What is the GSA SmartPay Program?

The GSA SmartPay Program is the largest government charge card and related payment solutions program in the world. The Program has more than three million Purchase, Travel, Fleet, and Integrated accounts and supports more than 560 agencies/organizations. Since the award of the inaugural GSA SmartPay Master Contract in 1998, the GSA SmartPay Program has provided convenient, efficient, and effective payment solutions for the Federal Government, Tribes and Tribal Organizations with a comprehensive portfolio of payment solutions including Purchase, Travel, Fleet, and Integrated charge card services.

In October of 1996, GSA issued a solicitation for commercial fleet payment solution services. The GSA SmartPay Fleet Card Program was included in the GSA SmartPay Master Contract, awarded in 1998. Since then, both the GSA SmartPay 2 and GSA SmartPay 3 Programs include the Fleet business line.

Specific to fleet, the GSA SmartPay program:

  • Provides solutions supporting fleet transactions, including Fleet card and non-carded solutions;
  • Provides fuel/ maintenance solutions for vehicles, equipment, aviation, small marine vessels and large marine vessels.
  • Streamlines ordering, payment and procurement procedures;
  • Reduces administrative costs under the simplified acquisition threshold;
  • Improves government operations by simplifying the financial process; and
  • Allows a platform to improve government operations and accountability.

Through contracts with multiple banks, the GSA SmartPay program enables agencies/ organizations across the Federal Government to obtain payment solutions to support mission needs. The GSA SmartPay Master Contracts, administered by GSA, are fixed price, indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) type contract. The maximum base period for the initial order is four years with three, three-year options.

To participate in the program, Agencies/ Organizations must be eligible to issue a task order against the GSA SmartPay Master Contract. For fleet card accounts, each of the GSA SmartPay contractor banks have contractual relationships with fleet card issuing banks and brands. Your agency awards a task order to one of the GSA SmartPay contractor banks and then selects a specific fleet card issuer such as Wright Express (WEX) or Voyager. Another option is to award to one of the GSA SmartPay contractor banks and use Visa or MasterCard branded cards. Whichever award path your agency has taken, it is through the task order, that card accounts are set-up and managed by A/OPCs. The A/OPC has access to the banks’ Electronic Access System (EAS) and also works with the banks to resolve issues and answer questions.

Most fleet accounts are assigned to a vehicle and not a specific account holder, therefore, a creditworthiness assessment is not required for receiving a fleet account. In addition, use of the fleet account will not affect your personal credit history. Any government employee authorized to use the GSA SmartPay program who has a responsibility to make fleet purchases and completes the necessary training is eligible to use a GSA SmartPay fleet charge card.

What are the Benefits to using the GSA SmartPay Master Contract for obtaining payment services?

The GSA SmartPay Program has continued to grow through increased adoption as agencies/organizations realize benefits afforded under the program.

Utilizing the GSA SmartPay Master Contract means

  • A faster contract acquisition process and reduced risk of protest, as compared with a full and open competitive procurement
  • Favorable negotiating platform and contract terms
  • Awards to contractor banks based on a competitive bidding process
  • Established relationships with contract banks
  • A broad range of flexible products and services for agencies/organizations as well as, the flexibility to add products and services
  • Ongoing support for your agency/organizations

Other Benefits include:

  • Universal Acceptance: Because GSA SmartPay fleet accounts are either WEX, Voyager, MasterCard or VISA brands, they can be used at any merchant that already accepts these types of payment.
  • Refunds: Agencies receive monetary payments provided by the contractor based on the dollar or spend volume during a specified time period, which result in millions of dollars back per year for the agency.
  • Electronic Access to Data: The GSA SmartPay contractor banks all provide an Electronic Access Systems (EAS), which provides account access and a variety of reports for A/OPCs to assist in the effective management of the program.

Specific to the GSA SmartPay Fleet Account

Benefits of using the GSA SmartPay fleet account include:

  • Fuel and Maintenance Acceptance
    • 135,000 fuel providers have account acceptance
    • 45,000 maintenance locations can accept payment under $100 with total acceptance of 500,000 when taking into account MasterCard backup
  • Fraud Monitoring Using Level 3 Data
    • Program data allows us to monitor and ensure that any fraud or misuse is billed to the responsible party resulting in overall savings to our customer agencies
  • Replacement Card Orders Direct Shipped to Agencies
    • Decreased potential vehicle downtime by having replacement for lost, stolen, or broken cards shipped directly to the agency
  • Real Time Authorization Data
    • If there is a problem with the account, the contractor can determine immediately what the problem is and how to complete the transaction
  • Refunds
    • Receive refunds that result in savings for our customer agencies
  • Tax Recovery
    • Level 3 data allows for most effective tax recovery

What is a GSA SmartPay Fleet Account?

A fleet account is a type of payment solution, issued by a GSA SmartPay contractor bank, and used to pay for the purchase of fuel, maintenance and repair of government owned/operated motor equipment, aviation (including airports, airbuses, and associated services), small marine vessels and large marine vessels (including ocean going ships, barges, tugs, dredges, and other marine conveyances that are not required to utilize DLA Energy as the required integrated material manager for bunker fuel and associated services).

Program coordinators/ fleet managers assign fleet accounts to vehicles, which may be used by the Federal Government or other authorized employees to make authorized purchases as determined by the agency/ organization.

Examples of authorized purchases include:

  1. Regular unleaded self service fuel
  2. Immediately consumable items for vehicles (quart of oil, washer fluid, etc.)
  3. Required preventative maintenance
  4. Car washes (not to exceed $25 per month or as determined by your agency)
  5. Mechanical repairs

Examples of unauthorized purchases include:

  • Premium or full service fueling
  • Maps, air fresheners, food, etc.
  • Buying services in excess of required repairs
  • Excessive car washes or details
  • Upgrading tires or accessories (may vary depending on specific agency policy)

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 fleet accounts are considered Centrally Billed Accounts (CBAs). In contrast, travel cards/accounts and integrated cards/accounts can be either CBAs or IBAs as determined by the agency/organization. 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.

What happens if a GSA SmartPay fleet account is lost or stolen?

Be sure to instruct your account holders to report a lost or stolen fleet account promptly to:

  1. The contractor bank;
  2. You, the program coordinator (A/OPC); and
  3. Their 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 the account holder does not recognize a transaction appearing on their statement, they 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: The account holder relinquishes their right to recover a disputed amount after 90 calendar days from the date that the transaction was processed. It is their responsibility to dispute questionable charges. If they don’t, they will be held personally liable for the amount of the questionable charge.

What are some of the innovative solutions offered under GSA SmartPay 3?

Innovative payment solutions provide agencies/organizations with increased payment

flexibilities and strategies for making payments. Under the GSA SmartPay 3 Master Contract and your agency task order, there are several innovative solutions offered including:

  • Additional Authorization Controls add value to the GSA SmartPay Program:.
    • Product code dollar limits: Restricting the dollars per designated cycle (e.g., daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly) per product code (e.g., fuel, non-fuel, general merchandise, oil and fluids, parts and service, quicklube, roadside) on each card/account as set by the A/OPC; and
    • Product code daily transaction limit: Restricting the number of transactions designated cycle (e.g., daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly) per product code (e.g., fuel, non-fuel, general merchandise, oil and fluids, parts and service, quick lube, roadside) on each card/account as set by the A/OPC.
  • Additional Data Mining Tools include being capable of accepting rules-based parameters to indicate specific rules for the data analysis.
  • Additional International Customer Service provides customer service in other languages.
  • After-Hours Roadside Assistance: Customer support/service during after hours and holidays as well as provide after-hours roadside assistance support as required to ensure coordination of the driver’s call to the appropriate roadside assistance program.
  • Combined Charge Card and Identification Card Technology combines payment solutions and personnel identity cards into a single card, such as programming government issued identification cards with payment solution functionality.
  • Commercially Offered Convenience Services such as extended warranty programs, guaranteed return programs, and merchant discount programs.
  • Chip Cards: Implementation of chip card for Fleet transactions is not yet available. Upon availability, Contractors must offer chip cards or equivalent enhanced security technology for the Fleet business line at no additional cost.
  • ePayables: A solution that replaces the accounts payables process such that electronic transactions take place directly between the Government and the supplier. ePayables solutions are typically used with merchants who are either:
    • Traditionally paid by convenience check or EFT or
    • Merchants who do not accept charge card payments (e.g., utility companies)
  • International Fleet Solution: Products and solutions designed for use outside of the continental United States, Alaska, and Hawaii. Solutions can either utilize a closed loop network that provides Level III data or an open loop network that does not guarantee Level III data.
  • Mobile Application : The ability to access EAS, pay invoices, receive text/email alerts, and view statement and payment information over a mobile device. Your contractor bank provides mobile application capabilities, upon request, at no additional cost. Mobile application capabilities include:
    • the ability to access EAS,
    • pay invoices,
    • receive text/email alerts and
    • view statement and payment information over a mobile device.
  • Mobile Payments: The ability to make payments via mobile device at the point-of-sale. Your contractor bank provides the ability for account holders to make secure payments using a mobile device at the point-of-sale.
  • Net Billing: The process of ensuring that merchant discounts or refunds offered are deducted at the point-of-sale and guaranteeing such discount arrangements. For example, the contractor bank ensures that discount information is identified on the invoice and passed to the agency/organization, when available.
  • Single-Use Account (SUAs): SUA payment solutions leverage a single virtual account number for each payment. The limit on each account is set to the specific payment amount. Internal controls such as MCC blocks, spend limits, timeframes, and account expiration dates can be used for increased control. Agencies also have the ability to append accounting data for seamless reconciliation. Examples of use include payment invoice and contract payments, which help to ensure that merchants are not able to charge more than approved amounts. Benefits to SUAs include:
    • Accounts can be activated in real time
    • Controls can be placed on account allowing for increased oversight of spend
    • Disposable; one-time use account numbers reduce the risk of fraud
    • Seamless reconciliation, and
    • Reduces the necessity for using convenience checks
  • Software support other commercial off-the-shelf or customized software that assists the management of GSA and agency/organization level GSA SmartPay Programs including streamlining government backroom processes (e.g., vouchering, accounts payable), integration with on-site fuel systems (e.g., military bases, national parks, ports) and integration with private alternative fuel systems (e.g., State governments, utilities).
  • Telematics: Fleet vehicle tracking technology solutions to assist fleet managers in identifying misuse and abuse faster, track drivers and vehicles with factors such as speed as well as global positioning satellite (GPS) location, and reduce fuel consumption and find the lowest gas prices based on GPS location.
  • Tokenization: Tokenization is the use of a secure, unique “token” in place of a 16-digit account number to provide extra security for transactions.
  • Virtual Cards: The Contractor shall provide virtual accounts that may be used during a limited time, for a limited amount and possibly for a specific vendor.
  • Ghost Cards: Ghost Cards are for agencies who frequently do business with one vendor and have recurring payments. An account number can be assigned to the vendor and authorized agency personnel transactions occur without having to use multiple cards or accounts. Many agencies use this product for purchases such as airline tickets. Benefits may include:
    • Reduced number of open accounts (payment processing and oversight easier)
    • Allows for multiple users
    • Allows for a high level of control
    • Reduces the risk of lost or stolen cards

What are Convenience Checks?

Some agencies allow for the use of convenience checks. Convenience Checks are a contractor-provided instrument that is written, dated and signed against an account within established dollar limits. Convenience checks are intended only for the use with merchants that do not accept the GSA SmartPay fleet account. Convenience checks should be used as a payment method of last resort, only when no reasonable alternative merchant is available who accepts the GSA SmartPay fleet account.

If your agency/organization determines a need for convenience checks, your contractor bank will provide a supply of checks to the designated account holder drawn on the fleet account. The checks will be processed as they are presented for payment.

Convenience checks are multi-copied (one copy for the account holder's records; the original for the merchant). Due to the increased potential of fraud and abuse, specialized training on convenience checks is required prior to being authorized to write checks. If any misuse or abuse is discovered, the employee will lose convenience check and purchase account privileges. That employee will then be referred for disciplinary action in accordance with agency procedure.

Convenience checks may NOT be written for purchases above the maximum dollar limit established by your agency. In addition, convenience checks may NOT be written to:

  • Vendors who accept the GSA SmartPay fleet account;
  • Vendor transactions already under another method of acquisition (purchase orders, contracts, etc);
  • Employee reimbursements;
  • Cash advances;
  • Salary payments, cash awards, or any transaction processed through the payroll system;
  • Travel-related transportation tickets;
  • Meals or lodging related to employee travel except as related to emergency incident response; and
  • Other restrictions as determined by agency policy.

Checks must be used in sequential order. Each convenience check must be entered in a check register or log for tracking purposes. The following information must be written on each check:

  • Date the check is being issued
  • The name of the payee
  • Amount of the check
  • An original signature

As an A/OPC, you are responsible for the implementation of the appropriate internal controls and oversight of convenience check activity, including ensuring that all checks issued are for official government business only and are stored in a secured location. You must verify that each check issued was both necessary and in compliance with the agency's convenience check policy.

The IRS requires that information be collected for reporting income to the IRS when a convenience check is used for purchases of services. If a person is “engaged in a trade or business and, in the course of that trade or business, pays any person $600 or more of rent, salaries, wages, premiums, annuities, compensations, remunerations, emoluments, or other fixed or determinable gains, profits and income during a calendar year, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code Section 6041 generally requires them to file an information return with the IRS and to furnish an information statement to the payee.”

The IRS states that Agencies may rely on the merchant category code (MCC) in determining whether a transaction is subject to Form 1099 reporting. Failure to file a correct information return (Form 1099) by the due date may result in a penalty imposed by the IRS.