Advances are funds paid directly to faculty, staff or students to support specific business activities.  Per Administrative Guide Policy 5.4.1: Advance Expenses, the use of cash advances is expected to be rare, but may be appropriate to further university business under certain circumstances. For example, advance funds may be paid directly to Stanford staff, faculty, or students prior to travel or to pay subjects who are participating as a Human Subject in a study. More policy details are available in the Business and Travel Expense Policies overview.

There are two types of advances with respective policies and guidelines outlined below: Travel Advances and Human Subject Advances. Any other advance request is considered an exception and requires prior approval by the senior associate director of finance in the respective school or administrative/academic unit.

The university does not allow expense advances for personal reasons or for visitors. For more information, refer to Policy: Payroll Advances.

In most cases, staff, faculty and students should not pay out-of-pocket for business and travel expenses incurred in pursuit of the university’s mission and stewardship of university funds, which is the reason Stanford offers Purchasing Cards (PCards) and Travel Cards (TCards) as well as the reimbursement of business and travel expenses.

The Stanford Travel Card (TCard) is the preferred payment method for travel expenses. Alternatively, personal funds may be used, and a request for reimbursement can be submitted via Expense Requests after the trip. The same policies and guidelines must be followed regardless of payment or reimbursement method. Learn more about these methods on the Travel Process page.

In order to be able to effectively support university travelers, Stanford requires the use of a centralized travel booking program when faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars and students are booking air fare, hotels, or rental cars for university-sponsored travel. Use of one of the official booking channels in the centralized booking program, Stanford Travel, automatically registers travel reservations in the university’s Travel Registry, which connects to Stanford’s provider of medical, personal, travel and security assistance. This provides the university with the ability to locate and support its travelers in the event of an emergency. More policy details are available in the Business and Travel Expense policy overview.

Advances are used to pay for travel (e.g., airfare or pre-paid lodging) for students, staff and faculty who meet the following criteria:

  • The faculty, staff or student travels infrequently on university business, does not have access to an individual or department Stanford Travel Card (TCard), and/or is experiencing a financial hardship.
  • The traveler must be a current faculty, staff or student (not on any type of leave, including sabbatical).
  • There are no outstanding advances issued to the traveler.
  • The travel booking is within policy, (i.e., is booked through Stanford Travel)
Timing of Advance Request

Generally, before an advance request is initiated, the travel purchase should have already been made by the traveler. The advance will be requested for those out-of-pocket amounts citing the relevant advance criteria, a thorough business purpose and including receipts and/or documentation for the purchases. The request must be made at least 10 business days before the travel begins, but no more than 30 days in advance of a domestic trip or 180 days in advance of an international trip, otherwise the preferred method would be for the traveler to submit a request for reimbursement after the trip. An exception to this would be if the trip will span an extended period of time.

Stanford University has guidelines addressing cash safeguarding and controls related to payments to human subjects. It is not uncommon for human research subjects (participants) to be paid for their participation in research. Payment for participation in studies is not considered a benefit; it is compensation for time, effort and study-related expenses. It could also be considered a recruitment incentive. There is a maximum limit on the total dollar amount of uncleared Human Subject Advances that a Stanford individual may have pending at any given time.  Refer to Advance Maximum within Topic Overview: Paying Human Subjects for more information.

When advances are the only option, requesters and transaction preparers are responsible for creating and clearing the advance and returning any unused funds. 

  • Use a department Stanford Travel Card (TCard).
  • Human Subject payment options include Non-Purchase Order (PO) Payments and Purchasing Cards (PCards). Refer to Topic Overview: Paying Human Subjects for more information.
  • If other payment methods are not an option, obtain and document pre-approval to attach to the Advance Request if required.
  • To review Advance categories available in Expense Requests, refer to Guidelines for Use of Advance Categories.
  • The preparer is required to enter an expected clearing date for the advance funds, which is the date the preparer expects to clear the advance funds in an expense report (e.g., the last day of the trip or event).
  • Refer to How to: Create an Advance.
  • A rush request for payment may be made which will expedite processing once the transaction has been reviewed and approved.
  • After travel is completed or the Human Subject study has used the funds, all advance requests must be included in a new expense report to document the business purpose and allocate it to the appropriate Project, Task or Award (PTA) account. 
  • The required Expected Clearing Date entered by the preparer is the date on which the advance funds will become available in Expense Requests for clearing in an expense report. The Advance will become available for clearing once the Expected Clearing Date has been reached.
    Note: For guidance on how to request a change in clearing date, including how to extend a clearing date (if a trip was cancelled or rescheduled, for example), see Review and Submit Transaction under How to Clear an Advance.
  • Refer to How to: Clear an Advance for step-by-step instructions.