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GSA SmartPay

Travel

When traveling for the US Government, use of the GSA SmartPay program is mandatory, unless an exemption has been granted. Discover tips to success by learning about policies, training opportunities, and innovative solutions here! 

Account Holders

Overview

Each agency contracts with a commercial provider for government travel accounts using the GSA SmartPay master contracts. When traveling for the Government, use of a government travel account is mandatory, unless an exemption has been granted. The travel account contain identifiers to obtain negotiated government discounts for airfare and tax exemption in some states.

 

Signing Up

SIgning up for your GSA SmartPay Travel Charge Account

If you are a first time GSA SmartPay travel account applicant, your agency is required to assess your credit worthiness pursuant to Section 846 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-115), prior to issuing you a travel account.

Refer to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-123, Appendix B, Chapter 6, credit worthiness, for more details or contact your agency’s program coordinator to get details on the process used for assessing credit worthiness.

To receive a GSA SmartPay travel account, you will need to fill out the appropriate application from the bank.  To do this, you must:

  1. Obtain an application through your Agency’s program coordinator (A/OPC)
  2. Provide an address where your GSA SmartPay travel charge card will be mailed (at most agencies, this is your home address).
  3. Provide an identifier to activate your GSA SmartPay travel account.
  4. Indicate whether you will have ATM access (you can find this out from your A/OPC).
  5. Know your responsibilities in accepting a government travel account.  Be aware that:
    • You are personally liable and responsible for all charges whether or not you are reimbursed by your agency;
    • Your credit rating may be affected if the account has been cancelled;
    • You may be subject to disciplinary action and/or salary offset for late payment.
  6. Sign the form (you may need to have your supervisor sign it also).
  7. Submit the signed form to your A/OPC who will verify it to make sure all necessary information is provided (your A/OPC will send it to the bank).

 

Receiving Your GSA SmartPay Travel Charge Account

You will receive your government travel account in the mail within 10 days from the time the application is submitted.  If you have ATM authorization, the bank will mail the PIN separately (for security reasons). You should receive your ATM PIN within a few days of receiving your GSA SmartPay travel account.

When you receive your travel account, it is important to:

  1. Read the Cardholder Agreement. 
  2. Sign the back of your travel charge card.
  3. Follow the instructions to activate your travel account.
  4. Store your travel charge card in a secure location until you are ready to travel.

Extended Benefits

Government travel account holders, under the GSA SmartPay Program, are eligible to receive extended benefits coverage. They are automatically covered when the account holder initiates and pays for the entire travel related transaction with their government account.

Any/All benefit are agency specific. This means that some agencies may have more benefits due to differences in the task order.

Additional restrictions, limitations, and exclusions may apply to the terms and conditions of the insurance provisions. Dollar limitations on services provided may vary depending upon the contractor. For details, please contact your issuing bank’s customer service center.

These benefits are provided, free of charge, through the following contractors:

  • JPMorganChase
  • Citibank
  • US Bank
Travel Emergency Assistance
  • Lost or Stolen Account Report
  • Emergency Medical Referral Assistance
  • Prescription Assistance
  • Emergency Legal Referral Assistance
  • Valuable Document Delivery
  • Emergency Transportation Assistance
  • Emergency Ticket Replacement
  • Travel Accident Insurance
  • Lost Luggage Assistance
  • Emergency Message Service
  • Emergency Translation Service
  • Pre-Trip Assistance
Auto Rental Insurance (ARI)

For auto/rental insurance (ARI) information, please refer to your Visa/ MasterCard benefits document.

Getting Started

The Travel and Transportation Reform Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-264) mandates Federal Government account holders to use the contractor-issued travel account for official government travel expenses and to receive cash advances unless:

  • A vendor does not accept the travel charge card;
  • The Administrator of GSA has granted an exemption (see FTR Section 301-70.704); or
  • Your agency head or his/her designee has granted an exemption.

Government travel accounts are VISA or MasterCard branded and can be used at any location that accepts VISA or MasterCard credit cards, including internationally.  The GSA SmartPay travel account may be used only for authorized official travel and authorized travel related expenses. Official travel expenses are transportation, lodging, meals, and incidentals. The travel account may not be used for personal expenses at any time or must not be used by any other person.

When you return from your trip, you must submit a claim for reimbursement of the allowed expenses incurred while on travel. You will either use the reimbursed amount to pay the travel account bill or it may be sent directly to the issuing bank (if your agency supports split disbursement).

To get started with a GSA SmartPay account, you must:

  1. Apply for a government travel account through your agency's program coordinator.
  2. Read and become familiar with your agency’s travel policy and procedures.
  3. Find out what receipts you will need to keep to be reimbursed.
  4. Become familiar with Federal travel policy:

Planning/Making Reservations

Making Reservations: Airline, Lodging, Rental Car

At most agencies, you will make travel reservations through your agency Travel Management Center (TMC)/ Commercial Travel Office (CTO). Generally, the TMC/CTO pays for airline tickets using your agency's centrally billed travel account.  If this is the case, charges booked through the TMC/CTO will not appear on your individually billed GSA SmartPay travel account.

You are required to use the Travel Management System selected by your agency for all common carrier, lodging, and car rental arrangements. Only the head of your agency or his/her designee may exempt certain types of travel arrangements from the mandatory use of the Travel Management System.

There are several benefits to having the TMC/CTO make your lodging reservations:

  • Compliance with the Fly America Act, government-wide travel policies, contract city pair fares, electronic ticketing, and ticket delivery, and
  • Compliance with the Hotel/Motel Fire Safety Act.

For lodging reservations, find out:

  • If the facility is on the FEMA list of fire safe lodging. See apps.usfa.fema.gov/hotel/.
  • The cancelation policy. Be sure to cancel if you will not be using the room (most hotels charge for last minute cancellations or no-shows.)
  • The late arrival policy if you will be arriving after 6 PM.
  • When the hotel will charge your travel charge card. This is important because it will affect your ability to receive reimbursement from your agency in time to pay your travel charge card bill before it becomes delinquent.
  • State policies on tax exemptions.

Before, During, and After the Trip

Before the Trip

Cash Advance: In accordance with agency policy, you may obtain cash through the use of an ATM to cover all anticipated out-of-pocket cash expenses for the trip before you leave.

Airline tickets: Unless your TMC/ CTO mails airline tickets to travelers, pick up your airline ticket as close to the date of departure as possible. Many TMCs use e-ticketing, where you will only receive information about the reservation and not a physical ticket.

Phone card: Pick up a government phone card from your agency for telephone calls (ask your program coordinator to find out your agency policy on reimbursing personal phone calls while on travel).

Don’t forget to bring:

  • A government issued picture ID card/ badge or drivers license
  • A copy of your travel authorization
  • The government travel account to pay for official travel expenses such as your hotel, car rental and meals
  • Personal cash or credit card to pay for personal expenses
  • Lodging tax exempt forms (if available)
During the Trip

During your trip, make sure you keep a record of expenses by writing them down or saving receipts. Lodging receipts are required by all agencies. Follow agency policy with regard to other receipts.

Below is a Quick Snapshot of what is and is not reimbursable while on your trip:

Reimbursable Expenses

  • Air fare
  • Maximum lodging amount allowed for the per diem locality excluding lodging tax
  • Meals (up to the rate for the per diem locality)
  • Personal calls (limited, per agency)
  • Work related telephone calls and faxing
  • Laundry and dry cleaning (at the TDY location and only after consecutive nights lodging on official domestic travel)
  • Car rental (approved)
  • Shuttle, taxi, and tips
  • ATM fees (cash advances for official travel)

Non-reimbursable Expenses

  • Business or First Class air fares without prior written approval
  • Amount in excel of lodging amount allowed for the per diem locality unless previously approved
  • Meal costs over the rate for the per diem locality
  • Personal calls (over allowance)
  • Gifts
  • Postcards and postage
  • Personal Expenses
After the Trip

You must complete and submit the travel claim/voucher immediately, within 5 calendar days or agency specified timeframe, after returning from official travel. 

Make sure you:

  • Provide all necessary information and attach or submit receipts as required by your agency.
  • Know the sign-off process and follow-up.
  • Set up a direct deposit to your bank account, so you will not have to wait for a check to be mailed.
  • Use the amount reimbursed by your agency to pay the travel bill.
  • Pay the balance on your travel bill in full before it becomes delinquent.

Green Travel

When traveling, you should be aware of your impact on both the physical and social environment.  You should try whenever possible to minimize negative environmental impacts and make positive contributions by choosing eco-friendly options, conserving plants, wildlife and other resources, and respecting local cultures and communities.

As a traveler, you have opportunities to preserve and protect the environment of the place you are visiting.  Look for green lodging options and earth-friendly transportation such as biking, walking and taking public transit. 

The government has made environmental sustainability a priority.  FedRooms is working with its hotels to promote properties that have sustainable practices in place.  You can look for the FedRooms “green” icon when searching for hotels. 

Some tips to think about before traveling include: 

  • Choose hotels that are locally owned or staffed by local employees
  • Choose hotels that have recycling programs and options for reusing towels and sheets instead of having them changed each day.
  • Research if the hotel offers energy-efficient lighting, low-flow toilets and showers, or if they take advantage of alternative energy sources.
  • Select a hotel close to public transportation and or near the places you are going to visit.
  • When flying, book electronic tickets.
  • Minimize air travel and choose to stay longer in a destination instead of making many short trips.
  • For shorter trips, take the train, take the bus, or drive.
  • When renting a car, choose a small hybrid car.
  • Share the ride with fellow employees.  Ridesharing can include either cabs or shuttle services between airports, hotels, and conferences or meetings.
  • Pack lightly.  Reducing the weight of luggage can significantly cut green house gas emissions and reduce the weight of your individual carbon footprint.
  • Before leaving home, unplug any unnecessary appliances and set the thermostat and water heater at low settings.

During your trip, try to:

  • Minimize water usage when showering or brushing your teeth.
  • Turn off air conditioning and other electrical appliances when not in use.
  • Use your own drinking cups and toiletries.
  • Tell the hotel how important eco-friendly options are to you.
  • Walk.  Agencies should raise the awareness of the environmental and health benefits of walking or bicycling between lodging and meetings at the temporary duty site when practical.
  • Use public transportation.  You as a traveler should be familiar with subway/trains and bus routes that are available between meetings, lodging, and other locations at which business is to be conducted.
  • Grab only the maps and brochures that you will actually use.
  • Eat local.  Visit a farmer’s market, shop at a locally owned grocery store and choose locally owned restaurants that buy local.
  • Whenever possible, utilize options that do not require batteries.  Buy rechargeable batteries for your essential travel items (cameras, razors, and flash lights).
  • Check out electronically.  Most hotels allow travelers to view and approve their bill electronically rather than relying on paper documents.

After your trip, eliminate the use of paper by signing up for online or paperless statements and payments.

Billing and Payment

Make payment for all undisputed charges on your travel bill in full by the statement billing due date (25 to 30 days after the closing date on the billing statement).  The due date is printed on the bill.  Failure to pay your monthly bill in a timely manner may result in the loss of your charging privileges. If your account is suspended, you will be unable to use it until your bank receives payment. If your account is canceled due to non-payment, your delinquency maybe reported to credit bureaus, be referred to collection agencies, or lead to other collection actions and you may not be eligible to receive a new account.

Responsibilities

Do's

In addition to your agency's travel policy, you should comply with the following guidelines:

  • Do use your government travel account to pay for official travel expenses.
  • Do obtain travel advances for official travel through an ATM if authorized by your agency.
  • Do track your expenses and keep receipts while on travel so you have accurate information for filing your travel claim.
  • Do file your travel claim within five days after you complete your trip or every 30 days if you are on continuous travel.
  • Do submit payment in full for each monthly bill.
  • Do follow your bank's dispute process for charges which are incorrect.
  • Do contact your bank's customer service number if you have questions about your monthly bill.
  • Do be aware that misuse of the travel account could result in disciplinary actions by your agency.
  • Do be aware that failure to pay your bill in a timely manner can result in suspension or cancelation of your account.
  • Do destroy your travel charge card if you leave your agency or retire.
  • Do immediately report your lost or stolen account to your A/OPC and the issuing bank.
  • Do destroy any lost or stolen cards that are recovered.
  • Do be aware of identity theft schemes attempting to gain access to financial information.
Dont's
  • Don’t use your travel account for personal use.
  • Don’t obtain travel advances through the ATM which exceed your expected out of pocket expenditures for a trip.
  • Don’t obtain travel advances through the ATM unless you are on travel or will be on travel shortly.
  • Don’t allow your monthly bill to become overdue because this could result in suspension or cancelation of your account.
  • Don’t wait for receipt of your monthly billing statement to file your travel claim.
  • Don’t forget that the account is issued in your name and liability for payment is your responsibility.
  • Don’t write your personal identification number (PIN) down or carry your PIN in your wallet.

Reporting a Lost or Stolen Account

Immediately report your lost or stolen travel account to your:

Reporting as account as stolen does not relieve you or the 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 account holder statement, the account holder must submit a dispute form to the bank within 60 days. Failure to submit the dispute form could result in liability you or to the Federal Government.  If needed, the bank will mail you a new card within one business day from the time theft or loss was reported and will assign you a new account number.

Common Questions

Who should I contact for help with my account?

First contact your Agency/ Organization Program Coordinator (A/OPC). A/OPCs can answer most account related questions including:

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

Account holders can also contact the bank directly using the customer service phone number listed on the back of their card.

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

If your issue can not be resolved by your A/OPC or the bank, please forward it to GSA Program Support 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 government wide 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 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 card may be used as an ordering and payment mechanism, not a contracting mechanism. These purchases will require a separate contract.

Travel Account – Travel accounts may be used by individual government travelers to pay for all official Government travel and related expenses. Account holders are expected to submit vouchers to their agency for all authorized travel-related expenses within five days after the travel is completed (or within 30 days if on continuous travel) and must pay their travel account bills.

Account holders are not authorized to make purchases for anything other than official government travel-related expenses. Some agencies authorize the use of travel accounts for local travel purposes - check with your supervisor or A/OPC to learn more about your agency/organization’s policy.

Fleet Account – Fleet accounts may be used for purchasing fuel and maintenance services for government vehicles.

 

What policies exist regarding use of charge cards?

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 original 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 a refreshed date. 

 

What is card 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 of charge cards. Examples of misuse include:

  • Purchases that exceed the cardholder'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 cancelled 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?

In some cases, when using certain types of cards, government account holders are exempt from taxes on their purchases.  Please visit the SmartTax section of the website for more information on taxes.  

  • Centrally Billed Accounts (CBA): CBAs are purchase accounts where payment is made directly to the bank by the Government.  Currently, all states except Arizona, Illinois, and Hawaii exempt Federal Government employees with CBA purchase accounts.
  • Individually Billed Accounts (IBA): IBAs are travel accounts where payment is made directly to the bank by the individual.  The state determines the exemption status for Individually Billed Accounts.
  • Integrated Accounts:  Integrated accounts are CBAs

 

What is split disbursement?

The payment process called split disbursement is defined in the GSA SmartPay 2 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.

VISA guidelines state:  A merchant must not require a cardholder to provide any supplementary cardholder information as a condition of honoring the card including photocopying the card, unless it is required or permitted elsewhere in the US Regional Operating Regulations.

MasterCard guidelines state:  The merchant must absolutely not copy the back of the card because the merchant is not allowed to record the CVC data.  Although there is no rule prohibiting making a copy of the card front, there are standards regarding storing and destroying account data, which would include a copy of the card front. 

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

Program Coordinators/AOs

As a program coordinator/ approving official, the success of your travel program depends on your basic understanding of the GSA SmartPay program, as well as your active participation and understanding of program policies and procedures set forth by your agency/organization.  GSA SmartPay is more than just a charge card program - it offers a large variety of payment solutions that can be utilized to advance agency mission in many different ways. Find out more here!

How it Works

The Travel and Transportation Reform Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-264) mandates Federal Government account holders to use the contractor-issued travel charge card for official government travel expenses and to receive cash advances unless:

  1. A vendor does not accept the travel charge card;
  2. The Administrator of GSA has granted an exemption (see FTR Section 301-70.704); or
  3. Your agency head or his/her designee has granted an exemption.

Government travel accounts are VISA or MasterCard branded and can be used at any location that accepts VISA or MasterCard, including internationally.  The GSA SmartPay travel account may be used only for authorized official travel and authorized travel related expenses. Official travel expenses are transportation, lodging, meals, and incidentals. The travel account may not be used for personal expenses at any time or must not be used by any other person.

General Administration

The GSA SmartPay travel program provides accounts to government employees for official travel.  In order to be successful in managing your travel 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 your 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

Program Coordinators should use electronic reports to monitor and track delinquency.  The following is a list of reports available to you from the banks:

  • Pre-suspension/Pre-cancelation Report: Provides a listing of accounts eligible for suspension or cancellation.
  • Suspension/Cancelation Report: Provides a listing of accounts that have been suspended or cancelled.
  • Delinquency Report: Provides account status for each range of days accounts are past due (30, 60, 90, 120 or more days).
  • Charge Off/Write Off Report: Lists the amounts charged off/written off for non-payments.
  • Exception Report: Provides information on declined authorizations, Merchant Category Code (MCC) reports for non-travel expenditures, ATM withdrawals, high-volume accounts, etc. These reports may vary from bank to bank.
  • 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.
Additional Tools

The Electronic Access System (EAS) provides many useful reports to assist in the effective management of the GSA SmartPay program. The EAS allows AOs to review an account holder’s transactions online. Purchase account holders can maintain electronic purchase logs through the EAS as well. There are many other functions of the EAS that are beneficial for AOs, including electronic reconciliation and certification, editing account allocation, multi-account allocation and assignment of account codes.

Value Added Product and Service Offerings are provided from the contractor banks to customer agencies.Those offerings that are most beneficial for AOs include data-mining tools to detect patterns, trends, and/or anomalies, and automatic email alerts for a given transaction.

Contractor banks are required to provide various reports to agencies, to help manage the program and to assist agency representatives with identifying and investigating possible misuse of payment solutions.  

Additional information regarding the GSA SmartPay Program and AO responsibilities can be found via the following links:

Billing and Payment

For Individually Billed Accounts (IBA): Account holders must make payment for all undisputed charges on their travel charge card bill IN FULL by the statement billing due date printed on the bill (25 to 30 days after the closing date on the billing statement).  Failure to pay the monthly bill in a timely manner may result in the loss of their charging privileges. If the account is suspended, the account holder will be unable to use it until the bank receives payment. If the account is cancelled due to non-payment, the delinquency maybe reported to credit bureaus, be referred to collection agencies, or lead to other collection actions and the account holder may not be eligible to receive a new account.  The agency/organization is never responsible or legally liable for the account.

For Centrally Billed Accounts (CBA):  The Federal Government accepts liability only for those proper charges made by an authorized centrally billed account holder using the account, 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 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 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 and Risk Management

As the travel program coordinator (A/OPC), your primary responsibility includes overseeing the travel program for your agency/ organization to best support your agency’s mission. You will serve as a liaison between the account holder, the bank, the agency’s management, and GSA’s Office of Charge Card Management.

A/OPC responsibilities include:

  • Maintaining a current list of account names, account numbers, addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers of all current account holders and accounts;
  • Maintaining a current list of agency/ organization points of contact for Designated Billing Offices (DBOs), Transaction Dispute Offices (TDOs), and Electronic Commerce/ Electronic Data Interchange Offices (EOs);
  • Providing to the bank(s) any changes in organizational structure that affect invoice/ report distribution;
  • Reviewing and evaluating the bank’s technical and administrative task order performance and compliance;
  • Ensuring that DBOs, TDOs, and EOs provide feedback;
  • Resolving technical and operational problems between the bank and the user;
  • Assisting the GSA SmartPay contracting officer in authorizing unique contract support changes;
  • Taking appropriate action regarding delinquent accounts or non-compliance with task order performance;
  • Ensuring that task orders and changes to the task orders are within the maximum dollar volume limit, and include:
    • Clearly defined requirements, acceptance plan and criteria, and an appropriate management and technical approach; and
    • Defined milestones and deliverable products, schedules, and prices
  • Developing an independent government estimate for each task order and/or changes to the task order;
  • Participating in annual training conferences;
  • Ensuring account holders use the travel account correctly;
  • Monitoring account activity and managing delinquencies; and
  • Ensuring that appropriate steps are taken to mitigate suspension or cancelation actions.

 

Preventive Actions and Risk Management

There are several preventative actions you can take to help manage and minimize risk within your travel program.  These include:

  • Determining credit limits – Review the credit limit of account holders to determine what is appropriate based on the frequency of travel.
  • Deactivating accounts when not in use.
  • Establish ATM withdrawal limits.
  • Monitor delinquency and unauthorized charges more effectively by decreasing the number of days for suspension, cancelation, or late fees.
  • Blocking certain Merchant Category Codes (MCCs) to prevent unauthorized use.
  • Suspending and/or canceling an account for inappropriate use or failing to pay the bank on time.
  • Implementing salary offset.
  • Ensuring the use of split disbursement
  • Reviewing accounts periodically to ensure that all unused travel accounts are closed (this includes closing accounts for employees who leave the organization).
  • Reporting delinquency and misuse/abuse to the appropriate officials.

Delinquency

Delinquency is the result of an employee’s failure to pay the charges incurred on his/her individually billed travel account in accordance with the terms and conditions of the issuing bank’s account agreement.  The account holder must pay all undisputed charges directly to the issuing bank in full by the billing due date as printed on the statement of account, regardless of whether or not reimbursement has been received from the agency.  The billing due date varies between 25 and 30 days after the closing date on the statement of account.  In the event a statement of account contains a charge that is incorrect or unrecognizable by the account holder, the account holder must dispute the charge by filing a dispute form with the bank within 60 days from the statement of account date on which the charge first appeared.

The following can be used as a guide for determining the status of an account.  (Please remember to refer to your agency policy for specific delinquency stages).

  • 45 days past due: Pre-suspension
  • 61 days past due: Suspension/ pre-cancelation
  • 126 days past due: Cancelation
  • 180 days past due: Charge off/ write off

It is important to notify employees that a canceled individually billed travel charge card account may be:

  • Reported to credit bureaus or similar entities
  • Referred to an outside collection agency
  • Subject to late fees that will not be reimbursed

 

Monitoring Delinquency

Use electronic reports to monitor and track delinquency.  The following is a list of reports available to you from the banks:

  • Pre-suspension/Pre-cancelation Report: Provides a listing of accounts eligible for suspension or cancelation.
  • Suspension/Cancelation Report: Provides a listing of accounts that have been suspended or canceled.
  • Delinquency Report: Provides account status for each range of days accounts are past due (30, 60, 90, 120 or more days).
  • Charge Off/Write Off Report: Lists the amounts charged off/written off for non-payments.
  • Exception Report: Provides information on declined authorizations, Merchant Category Code (MCC) reports for non-travel expenditures, ATM withdrawals, high-volume accounts, etc. These reports may vary from bank to bank.
  • 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.

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 Account Holders
  • Train account holders on the proper use of the travel accounts. Use ethics training as another source for instruction.
  • Develop a traveler hotline to respond to account holder questions.
  • Develop and maintain a travel-specific website for your agency.
  • Publish answers to frequently asked questions related to travel on your agency website.
  • Create an informational newsletter.
  • Send periodic reminders to account holders on agency travel policies and procedures.
  • Hold orientation sessions with new account holders.
  • Provide account holder training on how to fill out a proper travel claim/voucher.
  • Remind account holders who are on extended travel to submit interim travel claims/vouchers to ensure timely receipt of reimbursement.
  • Notify account holders that their obligation to pay their respective bank by the billing due date is not contingent upon receipt of a travel reimbursement from the agency/organization.
  • Contact account holders who appear on the Pre-Suspension/ Pre-Cancellation Report by phone, email, and/ or correspondence. Advise account holders that immediate action must be taken.
  • Use a statement insert/statement message provided by the bank to convey information to account holders.
  • Provide the GSA SmartPay card-sized brochure, Helpful Hints for Travel Card Use.
  • Send an annual letter from your agency director reminding account holders of their responsibilities.
  • Provide a travel training video for account holders.
Best Practices for Program Coordinators (A/OPCs)
  • Use online tools provided by the banks, GSA, and your agency.
  • Email updates to A/OPCs at all levels on program changes.
  • Review reports regularly and track trends in delinquency rates and charge offs/ write offs.
  • Use exception reports to detect misuse of the travel account or unusual spending patterns.
  • Use ad hoc reporting tools provided by your bank to customize and/ or develop your own agency reports.
  • Eliminate manual calculations by developing ad hoc reports that can be generated as needed.
  • Ensure that account holder information is properly secured and confidentially maintained in accordance with the security and privacy regulations of your agency, as well as with the Privacy Act.
  • Create a monthly newsletter/ memorandum to reinforce agency travel account holder policies for misuse and/or account delinquency.
  • Develop and implement an agency-established penalty guide with your agency’s human resources office outlining appropriate disciplinary action for undisputed delinquencies and non-official use of the travel account by employees.
  • Perform an annual review of all accounts to determine whether each account meets the criteria for continued participation in the Federal Government travel program.

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 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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