Everything you need to know about the Visa Purchase program.

Can the Visa Purchase card be used for group travel?

Generally the Visa Purchase card should not be used for travel expenses. Most issuers can accommodate group travel with a travel card product.

Can the Visa Purchase card be used to pay for tuition assistance and training?

Most colleges, universities, and training vendors will accept a purchase card payment in lieu of a purchase order or a government training form. Visa Purchase cards facilitate the enrollment process for the attendee. Check with your card program manager to determine whether or not use of a purchase card is authorized prior to enrollment. Because separate regulations have established the threshold for training at $25,000 before it is subject to FAR contracting procedures, your department may allow for payments in excess of the typical $2,500 limit for training expenses. Check with your card program coordinator or training resource to determine whether or not higher-cost training can be placed on the Visa Purchase card.

Can having a Visa Purchase card negatively affect my credit?

No. Being issued a government purchase card will not affect/hurt your credit rating. Visa Purchase cards have government liability, whereby financial responsibility lies with the U.S. Government.

Why do I need to have a credit check or creditworthiness evaluation completed before I can be issued a card?

In recent years, Congress has included a requirement that the creditworthiness of an individual be assessed before that individual is issued a government charge card, in order to minimize fraud and misuse by an individual undergoing financial hardship. However, this requirement was removed in the latest legislative language. The OMB Circular is currently being revised to be consistent with the intent of the legislation.

Does the Visa Purchase card allow me to make purchases over $2,500 from a GSA Schedule and not prepare a purchase order?

Yes. The Visa Purchase card may generally be used to place Schedule orders in accordance with agency procedures. Most agencies allow paperless electronic purchases via GSA Advantage! Check with your program coordinator for specific limits and restrictions.

How long must a credit card purchase file be retained?

Certified billing statements and supporting documents must be maintained for six years and three months to fulfill a financial management requirement. Cardholder statements can be disposed of three years after final payment, according to FAR 4.805—Storage, Handling, and Disposal of Contract Files.

Is Visa Purchase exempt from Federal tax?

The Government is exempt from Federal Communications and Highway Vehicle users tax. FAR 29.203 states, pursuant to 26 USC 4293, “The Secretary of the Treasury has exempted the Federal government from the communications excise tax imposed in 26 USC 4251, when the supplies and services are for the exclusive use of the United States.” (Secretarial Authorization, June 20, 1947, Internal Revenue Cumulative Bulletin, 1947-1,205.)

Is Visa Purchase exempt from State sales tax?

Most states grant an exemption from sales tax based upon recognition of the SmartPay bank identification numbers. The General Services Administration issued a letter to each of the states at the beginning of the SmartPay program, informing them of the purpose of the card and the card prefixes eligible for tax exemption. For concerns about taxes from a particular state, consult your issuer or your card program manager.

Can one individual perform more than one card function?

Most government regulations and best practices require the separation of duties. Separating key responsibilities helps detect errors or attempts at fraud and embezzlement. Key duties include authorizing, approving, and recording transactions; issuing or receiving assets; making payments; preparing checks and check signing; certification of funding; and reviewing or auditing programs. Check with your agency policy regarding separation of duties in the purchase card program.

Can contractors be issued a Visa Purchase card?

Only in very limited applications. Only cost-reimbursable contractors are eligible. These contractors must receive written authorization from the contracting officer responsible for their cost-reimbursable contract authorizing them to use GSA sources of supply or services. The written authorization must follow the guidelines set out in FAR 51.102. These cards are billed to the contractor, making them liable.

What is level 1-3 data and what is its significance?

Data regarding each transaction made on a purchase card is passed by the merchant to its bank and on through the Visa network to enable the payment to be made. The amount of data associated with the transaction determines the level. Merchants have financial incentives to pass more data with each transaction. Government agencies can utilize level 2 and 3 data for data mining, strategic sourcing, and other analytical purposes.

Level 1 Data: Standard commercial transaction data, including total purchase amount, date of purchase, merchant name, etc.

Level 2 Data: Adds additional data to Level 1 data about each purchase, including merchant category code, sales tax amount, accounting code, merchant TIN, minority/women owned business codes, 1099 status and merchant zip code, and other data elements as defined by the Associations or similar entity.

Level 3 Data: This category may also include summary data or full line-item detail. In addition to the data in level 2, level 3 will provide fields for unit cost, quantities, unit of measure, product codes, product descriptions, ship to/from zip codes, freight amount, duty amount, order date, discount amount, and order number, and other data elements.

Why are my transactions declined after making multiple purchases in a day?

Your issuer may have set velocity limits—including transactions per day or dollar value per day—as a fraud prevention measure. If this appears overly restrictive, you can ask your bank to review the controls placed on the various spend rates for the card.

How can I maximize my rebates?

Most issuers offer rebates on a sliding scale—with faster payment resulting in larger rebates. Daily electronic billing and payment are usually associated with the highest rebate offers. If your organization cannot or does not reconcile and make payments daily, you can still maximize your rebate by reconciling and paying as quickly as possible after receipt of your statement.

Can foreign nationals be government purchase cardholders?

Unlike travel cards where the card is issued to an individual, a bank may be able to issue a Visa Purchase card to a foreign national. However, policies may differ across agencies and departments, so consult your card program manager.

Can the Visa Purchase card be used for conference refreshments?

Refreshments for conference participants can usually be approved by the organization sponsoring the conference if they decide it is appropriate. Use of the card for this purpose is subject to local approval. Check with your program coordinator regarding particular policy restrictions.

What is a split purchase?

Splitting is the intentional separation of purchases in order to stay within a cardholder's single purchase limit. In the case where the total purchase would exceed the cardholder's limit, and multiple purchases are made (by the same or different cardholders) in order to stay under the card limit, the transaction is considered a split purchase.

Can the Visa Purchase card be used for recurring monthly telephone bills?

Yes. It may be advisable to establish some form of a contractual agreement with the vendor if this is in the best interest of the government. If a contract is in existence, the card is being used as a payment instrument, and the micro-purchase threshold does not apply. Payments may be authorized above the threshold without additional procurement/contractual authority.

Need further assistance with Visa Government products and solutions? Email us at: publicsector@visa.com. For questions regarding disputed transactions or other issues with your current card activity, contact your issuer.



Related Information

Fast Fact

With a Visa Purchase card, average cost per transaction drops from $91.13 to $21.79—an average savings of $69 per transaction.

Source: Purchase Card Benchmark Survey Results, 2003