format_list_bulleted Topic Overview


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 recommended payment option for any travel costs that will not be reimbursed through the per diem method. 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. For more information on reimbursement methods, see the Topic Overview: Business and Travel Expense Policies page

It is highly encouraged that Stanford travelers use Stanford Travel booking channels when booking flights, hotels, and rental cars for university-sponsored travel. Stanford Travel booking channels automatically register itineraries and any booking updates to the Travel Registry, streamline the reimbursement process, and offer discounts, benefits, and perks to travelers. In addition, the Stanford Travel team can provide specialized assistance as needed to travelers who book through Stanford Travel.

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 booked is in accordance with Business and Travel Expense policies.

For information on the booking processes for various types of travelers, see Topic Overview: Planning and Booking 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. For a domestic trip, the request may be submitted up to 3 months (90 days) in advance of the travel start date, to align with a best practice to purchase domestic tickets no earlier than 3 months in advance. For an international trip, the request may be submitted up to 6 months (180 days) in advance of the travel start date. 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.

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 these are not an option, an administrator who is facilitating the purchase of tangible items and/or gift cards for human subject incentive can do so by receiving an advance.

To request a cash advance, the administrator must submit a Request Cash Advance for Human Subject Incentives Form.

Human Subject Advance Maximum

In order to reduce risk and promote responsible stewardship of Stanford’s resources, there is a maximum limit on the total of uncleared advances that an individual may have pending at any given time. The total amount of advances requested by and paid to an administrator to pay human subjects may not exceed $7,000. To request another advance, the administrator must clear earlier advances so that the balance does not exceed $7,000.

If an individual requests human subject advances whose uncleared balance exceeds $7,000, Dean's Office pre-approval is required from the respective school. The amount requested must be spent within four months (120 days).

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

  • For travel expenses, 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., should be no later than 10 days after the last day of travel or conclusion of an activity).
  • 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.

Last Updated: Apr 16, 2024