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Card/Account Holders and Approving Officials Travel Training

Lesson 3: Travel Card/Account Use

What is the appropriate use of the GSA SmartPay® Travel card/account?

The GSA SmartPay Travel cards/accounts may be used ONLY for authorized official travel and travel-related expenses. Official travel expenses are broadly categorized as transportation, lodging, meals and incidentals.

The travel card/account must not be used for personal expenses unrelated to official government travel. This is considered to be misuse of the account or use of a federal payment solution by an authorized user for other than the official government purpose(s) for which it is intended.

To help prevent misuse, the travel card/account may be electronically coded to be rejected at merchant locations that your agency has determined are not necessary for conducting official government business.

Some agencies allow the GSA SmartPay Travel card/account to be used for local travel.

Here’s an example of local travel use:

Sarah is traveling to a training class in Washington, D.C., which is located within the vicinity of her regular duty station. To attend the event, she must either take a taxi or public transportation. Official government travel authorization is not provided or necessary for this class. However, Sarah is able to use her GSA SmartPay Travel card/account because her agency policy has authorized employees to use their IBA travel card for local travel and related expenses.

How does the GSA SmartPay Tax Advantage Travel card/account work?

The Tax Advantage Travel card/account is issued to an employee designated by the agency/organization in the employee’s name.

Agency/organization program coordinators (A/OPCs) will work with their contractor bank to identify Merchant Category Codes (MCCs) for rental cars and lodging to be excluded from taxes.

Accounts will be established using IBA procedures, to include credit checks or other creditworthiness assessments.

When the card/account is used, invoices will be sent to the employee and the agency/organization for payment via split disbursement.

The CBA portion of the charges will be paid by the agency and the IBA portion of the charges will be the responsibility of the employee.

Agencies/organizations must specify invoice elements in their task order level requirements.

Here’s an example of Tax Advantage Travel card/account use:

Andrew is on official government travel and is checking into the hotel using his Tax Advantage Travel card/account. The process does not change from how hotel merchants run the card and verify tax exemption status today. The hotel will need to verify (through use of the 6th digit and the BIN) that the payment is being directly provided by the government through the CBA function. Once verified, Andrew will provide any required CBA forms to the hotel. Required forms vary from state to state and can be found on the GSA SmartPay website. Even if the state does not exempt taxes for the IBA transactions today, it is still required to exempt all of the CBA transactions. At the end of the month, when Andrew receives his invoice from the bank, the hotel should already be paid for through his agency’s CBA process. He will just need to pay for his meals and incidentals.

Are there exceptions to using the GSA SmartPay Travel card/account while on official travel?

Yes, exceptions to using the GSA SmartPay Travel card/account include:

  • The vendor does not accept the payment solution.
  • The GSA Administrator granted an exemption (FTR Subpart H §301-70.700).
  • Your agency head granted an exemption.

The GSA SmartPay Travel card/account may be used for authorized official travel and authorized travel-related expenses ONLY. Official travel expenses include transportation, lodging, meals and incidentals. The travel card/account will be printed in the cardholder’s name and must not be used by any other person. The cardholder is personally liable for all charges made on their travel card/account. They should not use their government travel card/account for any personal expenses.

What is Section 889 and how does it apply to purchases?

Section 889 of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 (P.L. 115-232 [PDF, 789 pages]) and the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Case 2018-017 prohibit the purchase of covered telecommunications equipment and services from merchants who sell products containing spyware. These devices could pose a threat to U.S. security by spying on or disrupting communications within the U.S. Therefore, GSA SmartPay card/account holders should follow their agency’s policy regarding Section 889 compliance.


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