Government Travel Card replacement eases travel, financial hassles

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Bill Kiser
  • 81st Comptroller Squadron
As a new financial services officer, I found myself spending up to 20 hours a week on Government Travel Card management tasks -- answer questions from agency program coordinators and commanders who were focused on program and delinquency management.

My experience wasn't unusual -- many FSOs spend just as much time on similar tasks that take us away from our focus on evaluating and improving processes to ensure customers are paid in an accurate and efficient manner.

One day, an opportunity streamed into my e-mail. It stated, "Keesler Air Force Base will be piloting the Controlled Spend Account program."

That was my introduction to the CSA program. Over the next several weeks I saw the benefits of the new cash advance cards that will replace the GTC.


At base level the biggest benefits offered by the CSA are manpower savings and increased rebates.

With the GTC, tracking delinquencies and misuse became a mainstay in financial services daily and monthly operations. To manage the program effectively, financial managers ran eight to 12 reports to capture delinquencies. Then they had to coordinate with agency program coordinators to follow up on cases of misuse. We did to catch the less than one percent of users who misused the card, spending a tremendous amount of time on administrative tasks.

CSA has no reports, only account listings. For me, this saved about 12-20 hours per week.

When we disbursed cash to complete mission requirements prior to the GTC, we didn't spend hours tracking cash advance abuses. We just wanted our Airmen to travel, complete the mission and return home safely. The CSA is a modernized version of that cash advance system.

The card's controlled spending limits are based on the approved travel order estimates. This cash amount is uploaded to the card electronically and is visible to both the financial manager and the customer. Because we don't monitor how the traveler spends the allotted money, there's no need to run reports to track misuses. To clarify, the card should still only be used for official travel expenses, but should be used for all travel expenses.

Additionally, delinquencies are extremely limited by the controlled spend capability and Citibank manages the few instances when overspending does occur. Our responsibility is to ensure travelers are using the card for all expenses, so major commands and wings can recapitalize rebate dollars for mission requirements. The CSA significantly reduces administrative tasks and increases MAJCOM and wing-level rebates, but its greatest benefits -- more control and freedom -- are passed on to our customers.

Better for customer

The CSA program provides the customer the ability to call and establish a temporary spend limit to meet changes in the mission. An e-mail is generated to the approving official as a notification of change, but the traveler can complete the mission with no hiccups. The card also provides more freedom to cardholders. With the CSA program, customers no longer need to worry about using the card for the wrong thing; instead, they can focus on managing allocated funds to complete the mission.

Additionally, funds saved or earned while traveling can be used in several ways after the temporary duty is over. Customers may choose to transfer the unused funds to other personal accounts or continue using the card until the allocated funds are spent. At the base level, the new card offers many benefits to both our customers and our financial managers. As the program expands to other bases, sharing our lessons learned will help facilitate smooth transitions as CSA is implemented across the Air Force.

If your organization does switch to the new CSA, here are some simple ways you can help provide a smooth transition:

Buy in - We tend to resist change, especially if the current program seems to work. Garner support of the CSA program at every level by ensuring everyone knows its ins and outs. Establishing trust with leadership and agency program coordinators will ensure a smooth transition.

Letting go - We've managed delinquencies for so long it's difficult to let go of past practices. Forget the past -- focus on getting the program implemented, become an expert and reap the benefits of the cost and manpower savings.

State of the current program - The initial phase of the conversion requires agency program coordinators to scrub current account listings to ensure travelers have been transferred, accounts closed and mailing and e-mail addresses updated. Lack of preparation here may result in more work.

Training - Providing training is not enough -- travelers, agency program coordinators, and Defense Travel Service reviewing/approving officials must attend the training. Almost every question I've fielded regarding the CSA was discussed during the initial training or is listed in the frequently-asked-questions brochures.