Advance funds may be paid directly to Stanford staff, faculty or students before travel or as part of a Human Subject study. In most cases, staff, faculty and students should not pay out-of-pocket for 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 reimbursements. 

The request and use of Travel Advances is expected to be rare and should only be requested when all other payment sources have been exhausted. If the traveler experiences financial hardship, a Travel Advance may be appropriate to further university business under certain circumstances. For more information, refer to the Advance Types section below. 

All expenses requesting university funding are required to tie to the university’s mission. Stanford receives funds from generous donors, the federal government, endowments and tuition, and there are expectations on how to manage the funds through fiscal stewardship. Since the university is a non-profit organization, it must adhere to additional policies and restrictions for business transactions. If the university were not compliant with these rules, it would jeopardize the university’s nonprofit status and cause harm to the university. The university documents its policy in Administrative Guide Policy 5.4.1: Expense Advances. Also, refer to Topic Overview: Business and Travel Expense Policies for more information.

Advances must meet the following qualifications: 

  • For current faculty, staff or student (not on any type of leave, including sabbatical)
  • Travel is booked through Stanford Travel 
  • There is no access or availability to an individual or department Travel Card
  • No other outstanding advance has been issued per traveler
  • Request must be made at least 10 business days before the funds are needed

A rush request for payment will be less than the 10 business days. The rush request applies directly to the payment processing once the transaction has been reviewed and approved.Any other advance request not explicitly listed above is considered an exception and requires prior approval by the senior associate director of finance in your 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.

Advances are limited to travel requests and human subject payments.

Travel Advances

Advances are used to pay for travel (e.g., airfare or pre-paid lodging) for students, staff and faculty who travel infrequently on university business and do not have access to a department Stanford Travel Card (TCard). Generally, payment is made by the SU person, and the advance will be requested for those out-of-pocket amounts with a thorough business purpose and receipts and/or documentation for the purchases.

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. 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.

Human Subject Advance 

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. Refer to 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. 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Refer to How to: Clear an Advance for step-by-step instructions.