AF implements government travel card controlled spend accounts

January 7, 2011

by Tech. Sgt. Amaani Lyle
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Office

1/7/2011 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- In an effort to curtail government travel card abuse and delinquency, Air Force officials are piloting an unprecedented controlled spend account concept Jan. 1.

The most significant CSA concept bases spending limits on approved travel authorizations and provides just enough funds to perform the mission, GTC officials said.

"We're building automated processes into the program so that personnel managing their unit's travel card program can go back to being focused on mission-enhancing rather mission support duties," said Mike Bilbrey, the Air Force banking officer.

Officials from Citi, the Air Force's travel card contractor, said the concept was developed with a Defense Department perspective and marks a new generation of GTCs by decreasing the time and resources dedicated to maintaining the program without mission disruption.

Air Force banking officials said although the program was originally developed to facilitate travel, over the last decade it has morphed into labor-intensive card use and abuse management.

"Over the past two decades, we've seen the Air Force's GTC program evolve from a small segment of travelers to the largest charge card program in the world with about 480,000 card holders," said Charles Maddox, the air staff finance management GTC program manager.

The Air Force currently uses a combination of individual billed accounts and centrally billed accounts within the GTC programs to accomplish official travel. Finance officials said these accounts have pre-set credit that can be increased to meet mission requirements, though the credit limits are estimates and not mission driven.

The new system links the card spend limit to the estimated cost on approved travel orders and the total trip reimbursement applies to the credit card, as opposed to a split disbursement at voucher settlement.

Finance officials strongly encourage Airmen to be mindful of the impact of under-estimating projected travel expenses, which will affect the card's spending limits. Since the spending limit is based on the estimated cost of the travel authorization, Airmen must request a temporary spending limit or amend their travel order to reflect the adjusted period of travel and costs.

For Airmen with multiple travel authorizations, the new card-spending limit is an aggregate amount of all approved orders and is not subject to a maximum limit.

If a traveler's TDY ends sooner than expected, the original spending limit is in excess of the final travel payment and the traveler will be responsible to Citi for any amount spent above the trip settlement. Spend limits are estimates and are increased or decreased based on actual entitlements such as lodging, airfare and location-based per diem calculated at final settlement.

When on extended travel or short-notice upon verbal orders of a commander, Airmen can request a temporary spending limit by calling Citi's Cardholder Assistance toll-free number at 877-784-1407.

What travelers need to know:

  • Cardholders must call to confirm receipt of CSA and establish a pin number.
  • GTC PIN will not automatically transfer to CSA. PIN numbers will not be sent in mail.
  • All travelers will have a CSA since no credit checks are required.
  • CSA has no value unless the individual is in a travel status.
  • Cardholders can contact CitiBank directly to request an adjustment of their spending limit.
  • An automated email message is sent to both the traveler and their agency program coordinator to confirm increase request.
  • Temporary spend limit increases are good for five business days or seven calendar days.
  • The maximum amount allowed for cash withdrawal is $200.
  • One hundred percent of the voucher payment will be sent directly to CitiBank and refunds to individuals will be sent from the bank.
  • There are many options to obtain residual funds (CSA , electronic transfer, check issuance, ATM - two percent withdrawal fee).
  • Accounts will be suspended at 61 days past due if account is not paid.
  • Keeping your contact information is essential. Email addresses play an important role.
  • Participation by bargaining unit employees is not mandatory until union obligations have been meet.
  • The program started Jan. 1 or when travelers' old cards expire.

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