UVa Seal

Policy: Payment or Reimbursement of Travel Expenses 

Date: 05/01/10 Policy ID: FIN-030 Status: Final

Policy Type: University
Contact Office: Procurement and Supplier Diversity Services
Oversight Executive: Vice President for Management and Budget
Applies To: Academic Division and the College at Wise.
Table of Contents: 

Policy Statement
   1.  Travel Planning
   2.  Documentation
   3.  Travel Meals
   4.  Lodging
   5.  Incidentals
   6.  Travel Transportation
   7.  Miscellaneous Expenses
   8.  Requesting Reimbursement
   9.  Responsibilities

Reason for Policy: 

The University is committed to sound fiscal stewardship of federal, state, and local funds. This policy sets forth the required approvals, spending limits, and other guidelines that must be followed for various expenses incurred while traveling on official business on behalf of the University of Virginia.
Notes: This policy does NOT cover:

Policy Summary: 

All trips must support the mission of the University of Virginia, receive the appropriate approvals, and be carefully planned to ensure that expenditures are necessary, prudent, and as economical as possible. Upon completion of the trip, travelers must report and document claims for reimbursement following the guidelines described below and on the Travel And Meals Section of the Procurement Services website.

Travel expenditures will be checked to ensure that expenses were necessary, appropriate, and kept within prescribed limits. Travelers must not seek reimbursement from the University for any expenses that have been paid from other funds or by other payors. Travelers will have to account for any discrepancies. Falsifying expense claims constitutes fraud and will be so treated.

Definition of Terms in Statement: 

Alternate Approver: An individual designated by the faculty member’s/employee’s supervisor or the supervisor’s supervisor to approve reimbursements related to cash advances, purchases, travel, etc. The selected individual is one who has the appropriate knowledge and authority to do so.

Business Meal: A meal that must have departmental approval, include more than one person, and have a substantive and bona fide business purpose deemed essential to the University's mission.

Note: Business meals are distinct from both day trip and overnight "Travel Meals." Business meals may be taken while traveling, but the meal must be claimed as "travel" or "business," not both.

Central Workplace: The University’s place of work where employees normally are located.

International Travel: Travel outside the contiguous 48 states; thus international travel includes Alaska, Hawaii, (and Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, etc.).

Local Funds: Local funds are primarily composed of gifts, endowments, and endowment income.  Some exceptions to State and Sponsored Program limits can be processed using these funds.

Sponsored Programs: Programs funded by revenue derived from grants and contracts. Most of the state limits apply to payments and reimbursements made from these sources. Exceptions are noted in the text of this policy or may be included in the terms of the grant or contract in question.

State Funds: Include tuition and fee revenues, F&A recoveries, funding from state tax dollars, sales and services activities, grants, and auxiliaries. State limits apply to payments and reimbursements from these sources.

University Purchasing Card: A credit card issued to an authorized individual to make official purchases of small dollar goods and services (that do not require competitive bidding) quickly and directly. (Also referred to as the “P-Card,” the “Procurement Card.”)

Policy Statement: 

University faculty, staff, students, and others acting on behalf of the University may be reimbursed for the reasonable and necessary expenses incurred while traveling on official University of Virginia business according to the guidelines set forth below.

The University of Virginia is a public institution governed by the Commonwealth of Virginia. As such, all expense records, regardless of fund source, are open to the public under the Federal and State Freedom of Information Acts.

When requesting reimbursement using state funds, the per diem listed in the Rate Guide cannot be exceeded. In addition, the traveler must either request reimbursement based on (1) amount of actual receipts up to the per diem limit; or (2) the stated per diem.  Actual receipts may not be combined with per diems for the same trip using state funds unless it is an actual receipt for a business meal that is being claimed.

Nothing in this policy prevents departments from establishing documentation requirements beyond those described in this policy and the Travel And Meals Section of the Procurement Services website. In addition, departments may determine for themselves whether to reimburse either the full per diem amounts listed on the Rate Guide page or only the traveler's actual expenses (as documented with original receipts) within the overall per diem limit. In addition, local funds may be used to reimburse expenses that exceed State and Sponsored Program limits up to the local funds limits.

  1. Travel Planning:
    All travel should be authorized by someone who has knowledge of the traveler’s plans and the authority to question or reject it prior to any cost being incurred (usually the traveler’s supervisor or alternate approver). Unless permitted by policy, no self authorization or approval of travel should occur.
    Note: If the traveler’s supervisor has designated an alternate approver, that designation should be in writing and maintained on file in the department.

University departments that wish to purchase essential training for multiple employees should first perform a comparison of the cost of bringing the trainer on site rather than authorizing employees to travel to an off-site location. Departments should also explore the practicality of fulfilling the desired staff development goals through the use of studio and video teleconferencing where these options may be more cost effective.

  1. Documentation:
    Refer to the Travel and Meals Section page of the Procurement Services website for details on the documentation requirements for submission with the appropriate travel reimbursement form. 

All receipts must be retained by departments for the time specified in the Records Management Policy. In the case of lost receipts, contact the hotel, rental agency, or airline to request copies. Lost receipts for smaller expenditures, $25 or less, must be documented in writing by the traveler.

For Internet purchases:
Travelers must submit the hardcopy final confirmation page(s) from the Internet site showing dates, service, rates, and total cost. This does not relieve the traveler of the requirement to provide itemized documentation of actual lodging costs.

When an airline ticket is purchased, the confirmation page must include the type of ticket purchased (e.g., coach, business). This does not relieve the traveler of the requirement to provide a boarding pass or ticket stub from the flight as documentation.

Bundled Travel Packages:
The travel industry has begun to offer economical bundled travel packages that combine airline travel with hotel stays, car rental, and even meals. However, these packages usually offer only a consolidated invoice that provides no breakdown of the various travel services included.

If purchasing a bundled travel package, full reimbursement must be sought after the trip - no direct payment, pre-payment or Purchase Card use is allowed. Prior to making the purchase, the traveler must also ensure that the package is the most economical option for the trip and provide additional documentation confirming the savings, as described below:
  • Documentation must be provided comparing the cost of the bundled travel package to the combined cost of the same travel services purchased separately and within allowable travel limits, and of course, the bundle must be the less expensive of the two alternatives.
  • Documentation of each alternative must be either a website screen print or printed quotation from the vendor showing the cost and the travel services included.
  • These comparison documents must be attached to the paper copy of the appropriate travel reimbursement form when it is submitted to Procurement Services for reimbursement.
  • In addition, all other travel rules, limitations, and documentation requirements such as itineraries and boarding passes, are still in effect.
  1. Travel Meals:
    Overnight Meals:
    Individuals traveling overnight on University business may be reimbursed for meals and lodging. The dollar limits may change based on location and on source of funds. Travelers may be reimbursed up to maximum applicable guidelines. Consult the Rate Guide to determine an allowable travel budget.

When travelers request reimbursement for meals using the per diem limits, the rates on the Rate Guide page cannot be exceeded regardless of the fund source.

When travelers request reimbursement for meals based on actual expenses and using local funds, consult the Rate Guide for the maximum reimbursement amount and refer to the link for “Local Funds Limits – All Locations.” Any meal exceeding the established limit must be approved by the traveler’s supervisor’s supervisor (or alternate approver).
Note: If the traveler’s supervisor’s supervisor has designated an alternate approver, that designation should be in writing and maintained on file in the department.

Persons traveling on official University business may NOT claim reimbursement for meal expenses in lieu of no-cost meals included in a conference package, for meals before or after the trip, for meals provided by others, or for meals claimed as business meals by the traveler. The appropriate per diem expense limits, as described on the Rate Guide page, should be used to calculate how much to deduct from the standard per diem reimbursement rates. The number and type (breakfast, lunch, dinner) of no-cost meals must be recorded on and submitted with the appropriate travel reimbursement form. Refer to the Travel And Meals Section of the Procurement Services website for additional information.

Note: If a substantial meal is offered as part of a conference and the traveler has medical or dietary restrictions, the traveler should make every effort to have the conference facilitate his/her needs by the deadline specified by the conference. If the conference does not honor the request, the traveler is not required to deduct the applicable meal allowance from the per diem. However, the traveler must include a note or other documentation with the appropriate Travel Reimbursement Form documenting this information.

Day Trip Meals:
Day trips are trips taken on University business that do not involve an overnight stay. Consequently, day trip meals are never reimbursable from ANY University funds as travel meals, though they may be reimbursable as a Business Meal if they qualify.

  1. Lodging:
    Travelers must follow the rates in the Rate Guide page. On all funds, taxes and surcharges may be reimbursed in addition to the lodging limits, from the same funds used to pay for lodging -- lodging limits exclude taxes and surcharges.

    When these rates are exceeded, regardless of the travel purpose or fund source, a written justification must be included with the appropriate travel reimbursement form.

    University employees may use their University P-Card, Travel Card, or personal card to pay this expense. Charges on the Travel Card and personal card cannot be reimbursed until after the trip.

State & Sponsored Program Fund Limits & Approvals:
The traveler’s supervisor can approve lodging rates up to 100% over the limits with justification and when circumstances warrant. Lodging costing more than 100% over the state limits can only be reimbursed on local funds (see “Local Funds Limits – All Locations”) with approval from the traveler’s supervisor’s supervisor, except at noted below under conference lodging.

Local Fund Limits & Approvals:
The traveler’s supervisor can approve lodging rates up to 100% over the limits with justification and when circumstances warrant. Any lodging rates exceeding the 100% overage will require a second approval from the traveler’s supervisor’s supervisor, except as noted below under conference lodging.

Conference Lodging Limits & Approvals:
It is in the best interest of the institution to have employees traveling to a conference stay at the conference hotel in order to gain the most from the program. This saves cost on travel to and from the site. Oftentimes, conference hotel rates exceed the standard rate because of special events. Travelers should follow the rates on the Rate Guide. However, travelers can claim up to $500.00/night regardless of the fund source, with supervisor approval and written justification. Rates in excess of this will require approval from the traveler’s supervisor’s supervisor.

Non-Cancelled Hotel Reservations:
The traveler must communicate travel plan changes to the hotel as soon as possible when a confirmed reservation is being held. As hotels can charge for non-canceled reservations, these charges will not be reimbursed if the traveler is negligent in canceling reservations.

Number of Persons in a Hotel Room:
When two or more people travel on official University business and stay in the same hotel room, the lodging rate applicable to the area they are staying, plus the cost charged by the hotel for any additional persons in the room, will apply.  Documentation from the hotel listing additional hotel charges for each additional person, per room must be provided. 

Important Lodging Information:
If possible, the traveler should contact several hotels in the area traveled to obtain cost comparisons. Departments are strongly encouraged to make lodging arrangements through the University's contracted travel agencies.

See the Procurement Services website for a list of frequently used contracts.

Alternative Lodging: When the traveler uses lodging other than hotels/motels, e.g., apartments, private homes, etc., he/she must include a cost comparison showing the amount saved by using alternative lodging and attaching it to the appropriate travel reimbursement form.

  1. Incidentals:
    Incidentals are reimbursed at the maximum amount as shown in the Rate Guide.  Reimbursement of actual expenses for these items is not permitted.

    Incidentals include tips given to porters, baggage carriers, bellhops, hotel maids, stewards or stewardesses, hotel servants, laundry, personal phone calls and transportation between places of lodging (or business) and restaurants.

  2. Travel Transportation:
    Transportation during travel, whether by public transportation, privately owned auto, state owned vehicle, or for-hire conveyance, shall be over the most direct and economical route. Any deviations from a direct route must be explained on the appropriate travel reimbursement form and reimbursement may be limited to costs using the most direct route. Travelers should also seek the least expensive mode of travel and the least expensive travel fares.

    Air and Rail Tickets:
    First class tickets may never be purchased with state funds and, in general, airline tickets may not exceed the rates charged for tourist/coach fare. Travelers may, however, purchase or be reimbursed for upgrades from coach to business class under any one of the following conditions:
    • When the traveler can provide documentation proving that it does not cost more than the lowest available tourist/coach fare (comparison must be attached to the travel voucher); or
    • For transoceanic, intercontinental trips of more than eight consecutive hours; or
    • If the traveler pays the difference.

    The traveler must return any unused tickets or coupons to the travel agency or his/her department. The traveler’s supervisor must certify that all travel expenditures are appropriate.

    Travelers should purchase non-refundable tickets. Refundable tickets should only be purchased in the rare instance that there is a possibility of rescheduling the trip.

    Air or rail tickets may only be purchased using one of the following methods:

    • The University Purchasing Card (P-Card)
    • The University Travel Card
    • A personal credit card

    Only purchases made with the P-Card can be prepaid. Purchases made with the Travel Card or with a personal credit card cannot be reimbursed until after traveling. Note: For air or rail ticket purchases exceeding the individual's established Purchasing Card transaction limit, see The University Purchasing Card.

    See also Policy FIN-017, University Travel Card Program.

    See also Policy FIN-044, Use of University Purchasing Card.

    Unused Tickets:
    Unused portions of air or rail tickets belong to the University and must be returned. Unused tickets should be reported to the traveler's department and be used to reduce other appropriate travel expenses. Failure to report such tickets could result in disciplinary action.

    Private or Chartered Air Travel:
    Private or chartered air travel (except University air charter service) is permitted when authorized by the traveler's dean and/or vice president prior to making the purchase and when a documented cost/benefit analysis is prepared and attached to the appropriate travel reimbursement form. Without this prior approval, the University reimbursement will be limited to the current cost of tourist or coach air fare for all passengers, but not exceeding actual cost.

    Travel By Automobile:
    When travel is by vehicle, the total travel expense reimbursement, including mileage, meals, and lodging in route, shall not exceed the documented cost of tourist or coach class air fares.

    Use of Personally Owned Vehicles:
    Use of personally owned vehicles is allowed when it is cost justified. Reimbursement for the use of personally owned vehicles will be allowed at the rate established in the current Appropriations Act. Refer to Travel Procedures on the Procurement Services website for current rate.

    International Travel:
    In using personal vehicles for International travel, the University will reimburse the actual cost of operation of such a vehicle. (International travel is defined as travel outside the contiguous 48 states; thus international travel includes Alaska, Hawaii, (and Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, etc.). Travelers should make sure their insurance is in force outside of the U.S.

    Vehicle Rental:
    University employees are strongly encouraged to rent any vehicles through agencies under contract with the University. The traveler should decline any additional insurance offered for any vehicle leased or rented within the continental United States, its territories or possessions, or Canada. Such insurance will not be reimbursed. Consultants and non-State employees are not covered under the State's automobile self-insurance plan. For these individuals, the University may reimburse car rental insurance. However, the University will only reimburse liability damage waiver (LDW) and collision damage waiver (CDW) insurance.

    For vehicles rented outside the United States, its territories, or possessions, or Canada, the traveler is required to purchase the LDW and CDW insurance on the rental contract.  This required insurance is reimbursable.

    Refer to Policy FIN-006, Insurance Coverage (Risk Management Program).

    Travelers should verify that the proper government/corporate rate is used both at the time of reservation and at pick-up. When the vehicle is rented, the traveler may be required to present:

    • A valid driver's license,
    • A valid University identification card, and
    • A credit card (used to reserve the vehicle).

    Methods of payment are available in the Travel Procedures and they include cash, personal credit cards, the UVA Travel Card, or the University Purchasing Card.  University-issued traveler checks are discouraged.

    See also Policy FIN-017, University Travel Card Program.

    For rental vehicles, the University reimburses actual expenses rather than mileage rates. The traveler must include receipts for both the rental car and gas with the appropriate travel reimbursement form. 

    The traveler is encouraged to determine the most economical way to refuel the rental vehicle.  Prepaying for the refueling should be considered if it is more economical.  Otherwise, refuel the rental vehicle before returning it. The rental agency's refueling charges are excessive and may not be reimbursable, unless properly justified for safety or time constraint reasons.

    Public Transportation:
    Public transportation should be used wherever possible. Public transportation rates must not exceed tourist, coach class, or international business class. First class accommodations are only reimbursable from local funds and must not be used except in an emergency or when there are no other accommodations available.

    Travel-related Parking and Tolls:
    Bridge, tunnel, or turnpike tolls and parking fees may be reimbursed or paid with the P-Card. The location of the facility as well as the names and reasons for including a charge for passengers, where applicable, must be stated on the appropriate travel reimbursement form or P-Card documentation. These may also be paid with the P-Card or reimbursed after the trip.

    Parking Lot Rental Fees:
    Parking lot rental fees incurred while travelling on official University business are an allowable charge to University funds of any category.

    Parking Fines:
    Parking fines are NOT AN ALLOWABLE CHARGE to University funds of any category.


    Commuting to and from work for any reason is not considered business travel and the mileage is not reimbursable.  Parking costs associated with commuting is not an allowable charge.

  3. Miscellaneous Expenses:
    Reimbursable business travel expenses include:
    • Telephone calls, telegrams, and facsimiles for official University business paid by the traveler can be claimed.  For business related calls, state on the appropriate travel reimbursement form, the points and parties between which the calls/wires were made and the reasons.
    • Cab fares, copy charges, room taxes, energy surcharges and other business-related expenses are reimbursable. All must be explained on the appropriate travel reimbursement form.
    • Cash advance fees (Automatic Teller Machine access fees, traveler's check fees) incurred in using the University travel card are reimbursable. For additional information, see also Policy FIN-017, University Travel Card Program.
    • Traveler’s checks fees, passport and visa expenses are reimbursable if required for University business and approved by the supervisor.
    • Funeral attendance expenses for travel outside of the central workplace are reimbursable for one employee to represent the University. The traveler must document that representation is beneficial to the mission of the University.  Generally, attendance is for the funeral of an individual who had an affiliation with the University.
    • Registration fees for functions related to University business may be reimbursed when employees are expected to attend as part of their job duties. Receipts are required for reimbursement.
    • Personal calls are reimbursed as part of the meals and incidental expense per diem and are not reimbursed separately.
    • Combining business travel and vacation leave: The University reimburses only those expenses related to official business. The University is not responsible for any expenses for accidents or injuries when the employee is not on official business.

      Spousal Travel:
      Generally, travel expenses of a spouse are not reimbursable unless the spouse attends a function and is considered to have a business purpose; that is, if the spouse has a significant role in the proceedings or makes an important contribution to the success of an event.  Expenses related to spousal travel must be approved in advance by the traveler’s dean or vice president prior to the expenses being incurred and can only be processed using Local funds. All provisions of this policy apply to reimbursements of spousal travel expenses.

Non-reimbursable business travel expenses include:

  • Charges for non-canceled hotel reservations.
  • Non-Overnight meals that do not qualify as a business meal.
  • Fees associated with social or non-mandatory activities at conferences such as tours, sports activities, etc.
  • Lost or stolen articles.
  • Alcoholic beverages (never allowable from state funds).
  • Meals and lodging exceeding Rate Guide amounts (never allowable from state funds).
  • Damage to personal vehicles, clothing, or other items.
  • Charges to gain entry to a locked vehicle.
  • Movies charged to hotel/motel bills.
  • All expenses related to the personal negligence of the traveler, such as fines (including parking fines, speeding tickets, etc.).
  • Entertainment expenses.
  • Towing charges.
  • Travel expenses related to family members or companions (including child care), unless on local funds and approved, prior to the expenses being incurred, by the President of the University or the traveler's dean or vice president.
  • Expenses related to care of the traveler’s family or home (e.g., pet-sitting or house-sitting expenses).
  1. Requesting Reimbursement:
    Travelers may seek reimbursement for their expenses only after the completion of their trip. To request reimbursement for expenses incurred while traveling on University business, travelers must fill out the appropriate travel reimbursement form and obtain the supervisor’s approval as described on the Procurement Services Travel and Meals Section page.

    If the traveler requests reimbursement for the expenses of another person or persons, these individuals must be identified and a justification for payment must be included. The traveler shall not claim meal and incidental expense reimbursement for anyone other than himself.

    Travelers should submit a travel reimbursement request within 30 days from the completion of travel to Procurement Services for review. This includes required approvals and original supporting documentation. Written approval from the appropriate dean or vice president is required in cases where the reimbursement request submission exceeds 60 days.

  2. Responsibilities:
    The traveler is responsible for:
      • Acting prudently and only incurring travel expenses which are necessary, reasonable, appropriate, and in compliance with University policy;
      • Obtaining travel authorization by someone who has knowledge of the traveler’s plans and the authority to question it prior to any costs being incurred (usually the traveler’s supervisor);
      • Accounting for any travel advances received; and
      • Promptly submitting reimbursement requests for travel-related expenses.

The traveler’s supervisor is responsible for:

      • Authorizing travel prior to any costs be incurred;
      • Approving limits over the allowable amount as noted in this policy when justified and circumstances warrant; and
      • Approving travel reimbursement requests and certifying all travel expenditures are appropriate.

The traveler’s supervisor’s supervisor is responsible for:

      • Approving actual meal reimbursement requests exceeding the established limits;
      • Approving lodging rates exceeding the 100% overage when justified and circumstances warrant; and
      • Approving conference rates over the established limits.

The alternate approver is responsible for:

  • Following the same requirements as noted above under responsibilities of the traveler’s supervisor or the traveler’s supervisor’s supervisor, depending on who designated the alternate approver.

Deans and vice presidents are responsible for:

      • Providing prior approval for a traveler to use a private or chartered air service;
      • Approving in advance any expenses incurred by the traveler’s spouse;
      • Approval of a traveler’s reimbursement request that was submitted more than 60 days after the completion of travel; and
      • Determining whether to reimburse a traveler for expenses when the traveler has submitted a reimbursement request after 30 days upon completion of travel more than three times.

Procurement Services is responsible for:

      • Reviewing for  the appropriate documentation submitted with the Travel Reimbursement form;
      • Reviewing that the appropriate approvals have been obtained for the travel reimbursement;
      • Processing travel reimbursement requests in a timely manner;
      • Notifying deans, vice presidents, and supervisors of a traveler who has submitted travel reimbursement requests later than 60 days after completion of travel more than three times;
      • Ensuring all applicable University policies have been followed; and
      • Maintaining and updating information contained in the Rate Guide, Travel and Meals Section, Local Fund Limits page.
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Procedures: Travel Procedures
Related Information: 

FIN-004, Payment or Reimbursement of Business Meals
FIN-006, Insurance Coverage
FIN-016, Individuals Authorized to Approve Local Fund Exceptions to State Policies and Self-Travel
FIN-013, Reimbursement of Moving and Relocation Expenses
IRM-017, Records Management
FIN-044, Use of University Purchasing Card
Domestic & International Rate Guide
Local Funds Limits page
Travel And Meals Section of the Procurement Services website.
The University Purchasing Card

Policy Background: 
Major Category: Finance and Business Operations
Category Cross Reference: 
Next Scheduled Review: 05/01/18
Approved By, Date: Policy Review Committee, 03/31/10
Revision History: Updated 4/14/15, 3/25/15, 1/25/15, 7/31/12, 2/25/11, 7/1/10.
Supersedes (previous policy):  Travel Expenses VI.G.1