Travel Card Use Mandatory March 1
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2000, Feb. 25, 2000 Starting March 1, with some exceptions, DoD personnel must use the government travel card for expenses arising from official travel.
DoD issued new policies in mid-February to implement travel card requirements in an amendment to the Federal Travel Regulation published by the General Services Administration in the Jan. 19 Federal Register. The amendment implements requirements in the Travel and Transportation Reform Act of 1998.
The Defense Department began using travel cards in 1983 to pay for lodging, transportation, rental cars and other allowable expenses. The current contractor is Bank of America VISA.
The new rules make the use of the travel card mandatory for most DoD military and civilian personnel. Governmentwide exemptions include employees who have an application pending for the travel charge card; people traveling on invitational travel orders; and new appointees. The law authorizes agency-specific exemptions as well, and Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) William J. Lynn approved the following for DoD:
- Members of the ROTC and service members undergoing basic training or initial skill training prior to reporting to their first permanent duty station.
- Military and DoD civilians denied travel cards or whose cards have been canceled or suspended for financial irresponsibility or other reasons.
- Exemptions approved by heads of DoD components for military and DoD civilians during war, a national emergency declared by the president or Congress, or mobilization, deployment or contingency operations.
- Military or DoD civilians traveling to or in a foreign country where the political, financial or communications infrastructure does not support the use of a travel card.
- Military or DoD civilians whose use of the travel card due to operational, security or other mission requirements, would pose a threat to national security, endanger the life or safety of themselves or others, or would compromise a law enforcement activity.
- Direct and indirect hire foreign nationals.
- Individuals employed or appointed on a temporary or intermittent basis when the individual's supervisor or other appropriate officials determine the duration or other circumstances pertaining to the employment or appointment does not justify issuing a travel card.
DoD has authorized exempted personnel to use personal funds or a personal charge card, travel advances and government travel requests. Though individuals may be exempt from the mandatory use rule, those with cards in good standing may still use them voluntarily for official travel expenses.
While the travel card is to be used for such big-ticket items as hotel stays, transportation tickets and car rentals, government travelers are not required to use the cards for the following:
- Local transportation fares.
- Laundry and dry cleaning.
- Expenses incurred at a vendor who doesn't accept the card.
- Meals in restaurants that don't accept the card.
- Group dining situations and other meals when use of the card would be impractical.
- Telephone calls, when a government calling card is available for use in accordance with agency policy.
In addition, DoD personnel need not use the card for expenses covered by any expense contained within the meals and incidentals portion of the per diem allowance or for local and long distance telephone calls.
The amendment also requires timely reimbursement of travel expenses. It requires agencies to pay interest to travelers whose travel vouchers are not paid within 30 calendar days. The only exception is when the payment would be less than $1. Until travel payment systems can be modified to meet this requirement, the individual traveler must determine if an interest payment is due and request payment. Interest paid will be reported to the Internal Revenue Service as additional wages.
DoD must reimburse travelers for any late fees the travel card contractor would have charged had the traveler not paid the bill on time.
The new travel card rules will be included in Volume 9, "Travel Policy and Procedures," of the DoD Financial Management Regulation DoD 7000.14-R.
For more information on DoD's Travel Card Program, visit the Defense Finance and Accounting Service Web site at www.dfas.mil or the Bank of America site at www.bankofamerica.com/government.