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Travelers (employees and non-employees) must ensure that their travel expenses are for valid University business-related purposes; are in accordance with University policies and procedures; and are a prudent use of public and University funds. Travelers are expected to choose low-cost options that meets their scheduling and business needs. Departments have the discretion to require that travelers obtain approval prior to travel.
External research sponsors may have more or less restrictive rules than the University. Travelers traveling on sponsored funds must follow the most restrictive rules/requirements (University policy or sponsor rules). If the sponsor has given prior written approval, expenses generally not allowed on non-sponsored funds may be allowed on sponsored funds.
All travel to an international destination for University business must be registered prior to the trip. See Administrative Procedure: Registering International Travel (Faculty and Staff).
Travelers wishing to visit countries subject to U.S. embargoes must consult with the University's Export Controls Officer prior to departure. See the GPS Alliance: Export Controls website for more details.
Travel expenses must be reviewed and approved in accordance with Administrative Policy: Financial Transaction Approvals and Routing. Someone one level senior to the traveler or another person who has been delegated approval is required to approve travel expenses.
Approvers are responsible for validating that all expenses: comply with University policy; are a prudent use of public and University funds; are appropriately documented; and are submitted and accounted for in a timely manner. Travel expenses incurred on sponsored funds must also follow certified approver program rules and guidelines.
Departments, colleges, campuses, and vice presidential units are prohibited from establishing their own separate policies in lieu of this University-wide policy.
All travelers on University business must register their international travel in advance of the trip, regardless of funding source. There is no central authorization for international travel; authorization remains at the local collegiate or departmental level. See Administrative Procedure: Registering International Travel (Faculty and Staff).
Travelers are responsible for checking their destinations for any State Department Travel Advisories in advance of international travel. Units cannot require an unwilling employee to travel on University business to a location that is subject to a Travel Advisory Level 3 or Level 4.
Travelers are responsible for understanding their international insurance options, including any coverage provided by the University, and needs that may exceed current coverage and require purchase of additional insurance. See Appendix: Worldwide Travel Accident Insurance Coverage.
University faculty or staff planning to send or take students overseas must:
- Ensure students complete requirements covered in Administrative Procedure: Preparing for Education Abroad Opportunities.
- Ensure that students complete the student travel registry process.
- Ensure that students planning travel to a location that the U.S. State Department has labeled a Level 3 or Level 4 Travel Advisory receive approval in advance of travel from the International Travel Risk Assessment and Advisory Committee (ITRAAC) by completing the application process outlined on the GPS Alliance Travel Approval Refer to Administrative Procedure: Travel Approval (ITRAAC)for more information about the ITRAAC approval process.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury prohibits unauthorized financial and other transactions, such as travel, with (a) embargoed countries, and (b) entities identified on the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list.
Travelers wishing to visit any of these countries must first consult with the University's Export Controls Officer, who will assess the relevant regulations, advise travelers of permitted and prohibited activities, and obtain any necessary licenses. The process of obtaining a license to travel to an embargo country can take as long as two to three months, so travelers are advised to contact the Export Controls Officer as soon as possible.
Travelers to all international destinations must comply with U.S. export control laws and regulations, including, without limitation, the Export Administration Regulations (13 CFR Parts 730-774), the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (22CFR Parts 120-130), and the Foreign Assets Control Regulations (31 CFR Parts 501-598). Please direct all questions about these laws and regulations to the Export Controls Officer.
Fly America Act
Air travel paid for with federal sponsored funds must be consistent with the Fly America Act regulations, 41 C.F.R. §§ 301-10.131, et seq. These regulations provide a requirement that states that generally travelers may not spend federal funds on flights operated by foreign flag air carriers. In other words, unless an exception applies, travelers may only use sponsored funds that originate with a federal agency for travel on U.S. flag air carriers. For more information on Fly America Act requirements and exceptions, see the University's U Travel: Fly America Act website.
Paying for Travel
Travelers should use the University Travel Card for travel expenses. See Administrative Policy: Using the University Travel Card.
Traveler should not pay for or request reimbursement for expenses incurred by another traveler, including meals.
In cases where the traveler has incurred an expense that is unallowable (either through Travel card, PCard purchases, advances, or otherwise), the funds will be recovered from the traveler by one of the following methods:
- Travel Card: before submitting the expense report for approval, the traveler will be prompted to select a one-time payroll deduction or receive a bill by email.
- Out-of-pocket reimbursements or PCard: the department should follow the Administrative Procedure: Creating a Bill.
- In cases where the employee does not submit payment as required above, the employee and the Controller’s Office will establish a payment plan under which the Controller’s Office will work with the Office of Human Resources to have the amount owed deducted from the employee's paycheck.
- For amounts deemed uncollectable (for example, the traveler is no longer a University employee), the Controller’s Office may seek legal remedies against individuals who do not repay improper charges and reimbursements or report the amount due to Payroll as taxable compensation to the individual.
Situations resulting in the traveler owing the University should be avoided and not recurring.
In circumstances where the University and a third party pay for the same travel expenses, the traveler must ensure that the duplicate reimbursement is returned to the University within 60 days. Where situations arise and the third party is slow to pay for their portion of the trip, the traveler should consult with the unit’s Chief Financial Manager as soon as possible.
Where budget constraints, compliance risks, or other factors warrant variations from this University policy, the Chief Financial Manager should work with the appropriate central system wide office(s) to address the circumstances.
Cash advances may be available in specifically defined circumstances. See Administrative Policy: Cash Advances.
In some situations, departments provide a set dollar amount for travel or “lump sum”, irrespective of the total cost of the trip. Travelers must still comply with this policy and the limits within.
Currency Exchange (International Travel)
When expenses are incurred in foreign currencies, travelers must:
- Submit foreign expenses in U.S. dollars using the exchange rate provided in Chrome River on the date of the expense.
- For purchases made with a personal credit card, use the exchange rates provided by the credit card company. Include documentation indicating the exchange rates used to make the conversions.
- When using the University’s Travel Card, exchange rates are handled by the bank.
Documenting Travel Expenses
Travelers must substantiate and document all travel expenses in accordance with the Administrative Policy: Documenting Financial/Accounting Transactions. Receipts are not required to request per diem for meals and incidentals. Receipts are required for all other expenses greater than $25
Travelers must submit their expense report by the specified deadline(s) below:
- Travel Card – 60 days from expense date
- Procurement Card – 30 days from expense date
- Out-of-pocket expenses – 60 days from end date of trip
- For travel on sponsored projects, travelers must submit reimbursement requests before the end date of the grant.
- All expenses should be processed in the fiscal year in which they occurred, irrespective of whether sponsored funds or non-sponsored funds are used.
Out-of-pocket travel reimbursement requests not submitted within 60 days of the trip end date must route to the Chief Financial Manager and should be denied. If rare and extenuating circumstances exist, the Chief Financial Manager may determine that the expenses may be reimbursed and has the authority to determine when the reimbursement will be reported as taxable income. A taxable reimbursement must be reported to Payroll for inclusion in the traveler's calendar year taxable compensation. Sponsored funds may not be used for these taxable reimbursements, regardless of whether or not the travel was related to the grant/contract.
Combined Business and Personal Travel
Travelers may choose to combine personal travel with University business travel. Travel must be primarily for business purposes to receive a reimbursement of transportation expenses tax-free. Travelers are prohibited from using University funds for their personal travel. At the time travel is booked, obtain a price comparison for the trip that does not include personal travel and include the price comparison with the expense report. This includes situations where the traveler has selected an indirect route or interrupts travel for personal convenience.
Reimbursement Requests for Non-Travel Status Expenses
The Administrative Policy: Business Expenses covers situations, such as same day/extended day travel or local mileage (between campuses where the trip there/back took place in one day).
Travel by air is limited to the lowest, non-refundable, fare class available at the time of booking that meets the requirements listed below and meets the traveler’s needs.
- Basic Economy
- Not recommended because seat assignments are not assigned until check-in and ticket changes or upgrades are not allowed
- Economy- allowed for all flights
- Premium Economy – allowed for flights 4 or more hours with no additional approval
- Business – allowed for flights 8 or more hours (including connecting domestic legs). Travelers should obtain pre-approval from their supervisor. Supervisors may deny a portion of the airfare if the traveler does not obtain pre-approval for the upgrade.
- First – not allowed
Each airline may have different designations for fare/seat classes than those listed above. Contact Purchasing Services if the traveler is unsure what fare class to book.
- Fees to reserve coach/economy seats ahead of check-in are allowed.
- Baggage: The first piece of baggage within the airlines’ weight and size limits is allowable. Costs for additional baggage beyond the first piece and overweight or oversized baggage may be allowable with a valid business justification.
As a best practice to mitigate risk, no more than 20 University faculty, staff, or Regents should fly on the same plane at the same time.
Accrual and Use of Frequent Flyer Miles
Frequent flyer miles or any other benefit issued by an airline must accrue to the benefit of the University whenever University funds are used to pay for airline travel, regardless of the origination of those funds (for example, from state or federal grants, contracts, appropriations, or private donors). Travelers may not use these miles for their personal travel. See Minnesota State Statute, 15.435.
Travelers, rather than departments, are responsible for tracking miles earned with University funds, and providing records of such tracking upon request. When travelers have accumulated enough frequent flyer miles to earn free travel, they must use the miles for University travel.
Infrequent travelers (those who take no more than two trips per year) are not required to track frequent flyer miles.
Travelers should use the least expensive method of ground transportation that meets the traveler's schedule and business needs (for example, airport shuttles, taxis, car rentals, app-based ride services (such as Uber or Lyft), train or bus travel).
Travelers should rent vehicles only when necessary, or when doing so reduces overall transportation charges to the University. Additional ground transportation expenses will not be reimbursed during the time a traveler has rented a vehicle (for example, cab fare or app-based ride services).
If it is necessary to rent or lease a vehicle, departments are encouraged to use Fleet Services for local rentals or rent through one of the Big 10 contracted suppliers (Enterprise or National Car Rental). See Administrative Policy: Using Vehicles for University Business for information and rates related to renting or leasing vehicles for local use.
When renting a vehicle for domestic and international travel, two types of insurance are required:
Physical Damage: Covers damage to the rental vehicle. This insurance:
- Is NOT provided by the University;
- Is provided automatically when renting vehicles from the Big Ten contracted rental suppliers; and
- Must be elected when using any other supplier.
Liability: Covers damages to other parties arising from the use of the vehicle. This insurance:
- Is provided by the University for vehicle rental in the US. Travelers do not need to purchase this coverage separately at the time of auto rental.
- Is NOT provided by the University for vehicle rental outside the United States. International travelers must purchase liability insurance from the rental supplier to ensure full protection and compliance with local law and practice.
See Appendix Reimbursable/Non-reimbursable Travel Related Expenses for the types of insurance that are reimbursable.
Departments may reimburse travelers for the cost of vehicle rentals and gas charges, but not mileage. Travelers should confirm whether an international driver's license is required when renting a vehicle outside of the United States.
Travelers may use their personal vehicle in the course of required University travel in accordance with the Administrative Policy: Using Vehicles for University Business. Travelers may request reimbursement for domestic or international mileage using the IRS standard mileage rate. Mileage to and from location of employment is not a reimbursable expense.
If a traveler elects to drive a vehicle in lieu of flying, a price comparison for airfare must be done by the traveler prior to the trip and submitted with the expense report. Any additional expenses, such as lodging, car rental fees, mileage, or parking, up to the amount of the lowest economy airfare that would have met the traveler’s needs is what is typically allowable.
The University requires charter carriers, such as charter airlines, helicopters, buses, and boats, to demonstrate a specified level of insurance coverage when they are providing services to the University. Departments arranging charter services must have the contract reviewed by the University's Office of the General Counsel (OGC) prior to making the arrangements.
Travelers must not travel by private plane or air charter services, regardless of cost, without a signed contract that has been reviewed and approved by the Office of General Counsel.
Travelers are prohibited from piloting personal or leased aircrafts while on University business travel. If they choose to do so, the University will not consider the traveler to be acting in an official capacity of the University nor will the University reimburse the traveler for any related expenses.
Itemized receipts are required for all lodging. For lodging examples, see Appendix: Mileage, Lodging, Meals & Incidentals Examples.
Travelers may choose to stay with family, friends, or colleagues while in travel status, but lodging and other related costs are not allowable.
Expenses may not exceed 150% of the lodging per diem nightly rate (before taxes) for the destination city. Actual nightly rate lodging expenses (excluding taxes and fees) for the trip may not exceed the cumulative total allowable lodging per diem.
|Location of Travel||Per Diem Rates|
|Domestic Travel||U.S. General Services Administration (GSA)|
|Hawaii and Alaska||Department of Defense
|International Travel||U.S. Department of State|
Travelers may use vacation rental sites (for example, Airbnb, VRBO) if there is a cost savings over traditional lodging and other related travel expenses. When entering into a contract for a vacation rental, the contract should be in the name of the traveler. In cases when the contract is under the name of the Regents of the University of Minnesota, travelers must follow the Administrative Policy: Entering into Contracts.
The traveler’s supervisor must approve lodging expenses that exceed the allowable limits or use of vacation rentals. In these instances, travelers should obtain pre-approval prior to making lodging reservations by:
- Creating a Pre-Approval in Chrome River; or
- Completing the Request for Lodging Exception (DOCX) form and attaching it to the expense report when submitting lodging expenses for approval.
Lodging expenses do not need to follow the lodging per diem nightly rate, since the traveler is paying a pre-negotiated rate offered by the conference. In cases where conference facilities are completely booked, travelers should obtain lodging based on the non-conference guidelines provided above and obtain pre-approval if the rate exceeds 150%.
In certain circumstances, such as when a department or college hosts a multi-day conference or event on/near a University campus, an employee may stay overnight at a hotel, only when the department or college has pre-approved the stay. The employee must document the specific circumstances that require the local stay.
When traveling on University business, travelers are prohibited from sharing rooms or bedrooms with students, minor children who are not related to the employee, or subordinate employees.
Travelers cannot be required to share a room or bedroom.
If travelers choose to share rooms, each room must be within the maximum allowable lodging per diem. Each traveler should pay for their own lodging and request their own itemized receipt. In instances where one traveler pays entire lodging expenses and receives one itemized receipt, the traveler who pays should prorate the room costs, if practical, to properly reflect each traveler’s share of the lodging expense. This allows for a more accurate cost split, especially for travelers funded by multiple sources.
Meals and Incidentals
Travelers are responsible for using personal funds to pay for meal and incidental expenses. The University will reimburse these expenses using federally established per diem rates for the destination city of their travel. Travelers may use one location (for example, lodging location) for per diem for each day of travel. Actual per diem rates are pre-loaded and calculated in the expense system.
|Location of Travel||Per Diem Rates|
|Domestic Travel||U.S. General Services Administration (GSA)|
|Hawaii and Alaska||Department of Defense
|International Travel||U.S. Department of State|
Travelers do not need to provide receipts (under any circumstances) for reimbursement of travel meals or incidental expenses included in the daily per diem. Maximum M&IE per diem rates include meal tax and tips, ATM fees, service tips, etc. See Appendix: Per Diem – Lodging, Meals & Incidentals.
First and last days of travel meal per diems are calculated at 75% irrespective of the time of day that the traveler leaves or arrives back home.
Travelers will not be reimbursed for:
- Meal expenses exceeding the maximum meal rate for their destination city; or
- When a traveler’s meal is part of a conference or event, the traveler should deduct the appropriate meal from their meal per diem for the day.
Travelers should not submit or request reimbursement for any of these items, as they are included in the daily incidental amount.
- Gratuities for baggage carriers, porters, and hotel staff
- ATM fees, bank fee, and check cashing charges
- Laundry and valet expenses (international travel)
Travelers may request reimbursement for laundry for domestic travel lasting seven or more consecutive days.
For special expenses, such as meals in conjunction with business entertainment and alcoholic beverages see Administrative Policy: Hospitality and Entertainment of Non-Employees.
University students who travel on behalf of the University for official University business either as students or as University employees if the University financially supports their travel, are required to follow this policy.
This policy does not apply to students using personal resources to fund their travel. However, if the travel is for University purposes, students must adhere to the other relevant policies.
Students traveling abroad, regardless of funding source, are responsible for adhering to Administrative Policy: Student Travel and Education Abroad: Health and Safety.
If students miss any classes due to traveling on University business they are responsible for adhering to Administrative Policy: Makeup Work for Legitimate Absences: Twin Cities, Crookston, Morris, and Rochester or the UMD Academic Affairs Policy on Excused Absences.
Accounting for Student Travel Expenses
Units must follow the Office of Student Finance guidelines and policies when determining the proper accounting for student travel expenses. For additional information, see the Academic Support Resources website.
Travel expenses for University students not performing services for the University may be paid or reimbursed as a fellowship or scholarship through financial aid (for example, if a student is traveling to present research to obtain their degree and the University is supporting the travel). Consult with the Office of Student Finance for proper handling of payments to students. For additional information on paying students, see the Tax Management Office Guidelines #8 Payments to Students.
Non-employees and persons of interest (POIs) who travel on behalf of the University may be reimbursed for travel-related expenses. Best practice is for the University to arrange and pay directly for non-employee lodging and airfare. Meals and lodging must be reimbursed as actual expenses, not to exceed the per diem limits in this policy. Receipts are required for all non-employee expenses.
If the travel qualifies as a bona fide hospitality expense, expenses must be supported by adequate documentation that substantiates the business purpose of the expense. See Administrative Policy: Hospitality and Entertainment of Non-Employees to ensure proper policy application and approval.
Expenses incurred by a spouse or personal guest are not reimbursable expenses, unless the expenses conform to the acceptable conditions outlined in Administrative Policy: Hospitality and Entertainment of Non-Employees.
Professional Service Providers
Contracts with professional service providers should include specific language that covers travel expenses that comply with this policy. See Administrative Policy: Purchasing a Professional Service.
Travel and other related expenses for non-employee participants attending conferences, workshops, etc. as part of a sponsored project or non-sponsored activity may be paid to the participant as a stipend via normal accounts payable processes. An official supplier record should be established. Departments must ensure that the non-employee is not being reimbursed for an expense that the University paid for directly with another supplier. Payments must comply with University accounts payable policies and procedures A Contract for Professional Services is not required to pay stipends to non-employees.
University general liability coverage insurance covers employees for liabilities they may incur that directly arise from the course and scope of their employment activities, including those activities undertaken while traveling with a university program.
University general liability coverage insurance covers students for liabilities they may incur that directly arise from activities essential to and required by their course of study, including those activities undertaken while traveling with a University program. University general liability insurance does NOT cover students engaged in activities not required to fulfill University requirements.
Contracts or agreements will specify coverage for non-employees or for volunteer workers.
University insurance does not cover student or employee personal property or effects.
This policy does not govern hospitality expenses or other non-travel related expenses. Refer to Administrative Policy: Hospitality and Entertainment of Non-Employees and Administrative Policy: Business Expenses.
Reason for Policy
This policy provides standards that ensure safe and economical University travel while maintaining necessary controls, accountability, compliance with applicable federal and state laws, and administrative efficiency. The international travel reporting requirement allows travelers to receive pre-travel resources and reduce expense in locating and assisting University travelers in the event of an in-country crisis. This policy is intended to ensure compliance with the accountable plan rules of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. Treasury Department.