Stanford Procurement Services offers a variety of purchasing and payment methods to best support the university’s mission as efficiently as possible while ensuring that the university meets its compliance requirements. While all purchases must be in alignment with established purchasing policies and guidelines, certain categories of purchases, such as capital purchases or other special goods or services, require additional actions or specific purchasing methods. Review the Topic Overview: Categories of Purchases to understand specific requirements related to purchasing methods depending on the type of purchase where applicable.  

All purchases must be approved in advance by the appropriate financial approver to ensure proper use of funds and compliance with university policy. Depending upon the type of purchase and amount, additional approvals may be required by a central administrative employee with the proper signature authority. Some transactions require a specially-trained and authorized departmental approver. For more information, refer to Topic Overview: Financial Transaction Approval.

When selecting a purchasing method, if more than one method meets the business and compliance requirements, consider the overall impact on time-savings and the university’s ability to manage risk.  For example, Amazon Business and SmartMart Catalog Suppliers were designed to standardize the purchasing of goods through built-in controls such as pre-identified suppliers and integration with the university's purchasing system, embedding an automatic trail of documentation recorded with each purchase. This supports the university’s commitment to price competition, diversity and provides a higher degree of customer satisfaction. 

Amazon Business and SmartMart Catalog Suppliers, which are available in iProcurement, are the preferred purchasing methods at Stanford. Both options offer a range of products. SmartMart Catalog Ordering provides a wider selection of Lab and Medical products. Amazon Business provides similar availability and access to items available on its public website, but holds higher standards of vetting and approving sellers. In addition, Amazon Business offers additional business-specific items available to all Amazon Business account members.

Benefits of Amazon Business include the well-known user experience, a broad product selection, direct interface to iProcurement for checkout, requisition approval and payment processing, and free shipping on Prime-eligible items. Another benefit is the pre-purchase review and approval by the designated financial approver. This gives the opportunity to check for appropriateness of the purchase, alignment with university and department policy, and validation of the funding source before the purchase occurs. This key checkpoint ensures that the transaction approval process happens prior to the payment being made and supports accurate, reasonable and appropriate use of Stanford’s financial resources.

SmartMart Catalog Suppliers, accessed through iProcurement, is Stanford's online catalog ordering system that offers specially-priced products from pre-negotiated suppliers. Amazon Business and SmartMart Catalog Suppliers are the recommended and preferred purchasing methods at Stanford. While both options offer a range of products, SmartMart Catalog Suppliers provides a wider selection of Lab and Medical products. For specific guidance organized by types of goods, see the Topic Overview: Purchase Goods

SmartMart Catalog Suppliers searches for an item across many catalogs or allows the user to select a specific supplier's site to shop or customize an item. It currently includes many suppliers selling lab supplies, chemicals, computer software and hardware, compressed gases, capital equipment, tax-free alcohol, industrial supplies, electrical components, radioactives and more.  

Additional benefits of purchasing through SmartMart Catalog Suppliers includes pre-vetted suppliers, pre-negotiated pricing and efficiencies such as repeat ordering and a streamlined invoice and payment process. Another benefit is the pre-purchase review and approval by the designated financial approver. This gives the opportunity to check for appropriateness of the purchase, alignment with university and department policy, and validation of the funding source before the purchase occurs. This key checkpoint ensures that the transaction approval process happens prior to the payment being made and supports accurate, reasonable and appropriate use of Stanford’s financial resources.

A non-catalog purchase requisition, also called a non-catalog request, is a purchasing method accessed through iProcurement that is used to purchase services or goods. Before initiating a new non-catalog purchase requisition, Stanford purchasers should review goods offered by Amazon Business and SmartMart Catalog Suppliers, which offer a streamlined and efficient ordering process.

In some cases, price or terms may need to be negotiated and documented in a formal contract (where a signature is required) to protect Stanford.

Suppliers of goods and services to Stanford are paid based on invoices matched against an active purchase order. Departments and suppliers follow the purchase order invoice process to pay against a purchase order. 

Procurement Services offers university-issued and university-paid credit cards, called Purchasing Cards (PCards), to make eligible purchases of $4,999 or less on behalf of the university. Before using the PCard, the purchaser should consider if another method may be more appropriate and, if not, take steps to ensure that the purchase is approved and meets university policies for expenditures. In addition, it’s important to note that university policy prohibits PCards from being used for certain purchases, such as computers, software, mobile devices, capital equipment and goods or services from eCommerce websites such as PayPal.

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 their built-in controls that provide 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.

The PCard has fewer controls because it was intentionally designed to offer an expedient way of procuring items that are needed right away or, like food or other small dollar occasional business purchases, are not available through Amazon Business or SmartMart. With this method, the financial verification and approvals happen after the purchase, which, while saving time on the front end, leave room for heightened risk. 

For more information about the application process, university policy, PCard roles and responsibilities including transaction verification process, see Topic Overview: Stanford Purchasing Card (PCard) Program

Stanford Travel Cards (TCards) are recommended for payment of travel and travel-related services required for the conduct of university business. A Stanford Travel Card is a university-paid credit card  issued to Stanford employees.

For more information about the application process, university policy, TCard roles and responsibilities including expense reporting process, see Topic Overview: Stanford Travel Card (TCard) Program.

Non-PO Payment Requests through the Expense Requests system can be used to make direct payments to a supplier or other type of payee for certain expenses that do not warrant a formal purchase order or for which negotiation by the Purchasing and Contracts department is not applicable or adds no value, e.g., business meals, dues, government fees, permits, etc.

Common non-PO payment types include: 

  • Conference Registration fees paid directly to the conference organizer
  • Dues and Subscriptions
  • Employee Training
  • Food and Catering services (unless a formal contract with signature is needed)
  • Government fees and permits
  • Honoraria payments
  • Human Subject incentives
  • Postage
  • Prizes and Awards
  • Refunds 
  • Relocation expenses

Refer to Guidelines for Use of Non-PO Payment Categories for more detail. In addition, some of these types of transactions may be permissible on a PCard.

Some expenses that may be related to foreign activity must be recorded as such. Refer to Guidelines – Foreign Expenses, for help in determining if a Non-PO Payment qualifies as a foreign expense.

Reimbursement for business and travel expenses is referred to as an Expense Reimbursement

For more information about getting access to the Expense Requests System to create Non-PO Payment Requests including authority, training, how-to instructions and more, see Learn About: Expense Requests System.

Expense Reimbursements are used to reimburse Stanford employees, affiliates and visitors for personal funds used to pay for authorized university business and travel expenses. 

Depending on the type of expense, using Amazon Business, SmartMart Catalog Suppliers, the Purchasing Card (PCard) or Travel Card (TCard) may be appropriate as an alternative to using personal funds. More policy details are available in the Business and Travel Expense policy overview

For more information about getting access to the Expense Requests System to create Expense Reimbursements including authority, training, how-to instructions and more, see Learn About: Expense Requests System.

The Digital Payments form in the Expense Requests System can be used to reimburse domestic travel expenses for U.S. citizen or non-citizen resident visitors quickly and efficiently. These reimbursements are routed through JPMorgan Chase Bank using Zelle, a secure nationwide digital payment network governed by U.S. banking regulations, or paid via an Automated Clearing House (ACH) bank transfer.

The Digital Payments form saves time and effort for preparers, ensures a faster payment for visitors, and reduces risk for Stanford because preparers do not need to collect sensitive information from visitors in order to reimburse them.

Per Administrative Guide Policy 5.4.1: Advance Expenses, the use of advances is expected to be rare, but may be appropriate to further university business under certain circumstances. For example, advance funds may be paid directly to Stanford staff, faculty, or students prior to travel or as a part of a Human Subject study. Use of the Travel Card is the preferred method to eliminate the need for a travel advance.

For more information about the purpose and use of advance funds, advance types, qualifications for requesting advances and the process of requesting an advance, refer to Topic Overview: Advances.

Some departments obtain petty cash funds that enable them to reimburse employees for out-of-pocket business expenditures up to $100. A department head designates an individual to administer the petty cash fund and initiates the request for a petty cash fund. The Office of the Treasurer (OOT) establishes funds, oversees custodians and tracks reconciliations. Learn more on the Topic Overview: Life Cycle of a Petty Cash Fund.

Last Updated: Apr 29, 2022