Government Travel Card replacement eases travel, financial hassles

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

This was probably no different from my fellow FSOs, but I always felt my focus should be evaluating and improving the processes to ensure customers are paid in an accurate and efficient manner.

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

I knew nothing about the new CSA program before I met the professionals from the Air Force Banking Office. After a few meetings and a lot of planning, I was fully immersed in training, coordinating and implementing the CSA program for three units.

During implementation, our team learned a few lessons by trial and error and had the opportunity to see first-hand the benefits that CSA provides to our base and our customers.

Myth, legend and lore of the CSA program leaked out to other bases and I provided e-mails explaining the base level perspective including improvements over the GTC, how it's better for the customer and challenges and preparation.


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

With the GTC, tracking delinquencies and misuse became a mainstay in financial services daily and monthly operations. To manage the program effectively, financial managers ran eight to 12 reports to capture delinquencies. Then they had to coordinate with agency program coordinators to follow up on cases of misuse. We did this so we could catch less than 1 percent of users who misused the card, spending tremendous amount of time on administrative tasks.

With CSA, there are no reports other than account listings. For me, this saved about 12-20 hours per week.

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

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

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

Better for customers

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

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

Future challenges

Here at Keesler, we have less than 200 accounts still on the GTC. The conversion has been an overall success. As proof, we received our first Citibank rebates in more than a year and earned $12,800 for the 81st Training Wing this past quarter. We still face challenges as we learn the ins and outs of this new product.

Education -- Now that we have a working and implemented product, education about its use is essential. The majority of the questions that I field aren't problems, but educational issues that could be handled at lower levels. All Airmen can now have the card so our goal is to ensure that all Airmen understand how it works.

Letting go -- We've managed delinquencies for so long it's difficult to let go of past practices. Forget the administrative work -- focus on education. Instill personal responsibility -- The Citibank CSA travel card is linked to you. Treat it as you would your personal banking card. The online and phone tools will help you track the status of your spending and reimbursement. Learning how to use these tools is key to ensuring mission success.