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Travel Guide

This page provides Columbia GSAPP Faculty and Students with policies, resources, and reimbursement mechanisms relating to Studio, Workshop, and other University-affiliated travel.

TRAVEL ALERT: All travel is subject to Columbia University travel restrictions. For more information please visit the Columbia Global Travel site. Please click here for more information


Concur is the University’s new travel and business expense management system that has replaced the paper-based reimbursement (TBER) process.

Get started by learning about Concur Travel and Expense, roles and responsibilities, obtaining system access, logging in, and setting up your profile in Concur.

1.1 Getting Started

About Concur

The Concur Request, Travel, and Expense system integrates trip requests, travel bookings, and expense reports in one application.

With Concur Travel, travelers can book domestic and international flights and make reservations for rental cars, hotels, and rail, with purchase information flowing directly into Concur Expense.

Concur Expense streamlines the preparation of expense reports. Concur imports Corporate Card charges and Concur Travel expenses so they are available to add to your expense reports.

The Concur Mobile app helps you manage receipts, expenses, and travel from your mobile device.

1.2 Roles and Responsibilities

Payees, Travelers, and Delegates


A Payee is the person who has incurred travel or business expenses in the course of conducting University business. If a Payee has access to Concur Expense, they can prepare and submit expense reports for reimbursement. If they do not have access, this will have to be done on their behalf by a Travel Arranger.


A Traveler is a person who incurs expenses while traveling on behalf of Columbia. If the Traveler has access to the Concur Travel module, they can book air/rail, hotels, and rental cars through Concur.

Preparer Delegate

If a Payee has access to Concur Expense, the Payee can designate a colleague as a Preparer Delegate in their Concur Profile. The Delegate can prepare a Request or Expense report on behalf of the Payee, but not submit it into workflow. Only the Payee can submit into the workflow.

Travel Delegate

If a Traveler has access to the Travel module in Concur, the Traveler can assign authority to an individual via profile configuration to book travel on their behalf. For example, administrators can book travel on behalf of their supervisors.

Travel Arranger

A Travel Arranger has the ability to book travel for students, other employees, or guests of the University.

Only identified Travel Arrangers may book and pay for Group Travel through World Travel Inc.’s (WTI) Global Meetings and Events (GME). See Book Group Travel for more information.

1.3 Concur Workflow
View The Concur Approval Workflow job aid to understand the Concur Approval Workflow for Expense Reports and PreTrip Requests.
1.4 Get Access to Concur

The following employee groups have been given default access to both Travel and Expense:

  • Officers of Instruction
  • Officers of Research
  • Officers of Libraries
  • Officers of Administration

Administrative Support Staff have been given default access to Expense Only but can be opted-in. Administrative Support Staff who are Travel Delegates or Travel Arrangers will need to be opted-in for Travel in order to book travel on behalf of others

Student Employees and Student Non-Employees by default have not been given access to Travel or Expense, but can be opted-in by a School / department DAF (Student Employees) or Accounts Payable (Student Non-Employees)

Affiliates have not been given default access to Concur; only CU employees have default access.

1.5 Take the Concur Travel and Expense Training

Take the Concur Travel and Expense training in ELM, Columbia’s Enterprise Learning Management system as outlined below.

Introductory Training for All Users

This web-based training is for all users of Concur, both travel and expense. You can access the training here. Depending on which modules of this training are pertinent to you, this should take about 1 to 1.5 hours to complete. Please note that you should submit the associated Training Acknowledgement to attest to training completion.

Approver Training for Supervisors/Managers

This web-based training is only for users who have been assigned a Supervisor/Manager role. You can access the training here. This training should take about 30 to 45 minutes to complete. Please note that the Introductory Training (for all users) should be taken prior to the Approver Training.

The Approver Training includes a Knowledge Assessment for which a 90% or higher grade must be achieved before the Concur approval role is assigned to you.

If you have questions, please contact Yesenia Ozoria - Urena at the GSAPP Finance Office.

1.7 Profile Set Up

There are a variety of job aids and training guides available for you to learn how to log in and set up a profile, as well as how to assign delegates, in Concur. Click on any of the links below to access the corresponding guidance:

1.8 ChartStrings/ ChartFields

When setting up your profile, you will be asked to insert ChartFields under the Request/Expense Information section.

The GSAPP Finance Office will provide you with the ChartFields that are applicable to you.

Please contact Yesenia Ozoria - Urena at the GSAPP Finance Office if you have questions related to your ChartFields.

1.9 Creating an Expense Report

To create a new expense report in Concur, please follow the steps for Creating a CU Travel Expense Report as outlined in the job aid Creating a New Expense Report.

To learn how to create a travel Expense Report for travel that includes an overnight stay, visit Video: Creating and Submitting a Travel Expense Report.

View the Concur Travel and Expense Training for examples of how to add various Travel and Business Expense Items to your Expense Report.

To reconcile Corporate Card or Air/Rail Central Pay transactions assigned to your ID, visit Video: Reconciling Corporate Card and Columbia Air/Rail Central Pay Transactions in Concur.

1.10 Report Header Guidance

Guidance is provided below for users completing the Report Header in the Create New Report screen in Concur:

Type of Report

Select from the drop-down menu: CU Travel Expenses to reimburse Faculty and Staff for travel related expenses when traveling on University business

School, Division, Sub-Division and Admin Department

This section should default from your Concur Profile, but you can edit if necessary

Report Name

Use the following report naming convention: event/trip name and dates

Example: APA Conference 5/1/20-5/3/20

Report Purpose

Select the overall purpose from the drop-down menu

Detailed Business Purpose

Provide a detailed explanation of the business purpose:

Example: Attended APA National Planning Conference to represent GSAPP and present research in Boston, MA on May 1 through May 3, 2020.

Suggestion: Answer these questions where applicable to help you come up with a detailed business purpose: Who? What? Where? When? Why?

1.11 Pre-Trip Requests

GSAPP requires approved Pre-Trip Requests for all travel. You will not be able to submit an Expense Report without the Pre-Trip approval attached in Concur.

See Video: Submitting a Pre-Trip Request in Concur.

Pre-Trip Request and Travel Checklist:

  1. Enter an adequate and legitimate business purpose in the Pre-Trip Request with supporting documentation, where applicable. The business purpose must detail why the travel is Columbia business. Example: APA Conference 5/1/20-5/3/20

  2. Travel and expense dates must match the business purpose.

  3. Attach supporting documentation (i.e. Dean’s Office trip approval and conference flyer)

  4. Estimated expenses entered in the request must be as expected for the requested trip.

Once your Pre-Trip Request has been approved by the Finance Office, you will be able to reconcile your Pre-Trip request with your travel expenses. Please view the detailed job aid Reconciling Pre-Trip and Travel/Cash Advance Requests in Concur for instructions on how to attach your approved Pre-Trip Request to your Expense Report.

1.12 Manage Notifications
Use the Training Guide: Managing Concur Notification Emails, which summarizes the Travel and Expense related notification and reminder emails you may receive from Concur and World Travel Inc. (WTI) and provides details regarding those that you have the ability to enable and/or disable.
1.13 Additional Training Resources

Throughout the University’s Travel and Expense site, you will find job aids, training guides, and video trainings within the context of the area they are related to. These training materials are also provided here. For a complete overview, please review the Concur Travel and Expense Training in ELM, Columbia’s Enterprise Learning Management system.

For a full, searchable library of all training materials related to Travel and Expense and Concur (job aids, videos, training guides, etc.), visit the Columbia Finance Training Library, which has been filtered for these materials.

1.14 Concur Tips

Choosing an Initial Reviewer

If you do not have a Supervisor in Concur, you will be required to choose an Initial Reviewer for the report to proceed to the next workflow step. Once you click on “Accepts & Continue” and “Submit Report,” the “Edit Approval Flow” window will appear requesting you to identify an approver (Initial Reviewer). Faculty members submitting travel expense reports NOT related to Kinne/studio travel should select Kristina Camaj (kc3121) for submitting travel expenses if you are prompted to select an Initial Reviewer.

Adding Receipts

Receipts must be added individually to the expense report. Each receipt/order is considered a separate expense and should not be combined.

Create New Attendees

Users are required to list the name of each attendee for meetings and events of fewer than 10 attendees or the attendee count for events of 11 or more attendees, and their relationship to the University. Some expense types will require the name of each person regardless of the count, i.e. Gifts.

Create attendees for events with 11 or more attendees:

  • Click the Attendees link next to Allocate
  • Click Add
  • Click Attendees tab next to Recent Attendees
  • Click on the Create New Attendee link to add attendees
  • Select Group Event - 10+ Attendees as the Attendee Type from drop down
  • Enter the Event Name
  • Click Create Attendee
  • Close the window X
  • Update the Attendee Count
  • Click Save

Create attendees for events with 10 or fewer attendees:

  • Click the Attendees link next to Allocate
  • Click Add
  • Click Attendees tab next to Recent Attendees
  • Click on the Create New Attendee link to add an attendee
  • Select the most appropriate Attendee Type from drop down menu
  • Enter the First Name, Last Name, and Institution/Company if the attendee is an Outside Party
  • Click Create Attendee
  • Close the window X
  • Click Save

Segregating Alcohol

Remember to segregate alcohol under the Itemizations tab when entering a meal expense.

2.2 Stipend Disbursement

Once the appropriate University risk assessment and approvals have been obtained and the studio budget is approved in the Finance Office by Janet Reyes, Sr. Associate Dean of Admin/Faculty Affairs, the faculty member will need to send the following completed documents to Yesenia Ozoria-Urena before stipends may be disbursed:

  1. The faculty member (not the student) will need to send the student stipend request form to Yesenia Ozoria-Urena at least 3 weeks prior to the travel dates. Refer here for a sample student stipend request form.

  2. Additionally, the student travel contact sheet needs to be completed by each student. It is the responsibility of the faculty member to ensure that all students complete and submit the student travel contact sheet prior to travel. A faculty assigned coordinator should collect all the student travel contact sheets and submit them to Yesenia Ozoria-Urena in a sealed envelope.

  3. Faculty and students are required to register their travel itineraries with International SOS using the new travel registry system MyTrips once their travel plans are finalized or prior to leaving for their trip. Submit a printout of your studio’s completed “trip reports” in one packet to Yesenia Ozoria-Urena after everyone has registered.

Once the collected data has been verified, the Admissions Office will send a disbursement request to Student Financial Services (SFS) authorizing the award of the student travel stipend.

2.3 Hotel/Air Accommodations

GSAPP will reimburse faculty for reasonable hotel and air accommodations at a rate consistent with the approved budget and (approved) travel dates. Faculty may arrange for travel and submit their pre-trip travel request through Concur Travel and Expense (see 1.11 Pre-trip Request for Travel). In addition, travel expenses must conform to University and GSAPP policies, federal and state law, and regulations on sponsored projects, if applicable.

Refer to section 5.0 Travel Expense Reimbursement Policies or the Columbia Travel & Expense website for complete information on hotel and air accommodations that qualify for reimbursement.

2.4 Booking a Trip

World Travel, Inc. (WTI) is the University’s travel management company. WTI travel services include self-service via the Concur Online Booking Tool (OBT) and assisted service over the phone via WTI Travel Counselors for reservations, including air, rail, lodging, and car rental, producing itineraries, e-tickets, and receipts. In order to book travel with WTI, travelers must maintain a travel profile that contains personal information.

Once your travel budget is approved by the Finance Office, you have the option of arranging your airfare and/or hotel accommodations through WTI. Request your booking via the Concur Online Booking Tool (OBT).

Or you may contact WTI directly at 1-855-961-0313. Columbia designated Travel Counselors are available during regular business hours from 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday (excluding holidays).

Please note: After regular business hours and on weekends and holidays, travel services are available through WTI’s Emergency Service Center.

Travel Counseling

To speak with a Columbia University designated Travel Counselor, please call: 1-855-961-0313. If calling from outside the United States please call: 1-484-948-2514. Or you can email a Columbia University designated Travel Counselor.


For navigational support with the Columbia University Concur Travel Online Booking Tool please call: 1-800-221-4730, Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. ET. Or request assistance via email with the Concur Travel Online Booking Tool.

For additional help on how to book domestic flights, hotels, and car rentals in Concur Travel, visit Video: Using Concur Travel to Purchase Domestic Air, Hotel, and Rental Car.

For other types of travel booking, including international flights, refer to the Concur Travel and Expense training.

Please review the Transaction Fee Chart for a complete description of Business Travel transaction fees booked on Concur Travel or with a WTI Travel Counselor over the phone.

3.1 Stipends

GSAPP provides travel stipends to qualifying students to offset the cost of studio travel. These travel funds will be awarded and disbursed in accordance with University policy. Faculty and students are advised to review the University stipend policy prior to making travel arrangements as tax and loan implications may apply. Travel stipends are disbursed by Student Financial Services (SFS). Since GSAPP does not dictate the timing of the disbursement, faculty and students are advised to plan carefully when making arrangements.

Stipend payments are awarded directly to the student–not applied to the Student’s University Account. There are two ways to receive a stipend payment:

  1. By the University’s preferred method, direct deposit, and
  2. By picking up a paper check at the Payments and Deposits Office (Morningside) at 205 Kent Hall.
3.2 Visas
Students are required to verify that they meet visa requirements for each destination country. The visa procurement process can take several weeks, so please plan accordingly. For additional information on visa requirements, visit the host country’s Office of the Consulate General website. U.S. Citizens may refer to the U.S. State Department’s Visa service website.
3.3 Hotel/Airfare
Per University policy, GSAPP does not pay directly for students’ hotel accommodations or airfare. Stipends are issued to help offset these costs. Faculty and students are advised to review the University stipend policy prior to making travel arrangements, as tax and loan implications may apply. The stipend policy can be viewed here.
3.4 Risk Management

The University maintains a contract with International SOS to provide worldwide medical and evacuation assistance in the event of an emergency (per ISOS’s evaluation) to eligible travelers on University-related activities or business.

Please note that ISOS does not qualify as health insurance coverage. All registered students at Columbia University are required to maintain health insurance and determine how his/her health insurance plan applies to medical care abroad prior to departing the US.

Faculty and students are also required to register their travel itineraries with ISOS using the new travel registry system MyTrips once their travel plans are finalized or prior to leaving for their trip. Submit a printout of your completed “trip report” to Yesenia Ozoria-Urena at the GSAPP Finance Office after registering.

For more information regarding international travel, please view this Columbia website. Individuals can also download an identification card here.

If an emergency arises during the trip that GSAPP needs to be made aware of, please contact ISOS and Danielle Smoller:

Danielle Smoller, Associate Dean

Phone: 212-854-3450

Email: ds89@columbia.edu

4.1 Sample Travel Budget Request
4.2 Sample Student Stipend Request Form
4.3 Student Travel Contact Sheet
5.1 Overview

Columbia University reimburses faculty and assistants for necessary and reasonable business expenses incurred while traveling on behalf of the University or in support of approved and sponsored research activities. Expenses submitted for reimbursement must conform to University and GSAPP policies, federal and state law, as well as restrictions placed on sponsored projects.

Prior to incurring travel expenses, travelers will need to submit a pre-trip travel request through The Concur Request, Travel, and Expense system (see 1.9 Pre-trip Request for Travel for more information).

Once the pre-trip travel request has been approved in Concur, the traveler may submit their approved expenses for reimbursement. Travel expenses must conform to University and GSAPP policies, federal and state law, and regulations on sponsored projects, if applicable.

It is the responsibility of the traveler requesting reimbursement to familiarize themselves with University and GSAPP travel policies, federal and state law, and regulations on sponsored projects (if applicable), to ensure compliance and prudent spending of University funds. Refer to the Columbia University Travel & Expense website for complete information regarding these policies and guidelines.

5.2 Responsibilities of Traveler Requesting Reimbursement

A detailed business purpose or justification for each expense must be itemized to provide support for eligibility of reimbursement as opposed to taxable income.

Proper documentation must be obtained for each expense. Typically, supporting documentation will be in the form of a receipt that details the expense and reflects proof of payment.

The traveler is responsible for completing the Expense Report in Concur in accordance with University and GSAPP policy and procedure. If an individual other than the traveler prepares the Expense report, the traveler is responsible for providing the preparer with the appropriate information to complete the Expense Report for the accuracy of all information.

Ensure that all applicable documentation (e.g., receipts, and forms) are also included (e.g., supervisor approval, event flyer). The traveler should retain the original receipts.

Requests for reimbursement should be submitted within 10 business days after return from the trip and no later than 120 days after the date of the expenditure.

5.3 Key Compliance Matters

The IRS and Federal regulations require certain standards to be met when documenting, recording and submitting reimbursable expenses. These include:

  • Submitting expenses for reimbursement within a reasonable time limit.
  • Documenting the specific business purpose of an expense.
  • Providing receipts and proof of payment.
  • Segregating unallowable or excessive expenses.
5.4 Reimbursement Time Submission Limit

Travel expense reimbursements must be reported within a reasonable period of time. The University policy generally sets the submission deadline to be within 10 business days after returning from the trip and NO LATER than 120 days after the trip end date. For business expenses unrelated to travel, the expense reimbursement must be submitted no later than 120 days after the date of the expense

In addition, travelers should be cognizant of the University’s June 30th fiscal year-end. All expenses incurred for that fiscal year should be reported to the Finance Office prior to year-end (June 30th) to ensure that the expense is appropriately captured for accounting and reporting purposes.

If the Expense Report is submitted more than 120 days after the trip end date, the employee must provide justification for the late submission and this will require Financial Approver acknowledgement in Concur. Acceptable justification reasons in order to avoid imputed income include, but are not restricted to, the inability to submit a report due to medical reasons or being out of the country for an extended period of time with no internet access. The Executive Director of AP will review and determine if imputed income applies.

Please note that supporting documentation must be provided in order to describe the circumstances leading to the late submission in order to evaluate whether this is a taxable event. If the circumstances described would not have prevented the Payee from submitting within the proper time frame, they are considered taxable income to the Payee.

Expense Reports must be submitted within one year (365 days) of the trip end date for travel expenses. For business expenses unrelated to travel, Expense Reports must be submitted within 1 year of the transaction date. Failure to submit within 365 days will result in non-reimbursement of expenses.

Please refer to the University’s Travel Policy for submission limits.

5.5 Business Purpose

All expenses must be for a valid business purpose that is necessary and reasonable in order to conduct University business. A business purpose must be documented for all expenditures for which a traveler is reconciling or requesting reimbursement.

Business purpose must be specific. “Travel to Boston, MA to speak at Accounts Payable Network conference” is an appropriately documented business purpose. “Travel to Boston for conference” is not. The business purpose of an expense may be obvious to the traveler, but not to a third-party reviewer.

Each travel and business reimbursement request must be supported by a detailed business purpose that includes the following information:

  • Who traveled or attended the event
  • What type of event or activity was attended or what purchase was made
  • When the event or activity took place
  • Where the event or activity took place
  • Why and how it ties in to Columbia University’s business
5.6 Receipts

The traveler is expected to obtain receipts for all expenses for which they plan to have reimbursed. A receipt may take many forms (i.e. cash register receipt, copy of an order form, web receipt or confirmation).

A receipt must identify:

  • the date of purchase
  • the vendor name
  • itemized list and unit price of the purchased items
  • the total amount

If the traveler is unable to obtain a receipt that contains all the required information, documentation should be submitted to demonstrate as many of the required items as possible. A copy of the traveler’s credit or debit card statement identifying the date, location and amount of the expense, or a rental agreement, may be submitted along with a description of the purchase, identifying the amount of any expenses to be segregated (e.g. alcohol).

GSAPP requires receipts for all expense types regardless of amount. Missing receipts require Payee Justification and Financial Approval in Concur.

A Missing Receipt Affidavit must also be completed for certain expense types regardless of amount: air, lodging, rental car expenses, and other expense types equal to or over $50. For instructions on how to complete the Missing Receipt Affidavit, please click here.

5.7 Proof of Payment

The traveler is expected to obtain proof of payment for all expenses. Proof of payment may take many forms but must demonstrate that payment was tendered and must identify the means by which payment was tendered by the traveler. This is often part of the receipt. Examples of this may include notation of:

  • “Cash Tendered”
  • “Paid”
  • A zero balance due
  • Debit/Credit card payment (card type, last four digits of card and/or signature)

If no proof of payment is available in this form, a debit or credit card statement showing the full name of the traveler/payee may also be provided. Please black out any private or unrelated information.

5.8 Segregated Costs

The Federal Government will not reimburse certain expenses, termed “unallowables” and has set forth guidelines prohibiting these costs from being charged to Federal grants and contracts, either directly or indirectly. Please contact Yesenia Ozoria-Urena, Associate Director in the GSAPP Finance Office if you have questions related to charging a sponsored project.

“Unallowables” include expenditures for alcohol, entertainment, flowers or gifts or excessive costs, such as first or business class travel and lodging or meals over the designated University thresholds. To make sure that the University does not inadvertently charge any of these expenses to grants and contracts, “unallowable” expenses have been assigned to the appropriate account.

The terms “unallowable” or “segregated” do not mean that the expenses are not reimbursable, rather that they must be charged to a segregated account.

5.9 Travel Arrangements

If booked through any other means and not charged to the Business Travel Account, the traveler will be reimbursed for the cost of travel fare, and any agency booking fees and taxes based on the lowest logical fare.

Employees are encouraged to book travel through the University’s Travel Management Company (TMC) which is currently World Travel, Inc. There are numerous advantages to using a University preferred agency, including central pay for air and rail so that the traveler is not out-of-pocket for these expenses. World Travel, Inc. is aware of University travel policies and reimbursement guidelines and will help select air carriers and hotels that conform to the policy, which speeds up reimbursement. Furthermore, World Travel, Inc. often has access to discounts and preferential rates negotiated by the University. Finally, World Travel, Inc. can help access and maintain the appropriate documentation of expenses. All travel agencies charge a per transaction service fee for ticket issuance.

If traveling to a group meeting or conference, inform World Travel, Inc. about any available discount air and hotel rates offered by the conference or association meeting. If World Travel, Inc. is restricted from booking at the special discount rate, the agent will inform the traveler how to make the booking.

5.10 Tax-Exempt Status
The University is a tax-exempt organization and individuals should request that tax not be collected. Unfortunately, the travel industry (e.g., airlines, rail, hotel, car rental, etc.) frequently will not recognize this status and insist that taxes be paid. In these instances, the employee will be reimbursed for the taxes paid. If the supplier requests a tax-exemption certificate, this can be obtained through the GSAPP Finance Office.
5.11 Air Travel

Domestic travel includes travel within the United States and its territories. All other destinations are considered international travel.

When booking international air travel, both economy/coach and premium economy classes are permitted. Air tickets should be purchased at the lowest, unrestricted commercial or economy rate. Airfare should be the lowest logical, unrestricted fare. The University does not recommend Basic Economy fares for business travel due to the highly restrictive nature of the fare.

Economy/coach class airline tickets should be purchased aboard a regularly scheduled commercial carrier. While some restrictions or penalties may apply, reservations should be made 14 days or more in advance of the trip to secure the lowest fares. For all travel (except for travel on a government grant):

  • Carrier selection should be influenced by price (and not by the traveler’s frequent flyer affiliation or other personal considerations)
  • Travel on a US air carrier is preferred, but not required

Government sponsored grants require the traveler to fly on a US owned airline (Fly America Act). The US Flag Carrier Policy is available on the Research Administration website. Exceptions to this requirement are listed in the policy. If travel did not occur on a US carrier airline, the traveler must complete the Fly America Exception form and attach the form to their Expense Report. The Financial Approver in Concur will be required to acknowledge the Fly America Exception Reason.

Documentation Required

The passenger ticket/receipt, boarding pass, e-ticket, website statement, flight confirmation, or itinerary issued by a travel agent, must include:

  • the dates and points of departure and arrival
  • the travel “class” (unless there is only one class on the airline, like JetBlue)
  • the total amount of the flight
  • proof of payment

A traveler can be reimbursed in advance of a flight for an airline ticket if the flight was not booked through Concur / the TMC using the central pay mechanism. To seek reimbursement prior to travel, the traveler must purchase the ticket at least 14 days prior to an approved trip and submit proof of payment, a copy of the ticket or itinerary, along with the valid business reason. The “travel end” date on the Expense Report should reflect the return date of the trip.

5.12 First or Business Class Travel
GSAPP policy is to not reimburse for business or first class air travel. If a business class exception is needed, please contact the GSAPP Finance Office for further instructions.
5.13 Rail & Bus Travel

Rail or bus tickets should be purchased at the lowest logical available commercial/economy rate. The University expects that tickets are purchased at the lowest logical available fare. While some restrictions or penalties may apply, reservations should be made 14 days or more in advance of the trip to secure the lowest fares. If the traveler is traveling domestically in first-class, the traveler must provide justification along with Financial Approval. The traveler must segregate and provide a cost comparison for the amount above economy class if traveling domestically in first-class or business class (not including Acela). International rail travel does not require segregation regardless of class of service selected.

When traveling on Amtrak’s Acela train, a traveler should obtain business class (Acela’s equivalent of economy/coach class) tickets. First class rail travel requires Payee justification and Financial Approver acknowledgement.

Documentation Required

The ticket, ticket stub or receipt for fares must include:

  • the dates and points of departure and arrival
  • the class
  • total amount of the fare
  • proof of payment
5.14 Extending Travel beyond the Minimum Days Required for Personal Reasons

The costs related to an earlier departure and/or later return for airfare or rail fare may be reimbursed when the total cost of the airfare or rail fare is clearly documented and demonstrated to be equal to or lower than it would have been for the dates required for business travel. Payee justification is required on the Expense Report that documents the personal days in the itinerary.

The University will not assume the cost or reimburse the cost of lodging, local transportation, meals or other costs in excess of the minimum days necessary for travel or conference attendance. If the traveler does not have a legitimate business purpose for expenses (not including air or rail fare) incurred for their extended stay, all costs charged to either the University’s Business Travel Account (BTA) or Travel & Expense Corporate Card will need to be reimbursed to the University. Out of pocket expenses will also not be reimbursed to the traveler.

Documentation Required

If air or rail expenses related to an earlier departure and/or later return are being reimbursed, the total cost of airfare or rail fare should be compared to the costs for traveling on the dates required for business travel.

The payee must conduct price comparison research and provide documentation showing price differentials. If travel is booked through the Concur online booking tool, the price differential will automatically be reflected in the travel itinerary.

Documentation should include a price quote from either the air carrier and/ or rail carrier for the dates that would have been used if the travel was not extended. All documentation requirements for the specific expenditure type apply.

5.15 Ground Transportation

While traveling, it may be necessary to use multiple modes of ground travel. These include rental cars, taxis, private car services or personal vehicles. In all cases, the traveler should exercise reasonable judgment and either use a University preferred supplier or choose the most economical ground travel option available.

Travelers may use other services such as Lyft and Uber so long as the total cost of such services is comparable to other ground transportation options. Travelers need to be aware that there is no guarantee of safety when using such services.

Rental Cars

Columbia Travelers may make car rental reservations via the Concur Travel Online Booking Tool.

To learn how to book car rentals in Concur Travel, visit Video: Using Concur Travel to Purchase Domestic Air, Hotel, and Rental Car.

Rent vehicles only when less expensive comparable transportation is unavailable. Reimbursement for car rentals may be for sub-compact, compact or intermediate/mid-size classifications for individual travelers. All authorized drivers must be listed on the car rental contract at the time of rental. Reimbursement will be made for larger vehicles in exceptional cases (i.e., several travelers in one car, equipment being transported, etc.), which must be documented. Travelers may be reimbursed for gas purchases for rental cars.

When using Hertz, the University’s preferred car rental company in the Continental US, do not purchase Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) and/or Liability insurance from the preferred car rental company as the University has negotiated a separate agreement with the car rental company. Travelers will not be reimbursed for this expense if renting from the preferred University rental company. If renting from the designated University rental company in an international location only, the Loss Damage Waiver and Liability insurance must be purchased.

If the University preferred car rental company is not available, other car rental companies may be used. Loss Damage Waiver and Liability insurance must be purchased when renting from these agencies both internationally and domestically. In such cases, the University’s auto policy will not cover damages associated with rental vehicles.

Travelers may be reimbursed for gas purchases for rental cars.

Expenses for GPS (Global Positioning Mapping) devices when renting a vehicle are reimbursable with a business purpose.

Documentation Required

The traveler must obtain and submit a receipt from the car rental agency that includes:

  • The dates and points of rental
  • The car class, i.e. compact or intermediate/mid-size
  • Total amount of the rental
  • Proof of payment

If a car is rented above the compact or intermediate/mid-size car rate, document the business purpose on the Expense Report that required the vehicle upgrade.

Travel by Private Vehicle

When traveling for business purposes, a personal vehicle may be used in order to save time, transport equipment, reduce costs when several people are traveling together, or travel to locations within reasonable driving distance.

If a personal vehicle is used primarily for the convenience of the traveler and the approved travel is to a location more than 500 miles beyond the point of origin, reimbursement will not exceed the lesser of the following:

1) the cost of per- mile reimbursement plus tolls; or,
2) the round-trip airfare between the nearest commercial airport serving the origin and destination cities, plus transfer costs to and from the airport.

For the business-related use of a personal vehicle, the traveler will be reimbursed at a rate based on the Federal IRS approved highway mileage guides. Mileage reimbursement covers gas/fuel, maintenance/repairs, insurance, transportation, and operating costs, so these will not be reimbursed separately. The traveler will not be reimbursed for the cost of vehicle purchase or lease.

In addition to the mileage allowance, tolls and necessary parking charges may be reimbursed.

The University does not assume liability for damage to personal automobiles used on University business and does not assume liability for deductibles or any other uninsured loss to the vehicle. Expenses for vehicle repairs are not reimbursable. Under no circumstances will the University reimburse parking fines and moving violations on personal vehicle.

Personal Vehicle Mileage Rate for Travel

  • $.545/miles for travel on or after January 1, 2018
  • $.580/miles for travel on or after January 1, 2019
  • $.575/miles for travel on or after January 1, 2020

Documentation Required

Travelers should keep a record (e.g., spreadsheet, notebook or ledger; AAA triptic or printout of route) of their use of their private vehicle for business travel. The written record should include:

  • the dates and points (City, State) of departure and arrival
  • business purpose of the trip
  • total mileage
  • calculation of reimbursement (total mileage * mileage rate)

Other Forms of Ground Transportation

Travelers will be reimbursed for bus, subway, or other mass transportation, shuttle, taxi fares, or private car service plus reasonable tips when necessary for business purposes. Reimbursement will be provided for transportation between hotels, railroad stations, airports, restaurants, workplaces or meetings.

Documentation Required

Travelers should attempt to obtain a receipt from the driver or transportation company. The receipts for fares must include:

  • the dates and points of origin and destination
  • passengers’ names
  • the total amount of the fare
  • proof of payment
5.16 Lodging

Travelers will be reimbursed for the cost of lodging accommodations and any applicable taxes and fees while traveling on approved University business. The cost of a hotel stay in the US should not exceed $350 per night (excluding taxes).

International travelers should obtain room rates that do not exceed $400 per night (US dollars, excluding taxes).

Lodging costs in excess of $350 per night in the US and $400 per night in an International location (by no more than 50%) requires payee justification and Financial Approval in Concur. Additionally, lodging costs in excess of $525 per night in the US and $600 per night in an International location (more than 50%) requires Senior Business Officer approval.

If a conference is held in a hotel where the rate exceeds these amounts, please attach the conference flyer identifying the location of the conference and the offered hotel accommodations. If traveling on a sponsored project that is subject to GSA rates for lodging, the cost of a hotel above this amount must be segregated to the appropriate account.

Documentation Required

The traveler must submit an itemized hotel bill that includes:

  • the dates of arrival and departure
  • the detailed charges
  • the total amount of the lodging
  • proof of payment

Find the requirements and restrictions when booking hotels here.

Lodging in a Private Residence

Travelers who stay in a private residence with relatives or friends while traveling on business may be reimbursed for reasonable expenses incurred extending appreciation to hosts for their hospitality. This may include a small gift to the host or payment for meals, and should not exceed $100. If the gift exceeds $100, payee justification is required.

Documentation Required

The itemized receipts and proof of payment for any expenses incurred extending appreciation.

Rental Accommodations

Depending on the length of stay, it may be economical for the traveler to stay in a rental accommodation.

Documentation Required

The traveler must submit an itemized rental bill or agreement that includes:

  • the dates of stay
  • the detailed charges
  • the total amount of the lodging
  • proof of payment (zero balance folio)
5.17 Meals

GSAPP policy is to not reimburse for individual meal expenses or provide per diems during travel. However, GSAPP may reimburse reasonable and necessary meal expenses for business meetings involving only University personnel and students during which focused business discussions take place, for peer groups for research collaboration, or administrative meetings during which focused business discussions take place.

The frequency of such meetings and the related expenses must be reasonable and appropriate to the purpose of the discussion and the nature of the business conducted. Such meetings include:

  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings which are necessary to conduct University business.
  • Formally organized meetings which are necessary to carry out the business of official committees appointed by the University, School or Department.
  • Meetings of an organized work group of employees or students that require the work of the group to progress through normal meal time.

Except under rare circumstances, these meals to be reimbursed or meals to be paid via invoice directly to the vendor should not exceed the following thresholds, excluding tips and tax:

  • Up to $25 for breakfast
  • Up to $35 for lunch
  • Up to $75 for dinner

Senior Business Officer approval and Payee justification is required when business meal expenses exceed the individual pre-tip, pre-tax meal thresholds ($25 for breakfast, $35 for lunch, $75 for dinner) and the amount over the threshold must be segregated.

These thresholds are not per diems, and should not be charged as such. Travelers must submit individual receipts showing the actual cost of each meal.

The cost of alcoholic beverages consumed during a meal may be reimbursed. However, the cost may not be charged to a sponsored project and must be charged to the appropriate account. In addition, reimbursements for business meals that meet the following criteria require segregation:

  • Reimbursement for business meals that require attendance by an employee’s spouse, significant other, and/or dependent require Payee justification and Financial Approval in Concur.

Documentation Required

The itemized restaurant or cash register receipts for business meals must be obtained and uploaded images of them submitted with the payee’s Expense Report. The receipt must include:

  • the date and location
  • the type of meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner) indicated by the payee
  • the meal items purchased (identify alcohol)
  • the total amount of the meal
  • proof of payment

The cost of alcoholic beverages may not be charged to a sponsored research account and must be appropriately segregated.

A list of attendees (or a number, if there are more than 10 names), the relationship to the University for each, and the business purpose of the meal must also be clearly documented and submitted with the Payee’s Expense Report in Concur.

5.18 Meetings and Conference Fees

Meeting or Conference fees will be reimbursed by the University. It is preferable that either a P-card is used or the University is billed directly for these expenses. However, if the traveler pays the registration fee, they will be reimbursed.

A traveler can be reimbursed in advance for conference fees paid. To seek reimbursement prior to travel, the traveler must submit proof of payment and a copy of the conference flyer or registration, along with the valid business reason. The “travel end” date on the Travel and Business Expense report should reflect the return date of the trip.

5.19 Non-Reimbursable Expenses

The following miscellaneous expenses are non-reimbursable. University policy considers these expenses to be either personal, unnecessary, or avoidable expenses incurred during travel. As a result, there may be tax consequences to the travelers if reimbursed.

These non-reimbursable expenses include (but are not limited to):

  • Airline or VIP club membership dues or one-day admission fees
  • Air-phone usage
  • Baby-sitting
  • Barbers and hairdressers
  • Clothing or toiletry items
  • Internet charges at home
  • Excess baggage costs related to personal property
  • Expenses related to vacation or personal days taken before, during, or after a business trip
  • Frequent flyer mile (Travelers will not be reimbursed for airline tickets purchased, partially purchased or accommodations and upgrades obtained using frequent flyer miles).
  • Travelers will not be reimbursed for credits issued by an airline from personal travel used to purchase airline tickets for business travel.
  • Credit card and Airline Rewards programs/points
  • Gift cards used as a payment mechanism should not be used for travel and business expenses as they will not be reimbursed
  • Helicopter services for local travel/entertainment
  • Laundry or cleaning expenses on trips lasting five (5) days or less, unless emergency circumstances are documented
  • Loss or theft of cash advance money or airline tickets
  • Loss or theft of personal funds or property
  • Lost baggage
  • Luggage and briefcases
  • Magazines, newspapers, personal reading materials
  • Medical expenses while traveling
  • Mini-bar alcoholic refreshments
  • Movies
  • “No show” charges for hotel or car service
  • Online auction sites
  • Personal entertainment
  • Pet care
  • Recreational expenses
  • Saunas, massages, spa visits
  • Shoe shines
  • Souvenirs or personal gifts
  • Snacks
  • Tips in excess of 20 percent