Stanford Purchasing Cards (PCards) are university-liability credit cards, meaning the university is responsible for paying the charges. The cards are issued to authorized and trained Stanford employees, who currently have active status on payroll, to purchase eligible goods and services in support of Stanford 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. The below guidance is to be used in addition to Administrative Guide Policy: 5.3.3 Purchasing Cards.
Note: Beginning in Fiscal Year 2024, to support compliance with policies related to proper use of PCard and TCard, a suspension process will be implemented for individual PCards and Travel Cards (TCards) with certain force cleared transaction patterns. Learn more in the Fingate Announcement.
Purchasing Card (PCard) purchases must be for the benefit of the university; be reasonable and necessary, consistent with established university policies and practices applicable to the work of the university, including instruction, research, and public service; and must be consistent with sponsor or donor expenditure restrictions.
Active Stanford employees, who have been authorized by their department for PCard use, may make purchases of eligible goods and services of $4,999 or less as long as the purchase does not require a signed agreement. PCards must not be used for transactions over $4,999 and split receipts are not permitted for transactions over the limit. Only eligible business purchases may be charged to the PCard; personal purchases are strictly prohibited. Purchases from any vendor where the cardholder/custodian or their immediate family have a significant financial interest are also prohibited (see Administrative Guide Memo: 1.5.2 Staff Policy on Conflict of Commitment and Interest).
Certain types of purchases are not permitted on a PCard because of the difficulty of complying with regulatory requirements, health and safety policies, or tax reporting rules or the need for a contract or insurance to protect the university’s interests. Others are not permitted because the university provides a more efficient, cost-effective, and controlled method to obtain the item. iProcurement, which provides users with access to shop from Amazon Business and SmartMart Catalog Suppliers, is the preferred method for purchasing goods and services due to the university's greater ability to manage risk, compliance, and regulations. Using a PCard instead of iProcurement to purchase items should be limited to instances where there is substantial benefit.
Cardholders who do not comply with university policies and procedures may have their Stanford University cardholder privileges revoked. Misuse of the PCard may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.
The following list provides examples of purchases that are and are not permissible on the PCard. Consult Business and Travel Expense Policies for a list of impermissible expenses that may not be purchased or reimbursed unless specifically noted.
Examples of permissible expenses on the PCard
- Advertising and marketing services on social networking service/media companies (Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, etc.). Learn more on Topic Overview: Purchase Services.
- Books (including departmental library materials)
- Business meals (local, where no travel is involved)
- Conference registration/training fees (including those that are STAP-eligible) where there are no hotel and/or travel expenses included in the registration fee. Note that fees for a local conference or training that requires a mileage reimbursement are a permissible PCard expense. Student conference registrations must meet certification guidelines.
- Event venue costs or deposits. Some event venues may require a contract even if the total cost is $4,999 or less. Submit all contracts (even contracts with zero dollar agreements) for review and approval before paying a deposit or making a payment. For more information, visit the Purchase Services Topic Overview.
- Gifts, awards, and food in support of employee morale or for service milestones and retirement. Visit Categories of Purchases to learn more.
- Import Services; learn more about PCard use for import services on Topic Overview: Purchase Services.
- Office supplies (only when there is substantial benefit to using a PCard rather than Amazon Business and SmartMart catalog Suppliers)
- Periodic dues and memberships to professional organizations. Note that lifetime memberships to professional organizations are not permissible.
- Postage and Mailing supplies and services
- Photocopies and printing
- Technology (software) In some cases, after appropriate consultation with local IT, software may be purchased with a PCard. For guidance on purchasing software with a PCard, visit Topic Overview: Purchase Services.
Examples of non-permissible expenses on the PCard
In general, the PCard cannot be used for purchases where the university is subject to compliance requirements (such as tax-reporting requirements or special handling of materials), which must be managed and/or tracked through other purchasing processes, or for purchases where the university requires a contract.
- Advances of cash
- Capital equipment and fixed assets including fabrications when title vests with the sponsor, even if the cost is below the PCard limit (contact the Property Management Office for guidance on using a PCard for a Stanford-owned fabrication).
- Conference registration where there are hotel and/or travel expenses included in the registration fee.
- eCommerce purchases and purchases from third party sellers such as through PayPal, eBay, and Alibaba. Entities such as Stanford are required to assess the tax status of payees prior to issuing payments. Use Stanford’s Amazon Business account, SmartMart Catalog Suppliers, or Non-Catalog Requests in iProcurement for access to suppliers who are vetted and approved by Stanford.
- Event venues and facilities (requiring contracts and insurance). Deposits under $4,999 are permissible. See more on the Purchase Services page.
- Foreign purchases or payments, which may be subject to customs requirements
- Gifts, awards, and food that do not support employee morale or service milestones and retirement. Visit Categories of Purchases to learn more.
- Hazardous and other materials (chemicals, biological organisms, controlled substances)
- Home office equipment, furnishings, utilities for personal use
- Laboratory animals. For more information, visit the Purchase Goods page.
- Moving, storage and leasing expenses (visit the Moving Services resource on Fingate)
- Professional Services should generally be procured through a contract. There are specific instances where a professional service may be paid for with a PCard alongside the contract request. For more information, see Topic Overview: Purchase Services.
- Technology (hardware, laptops, mobile devices, cloud services) In most cases, these goods and services should not be purchased with a PCard.
- Travel-related purchases, including meals, airfare, rental car, and lodging (see Administrative Guide Memo: 5.4.2 Business and Travel Expenses). The Stanford Travel Card is the preferred payment method for these expenses.
- Tuition payments for employees, staff, or students (see Administrative Guide Memo: 2.1.12 Staff Development Programs)
It is the responsibility of the individual incurring expenses, those who assist others with incurring expenses, and those involved in the preparation and approval of financial transactions to exercise good stewardship of university funds and to adhere to university policies. See detailed roles and responsibilities on the Stanford Purchasing Card (PCard) Overview.
All PCard purchases must be for the benefit of the university; anything purchased for personal use may be considered a fraudulent transaction and may result in the consequences described in the Cardholder Misuse and Cardholder Fraud sections below.
Personal charges are strictly prohibited. If a personal expense is accidentally charged to a PCard, a personal check or money order payable to Stanford University should be obtained from the card user. For details on how to pay back Stanford for accidental personal charges on a PCard and direct the payment to the correct project, task, award, expenditure (PTAE), see How to: Handle Personal Expenses Charged to the PCard.
Repeated accidental personal purchases will be considered a misuse of the PCard and may result in having Stanford University cardholder privileges revoked. Misuse of the PCard may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.
During the online application process, the monthly spending limit for the card is established by the department and approved by the financial approver for the guarantee account PTA and by the Card Services team. Changes to spending limits can be requested by submitting a limit change request through the Credit Card Profiles Change Request tool or by submitting a support request.
Compliance With Expenditure Policies
Purchasing Card expenditures must comply with, but are not limited to, the following:
- Expenditures must be reasonable and necessary and must comply with university policy.
- Purchasing Card transactions subject to California sales and use tax where tax was not charged at the point of sale may be assessed for tax by Payment Services and Business Expense.
For additional guidance, refer to Business and Travel Expense Policies.
Compliance With Sponsored Project Policies
Cardholders who are allocating expenses to a sponsored project account must be in compliance with their respective sponsoring agency’s policies. For example, Government Unallowable purchases cannot be allocated to a sponsored-project account. For questions regarding sponsored funds, refer to DoResearch: Charging for Administrative and Technical Expenses.
Timeline for Transaction Processing
Purchasing Card (PCard) verifiers process PCard transactions through the PCard Module. Processing transactions in a timely manner is important to ensure expenditures are correctly reported. PCard expenses should be verified and approved as soon as practicable after charges are incurred, but no later than 60 days after charges are incurred (the SU Credit Card Posted Date). A reasonable timeframe for verification is within 10 days of the charge appearing in the module.
Cardholders may verify their own transactions but must route transactions to an approver set up in the Authority Manager system who has authority over the account charged, does not report directly or indirectly to the cardholder, and is not the beneficiary of the transaction. A detailed description of all roles and responsibilities is available on the Stanford Purchasing Card Program page.
Failure to complete verification and approvals within 60 days of the date a transaction is posted may result in card suspension and/or expenditures may be reported as taxable income to the card user or the cardholder. Additionally, if a PCard transaction is outstanding more than 60 days past the date it is posted, the transaction will be force cleared by Financial Management Services to the guarantee PTA. The department is responsible for moving that cleared transaction via the iJournals system to the appropriate PTA and expenditure type.
Effective with the first force clearing of 2024, an individual’s PCard or TCard may be suspended if a transaction is force cleared by FMS in any two quarters within a 12 month period. View the quarterly deadlines on the Clearing of Aging Transactions Policy page. Learn more about PCard suspension on the Purchasing Card Program page.
When transactions are force cleared, departments lose the opportunity to assign a business purpose and attach receipts to the transaction in the PCard module, and therefore must store receipts (or explanations for the lack of receipts) locally and ensure they are readily available in case of an audit. To learn more about force clearing, visit Managing Aging and Outstanding Expense Transactions.
Disputing Purchasing Card Charges
Cardholders or the assigned verifier are responsible for promptly disputing any unidentified charges with the merchant first and should try to resolve the dispute. However, if it cannot be resolved with the merchant, only the cardholder can dispute the transaction with JPMorgan Chase, which must occur within 45 days of the posting date of the transaction.
Since many merchants use centralized clearing houses for credit card processing, the name and location of the merchant on the statement may not initially be recognized by the cardholder. Before disputing any charges, the cardholder should check expenditure records carefully to make certain that the charge is indeed an error.
Disputed charges must be resolved with the bank no later than 60 days from the date the transaction was posted. The Department is ultimately liable for any fraudulent and erroneous charges not resolved directly with the merchant. See: How to: Dispute PCard Transactions.
Using the PCard for purchases that do not comply with Stanford’s Purchasing Card policy and other university policies and procedures is defined as cardholder misuse. Cardholder misuse will be flagged and audited by Card Services.
The consequences of cardholder misuse may include card suspension (including suspension of a Travel Card, if the employee has one), card cancellation, disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment or other relationships with the university, and any other potential action identified following a university investigation.
Cardholder fraud is defined as intentionally using a Purchasing Card for financial or personal gain.
The consequences of cardholder fraud may include card suspension (including suspension of a Travel Card, if the employee has one), card cancellation, disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment or other relationships with the university, and any other potential action identified following a university investigation.
Audit and Misuse Investigation
As described in Administrative Guide Memo 3.5.1: Financial Irregularities, departments must immediately notify the Office of the Chief Risk Officer or the Ethics and Compliance Helpline of suspected financial irregularities. Individuals wishing to report suspected incidents anonymously may contact the Ethics and Compliance helpline.
When warranted by information obtained during preliminary research, the Office of the Chief Risk Officer will commence a fact-finding investigation into the suspected financial irregularity. The Office of the Chief Risk Officer will plan and coordinate the investigation and will consult with the Office of the General Counsel as appropriate.
The consequences of audit investigation may result in card suspension (including suspension of a Travel Card, if the employee has one), card cancellation, disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment or other relationships with the university, and any other potential action identified following a university investigation.