DoD Travelers Can Soon Access Charge Accounts
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 1999 Service members and DoD employees traveling on official business soon will be able to call up their personal travel card accounts on the Internet.
The Electronic Account Government Ledger System, known as EAGLS, now gives DoD travelers Internet account access. About 1,000 cardholders began testing the new program Sept. 1. Defense Finance and Accounting Service officials here say they hope to have DoD's 1.1 million cardholders on line in the next year.
When fully implemented, each cardholder will receive a password, an identification code and an instruction booklet, according to De Perrin, DoD Travel Card Program manager. Card holders will then be able to view charges, check payment status and obtain other account information on the PC-based point-and-click system, she said.
Until now, only agency program coordinators had access to EAGLS data, said Myra Woods, Bank of America senior vice president for government card services. These include monthly reports detailing cardholders' account activities and spot readings allowing coordinators to see and assess their cardholders' charges within 24 hours of being incurred, she said.
DoD began issuing travel cards in 1983, first Diners Club and later American Express. In April 1999, NationsBank won the DoD contract to supply VISA cards. NationsBank recently merged with Bank of America, one of the largest banking companies in the country. The merge doesn't affect individual cardholders, Woods said.
Bank of America sent monthly statements in August notifying all DoD cardholders of the merger. Cardholders will also receive new legal disclosure statements. NationsBank cards are good until they expire, after which the bank will issue travelers Bank of America VISA cards.
DoD's switch from American Express to VISA gave DoD travelers more access to worldwide services, Perrin said. VISA cards are a "much more highly recognizable piece of plastic," she said. "VISA works in Kosovo, for example. We just moved a large contingent in and out of Kosovo."
DoD travelers are responsible for using the VISA card to purchase only official travel-related services and for paying charges by the statement due date. Any other kind of charge is strictly prohibited, as is the use of the card by anyone other than the designated traveler.
Cardholders must ensure accounts have current addresses and other information. They must report a lost or stolen travel card by calling Bank of America customer service at 1-800- 472-1424 immediately and their agency program coordinators at the first opportunity during normal business hours.
Bank and DoD finance officials monitor travelers' accounts. If unauthorized charges are detected, agency program coordinators notify the cardholder's immediate supervisor, who then contacts the person and determines if disciplinary action is required.
Perrin said 99 percent of DoD people travel correctly 99 percent of the time, but there are lapses. Sometimes a traveler claims not to have known the rules, or a card falls into the wrong hands, she noted.
In some cases, Perrin added, cardholders have said they mistakenly used the DoD card instead of a personal charge card. When cardholders realize they've made such an error, she added, they can call the bank's customer service department for help.
Information and technical help for using the card and EAGLS is available on the Internet at http://www.bankofamerica.com/government and "The Cardholder Program Guide," a booklet available from agency program coordinators, Perrin said.
Another feature of the travel card program allows travelers to authorize direct payment to Bank of America. Up to 12,000 DoD travelers a month use the "split disbursement" option. Block 1 on DD Form 1351 travel voucher allows travelers to authorize the amount of reimbursement paid directly to the bank by an electronic transfer.
"It's convenient for our customers. Our cardholders don't have to pay for that stamp and they don't have to worry about mailing the bill," Perrin said. "The government voucher then indicates the amount paid and the Bank of America statement indicates the amount received.
"This has been a really great thing for big ticket items," Perrin continued. "Hotels, rental cars, cash -- they're all paid directly for you at voucher settlement. It's highly automated. It's fast." Cardholders also don't have to worry about still being on the road when the bill arrives at home or about inadvertently missing payments, she said.
Split disbursements, offered since 1994, Perrin said, are now available through most major disbursing systems. Some service members and DoD employees don't have access, particularly those serving outside the continental United States or in the Marine Corps, she noted.