Unbelievably, the federal government does have at least one official credit card. There may be more, but the one with information readily available to the general public is the Government Travel Charge Card Program, a program implemented through federal law in 1998. According to the DOD website, anyone who travels on behalf of the federal government when engaged in official government business is required to use the travel card.
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The mandate to use the government’s travel card extends to direct civilian employees, service members and women, elected and appointed officials, and contractors working on government projects. It is to be used for all travel expenses deemed to be reimbursable under the guidelines of the particular federal program the spending is attached to.
On the part of the cardholder, it is used like any other credit card. He is responsible for paying the bill himself and the submitting expenses to the government for reimbursement.
Is the government travel card issued by a bank?
Make no mistake; the federal government travel credit card is a revolving line of credit in every sense of the definition. It is issued by Citibank with many of the same terms and conditions you and I have on our regular credit cards. When cardholders use their government travel card to charge their expenses Citibank reimburses those merchants and sends a monthly bill to the cardholder. Ultimately, the federal government is responsible for all charges, but the cardholder acts as a middleman of sorts.
Anyone found using his card for personal expenses is subject to disciplinary action.
Both the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services are clear to point out that only qualifying expenses can be charged to the card. Anyone found using his card for personal expenses is subject to disciplinary action.
The DOD does not define what that disciplinary action is, but it’s probably safe to assume it includes some sort of formal reprimand and a financial penalty. Violators might even be subject to future restrictions on what expenses they can incur while traveling.
Does personal credit history matter?
When an individual applies for the government travel card, his personal credit history will be checked just as it would be with a standard credit card. A minimum credit score of 660 is required to get the standard card. A credit score between 500 and 599 dictates the cardholder received a restricted card.
It’s not clear what happens if an applicant has a sub-500 credit score. It might be that individual is not eligible for reimbursement of government travel.
According to the Air Reserve Personnel Center, applicants have the right to not have a credit card credit check run for this credit card. But doing so means they will automatically be given a restricted card rather than the standard version. A restricted card carries with it a lower credit limit of $4,000, a cash advance limit of $365, and other restrictions. The standard card offers higher limits and fewer restrictions.
Can anyone in government apply for the card?
The Government Travel Charge Card Program is restricted to only those individuals who have reimbursable travel expenses because of conducting business on the federal government’s behalf. All approved applicants must attend and complete the Travel Card Program Course in order to use the cards. The course covers such things as allowable expenses, how the card works, and the various policies of the program. It is mandatory even for private contractors who are not direct employees.
The government travel card was introduced as a means of streamlining reimbursement for travel expenses, thereby reducing the overall cost of government travel. Though its use is mandatory for all travel expenses deemed not local, various department and agency heads are given latitude to exempt certain individuals if they meet specific guidelines. Furthermore, if someone with exemption authority chooses to exempt just certain expenses rather than the individual worker that is also possible.
It may sound strange that the federal government has its own credit card. Nonetheless, the fact remains that one does exist for the purposes of reimbursing employees and contractors for their government travel. If there are any other government credit cards out there, we would assume they would work much the same way.
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