The Government Travel Charge Card Program (GTCC) is something new recruits won’t learn about until it is required of them to carry it, but this DoD-wide program is an important part of an individual military member’s financial readiness, as the military calls it.
What do you initially need to know about GTCC before and after signing up? Before signing up, it’s critical to remember that the travel card is only for official travel and cannot be used for personal reasons at any time.
The most important thing AFTER signing up is to stay current on the latest policies and procedures associated with use of the travel card. If you assume that last year’s cash advance limit is the same this year, for example, you may end up in an awkward position if you try to pull that cash advance and hit a newly imposed limit you weren’t expecting.
And that’s not all; you will need to stay current about policies related to things like upgrades, frequent flyer mile offers that may be associated with the use of a charge card (any charge card) while flying, etc.
What Is The GTCC?
The Government Travel Charge Card is considered the “primary” way for all DoD personnel (including civilian contractors and those in uniform alike) to pay for official travel.
That official travel may include PCS moves, temporary duty assignments or TDY, deployments, travel to conferences or trade shows, etc.
Why The GTCC?
The GTCC may be given to military members, especially junior enlisted military members who don’t earn nearly as much as higher-ranking NCOs and definitely not as much as even the newest, greenest 2nd Lieutenant fresh out of Officer Candidate School.
The travel card program eliminates the financial hardship that would happen to these troops if they were required to pay up front for their own official travel even if they are reimbursed later via travel voucher. The travel card is safer as the need to carry cash is minimized, and there are other perks associated with the card:
- Providing extended payment terms when compared to personal credit cards
- No interest charge
- No annual fee
- Direct payment (split disbursement)
- Payment due at 61 days past billing before considered delinquent (120 days for PCS travel)
- Card-provided travel insurance
Those are perks for the Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, and all others who use the card. But what about the perks for the government?
Why The DoD Likes The Government Travel Charge Card Program
There are significant benefits to the GTCC. Financial discipline is a learned skill and many who start their careers in uniform aren’t fully educated or disciplined enough to manage their finances properly–at first.
The GTCC program helps eliminate needless financial difficulties for troops who perform official travel; that’s a benefit to the government in the form of keeping disciplinary problems in this area to a minimum, while establishing financial checks and balances for those who use the card. DoD benefits from the program in the following ways:
- Reducing the amount of travel advances
- Improving the financial readiness and security of DoD travelers
- Earning rebates based on card usage at the DoD level
- Access to the GSA City Pair Program
- Providing some travelers tax exemption benefits in certain states
Who Must Use The GTCC?
At the time of this writing, it’s DoD policy that all official travel be purchased with the GTCC program’s credit cards. DoD regulations go so far as to formally prohibit the use of a traveler’s private funds or personal credit to pay for official travel. Those who disobey these rules are subject to punishment.
The Department of Defense official site reminds, “Use of the travel card is mandated by the Travel and Transportation Reform Act of 1998”.
The Different Types Of Government Travel Cards
There are two basic types of government cards issued to individuals. One is called a Standard card, the other is classified as Restricted. If that sounds slightly punitive, it’s because the GTCC program requires a creditworthiness check and those who do not qualify for the Standard government card due to credit issues will be recommended for a Restricted card.
What are the basic differences between the Standard and Restricted DoD Travel Charge Cards?
Standard GTCC Cards
- Minimum credit score of 660
- Total monthly cycle credit limits up to $7500
- Cash advance limit of $250
- Split disbursement payment arrangement is mandatory
Restricted GTCC Cards
- For those with FICO scores between 500-659 OR
- For circumstances where the credit check is declined
- Total monthly cycle credit limits up to $4000
- Cash advance limit of $250
- Split disbursement mandatory
- Activation/Deactivation required
GTCC Centrally Billed Accounts (CBA)
This is a different kind of GTCC account; these CBAs are used for specific departmental needs including local official travel and other official business.
Individuals are not responsible for paying on these accounts since CBAs are maintained by the Defense Department. Transportation Accounts and Unit Cards fall under this program and are for limited use only. They also require:
- Limited use
- Component Program Manager approval for use
- Credit limit consistent with mission
- Government liability
- Account Manager responsible for management
How To Use The GTCC
- Regardless of when your first official travel is, set up your card with PIN, current contact information and other details as you never know when a last-minute TDY may require you to perform official travel.
- You cannot travel on your new card until you have verified your account and are told it is ready for use. The point of contact for this is your Agency Program Coordinator or APC, who may be required to unblock all travel cards prior to initial use.
- You must have the most current contact information on file with your card account. Add any updates to your name, address, email, and phone number with the APC and travel card vendor.
- Ensure all profiles are current including the correct account number and expiration date. Outdated information may result in failure to obtain the required tickets and other reservations for official travel.
- Prior to any official travel, but especially before your first trip, contact the APC to ensure your travel card is “in an activated status and has enough credit to cover your estimated expenses” according to the DoD official site.
What To Do After Your Official Travel Is Over
When you return from your official travel, your first step should be to complete a travel voucher within five duty days of your return. You should at this time review your official travel expenses to ensure accuracy, due dates, and other issues. Make sure you know how much of your travel voucher is paid directly via split disbursement.
For official travel greater than 45 days, you may be required to pay the card issuer every 30 days regardless of travel status, and you may also be required to file interim vouchers for extended official travel.
Government Travel Card Security Measures
DoD instructions to all card holders includes a requirement that you contact the card issuer immediately if your card is lost or stolen. You will also need to notify the APC assigned to your organization to begin following up with the card issuer.
The DoD official site has some advice for those who are concerned about identity theft, phishing, telephone scams and related problems:
- Beware of any outside requests for personal account information. If you receive such requests, do not answer them. Inform your APC immediately so that appropriate steps can be taken to halt the activity as soon as possible.
- Do not give your GTCC account number, Social Security number, or other sensitive data to people who call you.
- Verify ANY request for account data. According to the DoD, “the travel card vendor already has that information but may ask you to provide other information to confirm your identity.” If you are concerned about such a request, do not give out the information–call the toll-free number on the back of your card to confirm the request before providing the information.
How You Stay Current On Travel Card Program Changes
It is never safe to assume that terms and conditions remain the same on any credit card from one year to the next. You should view your credit card terms and policies as one year winds down and another begins just in case changes may be coming.
The DoD also has a built-in protection against some being caught unaware of new policy changes. That’s why you are required to sign the legally binding DoD Statement of Understanding when you get your card for the first time.
You will also have to re-verify this document when you PCS and inprocess into your new unit, AND you will re-sign the paperwork every three years, regardless.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News