Paycheck Chronicles

New Look Government Travel Card Coming Soon

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A new look government travel card is coming by the end of the year, and it may cause problems for users.

The new card is the result of a new contract with the card issuer Citi®, which will go into place this November. SmartPay3 will replace the current payment system known as SmartPay2, and as a result of the new contract everyone, military and civilian, having a government travel card will be issued a new one. 

The problem is that the new card has no official government markings or logos to distinguish it from other cards that you may currently have. There will be no pretty capitol building, American flag, or even the words "travel card". That means it may be easy to accidentally use your official government card to make purchases at places that aren't related to official travel.

As all holders of government travel card know, this is a big no-no, and can get you into some serious trouble, even if it is by accident.

The DoD policy is that the government-sponsored, contractor-issued travel card should be used to pay for ALL official travel expenses while on TDY/TAD. Personal use of the travel card or using the travel card to pay for someone else's travel expenses is prohibited. The use of the travel card for non-official expenses may result in disciplinary actions.

I know that once in a past life I tried to use my government-issued travel card at a casino restaurant during an official conference at the casino, it was declined. Another time it was declined at a bar next to a conference where I was enjoying a nice supper of chicken wings and nachos. When I got back to work my finance person, and supervisor gave me a hard time for trying to use an official card for non-official business, my explanations didn't matter and I was excluded from traveling for six months

Apparently the card is coded in such a way as to prevent you from using it in a bar or casino, who knew? Well this doesn't always work, and sometimes people do misuse their cards and get their names in the news.  

Of course my travel card issues were several years ago, but all government card users have had some issues in the past where they ended up having to use a personal card when a government card should have been utilized. This redesign is likely to cause more of those problems in the future.

Of course, making the card anonymous will make it a bit more difficult for official government travelers to be identified as such, and increase traveler security.

My advice to prevent any inadvertent use or charges on the new card is to not carry it with you until you absolutely need to use it. Your command may also issue the card to you in a neat little paper sleeve that identifies it as a government charge card. You can keep your card in this to prevent accidentally pulling it out and ordering that new pair of shoes online or hitting up the ATM on Saturday night.

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