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

Card 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. Review the GSA SmartPay Website for any additional state tax exemption requirements before making your purchase.

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

Card Not Present Transactions

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

By Phone or Fax

To place your order by phone or fax:

  1. Contact the merchant and identify yourself as a Federal Government employee who is making a purchase with a GSA SmartPay Purchase Account.
  2. Indicate that the purchase will be tax exempt on a Centrally Billed Account (CBA).
  3. Review the price of individual items as well as the total purchase price.
  4. Be careful in giving out your account number. If placing an order by fax, we recommend the fax requests for the vendor to contact the account holder for account information.
  5. Identify the items to be purchased and reach an agreement as to the price of each item and any shipping charges.
  6. Record the purchase in your purchase log.
  7. Give your name and address for shipment, making sure your name appears on the mailing label and that an itemized shipping document or invoice is included in the shipment.
  8. When the item arrives, make sure you have what you ordered, at the price you agreed to pay.
  9. If there is any discrepancy, call the merchant immediately.
  10. Keep all purchase documentation for your records, in accordance with agency policies and NARA’s GRS 1.1

Online Orders

Before placing an order online, review the merchant’s policies for placing orders and processing returns, as well as their security and privacy policies. If the site’s terms of use appear acceptable, proceed to place your order.

Note: If the website is not government managed (such as GSA Advantage! or DoD eMall), registering your account is not recommended.

To place an online order:

  • Identify the merchant you wish to use and bring up the merchant's ordering screen
  • Make sure the site is a secure website before transmitting any information (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP, the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the website that you are connected to. The 'S' at the end of HTTPS stands for 'Secure'. It means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted.)
  • Enter the requested data and indicate that you are a Federal Government employee and your purchase will be tax exempt
  • Use your business address only
  • Make sure the merchant will include an itemized shipping document or invoice with the shipment
  • Record the purchase in your purchase log
  • When the items arrive, make sure you are satisfied with the purchase. If not, notify the merchant immediately
  • Keep all purchase documentation for your records, in accordance with agency policies and NARA’s GRS 1.1

Get an Accurate Quote

It’s important to ask the right questions when making your purchase. Sometimes you will encounter problems in reconciling the statement. Price differences between quotes and the invoice occur most often because the price billed includes shipping/ handling and/or a tax charge. Price differences between quotes and statement amounts cannot be disputed with the contractor bank. You must contact the merchant and ask for a credit. The charge must be paid as it stands on your monthly invoice.

Avoid "Splitting the Requirement"

It might seem logical for you to divide a purchase into parts so each purchase would then be below your agency limits. But, it is NEVER permissible to intentionally divide purchases into parts just to get under your limits. This is called "splitting the requirement." When you have a defined need, all the parts of that need are considered one purchase.

For example, Joe, an account holder, needs to buy one hundred widgets, and the total value of the transaction is above the micro-purchase threshold. In order to make the transaction fit under the micro-purchase limit, he asks the store to split his order into two separate transactions. This action is called a split transaction and is a violation of Federal procurement regulations.

Maintaining Your Records

Keep all necessary information on each transaction. FAR 4.805 states that agencies must prescribe procedures for the handling, storing, and disposing of contract files in accordance with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) General Records Schedule 1.1 and the Financial Management and Reporting Records . These procedures must take into account documents held in all types of media, including microfilm and various electronic media.

At a minimum, you must have the following information:

  1. Description, Unit Number and Quantity of the items purchased
  2. Amount of the purchase
  3. Name of the merchant
  4. Date you received the item purchased

And don’t forget to - keep your receipts!

Add supporting documentation to any receipts that are too general in the product description area so that it is very clear what you purchased. Your agency procedures along with NARA’s GRS 1.1 will tell you how long you must keep the documentation on your purchases. For example, some agencies require you to keep all documentation on your purchases and others, require you to forward your records to a central location. Failure to retain records can result in excess administrative burden when you attempt to reconcile your monthly invoice statement.

Tip: When Mary makes purchases at or above the micro-purchase threshold, she enters the contract number into the "Comments" field in the bank Electronic Access System (EAS) and her agency's financial system. Taking this additional step strengthens the internal control processes and traceability of purchases.