Travel Cards: The power is in your hands

6/24/2009 By Pfc. Jahn R. Kuiper , Marine Corps Base Quantico

The travel card program is the primary payment method for official government travel. The government pays for all charges of a business nature as long as the charges are recorded on the Defense Travel System.

Delinquent payments cause the most headaches for cardholders. Although this is a problem that is not too common, it is a hassle and can be easily avoided.

"No more than 2 percent of our cardholders are delinquent but our goal is zero," said Fred Stoker, the deputy director for Travel Support Branch of Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

If cardholders don’t pay their charges before the sixth of the month they’re put on the 30-day list. Then cardholder’s command agency program coordinator is notified and the command may take action. After 60 days the cardholder is officially delinquent and the card is suspended. Finally if the cardholder fails to pay their charges after 120 days the money is taken directly out of their bank account."

"We are not in the business of punishing people," said Stoker. "We just want to make sure they pay their charges."

Paying attention to the smallest details can save cardholders money if they put in the effort.

"When you’re on an official government trip make sure you keep receipts and records for every purchase no matter how small," said Stoker. "Most problems occur when people are going to McDonalds, 7-Eleven, or drawing money out of the ATM. They just forget to record it."

"If you split-disburse correctly you don’t have to pay for any charges," said Stoker.

A travel claim will automatically split-disburse lodging, rental cars and airfare. If a traveler uses their card for meals or draws out an ATM cash advance the cardholder needs to manually adjust the split-disbursement on their voucher to send extra money to pay the card.

Once back from a trip the cardholder must add the amount spent in DTS, added Stoker. "This is mandatory by MARADMIN 600/07. DTS will send money to cover the cost of your credit card but the cardholder must tell it to first. It will not do it automatically. If you wait too long you will become delinquent."

You have five days to submit your voucher after you return from TAD, said Stoker. But you may not be finished even after you submit it. A routing official may return the voucher for lack of receipts or errors and the traveler needs to take corrective action and resubmit the voucher.

The cardholder must review the monthly billing statement to see if there are any

improper charges. Those charges must immediately be identified and reported within 60 days of the statement’s date or Citibank will not allow a dispute. An alternative method would be to set up an account online where transactions can be watched at anytime instead of waiting for the monthly bill.

"We like to try to make things easier for the cardholder by making them more knowledgeable," said Jill Glando, the director for Travel Support Branch at MCCDC.

By helping the cardholders stay as current as possible with their accounts they stay aware of what is going on, said Glando. We are just trying to help educate the cardholder for their protection.