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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) sets domestic per diem rates by fiscal year, effective October 1 of each year. The FY2023 per diem rates are now published; visit Domestic Per Diem Rates to access the rates.
As of September 1, all new, renewed, or reissued PCards and TCards will now be delivered to the cardholder's Stanford business address since many cardholders have returned to working onsite on a Stanford campus. Cards that are mailed to an alternate address (such as an employee’s home) can be difficult to track, which increases risk to the university.
Cardholders: review and update your Stanford business address
To ensure delivery to the correct address, cardholders should use the Credit Card Profiles Change Request tool to review their business address for card delivery and update it if necessary. Be sure to provide your full mailing address, including any building or suite numbers, etc.
If you work remotely
PCards and TCards for remote employees will be delivered to their Stanford business address. Cardholders should coordinate with their departments to have their cards sent to their location.
For more information, including how to request a one-time card delivery to an alternate address, visit Change to PCard and TCard Delivery as of September 1.
The Business and Travel Expense Policies page was updated in September to clarify that the Stanford Travel Card (TCard) is the recommended payment option for any travel costs that will not be reimbursed through the per diem method. When the per diem reimbursement method is available and selected by the traveler (i.e., for meals or lodging), the traveler should not use the TCard for these expenses. Reimbursing per diem expenses charged to a TCard creates an administrative burden for both the preparer and the university.
For easy reference, a chart was added to the Purchasing and Reimbursement (Per Diem and Actual) Methods section of the Business and Travel Expense Policies page showing which travel expenses are recommended for purchase with the TCard depending on the selected reimbursement method.
To support responsible financial stewardship, and ensure reimbursement by Stanford, tips to drivers should not exceed 20% and should be based on the total that excludes tax, discounts, and fees. This information has been added to the General Information section of the Ground Transportation Policy page.
The use of the per diem reimbursement method for Stanford-sponsored travel was clarified recently on Fingate to ensure compliance with federal rules and Stanford policy and to reduce the administrative burden of paying for travel.
Per diem reimbursement and sponsored awards
If travel will be charged to a sponsored award:
- Lodging expenses: Stanford travelers may now choose either the actual reimbursement method or the per diem reimbursement method for lodging. The Lodging Policy page on Fingate was updated with this guidance in June.
- Travel meal expenses: As before, Stanford travelers must use the per diem reimbursement method for travel meals.
Note that all Stanford Travel booking policies apply regardless of the reimbursement method that is chosen.
Travel Card Reminder
The Travel Card (TCard) is the preferred payment method for travelers who choose the actual reimbursement method. When the per diem reimbursement method is available and selected by the traveler (for meals or lodging), use of the TCard is not recommended due to increased administrative burden when submitting expense requests.
To learn more about travel reimbursement methods, visit the Business and Travel Expense Policies page.
eReceipts officially rolled out to campus on July 18. This optional app allows Stanford travelers or Purchasing Card (PCard) cardholders to take and upload pictures of business and travel expense receipts with a mobile device, tag them with an expense type, add comments if needed, and share them directly with their preparers and verifiers.
In response to feedback from users, the eReceipts app rolls out to campus with enhanced features:
- Reduced the number of expense type options displayed for TCard and personal expenses
- Provided a drop-down menu to view expense types more easily on a mobile device
- Added a help link to the top of the mobile device screen used to add receipt
Learn more about the app, check out updated resources and join a live demo on the eReceipts news page.
To accommodate increases in gasoline prices, the Internal Revenue Service increased the business mileage reimbursement rate for private automobiles by 4 cents per mile as of July 1, 2022. These rates are usually only updated at the beginning of each calendar year.
To see the new rates, visit the Mileage Reimbursement Rates page on Fingate. Rates for the first half of 2022 will also remain on Fingate for reference.
In June, the Card Services team made two additions to the permissible expenses for a Purchasing Card (PCard) to better align with campus needs:
- Marketing and advertising services provided by social networking service/media companies such as Facebook and Twitter became a permissible expense (previously these expenses had been non-permissible).
- Please note that this does not include payment processing and fintech pay sites such as Paypal, Venmo, GooglePay, Square, etc. These remain as non permissible and the PCard may not be used on these sites to pay for products or services.
- Deposits of $4,999 or less for event venues are a permissible expense. The remainder of the contract must be paid on a purchase order.
To learn more about permissible and non-permissible expenses, please visit the Purchasing Card Policy page.
The following sections of the Airfare Policy page were updated in June:
- The General Policy section:
- A note was added about the use of ground transportation instead of air travel for round trips of 300 miles or less, in response to COVID-19.
- Policy was clarified regarding taking the most direct route, class of fare, business class fare, and class of fare limitations with sponsored or restricted awards.
- Policy was clarified regarding ancillary fees for extra legroom
- The Payment and Reimbursement Methods section:
- Policy was clarified regarding the most direct route and use of lowest fare, and incorporated into the General Policy section
Visit the Airfare Policy page for more information.
Financial Management Services recently improved how Travel Cards (TCards) are requested and managed. These changes make the application process more efficient and user-friendly, and also provide more guidance on managing spending limits, which reduces the risk associated with these university-liability credit cards.
New and reissued TCards will also have a new design.
Learn more about these improvements in the Fingate Announcement.
Starting April 8, 2022, Stanford will align its international lodging reimbursement maximums for actual expenses to the federal per diem rates, meaning that the same maximum applies for international lodging whether the traveler uses the per diem or actual expenses reimbursement method.
This new guidance, now updated on Fingate’s Lodging policy page, applies to all university-sponsored travel that is booked on or after April 8, 2022.
To learn more about the new international lodging maximums, and see an example of how to use the federal per diem rates to calculate maximums, visit the Fingate Announcement.