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NEWS | Jan. 9, 2007

Diamond Notes - GTC Dos and Don'ts

By Master Sgt. Stephen Bauer 1st Combat Camera Squadron first sergeant

Have you ever been on a trip and attempted to use your personal credit card but were unable to because of reasons unknown? Well I have and it is not a pleasant experience. It may have been an honest mistake or it could have happened for not abiding by the bank's credit card policy.

Many of us meticulously plan our trips down to the penny, especially if we are using our own money. But what happens when we travel abroad for official travel? Are we as careful? One thing that seems to be taken for granted is the use of our government travel card. We assume that because it's a Department of Defense program, everything happens automatically and it becomes "hands off" and all we have to do is enjoy the ride. It amazes me how many people really don't know how to use the card or how to maintain a good standing with Bank of America and the Air Force. Everyone should have a basic understanding of the program, when to use the card and what happens if we abuse it.

According to DOD 7000.14R, Volume 9, Chapter 3, the GTC program standardizes the method utilized to pay for official travel. The card also provides the effectiveness, convenience and flexibility that the DOD and travelers need.
The travel card is used as a regular credit card where Visa is accepted and, unless exempted from obtaining one, its use for official travel is mandatory. Of course plastic isn't accepted everywhere, so for those situations such as laundry, dry cleaning, parking, taxi fares, local transportation, tips, meal charges and telephone calls, an ATM withdrawal is authorized. Some larger common expenditures are airline tickets, rental vehicles and lodging. The dollar amounts allocated to these types of expenses are usually significant. If you used a personal card, interest would create a non-reimbursable additional expense. There are many instances where the total limit needed surpasses your personal line of credit. Additionally, personnel would be tempted to let the balance grow and habitually spend what they receive from the TDY. This will result in potential financial hardship. The GTC eliminates many of those problems, however, not all the difficulties associated with this program are erased.
Members must still pay off their balances every month per DODFMR 7000.14R. It is disappointing that a policy is needed and even though directed to settle these debts, personnel still run into trouble by not being proactive. Some excuses are: I didn't get paid yet, I didn't know I had a balance, I thought I paid it off and I had too many trips and the vouchers haven't caught up. The list goes on and on. Upon in-processing, unit members sign a document stating their responsibilities with the program, yet every month hundreds of troops all over the Air Force show up on the delinquency report with these excuses. This is unacceptable!

Although, no system is perfect, there are exceptions that must be considered case by case, however, everyone seems to think they are the exception. Little do they know that with a little advanced planning they could be more prepared.

Well, what makes a person delinquent? Delinquency occurs when you do not pay your bill by the due date. The Bank of America's due date is the 22nd of every month. I know that vouchers get lost on a desk or faxes don't go through or the fact that there is a lag in processing time when other military services are involved. That is why it's even more imperative that we be on top of our game.

Here are several ways to fight these problems:
Ensure your GTC is activated upon notice of your TDY/deployment
Estimate how much you need for your travels. Is your limit sufficient?
Use your GTC for everything authorized/mandatory
Keep a tally of all your charges and compare with Bank of America
View the account on-line
If deployed for more than 30 days, file an accrual ASAP! Do not wait!
Verify that the accrual was accepted or received
Maintain open communication with team lead on any problems
If you are the team lead, let home station know of any problems filing

We as travelers need to be diligent, show an "I care attitude" and do what we agreed to do. All travelers should responsibly know exactly what was charged. We all know that as our card is used there is a deadline to settle those outstanding debts. Not settling in a timely matter is grounds for Bank of America to suspend or revoke your card. That is bad and by not following the guidelines and failing to use some common sense, the Air Force mission is jeopardized. You also divert precious man-hours to fix a problem that wasn't broken. Please help yourself out. By doing so, you also help the Air Force and Bank of America.