Beware of common misfires with government travel charge card

Photo Credit: U.S. Army
Photo Credit: U.S. Army

By Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Foiles, Vicenza, Italy

Department of Defense policy is that the Government Travel Charge Card will be used by all DOD personnel (military or civilian) to pay for all costs related official government travel. A major benefit of using the GTCC is limiting out-of-pocket expenses associated with official travel.

In order to avoid common mistakes and pitfalls when using the GTCC, it is important to stay abreast of current regulations and policies. An excellent way to stay current is by taking the “Program & Policies — Travel Card 101” training just before traveling.

Travel Card 101 highlights the official position for GTCC usage and cardholder responsibilities. Another excellent resource is the organization Resource Manager and/or Government Travel Card Agency Program Coordinator. This person can answer most frequently asked questions and help cardholders determine what is or is not an allowable expense. Use of the GTCC is a valuable privilege a person can lose if he or she misuses the card.

What are some of the common pitfalls and misuses of the GTCC? Following is a list that serves as a good guide but is not all-inclusive:

•Do not use the GTCC to exceed allowable daily meals and incidental expenses (M&IE) rate.
•Do not use the GTCC to make non-travel related purchases: i.e., books, magazines, gym fees, gifts, room service, movie tickets, registration fees or tuition and souvenirs or non-reimbursable items such as tires or repairs to your POV while on TDY status.
•Do not use the GTCC for personal expenses associated with “leave in conjunction with official travel.” If you are not on official travel, DO NOT use the GTCC.
•Do not take cash advances from the ATM more than three working days before scheduled departure dates of any official travel, or for an amount that exceeds allowable M&IE expenses or after the TDY terminates. Travelers may use their travel card at ATMs to obtain cash needed to pay for “out-of-pocket” travel-related expenses. Valid “out-of-pocket” expenses are those that cannot be charged on the travel card. Prior to traveling, remember to contact the travel card vendor to establish a personal identification number to gain ATM access.
•Do not use the GTCC to pay for meals for spouse/family/friends who are not on the official travel orders.
•Do not use the GTCC after the time the TDY terminates, only when in a travel status.
•Do not claim mileage when driving a rental car or claim mileage reimbursement when you are a passenger.
•Do not use the GTCC at establishments or for purposes that are inconsistent with the official business of DoD or with applicable standards of conduct.
•Do not claim fuel expenses when driving a POV (you can claim mileage only).
•Do not claim the full meal rate when a portion or all meals are provided.
•Do not allow the monthly bill to become overdue — submit travel voucher within five days of travel.

Another area that may cause travelers some confusion is determining what is considered an incidental expense in regards to official travel. Automatic teller machine fees, baggage tips and transportation tips are part of daily incidental expenses and cannot be claimed under a separate expense. Incidental expenses do not include mission-related purchases or products or services purchased/used for personal hygiene (e.g., barbers, hairdressers, toothpaste, haircuts, manicurists or other similar items or services).

Before travel, a best practice is to review the “Incidental Expense Policy” in Appendix A of the Joint Travel Regulations. This will ensure that cardholders are up to date on what is and is not an allowed purchase with the GTCC.

Finally, remember that all claims have to be submitted within five days of completion of your travel. Actions available when military personnel misuse the travel card include counseling, admonishment, reprimand, non-judicial punishment (Article 15, Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)), court-martial and administrative separation.

Civilian personnel who misuse or abuse the travel card may be subject to appropriate administrative or disciplinary action up to, and including, removal from federal service. Willful misuse of the travel card by DoD personnel (military or civilian) may constitute a crime punishable under federal or state law.

Remember, a host of resources is available to assist when someone is on official travel. Do not fall back to the “I did not know” excuse. Be a professional and use available resources. Safe travels!