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GSA SmartPay

Purchase

When paying for purchases of supplies, services, or construction, the GSA SmartPay solution provides your agency with numerous benefits including cost savings, discount programs, and refunds.  Find out more here! 

Account Holders/ AOs

Purchase Program Overview

What is a GSA SmartPay Purchase Account?

A purchase account is a type of payment solution, issued by a GSA SmartPay contractor bank, and used to pay for supplies or services procured at the direction of a Federal agency/ organization under official purchase authority. Purchase accounts may be established through any payment solution listed in the GSA SmartPay master contract.

The GSA SmartPay purchase program is the preferred method of payment for federal employees to make official Government purchases for supplies, goods, and services under the micro-purchase threshold.

  • The GSA SmartPay purchase accounts are both a procurement and payment mechanism for micro-purchases.
  • For purchases above the micro-purchase threshold, the GSA SmartPay purchase account may be used as an ordering and payment mechanism, but not a contracting mechanism.

Account holders can purchase any commercially available supply or service within their spending limits and not prohibited by either federal or agency-specific procurement regulations.

Purchases that are STRICTLY PROHIBITED include:

  • Long-term rental or lease of land or buildings
  • Travel or travel-related expenses (not including conference rooms, meeting spaces, and local transportation services)
  • Cash advances (unless permitted by your agency/ organization)

Use of the purchase account benefits the Government in many ways:

  • The GSA SmartPay accounts save the Government time, money and resources.
  • The GSA SmartPay purchase program provides the Government with financial and cash management control over low dollar value high volume procurements and can serve as a payment tool for larger transactions consistent with agency policy.
  • The Government saves money by making only one payment to the contractor bank rather than thousands of payments to individual merchants.
  • The Government improves the use of its resources by freeing up contracting personnel so they are able to focus on more complex activities that derive greater benefit from their expertise.
  • Merchants throughout the world accept the GSA SmartPay purchase account because they are familiar with commercial credit cards and they understand how to accept them.

As an account holder, you will have the flexibility to decide what to purchase, when to buy it, and from whom. You will also be able to monitor funds yourself.

The GSA SmartPay Account also benefits merchants because they are paid quickly for the supplies and services they provide.

 

What is a Centrally Billed Account vs an Individually Billed Account? Why is it important to know the difference?

Because the agency is invoiced for purchases and payments are made directly to the contractor banks by the Federal Government, all purchase accounts are considered Centrally Billed Accounts (CBAs). In contrast, Individually Billed Accounts (IBAs) are invoiced directly to the account holder and payment is the responsibility of the account holder, who is then reimbursed by the agency/ organization.

The distinction between CBA and IBA is important when determining state tax exemption. All GSA SmartPay CBAs should be exempt from state taxes. In addition, with a CBA, the Federal Government accepts liability for charges made by an authorized account holder, but is not liable for any unauthorized use. Unauthorized use means the use of an account by a person, other than the account holder, who does not have actual, implied or apparent authority for such use and from which the account holder receives no benefit. When the CBA has been used by an authorized account holder to make an unauthorized purchase, the Government is liable for the charge and the agency is responsible for taking appropriate action against the account holder.

Getting Started

New Applicants

New applicants should receive their GSA SmartPay purchase account from the contractor bank within 10-14 calendar days from the time the application is submitted by your A/OPC. Replacements for lost, stolen, broken, or otherwise unusable cards will be sent within 48 hours of the agency/organization request. In the case of an emergency, such as response to a natural disaster, threat to national security and military mobilization, the contractor bank will send the GSA SmartPay purchase account within 24 hours of the request.

Your GSA SmartPay Purchase Account is issued to YOU for official government business ONLY. The purchase account can NEVER be used for personal reasons. Do not share your account information with anyone - only you are authorized to use the account. This means that no family member or member of your staff, including your supervisor, may use your purchase account. Safeguard your purchase account information at all times. Unauthorized use of the account due to your failure to secure the account may result in disciplinary action.

Before Making Your Purchase

After receipt of your account the following steps should be taken:

  • Verify the accuracy of the account information (for example, your name and address).
  • Call the toll-free number provided by the contractor bank to confirm receipt and activate the account.
  • If you are given a physical card, sign the back of the card.
  • Review the account holder guide provided by the contractor bank.

Before using your purchase account, make sure you:

  • Plan your monthly purchases
  • Ensure availability of funds
  • Conduct market research
  • Select the best value
  • Seek state tax exemption
  • Talk to merchants

Making Purchases/Placing Orders

Making Purchases

It is important to understand the limits on purchase account use and to manage your purchases against those limits.
 

You are allowed to purchase any commercially available supply or service not prohibited by either Federal or agency-specific procurement regulations. To find out your agency specific procurement requirements regarding purchase amounts, receipt documentation and approvals contact your A/OPC or contracting officer. An approval may be required prior to purchase and may be needed in conjunction with a subsequent review of the purchase activity. If a purchase appears questionable, consult your A/OPC or contracting office.
 

There are a number of purchases that are STRICTLY PROHIBITED. The purchase account shall not be used for:

  • Long-term rental or lease of land or buildings
  • Travel or travel-related expenses (However, conference rooms, meeting spaces, local transportation services such as metro fare cards, subway tokens, and shuttle services can be properly acquired on a purchase account)
  • Cash advances (unless permitted by Agency/Organization)

 

Government-to-Government Transactions

Government-to-Government Transactions are payments between different agencies (inter-governmental) or within the same agency (intra-governmental). In most instances, these transactions are classified under Merchant Category Code 9399, Miscellaneous Government Services. 

Effective June 1, 2015 the Treasury Department lowered the maximum dollar amount allowed for intergovernmental transactions to $24,999 per day (not per single transaction). This change does not impact agency purchases from commercial vendors, either via open market or through GSA Advantage. It does apply to purchases from GSA Global Supply or GSA's retail stores, as well as purchases from Personal Property or GSA Fleet. A few notes to keep in mind:

  • Customers cannot divide transactions into smaller pieces to evade this limit. For example, a buyer cannot make two purchases of $15,000 each, because that total on a given day would exceed the $24,999 limit.
  • Transactions that exceed the limit will be denied by Vantiv, the contractor Treasury uses to manage transactions.
  • Treasury retains the option to lower the limit further at a later date. One goal is to reduce the fees government pays when it accepts the purchase account for large transactions.
Placing Orders

There are two basic types of transactions when placing your order: Card-present and card-not-present transactions.

 

Card Present Transactions means that you purchase an item in person using your GSA SmartPay charge card as payment. You physically choose your item in the shop and take the item to the sales clerk, identifying it as an OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT PURCHASE. All GSA SmartPay Purchase Accounts are centrally billed (CBA) and should be exempt from State taxes. However, there may be additional requirements in your state, such as a form or presenting a Federal ID.

 

When making a card present transaction, double check that:

  • You received an itemized receipt
  • Sales tax was not charged
  • You signed the receipt
  • You safeguard the receipt for reconciling your monthly invoice statement, and
  • You record the purchase in your purchase log.

Note: All purchase documentation should be kept for your records, in accordance with agency policies and NARA’s GRS 1.1

A Card-Not-Present Transaction is a transaction conducted without a physical card. Examples include purchase by phone, fax, or online.

When placing your order, make sure you:

  • Identify the purchase as an OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT PURCHASE so that it will be exempt from federal taxes and, if applicable exempt from state/ local taxes
  • Get a copy of the itemized receipt
  • Place the receipt in a safe place to use in reconciling your monthly invoice statement
  • Record the purchase in your purchase log
  • Verify that the item and price are correct upon arrival and if there is any discrepancy, call the merchant immediately

Do Not Pay List

In order to help eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in federal programs, federal agencies should focus on preventing payment errors before they occur.  The Do Not Pay List consists of a list of databases containing information on a recipient’s eligibility to receive federal benefits payments or federal awards, such as grants and contracts. By checking these databases before making payments or awards, agencies can identify ineligible recipients and prevent certain improper payments from being made.

Below are a few resources for more information on the Do Not Pay List:

Benefits of Using Do Not Pay:

  • Helps agencies eliminate manual checking of databases maintained in multiple sites
  • Provides access to current, relevant data to help make a payment or eligibility decision.
  • Allows an agency a simple, streamlined way to comply with the “Do Not Pay” initiative, which requires all agencies to review key databases pre-award and pre-payment.
  • Detects and helps prevent erroneous payments.

Useful Websites:

  • Do Not Pay Portal – The Do Not Pay Business Center will provide automated tools, including a web-based single entry access portal, which federal agencies can use to gain access to an array of data sources to assist in determining whether an individual or company is eligible to receive federal payments or engage in federal contracts.
  • PaymentAccuracy.gov – As required by Executive Order 13520 dated November 20, 2009, Reducing Improper Payments, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Justice and Office of Management and Budget, established this website to create a centralized location to publish information about improper payments made to individuals, organizations, and contractors. This website also provides a centralized place where the public can report suspected incidents of fraud, waste, and abuse.

The Do Not Pay Portal Consists of Information Compiled from the Following Sources:

Excluded Party List System (EPLS)

  • Identifies parties excluded from receiving federal contracts, certain subcontracts, and certain types of federal financial and nonfinancial assistance and benefits; 
  • Verifies whether an individual that is receiving unemployment payments is still living, owes federal non-tax debt, and/or is recently employed;
  • Identifies providers, individuals, or vendors that are excluded from doing further business with the government or should be subject to more oversight based on past performance; 
  • Identifies keying errors that could cause the wrong entity to receive a payment; and  
  • Keeps the federal purchasing community aware of administrative and statutory exclusions across the entire government, suspected terrorists, and individuals barred from entering the United States. 

Death Master File (DMF)

  • Verifies whether an individual that is receiving unemployment payments is still living, owes federal non-tax debt, and/or is recently employed.

List of Excluded Individuals/Entities (LEIE)

  • Verifies whether an individual that is receiving unemployment payments is still living, owes federal non-tax debt, and/or is recently employed
  • Identifies providers, individuals, or vendors that are excluded from doing further business with the government or should be subject to more oversight based on past performance

Debt Check

  • Verifies whether an individual that is receiving unemployment payments is still living, owes federal non-tax debt, and/or is recently employed
  • Identifies vendors that owe federal non-tax debt and ensure vendors that owe debts are paid via the Treasury offset process instead of through a credit card.

The Work Number

  • Verifies whether an individual that is receiving unemployment payments is still living, owes federal non-tax debt, and/or is recently employed for agency programs that are means tested
  • Verifies the accuracy of income levels at the time of enrollment 

Central Contractor Registration (CCR)

  • Identifies providers, individuals, or vendors that are excluded from doing further business with the government or should be subject to more oversight based on past performance
  • During the payment process, ensures that the name associated with the DUNS is the name associated with that DUNS in CCR, thus preventing payment to the wrong entity
  • Identifies keying errors that could cause the wrong entity to receive a payment

Other Sources a Cardholder Can Use for Market Research:

  • Affirmative Proceeding Data
  • Dun & Bradstreet
  • Recovery.gov
  • Google Maps/Search Zip Code
  • Prison Address Source
  • Agency provided payment file
  • Agency provided payee list
  • FMS Payment Data
  • USASpending.gov
  • IPP Vendor Data
  • ASAP Grantee Data

FSSI

FSSI Office Supply Management

The Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative for Office Supplies Third Generation (FSSI OS3) is GSA’s latest FSSI solution for office supplies. Strategic Sourcing leverages the purchasing power of the entire federal government, reducing costs of goods and services and allowing for better service. FSSI OS3 is a purchasing channel solution that helps federal customers achieve significant savings on their office supply purchases, while also supporting the nation’s small businesses. OS3 is expected to provide more than $90 million in annual savings captured through lower prices. The awards are the result of a collaborative team effort among customer agencies across the federal government. Under OS3 prices decrease as the collective purchases grow across the Federal Government.

Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) Purchasing Solution, a Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI)

GSA has established Government Wide Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPA)s to sell  Maintenance, Repair & Operations products as a strategic sourcing solution. Average pricing is 12 percent lower than offered previously within the government marketplace.


Products are grouped into three categories in order to streamline offerings and ensure lower prices. These categories cover a wide range of hardware, tools, and paints and sealants products. By purchasing under this solution, customers can achieve socio-economic and green purchasing goals, while also achieving savings.  Customer agencies can place orders through GSA Advantage!, DoD EMALL or directly with the contractor using their GSA SmartPay payment solution.


The MRO website provides more information, including helpful documents for how to order plus a schedule for live training webinars: www.gsa.gov/fssimro


MRO can also be found on the Acquisition Gateway , built by GSA, to helps federal government buyers from all agencies access information from across the acquisition community.

After Purchasing

Inspection and Acceptance

Account holders, when possible, should use a third party to document independent inspection and acceptance of supplies and services they order or obtain in person. This simply means having another government employee sign off on the receipt or other purchase documentation verifying that the supplies/services were inspected and accepted. In some cases, such as when making an emergency purchase or when no other government employee is available, independent inspection and acceptance may be impossible. If that is the case, the account holder must document that independent inspection and acceptance was not possible and why.

 

Inspect each product to verify that it is in good condition with no visible damage or defects and the items meet the requirements of the purchase (color, size, quantity, etc.). Account holders should also verify that the purchase documentation (receipts, packing lists, shipping documents, etc.) matches what is provided by the merchant and that all requirements of the purchase are fulfilled. For services, verify that the work done is satisfactory. If upon inspection, all terms of the order as described above are fulfilled, the products or services may be accepted.

 

In the event the items purchased are defective, damaged, or otherwise do not comply with the account holder’s order, the account holder shall attempt to resolve these issues as soon as possible directly with the merchant. Similarly, if services provided are not satisfactory, the account holder shall address deficiencies immediately and directly with the merchant and prior to payment, if possible.

 

Disputes

If the payment has already been made on the GSA SmartPay purchase account and the merchant has failed to resolve issues satisfactorily, the account holder should dispute the transaction with the contractor bank as soon as possible. According to the GSA SmartPay Master Contract, the account holder is responsible for notifying the contractor bank of any items in dispute and shall have 90 calendar days from the transaction date to initiate a dispute, unless otherwise specified by the agency/organization.

 

Note: Account holders who fail to timely dispute erroneous or incorrect purchases may become personally liable for that purchase.

Sensitive Property

Because GSA SmartPay purchase accounts are frequently used to obtain sensitive items, an accurate property tracking system should be in place. Sensitive property includes items that are susceptible to loss, misuse or theft, such as mobile phones, laptops, monitors and printers.

Accountability for Items Purchased

Each year, agencies acquire billions of dollars of property with GSA SmartPay purchase accounts. This means that the account holder’s responsibilities do not end when an item they purchased is inspected and accepted. The purchased item must be properly accounted for in accordance with applicable federal and agency policies and regulations.

 

Supplies and services purchased with a GSA SmartPay purchase account are for official use only. For example, an iPad purchased to view podcasts of work-related presentations and lectures should not also be used to store personal music and photos, nor should it be engraved with the user’s name. At any time, property could be taken back by the issuing activity or program and re-issued to another person within that program.

 

Check with your agency policy on governing accountability for sensitive property. Account holders shall ensure applicable Federal and agency accountability procedures are followed for property for which they are responsible. This activity includes providing information to agency/organization property officers and/or systems on items purchased, excluding consumables.

 

If the account holder is purchasing an item for another government employee, that employee is the user of that property and is therefore responsible for ensuring the proper accounting of that property. However, account holders should ensure they have documentation in their file demonstrating that the property acquired was delivered to another party and is no longer their responsibility.

 

Account holders must be familiar with and comply with their organization’s policies regarding property management. This includes coordinating with your servicing property officer and appropriate custodians to ensure that all sensitive and otherwise accountable property is recorded in the applicable property tracking system, consistent with your agency’s policies and procedures. Account holders shall also familiarize themselves with agency policies for reporting property they acquired with a GSA SmartPay account that is missing, stolen or damaged after the initial receipt process.

Order Cancellation

If you need to cancel an order, immediately contact the merchant. Immediately contacting the merchant allows you to cancel before the item has been shipped. If the merchant has already processed the transaction, a credit should be issued. If the merchant has not processed the transaction, simply cancel the order. Special order items may include a restocking charge.

Returning a Purchase

Return policies can vary by merchant. Merchants are responsible for establishing their own return and adjustment policies with their customers. If the return policy is unclear when making a purchase, please ask the merchant for clarification to avoid future misunderstandings. Merchants are required to disclose their return policies to the customer before the completion of a transaction.

 

Obtaining Redress

By accepting the GSA SmartPay purchase account as payment, merchants agree to refund or replace any defective items. The first step to obtaining redress is to work with the merchant on a resolution. This is usually a refund or replacement of the defective item. If the merchant refuses to issue a credit voucher, you must dispute the transaction through the issuing contractor bank.

 

Obtaining Sales Receipt Copies

Obtain and save a copy of your sales receipts. You need a copy of a sales receipt in order to verify the purchase when reconciling your statement. If you misplaced the sales receipt and need a copy to verify an item on your statement, contact the merchant directly. If getting a reprinted receipt isn’t an option, contact your contractor bank to send you a copy.

 

What happens if you make a purchase that was not approved?

If it has been determined that the item cannot be returned, the Government must pay for the purchase and recoup the amount of the purchase from YOU! That is why it is important to fully understand what can and cannot be purchased with the GSA SmartPay purchase account, and ensure that your Approving Official is aware in advance of what you are purchasing.

Billing and Payment

Reconciling Your Purchase Account Statement

You will receive a statement notification, either electronically or through the mail, from the contractor bank once a month for your GSA SmartPay purchase account. The statement is mailed directly to your business address unless the agency is using the service provider’s Electronic Access System (EAS).

When you receive your monthly statement:

  • Identify and annotate any erroneous charges and work with the merchants and the issuing bank contractor on a resolution.
  • Review and reconcile your statement within the timeframes required by your agency (usually 3 to 5 days). Reconciling your statement includes reviewing receipts, citing proper accounting codes, documenting disputed items, and completing any other documentation required by your agency.
  • Forward your statement to your Approving Official and the appropriate Payment/Finance office for payment.

 

Reconciling a Credit

On occasion your statement will show a credit for a transaction that took place in a prior billing period. An example would be a credit for a returned item. When you get a credit several months after the original purchase, reconcile back to the original purchase documentation and note that the credit was received.

Questionable Charges

As an account holder, you are responsible for reviewing all charges on your statement. One of the first signs of fraud is at least one “mystery expense” showing up on your statement. Verify your statement by:

  • Looking for transactions or account withdrawals you do not recall making; and
  • Checking for unknown vendors.

 

If you do notice a questionable charge, act promptly so that you will have the necessary information before payment is due.

  1. Contact the merchant for clarification on the charge. If you need help identifying the merchant, call the contractor bank's customer service number. If the charge is erroneous, generally the merchant will reverse it, and it will appear as a credit on your next statement. Be sure to follow up and make sure the credit was posted to your account and deduct the credited amount from your payment. If the credit is not posted in a reasonable amount of time, dispute the charge with the bank. If the merchant says it is a legitimate charge to your account, ask for proof, such as a signed receipt. If, after receiving the additional information from the merchant, you do not agree that it is a legitimate charge, dispute the charge with the bank.
  2. A dispute is a disagreement between the account holder and the merchant with respect to a transaction. You, the account holder, are responsible for notifying the contractor bank of any items in dispute and shall have 90 calendar days from the transaction date to initiate a dispute, unless otherwise specified by the agency/organization.
    • Disputable charges include double billings and charges to your account that belong to another account.
    • Non-disputable charges include sales tax and shipping. 
  3. Payment of the undisputed charges must be made by the payment due date. Once you have submitted the dispute to the bank, delinquency of the disputed amount will be held in abeyance until the matter is resolved.

 

Note: You relinquish your right to recover a disputed amount if you do not dispute it before 90 calendar days from the transaction date.

Green Purchasing

Sustainable Acquisition or Green Purchasing refers to the procurement of products and services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose.

 

Benefits to using your purchase account to buy green products are that you help your agency to perform its mission while:

  • Saving money,
  • Enhancing energy security,
  • Protecting public health,
  • Promoting environmental stewardship,
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and
  • Fostering markets for sustainable technologies, materials, products and services.

 

In addition, regulations require federal buyers to purchase products with specific environmental or energy attributes and services under which those products will be used or supplied.

 

As an account holder, you can implement several environmentally friendly best practices to reduce your carbon footprint including:

  • Eliminating the use of paper by signing up for online or paperless statements and payments
  • Reduce the need to copy and print by taking advantage of online reporting.  If you do need to print, use recycled paper and ink cartridges. 
  • Reduce the use of convenience checks.
  • Request a GSA SmartPay charge card that is made from recycled or environmentally friendly materials.   
  • When shopping, use your GSA SmartPay account to purchase environmentally friendly or recycled products.  Use the GSA Advantage! Environmental Aisle to procure green products and services to maximum extent practicable. 
  • Inquire about any green purchasing training offered at your agency.

Account Holder Responsibilities

The account holder, or also known as cardholder, is the individual or agency/organization component designated by an agency/organization to receive an account to purchase supplies and services for Government use. The account holder is responsible for:

  • Securing the account;
  • Maintaining records relating to all transactions;
  • Using the account ethically and appropriately;
  • Performing market research;
  • Observing all dollar limits on purchases;
  • Complying with green purchasing requirements; and
  • Reconciling and documenting transactions.

You, as the account holder are the Government's legal agent for each purchase made with the purchase account, thus legally responsible and accountable for each transaction. You are responsible for complying with all applicable regulations and procedures of your agency.

For more information on Account Holder Responsibilities, download Helpful Hints for Purchase Account Use.

Reporting an Account Lost or Stolen

Report a lost or stolen purchase account promptly to:

  • The contractor bank;
  • Your program coordinator (A/OPC); and
  • Your supervisor.

Once an account has been reported as lost or stolen, the contractor bank immediately blocks that account from further usage and a new account number will be issued to the account holder.

 

Reporting the account as stolen does not relieve the account holder or the Government of payment for any transactions that were made by the account holder prior to reporting it stolen. If you do not recognize a transaction appearing on your statement, you are responsible for notifying the contractor bank within 90 calendar days from the transaction date to initiate a dispute, unless otherwise specified by the agency/organization. This notification of transaction dispute may occur via the electronic access system, by telephone, or other electronic means (e.g. email).

 

Note: You relinquish your right to recover a disputed amount after 90 calendar days from the date that the transaction was processed. It is your responsibility to dispute questionable charges. If you don’t, you will be held personally liable for the amount of the questionable charge.

Common Questions

Who should I contact for help with my account?

For questions related to payment, delinquency, address/ personal information change, confusion about your bill, disputed items, how to use the bank’s online account access website, or other questions related to specific account information contact your bank directly.

Citibank, 1-800-790-7206
JPMorgan Chase, 1-888-297-0781
US Bank, 1-888-994-6722

If you need help contacting the banks or dealing with specific issues, please contact your agency’s program coordinator (A/OPC) to assist you.  Some questions your A/OPC can assist with include:

  • How do I apply for an account?
  • What is considered proper use of my account?
  • What is my spending limit?
  • What are merchant category codes (MCCs) and how can I request lifting these codes?
  • What is delinquency? What is fraud? What are the consequences at my agency?
  • Why has my account been suspended or canceled?
  • How do I get set up for online access?

For general information about the program or for escalated issues, please contact a member of the GSA SmartPay program support team at (703) 605-2808 or email gsa_smartpay@gsa.gov.

How do I get a GSA SmartPay account? Do I need to qualify?

Accounts, such as charge cards, need to be obtained through your agency’s payment solutions program. Each agency has different criteria for distributing accounts to employees. Contact your supervisor or your agency’s program management office for more information on applying for a GSA SmartPay account. 

Depending on the type of payment solution and agency/organization, there are different qualifications for applicants to obtain an account:

  • For purchase accounts, a supervisor must recommend an employee to apply.  Potential purchase account holders must complete purchase account holder training before using their purchase account.
  • Depending on the frequency of travel, agency or governmentwide policy may require that an employee obtain a Government travel account to make travel related purchases. Travel account applicants may be subject to a credit worthiness check and must complete travel account holder training before using their travel account.
  • Fleet accounts are generally assigned to a vehicle, rather than an individual. Users of a Government vehicle should contact their fleet program manager to learn more about how to use vehicle fleet accounts.
What may be purchased with my GSA SmartPay account?

Purchase accounts are the preferred contracting and payment mechanism for micro-purchases of supplies and services in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulations. Only a few categories of purchases are EXCLUDED, such as:

  • Long-term rental or lease of land or buildings;
  • Travel related expenses (excluding conference rooms, meeting spaces, and local transportation services such as Metro fare cards, subway tokens, etc.);
  • Cash advances (unless permitted as a value added service under the agency task order).

For purchases above the micro-purchase threshold, the purchase account may be used as an ordering and payment mechanism, not a contracting mechanism. These purchases will require a separate contract.

What policies exist regarding use of the GSA SmartPay accounts?

Depending on the type of account, different policies may apply.  Policies include:

  • Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR);
  • Federal Travel Regulations (FTR);
  • Federal Management Regulations (FMR);
  • OMB Circular A-123 Appendix B;
  • Treasury Financial Manual for Guidance of Departments and Agencies.

Additionally, many agencies have additional regulations that are specific to their program and tailored to the agency's mission and operating procedures. Contact your agency program management office for more information regarding agency-specific policies.

 

What are the training requirements? How will my program coordinator know that I have completed my online training?

All program participants must be trained and receive a training completion certificate prior to appointment.  In addition, refresher training must be completed every 3 years (or more often if required by your agency training policy).  Training certificates serve as proof that an account holder has taken the appropriate training course. 

Account holders can obtain their training certificate by logging into the GSA SmartPay Online Training.  If the account holder has previously taken the course and passed the quiz, they may reprint or save the certificate with the course completion date by logging into the online training.  An account holder can also take a refresher quiz.  A passing score will enable the account holder to reprint the certificate with the new date. 

What is account misuse, and what are the potential penalties?

Intentional use of a government account for other than official government business constitutes misuse, and depending on the situation, may constitute fraud. Each agency develops and implements policies related to employee misuse. Examples of misuse include:

  • Purchases that exceed the account holder's limit;
  • Purchases that are not authorized by the agency;
  • Purchases for which there is no funding;
  • Purchases for personal consumption, and
  • Purchases that do not comply with the policies.

Potential consequences for the account holder may include: counseling, cancellation of the account, a written warning, notation in employee performance evaluation, reprimand, and/or suspension or termination of employment.

In the case of purchase account or centrally billed accounts (CBA) travel misuse, the employee may be held personally liable to the Government for the amount of any unauthorized transactions. Depending on the agency and the circumstances, there are a number of applicable laws that can result in fines or imprisonment.

Additionally, the contractor banks are authorized to take certain actions against account holders whose accounts are canceled for delinquency, such as:

  • Assessing late fees;
  • Utilizing collection agencies to recover the delinquent balance;
  • Reporting the delinquency to national credit bureaus, and
  • Salary offset.
What is my responsibility when it comes to paying taxes when using my GSA SmartPay account?

The account holder is responsible for understanding the state tax exemption requirements in their state.  In some cases, when using certain types of accounts, government account holders are exempt from taxes on their purchases.  Please visit the SmartTax section of the website for specific state tax information and points of contact.  

  • CBAs (centrally billed accounts) include purchases paid directly by the Government and are not charged tax.  CBA cards are issued at the agency, bureau, division, or fleet level, rather than to individuals.  The credit limit is determined based on an agency's mission and spend policies.  The federal government agency is billed directly for the purchase of goods and services. 

  • IBAs (individually billed accounts) include travel expenses paid by the employee who later seeks reimbursement from the government and allow for taxes to be charged.  Authorized federal government employees are issued IBAs after a personal credit score assessment, and the credit limit is determined by the agency and agency travel policies. The account holder (and not the Government) is billed for the purchase of goods and services.

Note:  All GSA SmartPay Purchase Accounts are centrally billed (CBA) and should be exempt from state taxes.

What is delinquency?

Delinquency is when undisputed account balances remain unpaid more than 61 days past the statement date. Individually billed account (IBA) account holders are liable for payment on their account regardless of whether they have received reimbursement from their agency. Account balances that are in dispute or being reviewed are not considered delinquent.

What is split disbursement?

The payment process called split disbursement is defined in the GSA SmartPay master contract as the process of dividing a travel voucher reimbursement between the contractor (bank) and the traveler. The balance designated to go to each is sent directly to the appropriate party.

Note:  Although OMB Circular A-123, Appendix B in Chapter 4.4 requires all executive branch agencies to implement split disbursement, it may not yet be operational in your agency/organization. Please contact your Agency/Organization Program Coordinator (A/OPC) for further details

Is a merchant allowed to photocopy a GSA SmartPay charge card?

Both VISA and MasterCard state in their guidelines that a merchant is allowed to make/store a photocopy of a charge card provided they do NOT record or copy the PIN and/or CVC data in any manner or for any purpose.

Note:  According to US Code Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 33, 701, it is illegal for a merchant to photocopy your Government ID.     

What are the benefits of having a GSA SmartPay purchase account?

The GSA SmartPay purchase account streamlines an individual office’s ability to make purchases, rather than relying on a centralized purchasing office.

Can I use my account to fund alternative payment mechanisms, such as PayPal?

Third Party Payment processors (e.g., PayPal, iBill, etc.) offer e-commerce/internet payment solutions for commercial transactions. The processors own merchant accounts that allow them to accept and process orders on behalf of other companies. Many vendors choose to utilize third party payment processors in order to accept online payments without having to establish a merchant account through a bank. Some vendors find that this is a more cost effective option, especially if they do not process enough transactions to establish their own merchant account. Vendors pay third party processors a transaction fee for these services rather than processing transactions through a merchant bank.

Please review SmartBulletin No. 23 for more information and check with your agency/organization program management office to learn more about specific agency/organization’s policy.

Can I use my account to purchase items from another federal agency?

GSA SmartPay accounts can be used to make purchases from any entity that accepts GSA SmartPay solutions as long as the purchase is made in accordance with applicable rules and regulations.  

Additional details are available here: Treasury Policy Change Effective June 1, 2015.

Program Coordinators

How it Works

The GSA SmartPay purchase program provides payment solutions to Federal employees to make official Government purchases for supplies, goods, and services under the micro-purchase threshold.

  • The GSA SmartPay purchase accounts are both a procurement and payment mechanism for micro-purchases.
  • For purchases above the micro-purchase threshold, the GSA SmartPay purchase account may be used as an ordering and payment mechanism, but not a contracting mechanism.

All purchase accounts are Centrally Billed Accounts (CBA), and the liability for transactions made by authorized account holders is borne by the Federal Government.  The Federal Government is not liable for transactions on the account when the use of the account is by a person who does not have actual, implied, or apparent authority for such use.

As a program coordinator, you will set up accounts for account holders with the GSA SmartPay issuing bank.  Account set-up can be done relatively quickly, usually within 10 working days from the time the account set-up forms are submitted. Emergency processing can occur within 24 hours and if required, a purchase charge card will be sent to the account holder within 48 hours of receipt of a written request.

Account holders can purchase any commercially available supply or service within their spending limits and not prohibited by either federal or agency-specific procurement regulations.  You need to provide the account holder with agency specific requirements regarding purchase amounts and types of purchases needing independent receipt documentation and/or approval.

Purchases that are STRICTLY PROHIBITED include:

  • Long-term rental or lease of land or buildings
  • Travel or travel-related expenses (not including conference rooms, meeting spaces, and local transportation services)
  • Cash advances (unless permitted by your agency/ organization)

Managing your Purchase Program

The GSA SmartPay purchase program provides payment solutions to federal government employees for official government purchases.  In order to be successful in managing your purchase program, you will need to have a clear understanding of how the GSA SmartPay program works, actively participate in meetings and training conferences, communicate relevant information to account holders, and be familiar with agency/ organization specific policies and procedures.

Refunds

The Federal Government saves on processing costs and generates revenue through volume refunds.  The amount of refund your agency receives is calculated during task order negotiation.

Agencies must verify their own refunds.  You can do this by comparing the base points in the task order with the quarterly refund report received from your bank.  If you need a copy of the quarterly report, contact your point of contact at the bank.  With GSA SmartPay, split disbursement will allow agencies to receive productivity and sales refunds for IBA accounts in addition to CBA accounts.

Click here for more information on refunds.  

Reporting Tools and Additional Tools

Program coordinators should use electronic reports to monitor and track misuse and fraud.  The following reports are available to you from the bank and may be utilized to detect misuse and fraud within your program:

  • Account Activity Report –This report shows all active accounts and spending for each account during a billing cycle.  It provides details on each transaction, including transaction date, transaction type, merchant name, and dollar amount.  It is particularly useful for identifying suspicious merchants, unusually high spending patterns, excessive convenience check usage, and untimely purchases.
  • Declined Authorizations Report – The declined authorization report will identify cardholders who have attempted to use a card to buy an item for which they are not authorized, that exceeds their single-purchase limits, that exceeds their monthly purchase limit, or from a merchant that falls under a blocked Merchant Category Code (MCC).
  • Disputes Report – The disputes report identifies date, merchant, reason code, dollar amount, and status of each dispute filed by a cardholder.  Approving officials and A/OPC’s should track and follow up on disputes to determine their outcomes.  Cardholders should attempt to resolve disputes directly with merchants prior to filing a disputes report.  If a merchant is consistently appearing on the disputes report, the A/OPC should determine whether the merchant may have billing issues, quality issues, or is attempting to commit fraud by submitting false transactions.
  • Unusual Spending Activity Report – The banks offer various reports identifying transactions that may warrant further review.
  • Lost/Stolen Account Report –The lost/stolen account report identifies accounts that are reported lost or stolen.  This may either be an indicator that the account holder needs to secure his/her account or that the account holder is attempting to disguise misuse or fraudulent activity by denying the charges.
  • Master File – The master file should be reviewed periodically to eliminate cardholders who are no longer employed in the agency, correct addresses, and verify whether card limits and authorization controls are appropriate.
  • Ad Hoc Reports - Your bank may offer an ad hoc reporting tool that enables you to create customized reports with the data elements you specify.

FSSI

FSSI Office Supply Management

The Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative for Office Supplies Third Generation (FSSI OS3) is GSA’s latest FSSI solution for office supplies. Strategic Sourcing leverages the purchasing power of the entire federal government, reducing costs of goods and services and allowing for better service. FSSI OS3 is a purchasing channel solution that helps federal customers achieve significant savings on their office supply purchases, while also supporting the nation’s small businesses. OS3 is expected to provide more than $90 million in annual savings captured through lower prices. The awards are the result of a collaborative team effort among customer agencies across the federal government. Under OS3 prices decrease as the collective purchases grow across the Federal Government. 

Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) Purchasing Solution, a Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI)

GSA has established Government Wide Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPA)s to sell  Maintenance, Repair & Operations products as a strategic sourcing solution. Average pricing is 12 percent lower than offered previously within the government marketplace.


Products are grouped into three categories in order to streamline offerings and ensure lower prices. These categories cover a wide range of hardware, tools, and paints and sealants products. By purchasing under this solution, customers can achieve socio-economic and green purchasing goals, while also achieving savings.  Customer agencies can place orders through GSA Advantage!, DoD EMALL or directly with the contractor using their GSA SmartPay payment solution.


The MRO website provides more information, including helpful documents for how to order plus a schedule for live training webinars: www.gsa.gov/fssimro


MRO can also be found on the Acquisition Gateway , built by GSA, to helps federal government buyers from all agencies access information from across the acquisition community.

Billing and Payment

For CBA accounts, the Federal Government accepts liability only for those proper charges made by an authorized centrally billed account holders, but is not liable for any unauthorized use. Unauthorized use is defined as the use of a payment solution by a person, other than the account holder, who does not have actual, implied, or apparent authority for such use and from which the account holder receives no benefit. When the centrally billed account has been used by an authorized account holder to make an unauthorized purchase, the centrally billed account participant is liable for the charge.

Realizing Cost Savings

The GSA Office of Charge Card Management (OCCM) and GSA SmartPay contractor banks are dedicated to identifying opportunities to provide customers with GSA SmartPay solutions to help address agency payment challenges. OCCM seeks to increase awareness of available payment solutions under the GSA SmartPay 2 master contract and help agencies continue to find ways to increase payment efficiencies and earn refunds. In the current budgetary environment, OCCM is committed to providing information to agency executives and card managers to identify innovative ways to help realize cost savings.

Responsibilities

As a program coordinator, you serve as the liaison between your agency/organization, the bank, the account holder, and the GSA Contracting Office. Your role is essential to efficiently and effectively manage the GSA Smartpay purchase program.

The following list identifies specific A/OPC responsibilities as outlined in the GSA SmartPay Master Contract. You may be required to assume some or all of the following responsibilities:

  • Maintain an up-to-date list of account names, account numbers, addresses, emails, and phone numbers, of all current account holders and accounts.
  • Provide to the issuing bank any changes in your agency's organizational structure that may affect invoice/report distribution.
  • Review and evaluate the bank's technical and administrative task order performance and compliance.
  • Resolve technical and operational problems between the bank and account holders as required.
  • Take appropriate action regarding delinquent accounts and report to internal investigative units and the GSA Contracting Officer any observed violations of applicable executive orders, laws or regulations.
  • Participate in training conferences and train account holders.
  • Ensure account holders use their account correctly.
  • Monitor account activity and manage delinquencies.
  • Ensure that appropriate steps are taken to mitigate suspension or cancellation actions.
  • Develop agency program procedures and policies as necessary.

Although it is not specifically mentioned in the GSA SmartPay Master Contract, an important responsibility you have as an A/OPC is to keep the lines of communication open with all key program participants. The key to an effective purchase program is to ensure that all participants, including senior management/leadership, are aware of what is going on in the program. Stay in touch with your agency/organization's purchase program participants by networking, asking questions, and sharing or distributing agency/organization policy changes, program information, and/or other purchase account information.  You should try to establish relationships with the account holders and Approving Officials (AO) within your span of control. The better you understand why and how the purchase account will be used, the more effective you can be in managing the program.

Liability for Purchase Account Transactions and The Review Process

Liability for Purchase Transactions

The GSA SmartPay Master Contract defines liability for purchase transactions:

  • Liability for transactions made by authorized account holders rests with the Federal Government.
  • If the account is used by an authorized account holder to make an unauthorized purchase, the Government is liable for payment and the agency is responsible for taking appropriate action against the account holder.
  • Use of the account by a person other than the account holder, who does not have actual, implied, or apparent authority for such use and for which the account holder receives no benefit, is not the liability of the Federal Government. If it is discovered that someone other than the account holder has used the account, it should be reported immediately to the A/OPC and the bank’s customer service representative.
The Review Process

Because an agency is liable for unauthorized purchases by an authorized account holder, agency purchase policy should address reviews conducted by the Approving Official (AO) and Agency/Organization Program Coordinator (A/OPC) to mitigate agency risk.

Approving Official Review:

The approving official is responsible for ensuring that all purchases made by the account holder were appropriate and the charges accurate.  All questionable purchases must be resolved with the account holder.  In the event an unauthorized purchase is detected, the AO must notify the A/OPC and other appropriate personnel in accordance with agency policy.  After review, the AO will sign the account statement and maintain the documentation in accordance with agency procedures.  Timely reviews of transactions are necessary to ensure detection of possible cases of account misuse and fraud.  The AO should have direct knowledge of the account holder’s role in the agency and the ability to verify receipt of the purchase.

Program Coordinator Review:

Program coordinator reviews of the purchase program must be accomplished to ensure adequate local internal controls are in place.  The review should consist of an evaluation of local operating procedures to ensure that account holders and approving officials are operating within the prescribed policies. A review includes: 

  • Compliance with agency policies;
  • Applicable training requirements;
  • Appropriate delegation of authority;
  • Integrity of the purchase process;
  • Compliance with procurement regulations;
  • Receipt and acceptance procedures; and
  • Records retention.

Reporting a Lost or Stolen Account

As the program coordinator (A/OPC), you have the responsibility to immediately report a lost or stolen account to the issuing bank so that they can cancel the account. 

Reporting the account as stolen does not relieve the account holder or Federal Government of payment for any transactions that were made by the account holder prior to reporting it stolen.  If the account holder did not make the transactions appearing on the billing statement, the account holder must submit a dispute form to the bank within 90 days from the date of the transaction. Failure to submit the dispute form could result in liability to the account holder or to the Federal Government.  If required, the bank will mail a new card within one business day from the time theft or loss was reported and will assign a new account number to the replacement card.

Best Practices

Best practices for managing a GSA SmartPay purchase program:

  • Engage management at the highest levels.
  • Train A/OPCs and account holders.
  • Review credit limits and lower as appropriate.
  • Use the bank’s Electronic Access System (EAS), data mining tools, and agency/ organization technology to run reports for monitoring questionable transactions.
  • Provide the GSA SmartPay card-sized booklet, “Helpful Hints for Purchase Card Use”, with each account holder application.
  • Publish frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to the purchase account on your agency’s/ organization’s website.
  • Create a monthly newsletter to reinforce agency/ organization policies and procedures.
  • Monitor spend by developing ad hoc reports that can be generated via Electronic Access Systems (EAS).
  • Perform an annual review of all issued accounts to determine if each account holder meets the criteria for continued participation in the federal government purchase program.
  • Provide comprehensive face-to-face account holder training as orientation for new account holders.
  • Address standards of conduct/ethics and clearly state consequences for misuse.
  • Discuss agency/organization policy.
  • Ensure account holders and A/OPCs fulfill the required refresher training requirements at a minimum every three years, or more frequently as per agency/ organization policy.
  • Ensure that training is easily accessible.

Common Questions

As a Program Coordinator, how do I connect with other agency program coordinators to share ideas and best practices?

There are several ways to actively participate within the community:

  • Join the Discussions with GSA SmartPay Community on Interact: A private online community allowing Program Coordinators (A/OPCs) a central location to share ideas and best practices, as well as discuss all other issues related to the GSA SmartPay program.
  • Attend the Quarterly A/OPC meetings, monthly Discussions with Dave conference call,  as well as other special meetings and events.  Dates and location for all meetings will be posted within the Interact Community.
  • Attend the GSA SmartPay Annual Training Forum:  Learn about all aspects of successfully managing your charge card program, including innovative payment solutions and the latest advancements in program oversight, as well as network, collaborate and share best practices with other card managers, bank representatives and GSA personnel. Check the website for more information.
What can I do to improve my agency’s program performance?

The GSA SmartPay program office provides a number of tools and other types of assistance to support effective program management in agencies across the Government. A few tips include:

  • Ensure policies are being followed: Most agencies have comprehensive policies regarding the administration of their payment programs. This includes policies for account use as well as for program management. Agency program management offices should ensure that the policies are communicated to cardholders and easily accessible (e.g., post the regulations on the agency's Intranet website). It is important for agencies to follow through with the implementation of their policies, including distribution and compliance monitoring.
  • Make sure training is a priority for all account holders and program coordinators: 
    • GSA offers free basic online training covering regulations and best practices for all agencies,
    • A variety of free resources and guidebooks to support card management are available on our website 
    • Contact the bank to schedule an in person or virtual Electronic Access System (EAS) training for your program coordinators
    • Attend the annual GSA SmartPay training forum provides a large variety of training for all program coordinators   
  • Initiate an Accounts Payable File Review:  An A/P File Review is a no-cost tool for agencies to help identify opportunities to leverage GSA SmartPay solutions as methods of payment to increase process efficiencies, cost savings, and refunds. 
  • Participate in Workgroups:  The GSA SmartPay program office sponsors periodic workgroups to facilitate the sharing of information between agencies, and to collect feedback on the performance of the GSA SmartPay program office and its contractor banks.
How do I go about incorporating a new payment solution into my program?

Under the GSA SmartPay program there are many options available to assist in meeting your agency’s mission critical needs.  Products  and related services under the GSA SmartPay program can offer customized payment solutions to help your agency achieve its goals. Upon award of the GSA SmartPay 2 Master Contract, each agency awarded a task order to one of the three GSA SmartPay contractors: Citibank, J.P. Morgan, and U.S. Bank. The products and services offered to your agency under the GSA SmartPay program, may not be specified at the task order level, as each agency's task order is different and unique.  Therefore, it is important to review your agency/organization's task order and speak to those within your agency responsible for managing your agency’s task order, such as your level 1 Agency/Organization Program Coordinator (A/OPC) and/or the Contracting Officer, to find out how your agency/organization can take advantage of these offerings. 

What policies exist regarding the use of the GSA SmartPay payment solutions?

There are a number of policies that govern the use of Government payment solutions. Policies include:

  • Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR);
  • Federal Travel Regulations (FTR);
  • Federal Management Regulations (FMR);
  • OMB Circular A-123 Appendix B;
  • Treasury Financial Manual for Guidance of Departments and Agencies.

Additionally, many agencies have regulations that are specific to their program and tailored to the agency's mission and operating procedures. Contact your agency program management office for more information regarding agency-specific policies.

What training is available for agency program coordinators?

There is a variety of free training offered for program coordinators (A/OPCs).  All upcoming training relevant information for program coordinators will be posted in Interact. 

What can agencies/organizations do to help prevent misuse of cards? What tools are available to provide assistance to agencies in detecting fraud and misuse?

Agencies can significantly benefit by mandating training that meets governmentwide standards for account holders and A/OPCs. Currently, training varies widely among the agencies, with many agencies relying on the training provided at the annual GSA SmartPay training forum and the online training courses on the GSA SmartPay website.  These training courses provide the necessary governmentwide rules and regulations but do not reflect agency-specific requirements.

The master contract requires a number of tools that support the Government in controlling and monitoring card spend to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse. Examples of these tools are:

  • Credit limits – Credit limits restrict single purchase, daily, weekly, or monthly expenditures by the cardholders. In accordance with agency policy, limits are set to meet the agency needs.
  • Merchant Category Code (MCC) Blocks – MCCs are established by the bankcard associations to classify different types of businesses. Merchants are assigned codes that describe their primary line of business. Agencies can limit the types of businesses where cardholders can make purchases by limiting the MCCs available to the cardholder.
  • Reports – Agencies have access to management reports via the Internet. The banks provide standard reports and ad hoc reports. These include Account Activity reports, Dispute reports, Unusual Spending Activity reports, Lost/Stolen Cards reports, and miscellaneous Ad Hoc reports.
  • Guidebooks – The banks are required to provide written guides for A/OPCs that include best practices for account setup and maintenance, account suspension/cancellation, disputes, reports, and invoicing procedures. Agencies also have access to account holder guides from banks, which outline authorized uses of the account, disputes, and billing.

Other resources such as “Knowledge:  The Best Protection for Your GSA SmartPay Card” are available for download or print on the website. 

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