U.S. Geological Survey Manual
No. OFM 96-04
Date: April 9, 1996
Subject: American Express Travel Charge Card Program
Reference: SM 340.18
This memorandum announces changes in the Bureau's management of the American Express (AMEX) Travel Charge Card Program recently approved by the USGS Operations Council. These changes are effective immediately. The bureau is taking these actions in order to provide clear guidelines for handling instances of AMEX card misuse and to improve management controls related to the handling of delinquent debt associated with card use.
Change in Dollar Thresholds for AMEX Travel Advance Withdrawals
Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cash advances obtained with the AMEX card will be limited to $250 per day and $500 per 7-day period. This limit will be coded into the system by American Express, and no action is required by supervisors or card holders to make this change. Cardholders should be aware that the AMEX travel charge card is to be used only for officially approved travel purposes, and that cash withdrawals should be limited to the amount authorized on the Travel Authorization by the traveler's supervisor.
Divisions may designate specific cardholders requiring an exception to these limits. An initial designation has been made by each Division and American Express will individually code any account so authorized. For future exceptions, Divisions may request changes at any time; however, travelers should allow approximately 7 days from time of receipt in Office of Financial Management (OFM) in order for the change in dollar limits to take effect. OFM will only accept written exception requests approved by a designated Division contact as indicated on Appendix A. OFM will provide e-mail notification to the employee confirming the change to the ATM withdrawal limit.
Guidelines for Managing the Use of AMEX Cards
Effective supervisory review of employees' use of the American Express charge cards is a key to proper management of the Bureau's travel advance cash flow. Even though the primary relationship in the AMEX program is between American Express and the individual cardholder, supervisors have a responsibility to oversee employees' use of the card, including timely payment of charges incurred. OFM, through the Bureau's American Express Program Coordinator, will work with the Division Administrative Officers to provide a variety of reports to identify problems which require management attention. These reports will identify:
1. Situations in which cash advances are frequent in the employees' local area and there are no other travel related charges, i.e., lodging, meals, rental car, etc.
2. Instances in which AMEX cards are used for retail purchases. (In general, AMEX cards are not to be used for retail purchases, except for those infrequent occasions when necessary for official travel expenses. Retail purchases should be reviewed and validated by the supervisor.)
3. Travelers who are delinquent in paying charges incurred on the AMEX card.
The American Express Bureau Coordinator is authorized to contact and verify with American Express the status of all cardholders' accounts. When necessary, this information will be made available to employees' supervisors as a tool for managing the use of the charge card.
Employees should familiarize themselves with the terms and conditions of the American Express cardholder agreement, and are responsible for limiting their use of the card to authorized purposes. Employees are also responsible for timely repayment to AMEX of card charges, and accordingly should submit travel vouchers promptly in order to receive reimbursement.
Effective with this memorandum, applications for an American Express Travel Charge Card must now include the signature of the applicant's supervisor before it will be processed by OFM. Even though the application does not have a separate approval line, supervisors should sign in the area under the employee's signature. OFM will return any applications which do not contain the supervisor's signature.
Supervisors are responsible for: signing employees' applications authorizing the issuance of an AMEX card; managing proper card use by employees through review of AMEX reports; immediately counseling employees upon detection of any apparent improper use of the AMEX card; and, preparing documents to OFM to request reinstatement of any suspended AMEX card following a suspension period. At any time, supervisors also may request OFM to process either a suspension or cancellation of an employee's AMEX card, as circumstances warrant.
Division Administrative Officers
Division Administrative Officers must approve card applications in cases where a previous card has been canceled or suspended. Additionally, they serve as central contact points for OFM's distribution of AMEX program reports and information.
Office of Financial Management
The Office of Financial Management serves as the Bureau's central focal point for oversight of the Government travel charge card program, providing management information to USGS and DOI officials, assisting employees with AMEX card issues, and working with AMEX to improve program operations. The Bureau American Express Coordinator, in OFM, has the responsibility to monitor the American Express Travel Charge Card Program for the U.S. Geological Survey in an effort to manage delinquencies and abuses. All information regarding a cardholder's Government charge card account is accessible to the Coordinator. This includes payment history, itemization of charges and ATM withdrawals, and account balances; the Coordinator also works with AMEX in responding to questions regarding information the employee provides to AMEX on any of these issues. The Coordinator provides notice of any AMEX program problems or irregularities to the Division Administrative Officer for appropriate management follow-up.
IMPROPER USE OF CARD
The following management actions will be taken in cases where improper use of the card has been found:
1) Unauthorized cash withdrawals or retail purchases -- The supervisor should counsel employees promptly regarding the proper use of the card. If circumstances warrant, the supervisor may request a suspension or cancellation of the card, even on a first offense. Any additional unauthorized use will lead to immediate suspension of the employee's card for no less than 120 days. Reinstatement of card privileges will only be processed upon receipt by OFM of a written request from the supervisor, through the designated Division contact indicated on Appendix A.. Disciplinary actions may be pursued separately, depending upon the severity of the abuse. Supervisors should consult with their servicing human resources office.
2) Failure to pay delinquent debt -- Employees are required to pay, in-full, all valid card charges by the deadline shown on their account statement. OFM will notify the Division Administrative Officers regarding employees who have become 60 days overdue in paying their card balance. Supervisors will be contacted and should immediately review the circumstances with the employee, and advise the employee of the requirement to pay. If the employee has not paid the account to currency (balance less than 30 days old) within 70 days, the employee's card will be suspended. This suspension will remain in effect for 120 days past the payment in full of the delinquent debt, and will only be reinstated upon written supervisory request submitted through the designated Division contact as indicated on Appendix A..
If the delinquent debt is not paid within 90 days of when due, the employee's card will be canceled. Cancellations will remain in effect a minimum of 1 year. Requests to reinstate canceled cards require payment in-full of the amount owed, and a new application for an AMEX card supported by written supervisory and Division Administrative Officer approval. Reinstatement is also subject to a credit check and approval by American Express. Employees whose AMEX cards have been canceled are limited to travel advance amounts covering only meals and incidental expenses (M&IE).
OFM American Express Travel Charge Card Program Coordinator
Questions regarding this memorandum, or the Bureau's American Express Card Program in general may be addressed to the program coordinator, Susan R. Sheely. She can be reached at (703) 648-7602, or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
DESIGNATED DIVISION CONTACTS
American Express Travel Charge Card Approval Authorities
1. Authority to Approve Exceptions to Cash Withdrawal Limits
Chief, Program Planning & Coordination
Acting Chief, Program Operations
Chief, Extending Program Outreach
National Mapping Division
Associate Division Chief
Mapping Center Chief
Water Resources Division
Branch Chief, District Chief or Office Chief
Office of Program Support
Service Center Chief
(Authority to approve exceptions to the USGS ATM cash limit is not delegated below these levels.)
2) Approval of Initial Card Applications
3) Approval of Card Reinstatements (when canceled or suspended)
Requires recommendation of immediate supervisor and approval of Division Administrative Officer.