA U.S. General Services Administration web site boggles the mind. Among the many pages in this website,...

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The Future of Government Travel and Customer Service

»Posted by on Oct 31, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems, Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers, White Papers | 0 comments

The future of government travel and travel planning depends on the successful integration of the Electronic Travel Systems (ETS) with the Travel Management Center (TMC) in order for the government traveler and the government as a whole, to achieve ultimate satisfaction in customer service and price. In 1998, the Defense Travel System (DTS) was developed. The system was designed to provide end-to-end authorization, travel reservations and the voucher filing processes in compliance with the Joint Federal Travel Regulation (JFTR) and, a number of financial systems. The system was designed to accommodate up to 3.5 million DoD military and civilian travelers with distinct travel requirements. In 2002, GSA introduced the ETS for civilian agencies. Like the DTS, it was...

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Rail Reservations

»Posted by on Oct 28, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems, Government Traveler Comments, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

The number one question that we receive concerning rail reservations is how to identify the type of trains in the eTravel system.  The train number is the key in identifying the type of train selected.  When a traveler requests rail reservations in the eTravel system, the Travel Management Center (TMC) will book a courtesy reservation, which means the traveler will actually have to pay for the ticket at the kiosk.  Unfortunately, the TMC fee associated with rail reservations booked through GovTrip will always be a full service fee.  This isn’t the TMC’s fault but rather falls on Amtrak not allowing reservations to be booked outside of their own system. There are three different types of Amtrak trains.  The Amtrak trains that make the most frequent...

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Authorizations

»Posted by on Oct 27, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems, Industry Postings, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The travel process starts with an authorization that is booked in our E-Gov Travel Service. Travelers are required to have an authorization from an approving official for a TDY trip. An authorization is entered into the ETS system prior to the trip being taken. There are many individuals that are involved in this process. In order for the travel document to be completed properly, these individuals must work together. The traveler, document preparer, examiners, and approving officials must all perform their roles in the authorization process. When the authorization is created, reservations are made for the traveler. Airfare, lodging, and rental car reservations are made by either the traveler or document preparer. In addition, any other expenses such as...

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E-Gov Travel Simplifies Travel Voucher Processing

»Posted by on Oct 19, 2013 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Implementation of E-Gov Travel simplifies the voucher processing. When I began my career in administrative accounting 19 years ago, our agency used the paper-based system for processing travel reimbursements. A traveler submitted a manually prepared travel voucher with original receipts to his/her approving official. The voucher and receipts arrived at the administrative office for payment by internal mail or hand delivery. Prior to issuing a reimbursement to the traveler, the administrative office reviewed the voucher and receipts. Every detail of the trip was analyzed for compliance to the Federal Travel Regulations and any pertinent accounting regulations to assure the claim for reimbursement was proper and valid for payment. Upon validation of the claim a...

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Travelers Responsibility for Partially or Unused Tickets

»Posted by on Sep 27, 2013 in Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

Millions of dollars are lost to the government and taxpayers each year because travelers do not initiate the refund process.  Holding onto a totally or partially used airline ticket costs your agency money.  Unused tickets have a monetary value; therefore any adjustments in your ticketed transportation that pertains to an unused segment must be promptly processed to prevent a loss.  The definition of an unused ticket is Tickets purchased for Government travel, but never used. Travel is terminated short of the authorized destination. Return portion of a round-trip ticket is not used. Services actually furnished are different or of a lesser value than those authorized. The traveler dealing with an unused ticket that was purchased with their individually billed...

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Mandatory Travel Charge Card Credit Worthiness Assessment

»Posted by on Sep 19, 2013 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

As part of Improving the Management of Government Charge Card Programs, OMB Circular A-123, Appendix B, Chapter 6, requires that agencies perform a credit worthiness evaluation of all new travel card applicants prior to issuing a card. The current travel charge card vendor for my agency obtains the credit scores on all new applicants.  The new applicant must have a FICO credit score of 660 or greater to receive an “unrestricted” status; a score of less than 660 will result in the issuance of a “restricted” card.  At no point does the bank provide the agency with the credit score of the applicant. The bank will process the applications of individuals who receive the status of unrestricted and issue a travel charge card with the established standard...

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SmartPay®2 Transition and the E-Gov Travel Service

»Posted by on Aug 19, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Over Thanksgiving weekend, 2008, the vast majority of federal civilian agencies executed a “flash cutover” from their existing SmartPay® travel cards to newly-issued SmartPay®2 travel cards.  In order to support this cutover for their 65 agency customers, the E-Gov Travel Service (ETS) contractors had to replace all of the SmartPay® charge card numbers (both Centrally Billed Accounts and Individually Billed Accounts) in approximately 500,000 ETS user profiles with new SmartPay® 2 numbers … all without a significant disruption of service or impact to travelers. The project to accomplish the SmartPay®2 transition for ETS was managed by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).  It began years earlier but took on its greatest momentum during the...

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Individually Billed Accounts – Charge Cards

»Posted by on Aug 5, 2013 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

Credit cards and debit cards have all but become the default method of payment for consumers over the last few decades.  The same is true with government travel.  Instead of issuing cash advances (although this is sometimes still necessary), paying with cash, and having a paper trail to follow, government travelers now have the convenience of paying for travel expenses either with an individually-issued government travel charge card (IBA) or through an agency’s centrally billed account (CBA).  Most government travelers are now issued their own personal government travel charge card, commonly abbreviated as GOVCC or IBA.  Most cards for our customers are issued through Citibank. The individually-issued card is the most convenient option for government...

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Federal Travel Regulations

»Posted by on Aug 2, 2013 in Government Traveler Comments, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The 41 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) chapters 300-304, of the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) administer the laws that govern the travel allowances and entitlements for federal employees.  It implements provisions and statutes pertaining to per diem, travel and transportation allowances.  Amendments to the FTR are published in the Federal Register and the CFR.  The FTR has the force and effect of law. Training specific to these travel regulations is available from General Services Administration (GSA) and other federal training centers.  Each federal agency may have their own travel policy that includes regulations, procedures and business practices unique to their agency.  The Federal Travel Regulations take precedence over agency-specific...

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Post-Payment Audit of Travel Payments

»Posted by on Jul 19, 2013 in Business Practices, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Part of our division’s responsibility as the travel financial office is to implement internal audit controls for the E-Gov travel system to insure that travel payments comply with the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) as well as laws and regulations for use of federal funds.  One way we meet this requirement is to perform a random post-payment audit of a sample of all our travel payments. Although the electronic travel processing edit feature reduces the risk of improper payments, we still have an obligation to ensure that the electronic processing is policy compliant.  We audit the entire process of the identified travel transaction including the arrangements for travel accommodation in the authorization, submission of a proper travel voucher, and the...

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