February 17, 2017
Given the importance of this issue and the constant discussions we have been having with many of you individually, I would like to take the opportunity to devote an entire announcement to travel and reimbursements.
Two years ago the University began implementing a new travel and reimbursement mechanism, Concur (faculty and staff have access, students do not). As a result we have had to change how we procure travel, process reimbursements, and handle non-employee reimbursements for our students and guests. With the introduction of Concur also came the introduction of Travel Cards for employee use. Over the last few months it has become apparent that our department is one of the most delinquent departments at the University in terms of submitting information in a timely manner. We have been officially notified that the Travel Department will begin to take on a much stricter attitude moving forward. As a result, I am highlighting all of the relevant rules and regulations that everyone who travels or purchases on behalf of the University should know. This information will be detailed at the bottom of this email and will be made available on our Resources website, http://sites.bu.edu/physics-resources/.
I am attaching the Travel and Travel Card Policies for your review. The most up-to-date information will always be available on the Travel Services website, http://www.bu.edu/travelservices/resources/policies/. I urge you to fully read these policies and let anyone in the front office know if you have any questions or concerns.
Thank you for your cooperation!
Transactions older than 30 days
The Travel department will start implementing a new rule such that if you have open transactions in your profile for longer than 30 days from the transaction date that have not been transferred to a travel report, your travel card will be suspended. The card will not be reactivated until your profile has been cleared of all transactions. You are strongly urged to utilize the mobile app platform to assist you in moving transactions in real-time to help facilitate this process (for more information on the app, please visit https://www.concur.com/en-us/mobile). Please note that moving open card transactions to a travel report is the responsibility of the traveler and not the front office staff.
Travel report submissions within 30 days
Per the Travel Policy, you are required to submit your request for reimbursement within 30 days of your trip end date. You will receive notifications at the 60- and 90-day mark to remind you of the unprocessed report. For reports delinquent by more than 60 days, a “hold” will be placed on your travel card. Failure to submit your report within 120 days of the trip end date will disqualify you from reimbursement. If you used your travel card for a trip that ended longer than 120 days ago, you will be personally responsible for those expenses and you will not be eligible for a reimbursement. Please note that the front office staff does not regularly check traveler profiles unless we are notified to submit a report for processing. It is your responsibility as the traveler to notify an administrator and have reports submitted in the appropriate timeline.
Timeliness of report submission
Travelers are asked to notify front office staff when reports are ready to be reviewed. We ask this of you so that we can be sure that all transactions are processed per the Travel Policy and that the appropriate accounts are being charged. Please remember that reports are processed in the order in which they are received. Reports that are approaching the Travel deadlines will not be pulled for review ahead of travelers who are keeping to the required timeline.
Use of per diem
Per diem should only be utilized when traveling on grant funding. If University funding is being utilized you will need to submit requests for individual meals. Reporting actual costs for some of the trip and then use of per diem for the remainder of the trip is not allowed. If you use your travel card for meals on a trip, you are not able to request a per diem. The practice of marking some meals as personal in order to claim a per diem rate will no longer be allowed.
Report submission to front office staff
As we have outlined before, as travelers you are responsible for moving open card transactions from your profile into a cohesive travel report. In order to facilitate the process please remember that the more information you provide at the onset, the more quickly your report will be reviewed and approved. Completed reports should have all transactions included with explanations where needed and associated receipts or backup documentation. Your report should also have a trip purpose in the comments section on the report header – this should be included for all trips even if you feel the title of the report is self-explanatory. Always remember that your travel report should tell the story of your trip.
JetBlue airfare upgrades
We have recently seen an uptick in JetBlue fare upgrades since the upgrades include a free checked bag. Usually the upgrade fee is cheaper than paying to check baggage at the airport. As per the BU Travel Policy: “Air travel is reimbursable for economy airfare only and traveler should use best efforts to ensure that all airfare bookings are completed at least 14 days prior to scheduled trip departure. The traveler is personally responsible for airline upgrade fees. For convenience, travelers may charge airfare upgrades to the Travel Card, but unless preapproved, these charges must be designated as “personal” in the expense management system and will be deducted from any other amounts due to the traveler. A traveler who is requesting an exception due to a medical issue must submit supporting medical documentation to the Boston University Occupational Health Center, which will provide a recommendation on the request to the Provost or President for final determination.”
Since the upgrade fee is not technically changing the class of service the airfare remains an economy fare and could be reimbursed but the additional added cost for these choice economy fares that include perks like extra leg room and free snacks cannot be reimbursed.
Fly America Act and Open Skies Agreement
The Fly America Act requires you to purchase airfare from a US-flag carrier if you are traveling internationally. When purchasing the ticket, be sure that the code is that of a US airline. The Open Skies Agreement allows for exceptions when traveling internationally to EU countries, Australia, Switzerland, and Japan. The exception is that you do not need to be on a US-flag carrier when flying direct to any of the aforementioned countries. If you are traveling internationally on DoD funds, you CANNOT take advantage of the Open Skies Agreement and MUST fly on a US-flag carrier.
Using the Travel Card
The travel card should be used for all travel-related expenses, conference registrations and fees, airfare, accommodations, car rentals, and professional subscriptions/dues. Business meals should be paid for using the travel card and you should always obtain the itemized receipt; please also be sure to notate who was in attendance at the meeting in addition to his/her affiliation. Materials and supplies purchases are ONLY allowed while on travel. You should not use your Travel Card when you are in the Boston area to purchases materials and supplies; these requests should be submitted through the department for processing.
Vehicle rentals and accident procedures
You should always use your Travel Card when renting vehicles to receive free primary collision damage waiver insurance for the full value of the rental. In the event of an accident, the travel should immediately, and prior to leaving the location of the accident, call local law enforcement to file the appropriate police and rental company reports. You must then contact US Bank within 24 hours of the incident to report it appropriately. For more information please visit: http://www.bu.edu/travelservices/resources/rental-vehicle-accident-procedures/. Please be sure to contact the front office as well so that we are aware of the situation.
- Reimbursements should be submitted in a timely matter (no more than 30 days from the date the expense was incurred).
- If you are incurring expenses on the department’s behalf, please be sure to communicate these expenses to the staff as soon as possible. You should NOT be holding receipts for a semester and submitting them at a later date as these have budgetary implications.
- Any meeting expenses should be accompanied by a list of attendees and the appropriate affiliations.
- All meal expenses should have an itemized receipt attached, not just the tip invoice.
- Alcohol is an allowable expense when charging non-grant accounts. Students are not allowed to incur alcohol expenses, unless receiving prior approval from the department. Alcohol expenses need to be itemized for tracking purposes.
- The Travel Card should NOT be used to make research-related materials purchases. Expenses of this kind should be processed through the department.
- Booking travel
- Travel should be booked at least 14 days in advance to avoid excessive fees and/or higher costs due to lack of seat availability.
- Make sure that your receipt indicates all of the booking details, including: dates of departure and return, airline carrier, flight number, total cost. Your receipt should also show proof of payment.
- If you are extending your travel dates to include personal travel, be sure to obtain a quote for travel dates without the extension. You should obtain this quote on the same day that you book your trip. See a member of the front office for more information.
- Allowable versus unallowable expenses
- Per the BU Travel Policy, upgrades are not allowable on any account. You will only be reimbursed for base, economy-fare itineraries. The only exception is if economy fares are not available at the time of booking. If this is the case, please speak with a member of the front office before you book.
- Baggage fees are allowable on any account.
- In-flight Wi-Fi and hotel internet are allowable expenses as long as you certify that there was a need for such and it was directly related to your research or travel. Subscriptions are not allowed.
- Alcohol is not allowed on grants. If you purchase alcohol during a meal you will not be reimbursed.
- Things to remember when you’re away
- Receipts are required for any expense over $25.
- Meal receipts should be itemized with your entire purchase.
- Keep your boarding passes.
- If you are attending a conference, please be sure to keep your name badge and/or itinerary. This is required for your travel report.
- Airfare carriers when traveling on grants
- If you are traveling internationally, you must purchase your airfare on a US flag carrier. When purchasing the ticket, be sure that the airline code is that of a US airline.
- The Open Skies Agreement allows for exceptions when traveling internationally to EU countries, Australia, Switzerland, and Japan. The exception is that you do not need to be on a US flag carrier when flying direct to the listed EU countries, Australia, Switzerland, and Japan. If you are traveling on DoD funds, the exception does not apply.