Stanford Purchasing Cards (PCards) are university-liability credit cards, meaning the university is responsible for paying the charges. The cards are issued to authorized, trained and active Stanford employees 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

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. 

Unauthorized or inappropriate use of the Stanford Purchasing Card may result in disciplinary action for the cardholder/custodian or card user, which could include loss of credit card privileges and/or termination of employment. 

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.

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.

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. 

Some 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. The following list provides examples of purchases that are and are not permissible on the PCard. Unless stated otherwise, in most cases the best purchasing method for expenses that are non-permissible on the PCard is through iProcurement:

Examples of permissible expenses on the PCard
Examples of expenses that are
non-permissible on the PCard
  • Personal expenses of any kind, including
    • Gifts, decorations or food for personal events such as individual birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, housewarming, graduations, etc. which are considered non-business related purchases
    • Home office equipment or furnishings
    • Utilities, such as electricity, gas, water, phone, internet and cable services
    • Donations
  • Purchases explicitly outside of PCard policy
    • Purchases exceeding PCard policy limits
    • Split transactions to circumvent the single transaction limit of $4,999
    • Cash advances  
    • Purchases from any vendor where the cardholder/custodian or their immediate family have a significant financial interest (see Administrative Guide Policy: 1.5.2 Staff Policy on Conflict of Commitment and Interest)    
    • Capital equipment or fixed assets
    • 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)
  • Tuition payments for employees, staff or students (see Administrative Guide Policy: 2.1.12 Staff Development Programs)
  • Travel related purchases (see Administrative Guide Policy: 5.4.2 Business and Travel Expenses). The Stanford Travel Card is the preferred payment method for these expenses.
    • Faculty, staff or student conference registration where travel (airfare, hotel, car rental) is involved
    • Airfare, rental car, and lodging
    • Meals when traveling
  • Purchases requiring regulatory compliance, such as:
    • Hazardous and other materials (chemicals, biological organisms, controlled substances)
    • Laboratory animals              
  • Transactions that might impact tax-reporting requirements, such as:
    • E-commerce purchases where tax reporting requirements would be circumvented such as through PayPal, eBay, Alibaba, and Amazon Marketplace (third party sellers)
    • Purchases from or payments to foreign vendors, which may be blocked by customs departments
  • Computers, software, mobile devices, and related services to be obtained through University IT, such as:
  • Application software, such as licenses, subscriptions, and maintenance fees
  • Transactions where contracts or insurance may be required, or terms and conditions need review, such as:
    • Venues and facilities for events (requiring contracts and insurance)
    • Moving, storage and leasing expenses (visit the Moving Services resource on Fingate)
    • Social networking service/media companies (Facebook, Twitter, Google LinkedIn, etc.)


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.

Personal Charges

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. It should be deposited to the PTAE account by the department using CASHNet, referring to the PCard transaction number, and subsequently verified to the same PTAE.

For details on how to pay back Stanford for accidental personal charges on a PCard, 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.

Spending Limits

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 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 practicle 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 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.

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 PCard 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.

Card Misuse

Cardholders who do not comply with this policy and other university policies and procedures may have their cardholder privileges revoked. This revocation may be extended to include the Travel Card (TCard), if the employee has one. Misuse of the Purchasing Card may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.

Audit and Misuse Investigation

University employees must report known or suspected misappropriations, regardless of magnitude, to their manager, department chair or dean, who must contact the Ethics and Compliance Helpline. Individuals wishing to report suspected incidents anonymously may contact the Ethics and Compliance Helpline.

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