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The university pays directly or reimburses individuals for expenses that are necessary and appropriate to conduct university business. Expenditures must be consistent with the university’s purchasing policies and guidelines as well as the guiding principles and IRS regulations with regard to business and travel expense policies.

This article provides helpful guidance on recent updates and common questions that the Business Expense Team receives about expense reimbursement policies and processes. For common questions related to travel, visit Stanford Travel Updates and Hot Topics.

For general help with business expense and reimbursement questions, contact the Financial Support Center

For questions about purchasing and contracts, visit Purchasing and Contracts Updates and Hot Topics. The page provides guidance on recent updates and common questions that the Purchasing and Contracts Team receives about purchasing policies and processes.

Updated May 2023

Car service is not typically the most economical option for ground transportation, but there are special situations that may require the use of a car service, such as for a traveler who is traveling from a remote residence to the airport. To keep pace with rising transportation costs, the maximum reimbursement for car service will increase on June 1 to $300 (round trip) and $150 (one way). For reference, the previous car service maximums will also be listed on the Ground Transportation Policy page through September 1.

Updated May 2023

In response to campus requests, Cambridge, Massachusetts has been added as an exception city to the Lodging Policy page. Lodging in Cambridge that is booked April 12, 2023 or later will be reimbursed up to $330 per night, the same rate as nearby Boston.

Updated May 2023

To better reflect increased food and restaurant pricing, the Business Meals and Travel Meals policy pages have been updated with increased maximums, effective May 1, 2023.

  • Business meal maximums increased by either $5 to $10 per person depending on the type of meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner, reception or refreshments, or reception and dinner combined).
  • Travel meal daily maximums increased $15 for both domestic and international travel. When deducting a provided travel meal from a daily maximum, the recommended deduction increased $5 for each type of meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner).

For reference, the older meal maximums will also remain on these policy pages until early August.

Updated May 2023

Clarified definitions and guidance on purchasing airfare were added to the Airfare policy page:

  • Recommended: Economy airfare, sometimes called coach. Look for fares that allow changes, and include certain flight components such as early boarding, a pre-assigned seat, and a carry-on and checked bag.
  • Not recommended: Basic Economy airfare, which is the lowest airfare in economy class. Basic Economy fares are highly restrictive, may not allow changes, and typically don’t include the flight components of Economy airfare. For these reasons, the university does not recommend purchasing this class of fare, and Basic Economy fares are not displayed in the Stanford Travel booking channels.  
  • Permissible under certain circumstances: Higher fare classes, such as Business Class, are permissible under one of the following scenarios:
    • International flights with a duration of eight hours or more (including connecting domestic legs, excluding layover time).
    • A lower fare option is not available
    • A medical waiver is requested and approved before booking travel

See complete details, as well as how to appropriately document and allocate these expenses, on the Airfare Policy page.

Updated April 2023

Clarified guidance for purchasing professional services and cloud services was recently added to the Topic Overview: Purchase Services page. The updated guidance includes:

  • Professional Services: Should generally be procured through a contract. The updated professional services guidance also includes when certain professional services may be paid with a PCard either upon contract approval or without a contract.
  • Cloud Services: All cloud computing accounts used for any Stanford-related activities—including development, student work, testing, learning and building production-ready solutions—should be part of Cardinal Cloud. Visit the University IT Cardinal Cloud page to learn how to join existing accounts to Cardinal Cloud.

Additionally, guidance related to purchasing hardware, such as computers, laptops, printers, and mobile devices was also updated on Topic Overview: Purchase Goods page.

Based on above clarified guidance, the non-permissible PCard expenses list was consolidated and updated with links to other UIT and Fingate webpages for more information on purchasing these items.

Consult Business and Travel Expense Policies for a list of impermissible expenses that may not be purchased or reimbursed unless specifically noted.

Updated April 2023

To better reflect current lodging costs, hotel and lodging rate maximums have been updated for most domestic locations for 2023 on Fingate’s Lodging Policy page.

The maximum reimbursement for domestic lodging increased from $220 to $250 per night. International lodging rates will continue to follow the federal per diem schedule.

Nightly lodging maximums also increased for most domestic exception cities (only available when using the actual reimbursement method), with several new additions:

  • The San Francisco lodging maximum of $385 has been expanded to now include adjacent San Mateo County
  • Austin, Texas and Honolulu, Hawaii have been added as exception cities, with lodging maximums of $330

These updated rates are effective for travel booked April 12, 2023 or later. For reference, the previous lodging maximum rates will also remain on the Lodging Policy page for several months.

Updated March 2023

Tips for meals should not exceed 20% and effective immediately, should be based on the subtotal that excludes fees only (such as for food delivery). Tax may now be included in the tip calculation, which  is more consistent with pre-calculated tips offered by restaurants. The total cost of a meal, including any tips, must still not exceed the meal maximums listed on Fingate.

Also, to clarify and consolidate the current tipping policies for meals and ground transportation, the guidance has been moved to a new “Tips and Gratuities” section in the Business and Travel Expense Policies page. The Business Meals Policy page, the Travel Meals Policy page, and the Ground Transportation Policy page now reference the Business and Travel Expense Policies page for information on tipping.

Learn more on the Business and Travel Expense Policies page.

Updated March 2023

Because countries are no longer requiring COVID-19 tests and quarantining, airline travel has returned to pre-pandemic processes. In response, the Business Expense team is enforcing the standard travel periods for Stanford-sponsored travel published on Fingate.

Effective for travel on or after March 15, 2023, Stanford travelers may only arrive one day prior to a business event for domestic or international travel. Learn more about the travel period on the Airfare Policy page and the Lodging Policy page.

Updated February 2023

Mileage Reimbursement Rates  for 2023 are now available on Fingate. These rates are effective as of January 1, 2023. For reference, the rates for 2022 are also included on the Resource page.

Updated January 2023

Non-Stanford travelers and visitors may use their personal funds for travel expenses and request for reimbursement after the trip. When personal funds are used, they are required by the IRS accountable plan rules to be reimbursed for actual travel expenditures up to the daily maximum, regardless of the funding source. In these situations, a visitor must submit receipts for expenses of $75 or more to receive reimbursement. Previously, guidance stated that receipts of any amount were required, but this has been updated to be consistent with the policy for Stanford travelers. Although individual schools, units or departments may still require all receipts. See complete guidance on reimbursement methods in Business and Travel Expense Policies.

Added December 2022

A new Administrative Guide Memo (AGM) about Travel Card (TCard) policies summarizes and formalizes the Travel Card policy guidance that is currently available on Fingate. Although the TCard is referenced as a preferred payment method for travel expenses in AGM 5.4.2: Business and Travel Expenses, the new AGM 5.4.3: Travel Cards provides a more thorough overview of TCard policy, with a structure similar to AGM 5.3.3: Purchasing Cards.

The TCard AGM was created to document high level guidance regarding the TCard, setting guardrails to ensure that the use of the TCard meets compliance and risk requirements. It includes links to specific policy details on Fingate’s Travel Card Policy page.

AGM 5.4.2: Travel Cards includes guidance on:

  • The purpose of the TCard, which is the recommended payment method for any travel costs not reimbursed through the per diem method
  • Who is eligible to obtain an individual or department TCard
  • How a TCard should be be used, managed, and monitored
  • What may be purchased with a TCard
  • Roles and responsibilities of TCard cardholders, preparers, verifiers, managers, and others
  • Alternatives to the TCard

AGM 5.4.3: Travel Cards helps TCard cardholders, their managers, and others who work with TCards to understand Stanford’s TCard policies, safeguard these university-issued credit cards, and practice good financial stewardship.

Added December 2022

The new PCard Efficacy Dashboard in OBI provides managers with helpful reports and can create visualizations about how their organization and employees use the Purchasing Card (PCard) and how quickly PCard transactions are processed. The dashboard contains reports about:

  • Total transactions versus those that were withdrawn or returned, displayed by organization or employee
  • Average processing times for verifications and approvals, including how these averages trend over time
  • PCard transactions selected by a range of dates and dollar amounts
  • PCard spending grouped by card holder, verifier, and approver
  • PCard transactions by expenditure type and merchant type

See below for a visualization of a PCard Returned Stats report:

Pie chart of returned PCard transactions

Earlier this fall, the SU Credit Card Custodian Report was also enhanced to show the employment status of the current verifier and cardholder/custodian, making it easier for managers to take appropriate actions, such as closing cards for employees who no longer work at Stanford and assigning new verifiers when people leave that role.

Managers can use the new PCard Efficacy Dashboard and the enhanced SU Credit Card Custodian report, both available within OBI’s Expense Requests and SU Card Activity Dashboard, to manage and monitor PCard use within their organizations. These reports allow managers to gain insights from this financial activity in their departments so that they can identify any needed additional training or team alignment to ensure excellence in financial stewardship.

Added November 2022

There is no longer a reimbursement maximum for local airport transportation, and actual expenses will be reimbursed. However, it is expected that travelers will use reasonable and economical options for travel to and from all airports, such as a shuttle or ride service. If a traveler parks a private vehicle at a local airport, they should also choose the most economical parking option.

Guidance on the use of car services was updated, with the maximum reimbursement increasing to $275 round trip or $137.50 for a one-way trip. Because it is not always the most economical option, car service should only be used in special situations, with a reasonable explanation provided.

Learn more about these updates, and see a chart of the car service maximum reimbursements, on the Ground Transportation policy page.

Added October 2022

Effective October 10, the Business Expense team made several changes to business meal maximums to better meet the needs of campus.

To accommodate rising prices, the per-person maximum for a business dinner was increased from $130 to $140.

Because some business events include drinks, appetizers, or refreshments that may or may not occur during regular meal hours, new Receptions and Refreshments Maximums guidance was also added to the Business Meals policy page. Two new categories include “Reception or Refreshments” ($40 per person maximum) and “Reception and dinner combined” ($160 per person maximum).

Visit the Business Meals policy page to learn more about these changes.

Updated October 2022

The university reimburses travelers at a standard rate per mile, up to a specified round-trip distance, when a personal vehicle is used for business travel.

As of October 10, 2022 the round-trip distance eligible for reimbursement has been increased to 350 miles or less for university-sponsored travel. Previously this distance was limited to 200 miles or less for round trips, but it was temporarily extended to 300 miles due to the impact of COVID-19.

Visit the Ground Transportation policy page for more information.

Updated October 2022

The university has established guidance for reasonable domestic hotel and lodging costs ($220), including separate guidance for higher-cost domestic locations. Effective October 1, 2022, Seattle, Washington, is now an exception city, with a lodging rate maximum of $275 excluding taxes and fees.

Note that exception city rates are only available when using the actual reimbursement method.

Added October 2022

If traveling to a local airport by personal car, a traveler should choose the most economical onsite parking option (i.e., Long Term or Economy parking). Airport parking lots that are available on a daily or hourly basis should not be used.

The Ground Transportation Policy page now includes this information under the Transportation To or From Airports section.

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