Ah, the Government Travel Charge Card (GTCC), often called the Government Travel Card (GTC). It’s an interesting tool. It should be so helpful, but sometimes it feels like it is not helpful, and people often hate it.
What is a GTC and how does it work? And especially, how does it work for Permanent Change of Station moves?
Side note: There is a ton of disagreement and, frankly, arguments, about whether the government travel card is required to be used for PCS moves. Let’s just put it this way: every branch has a rule that says that you’re supposed to use the GTC for PCS moves. How and when that is enforced is an entirely different story. But that’s not a conversation for here and now. We’re here to talk about the mechanics of using a GTC for a PCS move.
What IS a Government Travel Charge Card?
The Government Travel Charge Card is a government-sponsored, contractor-administered credit card issued to military members to be used for expenses incurred in conjunction with military service – including PCS moves. Individual service members have what’s called an “Individually Billed Account.” That means that they’re responsible for making sure that the bill gets paid, whether that’s through the travel claim process or otherwise.
The current contractor for the GTC program is Citibank.
The GTC program is supposed to benefit service members by making sure that they don’t have to use their personal money to pay for PCS expenses upfront. That’s a noble goal, and it usually works that way. But sometimes issues crop up, and then people hate that they’ve used the GTC. And also some folks would rather earn points on their credit card usage. So it’s a mixed bag.
How Does The Government Travel Card Actually Work?
Let’s start out by saying that the military offers training on the use of the GTC. Service members should not have a card if they haven’t done the training. And you can always ask your Agency Program Coordinator (APC) about any questions you might have.
Before The Move
When on PCS orders, the service member works with the correct office to ensure that the GTC is put into Mission Critical/PCS status before the service member starts their PCS move. (Note: MC/PCS is different from regular MC status.) Being put into this status ensures that the payment deadline is extended – up to 120 days for a PCS move.
At the same time, double-check the credit limit and ask for an increase if necessary. Consider downloading the Citibank app and/or registering for an online Citibank account.
During The Move
The service member uses the card for eligible expenses (see below) during the PCS move. Save receipts! I recommend taking a picture with your phone and putting the originals into your PCS binder. If the card is declined, contact the APC or Citibank. If the card nears its credit limit, contact your APC to request an increase.
After The Move
When the service member arrives at their new duty station, they fill out their normal travel claim within 5 days. The service member requests “split disbursement.” The amount that they designate is sent to the GTC contractor. If there are additional allowances due, they are paid directly to the service member. If the amount of the travel claim is less than the balance on the GTC, the service member must pay the balance themselves.
Wait- What Is Split Disbursement?
To explain this part, I’m going to go back a couple of steps.Back in the olden days, pre-GTC, a service member would pay for the expenses of their move out of pocket. Yes, there were provisions for advance travel pay and such, but that’s not relevant here. The Service member paid for expenses, filed a claim, and received a reimbursement deposit in their bank account. Pretty straightforward.
Then the GTC came along for official travel. Let’s say the service member goes to Monterey, California for a class. They’d use the Government Travel Card for their taxi from the airport to the hotel, the hotel bill, and their meals. Then, they’d come back to their duty station and file a travel claim. In some mythical world, the amount of their travel claim would be exactly the same amount as their expenses. The government would make that exact payment to the contractor and the bill would be paid in full.
But It’s Rarely That Simple
But in reality, people don’t usually spend exactly the amount of money that they receive for meals and incidentals during travel. Sometimes they spend more than the allowance, and sometimes they spend less. If they spend more than their allowance, then there will be a balance remaining on their GTC after the government pays the travel claim. That balance would be the responsibility of the service member. If the service member spends less than their per diem meals and incidentals amount, and they don’t give other instructions, then there would be an overpayment on their GTC account.
That’s where split disbursement comes in. When the service member does their travel claim, they get to direct how much of their travel claim goes to the GTC card, and any other amount goes into their bank account. In most cases, the total amount of the travel claim exceeds the total amount that they’ve put on their travel card. The service member directs the amount of the travel card balance to be paid directly to the card balance, and any remaining allowances are paid directly to the service member.
In a situation where the service member has charged more to the card than they will receive in travel allowances, the entire amount of the travel claim will be paid to the card balance and the service member is responsible for any remaining amount due.
Does that make sense?
What PCS Expenses Can Go On A GTC?
The general idea is that you can charge any expense for which you would receive an allowance. This includes TLE/TLA, MALT, and Dislocation Allowance. Specific eligible expenses include:
- Lodging between your old duty station and your new duty station
- Meals between your old duty station and your new duty station
- Temporary lodging at your old or new duty station (as will be covered Temporary Lodging Expense/Temporary Lodging Allowance)
- Fuel for your vehicle being used as transportation for the move
- Tolls or ferry fees
- Rental car, if authorized in your PCS orders
- Personally-procured move expenses – depending your branch
- Dislocation allowance-type expenses
This last one is really tricky. Dislocation allowance is a flat rate, based on rank and dependency status, payable to everyone moves. Its stated purpose is to defray the costs of leaving an old home and setting up a new home. But there are no specific rules about what it can and can not be used for. You don’t have to account for it to anyone. You could literally take your dislocation allowance to a casino and play blackjack with it. (Please don’t.) But I suspect that someone would have a problem if you put that blackjack on your GTCC. So maybe don’t do that.
Based upon 9 military moves, here are some ideas of things that are probably reasonable expenses in this category. (Note: Not a lawyer!)
- Having the carpets cleaned when you move out of your old house
- The basics of that Target run when you get to your new home: toilet brushes, shelf liner, shower curtains, curtain rods, cleaning supplies, etc.
- Utility deposits
- Boarding a pet
- An extra night’s temporary lodging paid for by DLA, not TLE/TLA
I’m sure you can think of more things, let me know and I’ll add them to the list.
What Items Can Not Be Charged To My GTC?
The military is pretty clear about some things that definitely can not be put on a GTC. These include:
- Personal expenses not part of the PCS move
- Auto repairs
- Childcare, even if for a PCS purpose
- Airfare – must be booked through the appropriate office for your branch of service
- Entertainment of any kind
- Medical expenses, even if they happen during the PCS
- Any personal travel days during the move/leave en route
- Personally-procured move expenses – depending on your branch
Just be smart about things. If it’s not going to be covered by temporary lodging allowances, MALT and per diem, or DLA, don’t put it on the card.
The Government Travel Charge Card, or Government Travel Card, can make PCS moves less financially stressful – but only if you don’t spend more than the amount of your travel allowances. You can use the simple PCS allowance tracker in this article to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Sending you good PCS vibes!!
Kirstan Collins says
Can the grace be used for move out cleaning fees?