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Don't Leave Home Without Your Visa After Nov. 30

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 1998 – DoD travelers won't be saying, "Don't leave home without it," when they leave on defense business after Nov. 30. Starting Dec. 1, they'll be saying, "Visa, it's everywhere you want to go."

American Express' four-year tenure as the government travel card service for nearly a million defense travelers ends Nov. 30. NationsBank and the Visa network take over Dec. 1.

"Visa is accepted by more than 15 million merchants around the world. That's triple what DoD travelers had in the past," said Paul Bazylak, Visa's vice president for government services. "They can use their Visa card at more than 440,000 automatic teller machines worldwide, which is more than triple what they had before. They can use Visa in every country across the planet."

NationsBank determines the services offered government cardholders; Visa provides the network for usage, Bazylak noted.

"The government-sponsored card will be the payment vehicle used by DoD personnel to pay for all official travel costs, including travel advances, permanent change of station moves, lodging, transportation, rental cars, meals and other expenses," said Scott Collary, NationsBank senior vice president of government and commercial card products. "Charges on the card will total more than $2 billion annually."

NationsBank won the bidding war over three other competitors. "DoD selected NationsBank along with the Visa network as the best value to the government in providing travel card services," said Army Brig. Gen. Roger Scearce, deputy director of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. DoD cardholders will be able to access and review their accounts via the World Wide Web, he noted.

Scearce warned delinquent bill payers and credit card abusers: "If you're delinquent when the American Express contract ends -- [that is, you] haven't paid your bill in 60 days or more -- Visa will run a credit check on you. Credit checks will be run on all new applicants."

Being denied a credit card doesn't mean personnel can't travel on defense business, he said. The government's options include issuing travelers checks or a restricted travel card that can be "turned on" for a specific temporary duty trip. "You could still use the card, but we'll manage you pretty intensely," the general said.

"Misuse is always a concern," he said. "Unfortunately, people used the [American Express government] card for purposes other than official business." To help reduce misuse, DoD asked NationsBank to turn off blocks like 900 numbers, toy stores and other things "travelers on government business would have absolutely no need for," Scearce said. "There are exceptions, and we're ready to deal with those."

DoD will even pay credit card bills for travelers, Scearce said. "If you say, 'Of this $1,000 trip, I charged $800,' we'll peel that off and send it in for you and give you the difference. That's a convenience you just can't beat."

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