This section will lead you step-by-step through the process of preparing to use your purchase account.

Verifying Your Account

The purchase account is given to you, the account holder, in trust that it will be kept safe. Unauthorized use of the account due to your failure to secure the account may result in disciplinary action. After receipt of the account the following steps should be taken:

  1. Verify the accuracy of your name and address
  2. Call the toll-free number provided by the contractor bank to confirm receipt of and to activate your account
  3. Sign your card (if required)
  4. Review account holder guide provided by the contractor bank

Plan Your Monthly Purchases

Decide which items are best handled with the purchase account and decide when to actually buy. When you plan your purchases, you can combine requirements in order to qualify for volume discounts as long as you remain within the authorized per transaction and monthly spending limits. Similarly, you can make small-scale purchases to avoid wasteful stockpiling. Your planning ensures that you are able to most effectively accomplish your mission by purchasing higher priority items before lower priority items.  Some agencies require account holders to obtain management approval before each purchase.

Ensure Availability of Funds

You must establish the amount of your available funds BEFORE making any purchases. Some agencies require account holders to verify the amount of their available funds before each purchase.

You must track purchases during the month to ensure that there are sufficient funds available to make all required purchases. Account holders should use a log system to record purchases and the dollar amounts committed. Then they know at a glance the amount of their unobligated funds or certified fund availability.

Conduct Market Research

How can your contracting activity help in market research? Your contracting activity can provide information on required sources of supply, existing contracts, good merchants and many other areas.

Market research allows you to make an informed, responsible, reasonable purchase. Do enough market research to ensure that the Government gets a good value for its money in terms of reasonable price and timely/reliable/quality service. The purchase should represent the best buy that meets the Government's minimum requirements.

Use the Green Procurement Compilation, to identify environmental attributes, such as energy efficiency or recycled content, applicable to your purchase.  The GPC also identifies GSA Sources, such as Multiple Award Schedules or  GSA Global Supply, and links to GSA Advantage!

Compare prices and check with your contracting activity to see if there are existing contracts that offer you a good price, service, and quality. These existing contracts have been negotiated at your agency or by other agencies and can sometimes offer advantages in time and money savings. Check with the merchant to determine if they accept the purchase account.

Select the Best Value

When making micro-purchases, identify the supply or service that best satisfies the requirement, weighing both price factors and non-price factors. You can buy a higher priced item if it represents a better value, but it is your responsibility as the account holder to perform basic comparison-shopping and to briefly document the basis for your purchase decisions. For example, check the vendor’s schedule price at  Also check the Green Procurment Compilation for life cycle cost information, especially for energy using products.    

Seek State Tax Exemption

Visit the GSA SmartPay Website to find out more about the state tax requirements in your state.  Centrally Billed Accounts (CBAs) are exempt from state taxes in EVERY state but there may be special requirements in some states.     

Talk to Merchants

You should be as specific as possible when talking to merchants. Ask about:

  • Price
  • Whether the price includes shipping
  • Time of delivery
  • Discounts for Government purchases
  • Merchant's return policies (if different)

When you have all the necessary information, make the purchase.

  • A merchant may never require the account holder to complete a postcard or similar device that includes the account holder's account number, card expiration date, signature, or any other account data in plain view when mailed.

What Are Point of Sale Discounts?

Certain merchants offer automatic discounts when you use your purchase account to make purchases. These merchants recognize the Government purchase account and apply a discount at the time of the sale.

Is It Necessary to Distribute Purchases?

If you are not required to get quotations, can you always buy from the same source?

FAR Part 13.203(a)(1) of the Federal Acquisition Regulations recommends that micro-purchases be equitably distributed among qualified merchants to the extent practicable.

Determine Dollar Limits

There are generally two types of dollar limits applied to your purchase account:

  • Single purchase limit
  • Monthly purchase limit

Single purchase limits and monthly purchase limits are established when your account is set up. They are based on your delegation of authority and the budgetary limits of your office. The single purchase limit is the dollar limit for an individual transaction. The monthly limit represents the cumulative dollar limit for your purchases in one month. It may be set to any dollar amount equal to or greater than the single purchase limit. Verify both of your limits with your AO or A/OPC. Other restrictions such as number of transactions and merchant category codes (MCC) may apply.  MCCs are codes that businesses use to describe the products or services they provide.  Certain MCCs are blocked by agencies to prevent fraud and misuse.

Exceeding Your Dollar Limit

Prior to processing your purchase the merchant will check to see if it exceeds any of your dollar limits. All attempted transactions that exceed your single or monthly limit will be automatically declined at the point of sale. It is your responsibility to know how much you’ve spent against your limits before you purchase. Do not rely on the authorization system to do this for you. Contact your A/OPC or contractor issuing bank immediately if your account is declined.  The contractor bank customer service phone number is listed on the back of your charge card or on the GSA SmartPay website.

Select Required Sources

Use of the purchase account should be consistent with established guidelines for required sources of supply and applicable acquisition procedures, such as those applicable to micro-purchases or to acquisitions below the simplified acquisition threshold. Procurements paid for with the account are subject to the acquisition rules established in the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) and your Agency/Organization policies and procedures.

The Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act did not abolish the priorities for use of the Government supply sources as stated in FAR Part 8 (Required Sources of Supplies and Services) of the Federal Acquisition Regulations. Micro-purchases are not exempt from this requirement. The following information from FAR Part 8 lists the priorities for use of Government supply sources:

8.002  Priorities for use of Government supply sources.
(a) Except as required by 8.003, or as otherwise provided by law, agencies shall satisfy requirements for supplies and services from or through the sources and publications listed below in descending order of priority:
(1) Supplies.

(i) Inventories of the requiring agency.
(ii) Excess from other agencies (see subpart 8.1).
(iii) Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (see subpart 8.6).
(iv) Supplies which are on the Procurement List maintained by the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled (see subpart 8.7).
(v) Wholesale supply sources, such as stock programs of the General Services Administration (GSA) (see 41 CFR 101-26.3), the Defense Logistics Agency (see 41 CFR 101-26.6), the Department of Veterans Affairs (see 41 CFR 101-26.704), and military inventory control points.

(2) Services. Services that are on the Procurement List maintained by the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled (see subpart 8.7).

(b) Sources other than those listed in paragraph (a) of this section may be used as prescribed in 41 CFR 101-26.301 and in an unusual and compelling urgency as prescribed in 6.302-2 and in 41 CFR 101-25.101-5.

(c) The statutory obligation for Government agencies to satisfy their requirements for supplies or services available from the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled also applies when contractors purchase the supplies or services for Government use.

8.003  Use of other mandatory sources.

Agencies shall satisfy requirements for the following supplies or services from or through specified sources, as applicable:

(a) Public utility services (see part 41).

(b) Printing and related supplies (see subpart 8.8).

(c) Leased motor vehicles (see subpart 8.11).

(d) Strategic and critical materials (e.g., metals and ores) from inventories exceeding Defense National Stockpile requirements (detailed information is available from the DLA Strategic Materials, 8725 John J. Kingman Rd., Suite 3229, Fort Belvoir, VA 22060-6223).

(e) Helium (see subpart 8.5—Acquisition of Helium).

8.004  Use of other sources.

If an agency is unable to satisfy requirements for supplies and services from the mandatory sources listed in 8.002 and 8.003, agencies are encouraged to consider satisfying requirements from or through the non-mandatory sources listed in paragraph (a) of this section (not listed in any order of priority) before considering the non-mandatory source listed in paragraph (b) of this section. When satisfying requirements from non-mandatory sources, see 7.105(b) and part 19 regarding consideration of small business, veteran-owned small business, service-disabled veteran-owned small business, HUBZone small business, small disadvantaged business (including 8(a) participants), and women-owned small business concerns.

(a)(1) Supplies. Federal Supply Schedules, Governmentwide acquisition contracts, multi-agency contracts, and any other procurement instruments intended for use by multiple agencies, including blanket purchase agreements (BPAs) under Federal Supply Schedule contracts (e.g., Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) agreements accessible at (see also 5.601)).

(2) Services. Agencies are encouraged to consider Federal Prison Industries, Inc., as well as the sources listed in paragraph (a)(1) of this section (see subpart 8.6).

(b) Commercial sources (including educational and non-profit institutions) in the open market.


With a connection to the internet, you can quickly browse through the GSA on-line shopping mall for thousands of commercial products and services including JWOD/NIB/NISH and UNICOR products.

GSA Advantage! ®TM is designed to link GSA schedule products and services, stock items, catalog descriptions, current pricing, and delivery information in a single location to make ordering easier for you. To place an order, you can use your purchase charge card.

The address for GSA Advantage! ®TM is

For any questions regarding GSA's Products and Services, call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-488-3111.

Small Business

Increasing opportunities for small businesses in Federal contracting is a priority.  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), along with the Small Business Administration (SBA), is improving access by small businesses to the Federal market and to boost communications to small businesses about Federal business opportunities.  As part of these efforts, you are reminded of the importance of considering small businesses when buying goods and services at or below the micro-purchase threshold.   The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) states that use of the Government-wide purchase card is the preferred method for buying these small purchases.   To find small business resources, please consider visiting the GSA Advantage! And DoD e-Mall websites.  

Shop Smarter

  • Use GSA Advantage! to conduct quick and easy market research and to order already negotiated low-price items;
  • Take advantage of the Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) your agency has negotiated to get better prices;
  • Always ask for discounts at the register - whether or not point-of-sale discounts are given;
  • Locate merchants that accept MasterCard and VISA by visiting and to use their merchant/supplier locator tools.

Presidential Executive Order on Buy American and Hire American

It shall be the policy of the executive branch to buy American and hire American.

  • Immediate Enforcement and Assessment of Domestic Preferences According to Buy American Laws: Every agency shall scrupulously monitor, enforce, and comply with Buy American Laws, to the extent they apply, and minimize the use of waivers, consistent with applicable law.
  • Judicious Use of Waivers:  To the extent permitted by law, public interest waivers from Buy American Laws should be construed to ensure the maximum utilization of goods, products, and materials produced in the United States.
  • Ensuring the Integrity of the Immigration System in Order to "Hire American.": The Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, as soon as practicable, and consistent with applicable law, propose new rules and issue new guidance, to supersede or revise previous rules and guidance if appropriate, to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud or abuse.