Date: February 28, 1994
Subject: American Express Government Charge Card Program
This Instructional Memorandum establishes the policies and procedures for the American Express Government Charge Card and the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) Program. Appendix A contains a description of the traveler's rights and obligations under the Government charge card program. A list of the ATM networks is provided in Appendix B. Appendix C contains steps to facilitate reimbursement of travel vouchers. Figure 1 presents instructions for completing an application, and Figure 2 is an application package that may be reproduced and used by employees requesting a charge card. Figure 3, Form 9-3008, Advance Delinquency Certification, should be attached to the SF-1038, Advance of Funds, when a traveler is requesting an advance.
A full cost travel advance will not be issued for travel performed after employees have been offered the charge card, whether they participate or not. Cash advances will be limited to the expected out-of-pocket expenses (i.e., the meal and incidental expense allowance for CONUS travel, or 50 percent of the per diem rate for travel outside CONUS; plus tolls, parking, taxi, and other expenses not customarily charged). Exceptions will be made for employees who will be traveling in remote areas where the American Express charge card is not accepted. In this instance a full advance will be authorized, provided that the request for advance of funds states that the American Express card is not accepted in the area of temporary duty.
This IM is canceled upon incorporation in the Survey Manual.
Part 340, Chapter 18
DESCRIPTION OF EMPLOYEE RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS
CONTRACTOR-ISSUED CHARGE CARDS
Use of the American Express Card
Employees who participate in the Government charge card program are to use their cards to pay for major expenses connected with official Government travel, such as lodging, meals, and automobile rentals. Although the preferred method to purchase common carrier passenger tickets is through the Government Transportation Account central account it is also permissable to use the individual charge card when appropriate.
Conditions for Cardholders Electing to Receive Travel Advances in Cash Instead of Using the Card
Individuals to whom a Government charge card has been issued may not elect to receive a full trip cost travel advance instead of using the card. A small cash advance may be requested to cover incidental travel expenses which are normally not purchased with a charge card (i.e., ground transportation, parking, laundry fees, official telephone calls, tips, and light meals). While this type of advance is not required, it is departmental policy that it will be granted when a reasonable amount is requested. However, travel advances will not be granted for amounts less than $50. Full travel advances will continue to be issued to cardholders traveling to areas where the acceptance of the charge card is limited or for travel where the use of the charge card is impractical.
Restrictions on the Use of American Express Government Cards
Employees may not use an American Express card to pay for any personal expenses, or for any other purpose that is not related to official Government business. Expenses associated with official travel which exceed the amount that can be reimbursed may be charged to the card. Extra meals, entertainment, and car rental not included on the travel authorization are examples of charges that may be made against the card but may not be reimbursable to the traveler. Cardholders are responsible for payment of all charges incurred.
Billing Procedures to Cardholders
A separate account will be established in the name of each individual Government cardholder. Each month, the cardholder will receive a statement directly from American Express. The billed amount will be due upon receipt; the billing cycle ends on the 29th day of each month. This is a charge card program and not a credit card program with an extended payment plan; therefore, installment payments are not authorized. The cardholders are liable for all charges, regardless of whether or not they exceed the entitled reimbursement amount. With their card, employees will receive a detailed statement of billing and paying procedures, as well as instructions on how to request billing adjustments and corrections. Disputed charges or other billing problems should be reported to American Express by calling toll-free on 1-800-492-4922, or calling collect on (602) 492-4922. Any billing problems not resolved by American Express within 60 days should be reported to the Bureau Coordinator, Office of Financial Management (OFM).
Employees Will be Reimbursed in Time to Pay the American Express Bill
If the traveler is conscientious about filing travel reimbursement vouchers promptly, reimbursement for allowable expenses should be received well before the payment is due to American Express. Employees should submit travel reimbursement vouchers within 5 working days after completion of their travel or after the end of the month, if vouchers are submitted on a monthly basis. Office approving officials must submit the voucher to the appropriate payment office within 3 working days after receipt. The requirements to attach supporting documentation to the reimbursement voucher is unchanged by this program. Appendix C lists the steps the traveler should take if reimbursement does not arrive in time to pay the American Express bill.
Unused Airline Tickets (Complete/Partial)
When an airline ticket has been charged on the centrally billed account, the employee should return the unused portion to administrative personnel. After submission of the coupon and a completed Redemption of Unused Tickets (SF-1170) to the TMC or airline representative, administrative personnel will receive a credit card refund notice. This receipt must be retained until the appropriate credit appears on a subsequent American Express statement. The employee should not submit their unused tickets with their claim for travel reimbursement.
When an airline ticket has been charged on an individual's Government charge card, the unused portion should be returned to the Travel Management Center (TMC) or airline representative by the employee and a credit card refund notice should be obtained. This receipt must be retained until appropriate credit appears on the individual's American Express statement. Employees should not submit their unused tickets with their travel reimbursement claims.
Lost/Stolen Airline Tickets
When an airline ticket has been charged on the centrally billed account, the employee must report the lost ticket and obtain a Lost Ticket Application through an airline representative or TMC. The application will be completed and submitted to the Administrative personnel, who will then forward the application to the airline and send a photocopy of the application to American Express. A photocopy of the application must be retained until the appropriate credit appears on a subsequent American Express statement. Do not attach the Lost Ticket Application to the claim for travel reimbursement.
When an airline ticket has been charged on an individual's Government charge card, the employee must report the lost ticket and obtain a Lost Ticket Application through an airline representative or TMC. The application is filed with the airline and a photocopy of the application must be sent to American Express. A photocopy of the application must be retained until appropriate credit appears on the individual's American Express statement. Do not attach the Lost Ticket Application to the claim for travel reimbursement.
Credit Given for Unused or Lost Centrally Billed Tickets
The credit should appear on either the individual's statement or the centrally billed account statement for an unused ticket within 3-4 weeks. If it does not appear for more than two billing cycles, please notify American Express at 1-800-492-4990.
Credit for a lost ticket will take approximately 180 days depending on the airline. When the ticket appears as unused the credit will be processed within 2 weeks. Processing time of lost tickets for international travel will take longer.
Disposal of Charge Cards when Employees Leave or Transfer
If an employee leaves Government service or transfers to another Government agency, the card must be cut in half and returned to OFM for cancellation. The bureau clearance process, Form 9-090, includes a requirement that the employee return the charge card.
An account is considered delinquent when any undisputed amounts are included in the unpaid "Previous Balance" of the monthly statement. Once undisputed amounts have been included within an unpaid "Previous Balance" a second time, they will be considered seriously delinquent 60 calendar days from the billing date. This may result in suspension of card privileges. If an undisputed amount is not paid within 120 calendar days of the date of the first billing statement on which the charge appears, the contractor will notify the cardholder and the Bureau Coordinator of its intent to cancel. Within 10 working days after transmitting such notice, the contractor may cancel the account without further notification unless the Bureau Coordinator informs the contractor of extenuating circumstances for which the account should not be canceled. If the card privileges are canceled, the contractor may provide this information to credit bureaus.
Card Acceptance Form
All cardholders must complete and return the acceptance form, or all travel services will be deactivated.
Government Charge Card Account Renewal
American Express will submit a list of names of all expiring accounts to the Bureau Coordinator at least 90 days before the expiration date of an individual's card. Within 30 days, the Bureau Coordinator will review and approve the renewal report and submit to American Express, in writing, a list of those cards not to be renewed. American Express will then mail the new cards to renewing cardholders at least 30 days prior to the expiration date of the existing cards.
Renewed cards issued will remain in an inactive status until positive verification of card receipt. Cardholders will be advised to call the Card Activation toll-free number to validate receipt.
Specific Features and Protection Available to American Express Government Cardholders
1. Under the terms of the GSA contract American Express may NOT:
Establish preset expenditure limits.
Conduct credit checks on employees designated to receive Government cards before the card is issued. However, credit inquiries may be made after the card is issued.
Sell or otherwise provide employees' names or addresses to other commercial interests.
Charge membership, interest, or late payment fees.
Include commercial advertisements or other forms of solicitation with monthly billing statements.
Issue or cancel employee cards without the concurrence of authorized employing agency officials.
Hold an employee or the agency liable for any charges made with lost or stolen cards, provided the employee notifies American Express promptly upon discovering that his or her card has been lost or stolen.
2. As an American Express Government cardholder, the employee will receive, either with the card or the first billing statement, a brochure that describes various card features and uses. Major features are briefly summarized below:
$200,000 portal-to-portal travel accident insurance and $1,250 of carry on baggage insurance are provided free of charge to the employee when common carrier tickets are charged to the American Express card; additionally $500 checked baggage insurance.
24 Customer Service.
Worldwide Card Acceptance: 3,500,000 establishments.
Emergency personal check cashing privileges at a Network of over 1,700 Travel Service locations worldwide for up to $1,000 every 7-day period in the United States (U.S.) or every 21-day period outside the U.S., subject to cash availability and local regulations.
Emergency card replacements within 24 hours in the U.S., and within 48 hours outside the U.S.
Worldwide Traveler Support:
Network of 1,700 Offices.
Multi-Currency Travelers Cheques.
No pre-card fee.
No pre-set spending limits.
Security Provided for the Charge Card
The charge card will be mailed to the employee's home or office address, and the employee will be responsible for the security of the card. This means that the cardholder should give the American Express card the same level of reasonable protection afforded other personal charge cards. The card should not be stored or kept by an administrative or executive officer or supervisor for the employee. Cardholders should exercise caution and care in giving the card or card number to another employee to make travel arrangements on their behalf or when giving a signature for charge authorization against the card.
How to Report Lost or Stolen Cards
The cardholder should report lost or stolen cards immediately to the American Express Assistance Center at one of the following numbers:
The 24-hour toll-free number 1-800-492-4922
Overseas, call collect (602) 492-4922
Emergency card replacement will be arranged upon notification, usually by the next business day.
Automated Teller Machine Travel Advance Program
This program offers travelers a convenient means of obtaining cash for official travel. Through this program, employees can use the American Express card to obtain travel advances from ATM networks nationwide. By using the American Express ATM card rather than Imprest Fund or Treasury check advances, the traveler (1) eliminates the need to carry large amounts of cash; (2) has 24-hour access to cash in most cities (1-800-CASH-NOW); (3) does not need to use personal funds if the travel assignment is extended; (4) receives immediate response to an advance request; and (5) can make withdrawals conveniently at the duty station, TDY destination or enroute (e.g., at an airport).
The travel authorization must state the amount of travel advance allowed. The traveler will not be required to complete a separate SF-1038, Advance of Funds Application and Account. American Express will bill the cardholder directly for the amount of the advance on the monthly statement. The bill will include a transaction fee (currently 2.75 percent of the amount of cash withdrawn) which is claimed on the employee's travel voucher. Procedures for travel authorizations and travel vouchers otherwise remain the same. Participants must be USGS employees and must have a Government issued American Express charge card. They will need to complete the Government Card Application and Agreement and return it to the following address:
U.S. Geological Survey
Mail Stop 270, Travel Section
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive
Reston, VA 22092
Within 15 days the cardholder will receive a Personal Identification Number (PIN) at their address. The PIN will enable the employee to use the existing American Express charge card to obtain travel advances.
The ATM is to serve as an optional method of advancing cash to cover travel expenses that cannot be charged. American Express ATM privileges are to be used only for authorized official U.S. Government travel purposes.
Transactions are limited to five per day, $500 per 24-hour period, $1,000 in a 7-day period, and three invalid PIN entries per day. Additional limits may be imposed by the individual ATM used.
American Express has total responsibility for collecting amounts advanced. Also, the entire card balance will be due from the card holder upon receipt of the billing statement. If the card balance is 60 days past due, cash withdrawal privileges will be automatically suspended.
Where Cardholders May Obtain Answers to Additional Questions
Any questions related to the employee's account may be referred to American Express Assistance Services:
Government issued charge card:
Outside the U.S. Collect (602) 492-4922
Business Travel Accident Insurance 1-800-538-4567
Baggage Insurance Plan 1-800-645-9700
Outside of the U.S. Collect-(904) 565-7875
Questions concerning bureau travel policies should be referred to the Bureau Coordinator, OFM, on (703) 648-7687.
Part 340, Chapter 18
ATM NETWORKS ACCEPTING THE AMERICAN EXPRESS CARDS
$AM (Shoppers Automatic Money)
Armed Forces Financial Network
Bank One (in Arizona)
Bank of America/Versateller
Citizens Bank of Maryland
Citizen and Peoples National Bank
First Citizens Bank (SC)
First American Bank
Internet/Most (Contracts are with Individual Banks)
National Bank of Alaska
Rocky Mountain BankCard
TYME is Money
*If the American Express logo is not displayed, then the ATM cannot be used.
Part 340, Chapter 18
STEPS TO FACILITATE REIMBURSEMENT
1. Travelers should submit their travel vouchers within 5 working days after completion of travel or, if in an extended travel status, no less than every 30 days.
2. The approving official should submit the voucher to OFM no later than 3 working days after receipt.
3. OFM will make every effort to process the voucher within 15 calendar days after receipt within OFM.
4. The traveler should call the Travel Section, OFM, if payment has not been received within 30 calendar days after the voucher has been submitted or 15 days following the due date on the American Express statement containing the charges, whichever is sooner. The purpose for calling is to determine the cause of the delay, and to obtain an estimate of when the voucher will be paid. The employee should notify American Express of the action taken by calling, toll-free, 1-800-492-4922.
5. If the reimbursement voucher has not been paid by the second American Express billing, the traveler should immediately call the Bureau Coordinator on (703) 648-7687 to request assistance in obtaining reimbursement.
Part 340, Chapter 18
INSTRUCTIONS FOR COMPLETION OF THE
GOVERNMENT CHARGE CARD APPLICATION
The attached American Express Government Charge Card Program Employee Card Account Application must be completed by each designated employee who elects to participate in the program.
The following data must be entered on the application by the employee (applicant):
Name (First, Middle, Last)
Social Security Number
Employee's Mother's Maiden Name (for security purposes)
Home Address (street, city, state, and ZIP code)
Office Address (street, city, state, and ZIP code)
Bill to the home or office (check one)
Home and office telephone numbers
Once the application is complete, the employee must sign and date it. The application must then be forwarded to the Bureau Coordinator, Mail Stop 270, Reston, Virginia.
ATM privileges will be authorized automatically by the Agency/Organization Coordinator. If employees do not wish to participate in the ATM program, please indicate so on the application when applying for the Government Charge Card.
Department of the Interior
US Geological Survey
Advance Delinquency Certification
Attachment to SF-1038
PART A - To be completed by traveler
This advance of funds is for travel authorized by my (SPECIFY TYPE - Area/Trip/Chg of Hdqs) travel authorization. I understand that my advance account will become delinquent if the following conditions are not met:
Area Advance - A travel voucher must be submitted to OFM monthly. Vouchers must be submitted to OFM within the first 5 working days of the month for all travel of the preceding month. The amount of the outstanding advance(s) must not exceed a 60 day requirement for travel funds.
Trip Advance - Trip advances must be liquidated within 30 days from the ending date of travel. Travel vouchers (and personal check, if necessary) must be submitted to OFM within 5 working days from the ending date of travel, as required by the Federal Travel Regulations. This will allow for mailing and processing time so the advance account will be cleared within 30 days.
Chg of Hdqs Advance - A voucher (and personal check, if necessary) for the house-hunting portion of the change of headquarters must be submitted to OFM within 5 working days from the ending date of the trip. A voucher (and personal check, if necessary) for enroute travel and the temporary quarters portion of the change of headquarters must be submitted within 5 working days from the ending date of the first 30 days of temporary quarters. This will allow for mailing and processing time so the advance account will be cleared within 60 days from reporting to duty.
I certify that I have read and understand the above conditions, and I further understand that if my travel advance account becomes delinquent, payroll deductions will be initiated to offset the delinquent account.
SIGNATURE OF TRAVELER
PART B - To be completed by approving official
The amount of this advance is based on:
100 percent of the estimate of travel expenses. Employee will be traveling in an area where American Express cards will not be accepted. (CONUS/OCONUS)
100 percent of the estimate of travel expenses. Employee has not been offered an American Express card.
Other (for change of headquarters/detailee/foreign participant, etc.).
Signature of Approving Official