Approved by: The President
History: Issued              -- March 14, 2002
Revised            -- March 27, 2023 (Corrections, Sections XVI, XVIII)
Last Reviewed -- March 27, 2023
Related Policies: Anti-Bribery Policy; Credit Card Policy; International Travel Policy; Prohibited Transactions Policy; Relocation Expense Policy; Sponsored Award Costing Policy
Additional References: IRS Standard Mileage Rates; Travel Expense Report and Procedures; University's Travel Portal; AP Travel Payment Information

Policy Owner:

Contact Person:

Vice President for Finance and Treasurer

Accounts Payable Director tel. (202) 319-5854


I. Policy Statement


Individuals who undertake Official Travel for the University must have pre-approval to do so. All travel expenses must be permissible, have a clear articulated business purpose, and be documented and submitted for substantiation and reimbursement in a timely manner. This policy sets forth requirements for travel planning, for specific types of travel expenses, and for paying for and seeking reimbursement of such expenses. This policy applies to all travelers regardless of the source of funds, with specific exceptions as noted below for University Trustees traveling on University business.

If the travel to be undertaken is international, the traveler also must register their travel via the University Travel Registry ( and must obtain the University's International Health and Emergency Evacuation Insurance Coverage. Review the International Travel Policy and contact the Office of Global Strategies at tel. (202) 319-4698 or for guidance.

Non-compliance with this policy may result in the non-reimbursement of claimed travel expenses.

Table of Contents - Select link below to see detailed policy requirements

A. Definitions (Section II)

B. Before you Travel (Section III)

1. Pre-Travel Authorization

2. Overview of Expense Requirements

C. How will I be traveling? What will I do when I get there?

  1. Air Travel (Section IV)
  2. Ground Transportation (Section V)
  3. Conference Fees (Section VI)
  4. Lodging (Section VII)
  5. Changes, Cancellations and Credits (Section VIII)
  6. Meals, Entertainment and Miscellaneous Travel Expenses (Section IX)
  7. Long-Term Travel - Travel Greater Than 30 Days (Section X)
  8. Emergencies (Section XI) 
D. How will I be paying for travel?
  1. University Credit Card Policy (Section XII)
  2. Personal Funds (Section XIII)
  3. Travel Advances (Section XIV)
E. How do I request a reimbursement?
  1. Business Purpose of Travel (Section XV)
  2. Substantiation and Receipts (Section XVI)
  3. Missing Receipts (Section XVII)
  4. Authorizations and Required Signatures (Section XVIII)
  5. Timeline of Reporting Requirements (Section XVIX)
  6. Foreign Currency (Section XX)
F. Special Reimbursement Situations
  1. Sponsored Programs (Section XXI)
  2. Third-Party Reimbursement (Section XXII)
  3. Moving Expenses (Section XXIII)

G. Insurance (Section XXIV)

H. Travel by Non-University Travelers (Section XXV)

  1. Non-University Employees
  2. Foreign Nationals
  3. Spousal Travel

II. Definitions


A. Business Purpose means that an expense supports or advances the goals, objectives and mission of the University including: academic and co-curricular programs; teaching; research; academic or industry conferences/forums; and administrative activities. A Business Purpose adequately describes the expense as a necessary, reasonable and appropriate business expense for the University. For additional detail, please see the Accounts Payable website:

B. Domestic Travel means travel among any of the fifty United States, its possessions and territories. In the case of sponsored awards, domestic travel may be defined in the contractual or grant documents.

C. International Travel means travel outside of the United States, its possessions and territories. In the case of sponsored projects, foreign travel may be defined in the contractual documents. Federal grants or contracts must comply with the Fly America Act and all applicable federal requirements. The Fly America Act requires travelers using federal funds to fly on U.S. flag air carriers. Certain exceptions apply. see Any questions should be directed to the Sponsored Accounting Office.

D. Official Travel means travel on approved University business between home (or normal workplace) and another destination representing the University regardless of funding source. Commuting between one's home and regular place of employment is not considered official travel.

E. Supervisor means someone to whom the traveler reports in an official capacity. A supervisor does not include administrative assistants or employees that report to the traveler. A supervisor also does not include a member of the Sponsored Accounting Office.

F. Travel means leaving campus or duty station for work purposes and: a) for a period exceeding 24 hours; b) beyond a 50-mile radius from campus or duty station; c) necessitating an overnight stay or d) being away from your duty station on University business (such as for a conference or off-campus meeting).

III. Before You Travel


Domestic and international travel with a University business purpose must be authorized in advance by the Vice President, Dean, Department Chairperson, Director, Principal Investigator or the appropriate designee responsible for the travel budget to be used. International Travel with a University business requires that travelers register their travel via the University Travel Registry ( and obtain the University's International Health and Emergency Evacuation Insurance Coverage. International Travel may require advanced planning and approvals. Accordingly, travelers should review the International Travel Policy and contact the Office of Global Strategies (202) 319-4698 or well in advance of the planned travel.

Travel assignments must be planned and conducted so that costs will not exceed budgetary limitations. Both the traveler and the authorizing individual must be familiar with the University's policies and procedures regarding travel.

The University requires the integrity of the traveler in following its policies in planning and conducting official University business. Ordinary, necessary, and reasonable expenses incurred in connection with any required travel assignment are permissible if appropriate approvals are obtained first. The University will not pay for or reimburse the traveler for any direct costs incurred for personal travel that become sequential or incidental to business travel. The University will not reimburse the traveler for any estimated or actual amounts incurred if an alternative method of travel is taken to a destination for a business purpose in which the method of travel was chosen to complement personal travel and is not considered economically reasonable and in line with this policy.

All travelers are strongly encouraged to use a University Credit Card for travel-related expenses, including, but not limited to, airfare, ground transportation, hotel stays, meals, taxi services and parking. Non-adherence to the University Credit Card Policy and the requirements of this policy could result in non-reimbursement of expenses and suspension of the University Credit Card.

If the traveler would like to request a travel advance, the request must be made at least thirty (30) business days before the first day of travel.

When travel is completed, all Travel Expense Reports for purchases made with and without a University Credit Card are required to be substantiated, signed, and approved by a supervisor. These reports must be submitted to Accounts Payable, along with any travel approval forms, as soon as possible but no later than twenty (20) business days after the last day of travel.

It is the responsibility of the traveler to keep clear and complete records of expenses. To maintain efficient business processes, travel documentation that is incomplete, inaccurate or not well-organized will be returned to the traveler and will delay reimbursement processing.

IV. Air Travel

A. Making Reservations or Fares/Ticket Types/Class of Service


University funds may only be used for the lowest available economy/coach class airfare that meets the business needs of the travel. If an air itinerary has any flight segment that exceeds eight (8) hours, the entire trip (defined as no more than all segments booked together for a single day's travel) may be upgraded to the next cabin class of services (i.e. Business Class or, if no such class of service on the aircraft, First Class) with documented approval of the cognizant vice president. For example, if an itinerary includes an eight (8) hour overseas flight and two (2) connecting flights of less than eight (8) hours each, the next highest class of service may be purchased for all three (3) flights.

In rare circumstances only, and with advance documented approval of the cognizant vice president or the President, further exception to provisions within this Air Travel policy Section IV may be granted if the exception is reasonable. Failure to be aware of, understand and follow this policy does not constitute "reasonable". The Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer is the final authority regarding the reasonableness and should be consulted in advance if uncertainty exists.

Note that such class of service upgrade purchases are not permitted when paying for travel directly or indirectly using funds provided by a donor or grantor who prohibits payment for premium class common carrier service. The above term "indirectly" refers to the practice of initially paying for travel with an unrestricted account, and then reimbursing that account with donor-restricted or grantor-restricted funds.

Airfare that is considered unreasonable or excessive is not permissible. Any upgrades using rewards/miles/credits are considered a personal expense and are not permissible.

Travelers are strongly encouraged to make reservations at least 14 days in advance to obtain the most convenient and cost-effective fares.

B. Fees


The following fees associated with air travel fees are permissible:

  • Transaction fees associated with business travel reservations; and
  • Baggage fees for baggage that is not personal in nature (e.g. golf clubs for a business trip) or unreasonable and inappropriate for the purpose and length of the trip;
  • Early check-in and seat selection fees up to $25.00
  • Itinerary changes when travel is amended beyond a traveler’s control (e.g. conference date, venue change, weather, or emergency closings).

All other fees (such as those pertaining to club/lounge membership, boarding priority, etc.) are deemed personal and are not permissible uses of University funds except for University Trustees traveling on University business, who may be reimbursed for such fees (refer to Section VIII Changes - Cancellations and Credits).

C. Changes, Cancellations and Unused Airline Tickets


Refer to Section VIII - Changes, Cancellations and Credits.

D. Foreign Carriers


Use of U.S.-flagged carriers are required on sponsored programs. Refer to the Sponsored Program section. The use of foreign carriers is allowed on non-sponsored sources of funds, as long as this complies with other University travel requirements.

E. Private Carriers


The use of non-commercial (private/corporate/state-owned/rented/borrowed) aircraft for University business travel is prohibited and not permissible. Exceptions require written approval in advance of committing to the travel by the University's risk manager.

V. Ground Transportation

A. Rental Car


When to Use - Rental cars should be used when they are less expensive than alternative means of transportation (e.g., taxi, Uber, car service, or train) or where there are safety or other issues that justify the additional cost.

Making Reservations or (Vehicle Class) - University funds may only be used for economy or compact models. For trips that require direct travel for eight (8) hours or longer or will include more than four (4) University employees on authorized travel, travelers may reserve the lowest available vehicle at the next higher class of models (i.e. intermediate or standard). The costs of other upgrades or accessories, such as satellite radio and GPS, are not permissible.

Travelers must rent vehicles with the approved traveler as the named driver. Under no circumstances may the authorized traveler allow another person to operate their rental vehicle.

Passenger Vans - If renting a passenger van the capacity cannot exceed 14 passengers. If a passenger van is needed, please contact Procurement.

Fuel - Employees must refuel the rental car prior to returning to the rental agency and to decline the pre-paid fuel options. The cost of fuel is a permissible expense.

Incidental Rental Car Expenses - All business-related tolls and parking charges that are not part of an employee's regular commute are permissible expenses. Tickets or fines associated with parking or travel violations, and charges for vehicle lockouts are not permissible expenses.

Insurance - University insurance will cover vehicles rented domestically for collision and liability only if the operator is an official University Authorized Driver in good standing. Insurance offered by the rental agency must be obtained if the operator is not an Authorized Driver. The cost of the insurance is a permissible expense. When renting a car in a foreign country, local, in-country collision and liability insurance must be purchased from the rental agency.

B. Personal Automobile


When to Use - Use of a personal automobile for business purposes is permitted when it is less expensive than alternative means of transportation or when there are safety or other issues that justify the additional cost. 

Transportation expenses between the commuter's residence and their regular place of business or post of duty are personal commuting expenses and are not reimbursable.

Transportation to or from a travel terminal (i.e. train station, airport), is not reimbursable within a 50-mile radius. Any commute above 50 miles will be reimbursed for mileage above the 50-mile radius.

Mileage Reimbursement - When a personal automobile is used for Business Purposes, the traveler will be reimbursed up to the current Internal Revenue Service Standard Mileage Rate effective on the date of travel for miles incurred. The mileage reimbursement covers all operating costs of the vehicle, including but not limited to fuel, repairs, maintenance, depreciation and insurance. Tolls and reasonable parking charges will be reimbursed in addition to the mileage allowance. Fines for moving or parking traffic violations, costs of repairs, and towing are not reimbursable.

Insurance - Personal automobiles used for Business Purposes are not covered by University insurance but must be insured by the owner for the minimum insurance required. Damage to a privately-owned vehicle used for University Business Purposes will be covered by the individual's private insurance. The University does not assume responsibility for deductibles or other costs associated with being under-insured or uninsured.

C. Commercial Bus or Rail


When to Use - Travel by bus or rail is allowed when it is less expensive than alternative means of transportation or when there are safety or other issues that justify the additional cost.

Business class travel is permissible for regular Amtrak service as well as for Acela Express. University funds may not be used for First class travel.

The cost of commercial bus fare, light rail or subway is permissible.

D. Taxi, Uber, Car Sharing, and Other Car Services


When to Use - Taxis and car services such as Uber can be used for local transportation and in-city destinations whenever possible, unless a rental car or other means of transport is more cost effective or where there are safety or other issues that justify the additional cost. Local transportation includes travel to and from airports and railroad stations, between appointments, and between hotels and meeting locations during the working day or specifically related to a work function.

It is reasonable to provide a tip for taxi service of 15% - 20%.

E. Limousine & Shuttle Service


When to Use - Limousine and shuttle services may be used when they are less expensive than alternative means of transportation (e.g., train, taxi, Uber, or personal auto) or when there are safety or other issues that justify the additional cost. When traveling with others, it is may be economical to coordinate travel times and share a limousine or shuttle service.

VI. Conference Fees


Pre-approved registration fees for meetings or conferences should be paid directly by the University or paid for with a University Credit Card. Registration fees paid directly by an individual will be considered a travel advance until the conference is completed and proof of attendance must be submitted (refer to travel advance).

When a conference or meeting is offered as a package including hotel room and meals, payment is usually made in advance and reimbursement to the traveler is not necessary.

VII. Lodging


          A. Hotel Lodging


Lodging is limited to a standard or equivalent room only, unless accommodations are shared by more than one authorized traveler, in which case separate receipts must be obtained or only one person is allowed to claim the expense. Only the actual expense of lodging is permissible. 

Travelers may accept only complimentary upgrades. University funds may not be used for costs associated with upgrades. Any room upgrades using rewards/miles/credits are considered a personal expense and are not reimbursable.

Personal expenses and services (in-room movies, health club fees, etc.) are the responsibility of the traveler. Personal laundry expenses are permissible when travel exceeds five (5) days. The charge must be incurred while on Official Travel (and not after the trip is complete).

          B. Private Rentals for Business


Private rentals may be booked through a highly rated reputable site such as AirBnB, VRBO, and with the following considerations:

1. The total private rental should be comparable or less than a reasonable hotel stay.

2. The rental must comfortably accommodate the number of travelers taking into account the configuration of the rooms and the composition of the traveling group.

     a. Regardless of the traveling parties (members of the opposite sex, same sex,  and/or a combination of students and university employees), all travelers must consent to lodge in shared accommodation.

     b. No traveler will be permitted to share a bed or bedroom with a member of the opposite sex.

3. The cancelation policy must allow cancellation within 30 business days with a full refund

     a. The traveler may be liable for the cancellation fee if cancellation does not occur within the allowable  full refund period (also refer to VIII Changes, Cancellations and Credits).

4. The contract executed on the private rental site is strictly between the host and the individual, not the travel site  and the University.

5. The traveler acknowledges the private rental provides a less standardized measure of privacy and safety than what is offered at a traditional hotel. The University is not responsible for the safety of travelers’ persons or property in these housing arrangements.

Lodging within a 50-mile radius of the traveler's home is not permissible unless fully justified as to the compelling business purpose or extraordinary circumstances. Such circumstances should be inquired and discussed with the Office of Accounts Payable in advance of committing to the travel.

          C. Lodging in Private Residence


Travelers who stay in a private residence at no cost to the traveler will be reimbursed for a reasonable token of appreciation (not to exceed $100 per trip) for the courtesy of staying with the host. Proper documentation must be provided with the expense report.


VIII. Changes, Cancellations and Credits


Change fees must have a legitimate, documented business reason.

If a trip is canceled for reasons beyond the traveler's control (e.g. conference cancellation, or weather or emergency closings), the University will reimburse the costs expended to date which are not returned to the traveler in the form of a credit. The traveler must disclose any credits or concessions provided by lodging or transportation vendors as result of any such cancellations. The traveler is responsible for the cancellation of reservations for lodging and transportation and for requesting a refund or application of the unused ticket or accommodation to the next business trip. Any penalty for failure to cancel reservations will be the personal responsibility of the traveler unless for reasons beyond the traveler's control. Unused tickets or accommodations that were purchased for official University business cannot be used for the traveler's personal benefit. The individual school or department is responsible for seeing that the value of all unused tickets is refunded to the University.

Travel advances for canceled travel must be returned to the University within three (3) business days after the cancellation.

IX. Meals, Entertainment, and Miscellaneous Travel Expenses

A. Business Meals


Individual Meals - Employee and student travelers may purchase or be reimbursed for reasonable meal expenses using one of two methods: per diem or actual expense.

The employee traveler may only use one payment/reimbursement method per trip except as noted in the Group Meals and Entertainment section below. If a traveler uses a University Credit Card for his or her meals, he or she cannot request a per diem reimbursement. By using a University Credit Card, the University is already paying the actual amount spent. Since reimbursement methods cannot be combined on one trip, the traveler must decide before travelling whether he or she wants to use the University Credit Card to pay actual meal expenses or receive a per diem reimbursement for meals. Actual expenses in excess of the per diem daily rate will not be reimbursed.

Per Diem Reimbursement Guidelines - Domestic per diem reimbursement will be based on the U.S. General Services Administration Meals and Incidental Expenses (M&IE) Rates, which are listed by location and month. Foreign per diem reimbursement will be based on the Department of State Office of Allowances Federal M&IE Rates, which are noted by area of travel and updated monthly. The traveler must use the correct rates for the month of travel from these websites as a maximum limit. The traveler can only claim 75% of the day's rate for days of transit or actual travel. Per diem rates must be reduced for any meals paid for by another party (e.g. a conference). For situations where a reduced per diem is required, the following guidelines must be used:

Breakfast 20%
Lunch 30%
Dinner 50%

Departments can internally set lower limits or restrictions for budgetary purposes, but Finance will not monitor the use of any rates other than the official rates.

Group Meals and Entertainment - In situations where an individual is conducting business with one or more guests, reasonable meals and entertainment expenses are permissible. Business meals and entertainment must be directly related to University business and must meet the required documentation standards for payment or reimbursement (refer to Documentation).

If the traveler has elected per diem reimbursement for their trip but there is an occasion on the trip where he/she is paying for someone else's meal, the traveler cannot claim per diem reimbursement for that group meal but must submit actual expenses. If the trip consists of multiple business entertainment meals, the traveler may want to use actual reimbursement for the whole trip for ease of recordkeeping.

NOTE: Providing meal or entertainment expenses to Foreign Officials may be prohibited by federal law. Prior to incurring such expenses, seek approval in advance. See the University's Anti-Bribery Policy, or contact the Office of General Counsel (tel. 202-319-5142) or the Director of Compliance (tel. 202-319-6170, CUA-COMPLIANCE@CUA.EDU) for guidance.

Tips - It is reasonable to provide a tip of 15% - 20% for meals.

B. Incidental Expenses


General - If the traveler is receiving per diem reimbursement, the rate covers incidental expenses related to meals; therefore, incidental expenses, such as tips, will not be reimbursed separately. If the traveler is using the actual expense method for meals, tips for meals are permissible. Other incidental expenses must be minimized and must be itemized as actual expenses in order to be reimbursable.

Telephone, Fax, and Internet - Business related phone calls and internet access fees (e.g. calls to University personnel, fax transmittals, hotel/airport internet fees) are considered reimbursable expenses. Hotel phone service is discouraged because of the additional charges. Travelers are permitted to be reimbursed for one phone call home per day unless extraordinary circumstances exist when using a hotel phone. A brief description of the extraordinary circumstances must be included on the reimbursement request (e.g., family member ill). Reimbursement for cell phone data and other fees for calls made during international travel is subject to the discretion of the department managers.

Passports, Visas, Vaccinations and other Required Foreign Travel Documentation - For approved foreign travel, the actual costs of acquiring passports, visas, tourist cards, identifying photographs, birth certificates, inoculations, currency exchange fees, and travel cancellation insurance, if applicable, etc., are reimbursable. However, these costs are often not reimbursable by federal grants or contracts. When in doubt, consult with the Sponsored Accounting Office. The traveler is responsible for ensuring that all necessary documentation is complete and appropriate for the foreign itinerary.

Laundry - Refer to the Lodging section.

Tips - Refer to the Meals and Ground Transportation section.

X. Long-Term Travel - Travel Greater than 30 Days


Because per diem rates are established for short term visits, it is expected that when research or business requires residence in a distant location for longer periods of time, travelers will be able to find less expensive accommodations. Therefore, reimbursement for actual lodging expenses for trips greater than thirty (30) days will be permitted up to 50% of the current published federal per diem rates for those expenses at that location, available at domestic per diem or foreign per diem. Receipts are required for lodging. The reimbursement limits apply for the entire duration of the trip, not just the portion of the trip greater than thirty (30) days.

XI. Emergencies


Accidents, thefts, and other crimes while traveling on University business must be reported immediately to the proper authorities, consistent with local/state laws. In addition, report such incidents to the Department of Public Safety (tel. 202-319-5111) and to your home department immediately per the University's Crime Reporting and Response Policy.

XII. University Credit Card Policy


The University Credit Card is the preferred method for payment of travel expenses, subject to the restrictions and requirements of the Credit Card Policy. This allows the University to be billed directly for travel expenses. It is impossible to list every type of business expense that is allowable or unallowable. However, travelers should familiarize themselves with prohibited transactions before incurring travel expenses, and should also check to see if their school or department imposes any additional or more restrictive requirements for authorizing or approving travel, entertainment or business expense reimbursements. If there is any doubt about the propriety of an anticipated expense and the application of this policy, travelers must consult their supervisor and/or the Office of Accounts Payable as appropriate in advance of incurring the expense.

XIII. Personal Funds


All travelers are strongly encouraged to use a University Credit Card for travel related expenses, including, but not limited to, air fare, ground transportation, hotel stays, meals, taxi services and parking. However, Travelers may use personal funds while on travel and seek reimbursement from the University for reasonable business expenses in line with this travel policy. Requests for reimbursements must be submitted timely with the appropriate documentation as outlined below.

Reimbursement for travel that has not yet occurred will be treated as a Travel Advance. Travelers will be expected to submit documentation that pre-paid travel has occurred.

XIV. Travel Advances


Only University employees and students traveling on University business may request a travel advance. Guests cannot receive travel advances. All individuals receiving a travel advance shall be required to sign the Travel Advance Agreement (link) which stipulates that the University will make a payroll deduction of any travel advance which is not repaid within the required period. In accordance with Internal Revenue Service Regulation 1.162-2(c), employees are required to return the amount of travel advances in excess of travel and business expenses. Therefore, if a travel advance is not cleared within 20 business days from the stated travel completion date, the University reserves the right to offset future compensation by the amount of the travel advance that is in excess of substantiated expenses. In addition, any unreturned and unsubstantiated advance will be reported as taxable income for the person to whom the travel advance was issued.

A traveler may obtain a travel advance only when necessary, and only when it is to be used for anticipated, reasonable, and allowable out-of-pocket expenditures to cover actual subsistence, mileage for private auto and other like items. A travel advance will be issued only for trips that cost greater than $300. Major costs, such as airline tickets and conference fees should be obtained through the Office of Strategic Sourcing and Business Services or charged to a University Credit Card, thus minimizing the need for advances. In most cases, a traveler with a University Credit Card cannot request a travel advance. When advances are deemed permissible per the foregoing, advances will be issued two (2) weeks or a month before travel.

XV. Business Purpose of Travel

A. General


The "Business Purpose" on the expense report must provide a specific justification for the purchase. The justification must include at minimum:

  • Who attended or received the benefit from the expenditure;
  • What purpose the expenditure served, why the expense was necessary, or how it furthered the University's goals; and
  • When and where the expense took place.

Statements such as, "official business, in connection with duties, or by distinction of" are not acceptable. Examples of specific purposes, which are detailed enough, include, "meet with potential donors Mr. And Mrs. X to discuss Annual Fund giving, or attend MLA committee meeting."

B. Travel for Business and Personal Reasons


If a travel itinerary includes personal or vacation travel, only the business portion of the trip will be reimbursed. The traveler must provide documentation showing the incremental costs to be treated as personal expenses and is responsible for payment of the incremental cost.

XVI. Substantiation and Receipts


Each traveler should keep a log of daily travel expenses, and receipts must be obtained and carefully retained for all expenditures for which they are normally available. The traveler must submit their travel expenses through Cardinal Financials in the Payment Request Center with itemized/detailed dated receipts from the vendor and proof of payment. The user may use the Travel Expense Reports to organize expenses, but it must be input in the Payment Request Center for reimbursement, with all receipts and support scanned for review. The traveler is required to keep original receipts for 18 months for auditing purposes. Credit card receipts without details are not acceptable. Accounts Payable will not reimburse individual transactions over $25 without receipts. Charges incurred using a University Credit Card follow the documentation requirements of the Credit Card Policy.

The University is a tax-exempt organization. The University will not reimburse individuals for the sales tax on purchase reimbursement requests from DC, MD and VA and other qualified states.

The following chart provides general documentation requirements for travel expenses that must be submitted to substantiate travel expenses incurred:

Expense Type

Documentation Requirements



  • Receipts required for items greater than $25.


  • Electronic airline tickets

Rental Car

  • Refer to Transportation - General

Personal Automobile

  • Mileage log that reflects daily record of trips and miles traveled
  • Copy of mileage calculation from GPS or desktop web mapping service such as MapQuest or Google Maps

Bus/Train (Public)

  • Receipts are not required for public transportation
  • An itemized log is required, with date, destination, business purpose and cost.

Bus/Train (Commercial)

  • Electronic tickets
  • Boarding pass

Car Sharing

Taxi, Uber or other car service

  • Refer to Transportation - General

Limo & Shuttle Services

  • Refer to Transportation - General

Conference Fees

  • Receipts required



  • Itemized, dated hotel bill marked as paid

Private Rentals (i.e. AirBnB, VRBO, etc.)

  • Electronic receipt which itemized amounts paid including daily rate, cleaning fees, service charges and other fees

Private/Personal Residence

  • Proof of payment to host of private residence



  • Itemized receipt of all food and beverages. If reimbursable by a federal grant or contract, the cost of alcoholic beverages must be reported separately from meals
  • Receipts required for items greater than $25 unless using per diem


  • Refer to Meals - General

Per Diem

  • No receipts required.
  • Appropriate documentation showing proof of travel

Group Meals

  • Refer to Meals - General
  • Documentation of the specific business purpose
  • Full names and titles of guests as well as the business relationship to the traveler
  • Note for research participants only - In order to maintain privacy, it is not necessary to provide the names of research participants attending a meal. Instead provide the number of research participants, a statement that attendees are research participants, and brief description of the research purpose.

Incidental Expense

  • Receipts required for items greater than $25.


XVII. Missing Receipts


A lost receipt should be infrequent and unusual, as receipts can be reprinted or easily requested (i.e., hotels, catering, restaurants if the date is provided) and should generally be for small dollar amounts. When an itemized receipt cannot be obtained, the traveler requesting reimbursement must attach a completed and approved Missing Receipt Form to the related transaction on his or her expense report. Upon review, a request for reimbursement with a Missing Receipt Form may be denied. Continued instances of missing receipts could result in non-reimbursement.

XVIII. Authorizations and Required Signatures


Domestic and International Travel on University business must be authorized in advance by the vice president, dean, department chairperson, director or principal investigator responsible for the travel budget to be used. Such individuals will be responsible for assuring that budgeted funds are available to meet any travel commitment. All persons providing authorization and approval must be familiar with the purpose of the travel. Note that International Travel may require additional review and approval based on risks pertaining to the specific travel destination. Contact the Office of Global Strategies (tel. 202-319-4698 or well in advance of the planned travel to obtain guidance.

When travel is completed, the traveler or designee must submit their travel expenses through Cardinal Financials in the Payment Request Center with itemized/detailed dated receipts from the vendor and proof of payment.

XIX.Timeline for Reporting Requirements


Travel Expense Reports are due within twenty (20) business days upon return from travel. For trips lasting two months or more, interim expense reports are due monthly on/before the 15th day of the calendar month. Expenses that are not submitted in a timely manner may be reported to the Internal Revenue Service as taxable income.

XX. Foreign Currency


Expenses translated from a foreign currency must include supporting documentation for the rate used. Links to currency exchange websites are available from the Office Accounts Payable at

XXI. Sponsored Programs

A. General


If travel expenses are charged to a grant/contract source, the terms of the grant or contract will take precedence if they are more restrictive than the University policy. Grant-sponsored restrictions may be waived only by the sponsoring agency and must be supported with documentation.

The Sponsored Accounting Office only provides a budget and compliance review of expenses, and does not sign as an approver of those expenses. Certain grants and contracts may require explicit permission of the granting agency. In some situations, compliance with U.S. Government travel regulations is required. When in doubt, consult with the Sponsored Accounting Office.

B. Foreign Air Travel


Fly America Act. Expenses charged to federal grants or contracts must comply with the Fly America Act (FAA) and all applicable federal requirements. When making travel arrangements to a foreign country using sponsored funds, it is required that a US-based air carrier be used. In some instances, a non-U.S. air carrier may be used if it meets one or more of the exception criteria listed in the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) guidelines section 301-10.135-138. The Waiver of Fly America Act lists all available exceptions, which include Code Share and Open Skies Agreements. Note that some federal agencies consider Canada, Mexico, and/or U.S. Territories as "foreign". If the award terms and conditions do not specifically indicate that travel to/from Canada, Puerto Rico, or Mexico is considered as domestic travel, the trip is considered to be foreign travel.

Code Share Agreement. The Code Share Agreement provides for compliance with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) if the U.S. air carrier is the ticketing agent and issues a flight on a non-U.S. air carrier. The payment for the airfare must be made to the U.S. air carrier. If a non-U.S. air carrier is the ticketing agent, the flight is considered a non-U.S. air carrier flight and is in violation of the FAA.

Open Skies Agreements. Open Skies Agreements provides that qualifying travelers, whose travel is supported by federal funds, may travel on airlines from the European Union, Australia, Switzerland and Japan as well as U.S. Flag Air Carriers. Travel being reimbursed using Department of State (including all of the Department of Defense) funding is not eligible for the Open Skies Agreements exception.

C. Meals


As allowed for non-grant travel, travelers using sponsored funding can use either the per diem or actual reimbursement basis; however, they can only use one method for the entirety of a trip. For meals reimbursed by a feceral grant or contract, costs of alcoholic beverages must be identified and subtotaled on the receipt and can never be reimbursed under a federal grant or contract. If actual reimbursement is requested, all meal receipts must be itemized to prove that no alcohol is included in the reimbursement request.

XXII. Third Party Reimbursement


When travel (not part of a sponsored project or program) is paid for by the University, but will be reimbursed to University by an outside entity, the traveler is responsible for completing a Travel Expense Report and indicating that the expense will be reimbursed by an outside entity. In these cases, the department is responsible for billing the outside entity and for ensuring the appropriate funds are received.

XXIII. Moving Expenses


Reimbursement and advances for moving expenses or relocation costs are governed by Relocation Expense Policy.

XXIV. Insurance 




Travel Insurance

Foreign travel poses both health insurance and emergency evacuation limitations on standard domestic insurance plans. All travelers on University business to foreign destinations must procure global travel health and emergency evacuation insurance as offered through the CUABroad Office. Alternative travel insurance is not acceptable.

Travel risk insurance is allowed but not required. It is encouraged for situations where the cost of cancellation significantly exceeds the cost of the insurance and the likelihood of cancellation is reasonably likely.

If a trip is canceled for reasons beyond the traveler's control (e.g., conference cancellation, and weather closings), the University will reimburse the costs expended to date which are not refundable. Cancellation of reservations for lodging and transportation is the responsibility of the traveler. Any penalty for failure to cancel reservations will be the personal responsibility of the traveler if the supervisor determines that the reservation could have been canceled in time to avoid the penalty.

Vehicle Rental

Local, in-country collision and liability insurance must be purchased from the rental agency.

University insurance will cover vehicles rented domestically for collision and liability only if the operator is an official University Authorized Driver in good standing (

Insurance offered by the rental agency should be obtained if the operator is not an Authorized Driver.

Personal Automobiles

Travelers who use their own automobiles or other individually-owned, non-rented vehicles to conduct University business are responsible for the automobile liability and physical damage associated with the operation of that automobile. The traveler's personal insurance is primary in the event of an accident.

Personally owned vehicles used for University business must comply with all state regulations including maintenance of insurance coverage.

Accidents, Injuries, Thefts and Other Safety Issues while on University Official Travel

In the event of a vehicle accident, first follow guidelines in rental agreement (if applicable), then complete CUA Vehicle Accident Instructions for appropriate notification and reporting.

Injuries subject to workers' compensation laws must be reported to the Department of Public Safety (tel. 202-319-5111) and the employee's supervisor. A First Report of Injury Form must be submitted within ten (10) days of the incident.

If a student is injured while traveling on University business, that student's personal insurance will provide primary coverage.

In the event of theft, crime, or other emergency, loss of or damage to personal belongings of the traveler are not covered by the University insurance. Requests for reimbursement will be considered on a case-by-case basis provided a police report or other documentation as appropriate is submitted.

XXV. Travel by Non-University Travelers

A. Non-University Employees


Travel expenses for non-University travelers such as consultants, speakers, lecturers, official visitors, job applicants etc. are generally permissible in accordance with contracts for services or vendor payment procedures which must be in accordance with University policy.

B. Foreign Nationals


Travel expenses for visiting foreign nationals must be approved in advance in writing by the Vice President, Dean, Department Chairperson, Director, Principal Investigator or the appropriate designee responsible for the travel budget to be used; and b) the Division of Finance so that the proper tax treatment can be determined. Copies of the written approval must be submitted along with a travel reimbursement request. Payment to visiting foreign nationals may be made only if the visitor holds an appropriate visa. In addition to the documentation required for all travel reimbursement, resident aliens must also submit the currently required visa documentation. Please refer to Non-Resident Alien Payments Policy for more information.

If the foreign national also is a foreign official, payment of travel expenses may be prohibited by federal law. See the University's Anti-Bribery Policy, or contact the Office of General Counsel (tel. 202-319-5142) or the Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer (tel. 202-319-6170, CUA-COMPLIANCE@CUA.EDU) for guidance in advance of making a commitment or actual payment.

C. Spousal Travel


Approved reimbursements for spousal travel are deemed taxable unless such travel meets all of the following conditions established by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS):

  • The accompanying spouse or other person must be an employee of the University;
  • The accompanying spouse or other person has a bona fide business purpose for the Travel; and
  • The specific travel expenses are allowable and deductible according to IRS regulations.

If the accompanying spouse is an employee of the University, there still remains restrictive criteria to meet for his/her travel to be considered as having a "bona fide business purpose" as defined by the IRS. Merely having the spouse perform some incidental business service, such as typing up notes from a meeting, isn't enough to establish a business purpose. According to the IRS, it is also not sufficient for his/her presence to be "helpful" to the employee's business pursuits - it must be "necessary." In most cases, a spouse's participation in social functions, even as host/hostess, is not enough to establish a business purpose. If his/her purpose is to establish general goodwill for clients or associates, this is usually insufficient.

The following roles and situations can be considered a bona fide business purpose:

  • Required attendance at business meetings;
  • Presentation at business meetings;
  • Officially hosting a University event if the host function includes the planning of the event and where attendance is required because the spouse is responsible for certain logistics of the event;
  • The primary purpose of the spouse's attendance is to serve in University business and the spouse spends more time on business activities than on personal activities on the trip; and
  • The presence of the spouse is essential to the function.

Supporting documentation of spousal travel expenses must provide details as to the nature of the accompanying person's duties and their significance as stipulated by the IRS. All requests for reimbursement of spousal travel will be subject to review by the Controller's Office and may require additional approval by a University official. The travel form must clearly identify any expenses related to spousal/companion travel. The University discloses to the IRS annually on the Form 990 whether any companion travel has occurred. Spousal travel that has been reimbursed but does not meet the IRS requirement will be reported by the Office of Payroll as taxable income.