Payment Methods

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Travel Card Misuse

»Posted by on Jun 8, 2013 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) discovered that government employees in numerous agencies misused their travel cards to purchase items for their personal use or to travel first class.  Examples of the misuse are: Having laser eye surgery – amount $3700. An unauthorized trip to Hawaii, flying first class and An employee received reimbursement for 13 airline tickets he never purchased – cost $10,000. Auditors have determined that some agencies have failed to receive reimbursement for millions of dollars of unused airline tickets and constantly fail to pay travel invoices in a timely manner. The CRS report states a major problem is agencies fail to determine if tickets have been used.  It stated the Department of Defense (DOD) may have purchased more...

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Tracking Travel Expenditures

»Posted by on Jun 5, 2013 in Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

From my experience working with the federal government, they still have difficulty tracking their travel expenditures. “The government presently has very limited capability for management information reporting of its travel usage and spend.” This phrase appeared in the statement of objectives for GSA’s Business Travel Intelligence RFP in 2006. Although the government has the foundational tools (ETS/DTS), vendors (TMC/CTO, SmartPay) and processes (FTR) in place, they still are unable to determine how their money is spent to any degree of specificity. One key reason is that, unlike corporate clients who maintain a single travel agency for all transactions*, GSA allows each agency to contract with individual travel agencies. Having various travel agencies...

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Global Distribution Systems — Information Flow

»Posted by on May 28, 2013 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Global Distribution Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Section 2a discusses Global Distribution Systems. Although I am sure that it must exist somewhere, I have not seen a recent diagram that shows the flow of information throughout a travel transaction. By a travel transaction, I am referring to the following components: Vendors (airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, other) GDS Travel Agencies Traveler (or end user) The data flow used to be rather straightforward, in that the vendor supplied data to the GDS, the GDS to the travel Agency, and the Travel Agency to the traveler. However, through technology and financial tightening there are now myriad other methods for securing travel. Those include: Vendor-direct call centers or websites Alternate GDS (ITA, G2, Farelogix, INS) Corporate Travel Departments, On-line...

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E Gov Travel – The Transition and Training Process

»Posted by on May 19, 2013 in Airlines, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Hotels, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Beginning in September of 2004, our agency began converting our customers from the legacy travel system to the new E Gov Travel system.  With approximately thirty agencies to convert, we completed the transition within a twelve month time-frame.  Even though this schedule was quite intense, we were able to complete this transition successfully due to the cooperation of everyone involved, the organization of a well thought out project plan, and a detailed training plan. For each customer to convert from the legacy system to the new one, there were two people in our agency assigned to lead each team.  We were responsible for performing all of the background maintenance tasks, such as routing lists, the people table, and security groups. We also trained all...

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Has the Method of Paying for Travel Services Come Full Circle?

»Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Business Practices, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Has the method of paying for travel services come full circle? At issue is how government employees pay for travel expenses while performing their duties. Cash Advances Prior to corporate travel cards, there were travel advances where employees would request a certain dollar amount to pay for expenses while traveling on official state business.  This methodology seemed to work well at the time, but the presence of fraud and abuse always lurked in the background.  There were some control measures put in place to prevent this, and receipts were required to be submitted, along with unused funds being returned.   There were also employee risks involved by sending out an employee with a large amount of cash that could have been easily lost or stolen. Full Credit...

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Travel Document Overview

»Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems, History and Overview, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The travel process is pretty involved and involves many different individuals including the traveler, possibly a document preparer, approving official and the processing staff.  Each person that touches the document has a role in ensuring that the traveler has a successful trip.  This is going to explain the process a travel document follows from the time the traveler is requested to go on travel. Travel authorizations are manually entered by the traveler or a document preparer in the eTravel system prior to taking a trip for the agency.  During the creation of the authorization the reservations are made for air, hotel and rental car.  Any estimated miscellaneous expenses such as parking, taxi or hotel taxes are input so that funds can be reserved in the...

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Transition to Smart Pay 2

»Posted by on Mar 12, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

November 30, 2008, marked the beginning of the new Travel Charge Card Program called Smart Pay 2 (SP2).  Federal Government travelers are encouraged to apply for an individual Government charge card in order to pay for their travel expenses.  The previous 10-year contract, also known as Smart Pay 1 (SP1), expired on November 29, 2008.  Various individuals from my agency were extremely involved in the selection of our credit card vendor.  As it turned out, the incumbent charge card vendor was awarded the new 10-year contract. Internally, our credit card team conducted weekly meetings with the individuals from each section who were assigned to the project so that the conversion would be completed accurately and timely.  In addition to working with the credit...

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Charge Card Phishing

»Posted by on Mar 6, 2013 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

Fishing:  rod, reel, bait, picnic basket and a sunny, lazy day Phishing:  illegal act to fraudulently obtain sensitive information Just recently, our bureau received an alert from GSA’s Office of Charge Card Management to inform our cardholders of a new phishing scam involving another government agency’s employee.  Cardholders must be constantly vigilant of the types of activities that are being used to fraudulently obtain information. Phishing is any type of trick used to deceive cardholders into giving personal information:   their social security number, charge card number, banking information, passwords, etc.   Emails that convey the need for urgent or immediate action often come from what appears to be a legitimate bank address.   The...

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Per Diem Rate Guidelines

»Posted by on Feb 26, 2013 in Business Practices, Global Distribution Systems, Hotels, Payment Methods, Rental Cars | 0 comments

One of the distinct challenges the hotel community continues to encounter are the criteria set for establishing the areas to be surveyed and how the data from Smith Travel is used. The Data used to compile the rate and occupancy information tends to focus on all the area within the city limits, but does not focus on the main areas of where government or business travel is concentrated. A good example is to compare Boston and San Francisco as these two cities for corporate travel rates are rather similar. Boston with seasonal rates of $203-$256 is a concentrated area with a large downtown and does not contain a suburban area containing many hotels. The majority of the hotels within the city limits are located in the downtown area. San Francisco has a similar...

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Cardholder’s Responsibility

»Posted by on Feb 7, 2013 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

As an Agency/Organization Program Coordinator (A/OPC) over travel charge cards and a holder of an individually billed travel (IBT) card, it is amazing to realize how many government travelers do not understand the proper usage and responsibility of holding a government issued IBT.  Although the information is available to them when they first applied for the charge card, they still have preconceived notions on what they should be responsible for and what they think the agency’s responsibility is. The first problem that I run into a lot is the notion that the etravel government system used to record the travel expenses should automatically know what the charge card was used for and, therefore, the payment to the account should be correct. The etravel system...

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Must a Federal Employee Prepare a Travel Authorization Prior to Travel?

»Posted by on Jan 26, 2013 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Our agency’s travel office receives inquiries regarding why a travel authorization is required prior to going on official business travel.  In answer to this inquiry here are some reasons why a travel authorization is of benefit for the federal agency as well as being generally required.  According to the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) Chapter 301-2.1: §301-2.1  Must I have authorization to travel? Yes, generally you must have written or electronic authorization prior to incurring any travel expense. If it is not practicable or possible to obtain such authorization prior to travel, your agency may approve a specific authorization for reimbursement of travel expenses after travel is completed. However, written or electronic advance authorization is...

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Streamlining Federal Travel Payments

»Posted by on Dec 24, 2012 in Payment Methods | 0 comments

Being somewhat technologically challenged, the evolution of electronic payments amazes me.  My experience with making government payments began with the paper-based system.  Receipt of a federal travel payment took weeks. Today the advancement in technology gives the federal agency the capability to pay the traveler and vendors, if not instantly, then within a few days. Previously, we issued travel advances in cash through use of an onsite imprest fund cashier.  The traveler requested a voucher that authorized the cashier to disburse the cash to the recipient.  Now, the traveler, if approved by the agency, receives a travel charge card for an individually billed account (IBA) to obtain travel advances and to pay for travel expenses.  To receive a travel...

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DTS, ETS & FedRooms

»Posted by on Nov 2, 2012 in Electronic Travel Systems, Hotels, Payment Methods | 2 comments

The federal government has taken on monumental tasks implementing the DTS system and ETS systems, and I commend DoD and GSA for their actions. Surprisingly, although the systems have been in place for many years now, my experience has been that neither group has been able to obtain the type of management reports necessary to effectively alter traveler behavior or leverage their purchasing power during negotiations. As a simple example, let’s take the FedRooms program. Currently DoD does not participate in the program. Therefore the FedRooms rates, according to GSA’s FedRooms manager, are not even loaded into the DTS system for display to DoD travelers. On the ETS side of the house, while FedRooms rates (XVU code) are displayed, they are displayed with up to 20...

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A Matter of Ethics

»Posted by on Aug 21, 2012 in Airlines, Business Practices, Hotels, Payment Methods, Rental Cars | 0 comments

Government travel represents only a small portion of government spending.  When dealing with taxpayer dollars however, government employees are and should be held highly accountable.  The government traveler should exercise the highest level of ethical behavior to avoid any repercussions that could arise from public perception.  The newspapers and television stations are always anxious to report stories concerning government officials using the taxpayer’s money to fund personal vacations or lavish accommodations stating it was for official government business.  And that, my fellow Americans, is the fleecing of America.  Consistent enforcement of travel policies is needed to ensure waste, fraud, or abuse does not occur and also to avoid even the...

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The Government Rental Car Program

»Posted by on Aug 19, 2012 in Payment Methods, Rental Cars, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The government’s rental car program has established a successful car agreement with most competitive rental car companies. The agreement lowers the cost of rental cars, offering exclusive special benefits to its employees. Renting a car can be very expensive while causing a burden. Many rental car companies require further identification and documentation just to rent a car for hours or days, with many restrictions. My experience with rental car companies has not been very pleasant.  One major factor contributor to this unpleasant experience is the deposit required, which is extremely high. While traveling on a business trip to Los Angeles last year, I was asked to put down a $250.00 deposit.  This became a burden as I was unprepared for this cost, or if I...

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Post Payment Audit (Sampling) of Travel Vouchers

»Posted by on Aug 7, 2012 in Business Practices, Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 2 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 ARC Travel Program Guide, and Government Accountability Office (GAO) Guidelines.  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...

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“Is there really a savings, or are we headed full circle”

»Posted by on Jul 31, 2012 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Government Traveler Comments, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I can remember years ago, when a federal employee, that was authorized official travel, would receive their travel authorization from the typewriter of the secretary, take that piece of paper to the ticket counter of the in-house TMC and make all of the travel arrangements.  A few days later, you would receive days later a GTR would cover the cost of the ticket and the ticket printer would produce your itinerary, along with your information regarding your trip.  It was nice to see a face, get to know your internal travel agent, as well as  have the hands-on person available there to ask any questions and to make any changes, if necessary.  Today, everything is done by the booking engine, we have become accustomed to booking our travel via our PC’s, pads or...

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Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act of 2009

»Posted by on May 4, 2012 in Business Practices, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Congress enacted the Travel and Transportation Reform Act (TTRA), also known as Public Law 105-264, in 1998.  This Act mandated the use of a government furnished travel charge card. All federal employees were required to use a travel charge card to pay for official government travel expenses.  According to Hatch (2010), the travel cards were intended to reduce travel costs and improve oversight of employee travel expenditures, but audits of the government travel card program at a number of agencies found evidence of waste, fraud, and abuse due to a lack of adequate internal controls (Hatch, 2010, p. 1).  Hatch reported that the dollar volume of travel card transactions increased 103% from $4.39 billion in FY1999 to $8.93 billion in FY2009 (Hatch, p. 1). In...

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Using the Centrally Billed Account (CBA) Module in the Defense Travel System (DTS)

»Posted by on Feb 13, 2012 in Industry Postings, Payment Methods | 1 comment

Our agency is improving processing of travel by implementing the CBA Reconciliation module in DTS. This module simplifies reconciling the agency’s Centrally Billed Government Travel Charge Card (GTCC) Account, or CBA. The transactions placed on the CBA are transportation charges, such as tickets for air or rail travel, or Commercial Travel Office (CTO) service fees, and may include full or partial credits created by refunds or cancellations. To summarize the module’s functionality, DTS processes the payment of invoices received from, the GTCC vendor. When charges are billed against a CBA, the CBA Reconciliation module reconciles the transactions on the card vendor’s invoice with the traveler’s DTS trip document. Reconciliation refers to matching the...

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Payment Systems

»Posted by on Jan 11, 2012 in Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Uncategorized | 0 comments

On January 27, 1998, the government mandated the use of furnished travel charge cards and the implementation regulations were published the following year. The SmartPay program provides purchase, travel and fleet charge cards to over 350 government agencies and organizations; this is the largest program of its kind in the world. The SmartPay program is available to all government personnel subject to a minimum set of qualifications, Savings are achieved through accurate and prompt audits. In 2008 the SmartPay2 programs replaced the charge card program and will continue until the end of November 2018. It is contracted through Citibank, JP Morgan Chase and US Bank. Central Billed Accounts (CBA) are used for the purchase of air/rail/bus transportation and other...

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Transaction Fees

»Posted by on Dec 6, 2011 in Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

The various transaction fees associated with Government travel are a source of confusion for travelers.  Whether using an embedded Travel Management Center (TMC) from the ETS Master Contract, or an accommodated (third party) TMC – usually from the Travel Services Solutions (TSS) Schedule 599 – there are multiple fees that need to be understood. If an agency’s TMC services are provided via the ETS Master Contract, there are two primary fees to be concerned with in the most common domestic Temporary Duty (TDY) travel scenario which includes air and/or rail.  First is the TDY voucher processing fee, ranging from $10.28 to $13.50 per voucher.  I have heard users of my agency’s E-Gov Travel system wonder why they now have to pay to process travel...

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Hotel Billing Issues

»Posted by on Oct 6, 2011 in Hotels, Payment Methods | 0 comments

I thought that these 2 chapters (Chapter 4a & 4b) were very fascinating.  I can relate to these topics because there have been a few instances where we have had some billing issues with certain government agencies.  The first instance that I can think of was with an agency we had booked at the Gettysburg Hotel last year.  During their meeting they ended up adding AV equipment on to make their master account higher than what it was originally approved for.  It only ended being a small amount under $100 but in order to be paid the full amount, the agency would have had to gone back and gotten the full amount approved which could have taken months.  Instead we wrote off the added amount just to get the majority of our money while they were there. A second...

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Accounting for Travel Transactions

»Posted by on Aug 9, 2011 in Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The electronic travel system (ETS) benefits the federal traveler, program office, and finance office with management and evaluation of travel activity.  To the traveler the ETS is a mechanism for electronically booking common carrier, lodging accommodations, and car rental services, and for claiming reimbursement of travel expenses.  The ETS provides the program office a system to manage travel activities, to insure compliance to the Federal Travel Regulations and to electronically account for use of program funds. To us in the finance office, the ETS provides the required documentation to account for and disburse federal funds. The electronic travel document corresponds to an accounting transaction. In order for the travel system to communicate the travel and...

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Receipt Retention Capability In Electronic Travel Systems

»Posted by on Aug 9, 2011 in Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

On September 22, 2006, the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) was amended to mandate the use of the receipt management tool for agencies that deployed an electronic travel system. Under the Per Diem Expenses section, a note was added to §301–11.25 stating that hard copy receipts should be electronically scanned and submitted with the electronic travel claim if  the agency has this capability available with the use of ETS. The system used by my agency has this capability and is used accordingly. 301-11.25  Must I provide receipts to substantiate my claimed travel expenses? Yes. You must provide a lodging receipt and a receipt for every authorized expense over $75, or  provide a reason acceptable to your agency explaining why you are unable to furnish the...

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Transaction Fees

»Posted by on Aug 9, 2011 in Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

There various fees which can be added to the trip total of a traveler when using an eGov Travel system.  Some of the fees include the TMC, IFF and eGov Travel contractor transaction fee. The TMC (Travel Management Center) fee is paid to the travel agency under contract with the Federal Government to provide reservation services for airline tickets, hotel reservations and car rentals.  The fee is determined by using comprehensive economic models and approved by GSA.  Travelers are always encouraged to select air tickets through the eGov Travel application as this is the most cost effective method for the government.  Due to the complexities of the some foreign travel, it is appropriate at times to contact the travel management center directly to obtain...

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