Travel Expense Guide

Managing Travel Expenses

There are several payment options available to pay for Columbia-Supported Travel which must adhere to specific policies and timelines. These options require various information about the trip and travelers which include, but are not limited to: travel/participant roster with names as they appear on a student’s government-issued I.D., destination, event verification (in the case of a competition or conference), completed university forms, credit card/bank documents, and written travel budget.

Before making a decision on what payment option to use to pay for your travel, make sure you understand what documentation is required and how much processing time is needed and review this information with your adviser.

All payment options begin with an adviser-approved FTF. Do not purchase any travel without an adviser-approved FTF.

Conference Fees

Payment for Conference Fees

  • University Check (6 weeks advance processing time and a W9 from the conference organization)
  • Out-of-pocket reimbursement (10-20 business days processing time after paper work has been submitted)
  • Cash/Travel advance (10-20 business days advance processing time)
  • Purchasing Card (Your group adviser can facilitate these payments with at least 48-business-hour advance notice)

Possible Documentation Requirements (depending on method of payment) for Conference Fees

  • Completed conference registration
  • Proof of payment
  • Cost of conference
  • Number of participants
  • Dates of conference
  • Flyer or website screenshot for event
  • Completed T&B form
  • Completed W9 (W8 for non-U.S. students)
  • Credit card/Bank statement showing payment

Transportation to Destination

For ABC groups:  Expenses associated with travel to a destination can only be paid up to 50% through allocation; the balance must be paid with revenue or personal contributions (out-of-pocket and reimbursable using non-allocated funds)

For IGB and SGB groups:  Up to 100% of travel to a destination can be paid through allocation

Airline Ticket Purchases

Purchase as early in advance as possible (at least 14 days in advance) at lowest available rate for coach/economy seats using:

  • STA Travel (2871 Broadway | 212/865-2700) using an FTF and invoice
  • Divisional Travel Card (advance planning is required- at least 3-4 weeks in advance)  
  • Cash/Travel advance using debit card (10-20 business days advance processing time before the purchase can be made)
  • Out-of-pocket reimbursement (10-20 business days processing time after paper work has been submitted)

Bus/Train Ticket Purchases

Purchase at lowest available rate for coach/economy seats, unless traveling on Amtrak’s Acela train, in which business class is allowed using:

  • Divisional Travel Card (advance planning is required- at least 3-4 weeks in advance)  
  • Cash/Travel advance using debit card (6 weeks advance processing time before the purchase can be made)
  • Out-of-pocket reimbursement (6 weeks processing time after paper work has been submitted)

Possible Documentation Requirements (depending on method of payment) for Airline, Bus, Train travel

  • Itemized receipt
  • Ticket or e-ticket showing the traveler’s name
  • Dates of travel
  • Class of travel
  • Credit card/Bank statement showing payment
  • Completed T&B form
  • Completed W9 (W8 for non-U.S. students)

Rental Car Reservations

General Information About Rental Car Reservations

  • Please note that students may not use personal vehicle for Columbia-Supported Travel.
  • The university preferred vendor for car rentals is Hertz, but Enterprise is another approved vendor for rental cars out of New York City only.
  • Compact or intermediate/mid-sized cars are allowed.  Minivans and SUVs are acceptable if traveling with a group, but speak with your group adviser first.
  • Make your reservation in your name, making sure to purchase insurance (Collision Damage Waiver/Loss Damage Waiver, Liability Insurance Supplement and Personal Accident Insurance). Then contact your financial adviser to transfer the expense to the appropriate Columbia account.
  • Gas and tolls are acceptable rental car costs.

Payment for Rental Cars

  • Hertz/Enterprise using an invoice and FTF  
  • Cash/Travel advance (6 weeks advance processing time before the purchase can be made) – be sure to ask rental companies about restrictions on cash and debit card payments
  • Out-of-pocket reimbursement (6 weeks processing time after paper work has been submitted)

Possible Documentation Requirements (depending on method of payment) for Rental Cars

  • Company-issued rental agreement
  • Credit card/Bank statement showing payment
  • Completed T&B form
  • Completed W9 (W8 for non-U.S. students)

Hotel Accommodations

For ABC groups:  Hotel expenses can only be paid up to 50% through allocation; the balance must be paid with revenue or personal contributions (out-of-pocket and reimbursable using non-allocated funds).

For IGB and SGB groups:  100% of expenses can be paid/reimbursable

Hotel should be chosen based on price and proximity to event. Make your reservation in your name using your credit card.

Payment for Hotels

  • University Check (6 weeks advanced processing time and a W9 and invoice from the hotel) - check will be mailed to the hotel prior to check-in.  'Hold check for pick-up' option is only available in rare instances and at the sole discretion of a senior business officer.
  • Out-of-pocket reimbursement
  • Cash/Travel advances
  • Divisional Travel Card (advance planning is required- at least 3-4 weeks in advance and hotel's credit card authorization form)

Possible Documentation Requirements (depending on method of payment) for Hotels

  • Hotel’s folio
  • Credit card/Bank statement showing payment
  • Completed T&B form
  • Completed W9 (W8 for international students)

Ground Transportation at Destination

For transport to and from airport, conferences, etc., use taxis, buses, private car services, shuttle services, car rental (Hertz and Enterprise). Tipping (up to 15%) is allowed. Payment can be made using:

  • Cash/Travel advance (6 weeks advance processing)
  • Out-of-pocket reimbursement (6 weeks processing time after paper work has been submitted)

Documentation Requirements for Ground Transportation

  • Itemized receipt
  • Credit card/Bank statement showing payment
  • Completed T&B form
  • Completed W9 (W8 for international students)

Meals

For ABC groups:  Food must be paid for with revenue or personal contributions (out-of-pocket and reimbursable using non-allocated funds); ABC will not allow this expense to be covered by allocation

For IGB and SGB groups: will reimburse in accordance with Divisional and University policies:

General Information About Meals

  • Up to 20% gratuity is allowed unless already added onto bill.
  • Room Service and alcoholic beverages are not reimbursable.
  • Snacks are only reimbursable if it is a substitute for an authorized meal.
  • Meals will not be reimbursed for amounts exceeding the following thresholds, excluding tax and tip:
    • Breakfast threshold: $25 per person
    • Lunch threshold: $35 per person
    • Dinner threshold: $50 per person

Payment for Meals

  • Cash/Travel advance (6 weeks advance processing)
  • Out-of-pocket reimbursement (6 weeks processing time after paper work has been submitted)

Documentation Requirements for Meals

  • Itemized receipt
  • Credit card/Bank statement showing payment
  • Completed T&B form
  • Completed W9 (W8 for international students)
  • Number of attendees for all meals (names required if 10 or less people)
  • Date and location of meal
  • Type of meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner)

Miscellaneous Expenses that are Not Allowed

  • Clothing or toiletry items
  • Frequent flyer miles (Travelers will not be reimbursed for airline tickets purchased, partially purchased or accommodations and upgrades obtained using frequent flyer miles.)
  • Loss or theft of cash advance money or airline/train/bus tickets
  • Loss or theft of personal funds or property
  • Lost baggage
  • Magazines, newspapers, personal reading materials
  • Medical expenses while traveling
  • Mini-bar alcoholic
  • Movies
  • “No show” charges for hotel
  • Personal entertainment
  • Recreational expenses
  • Souvenirs or personal gifts
  • Snacks if these are in addition to meals
  • Room service 

These are the common travel expenses most students experience, but not all of them. If you have a question about a travel expense not listed here, see your adviser for help.

Undergraduate Student Life

Visit

510-515 Alfred Lerner Hall
2920 Broadway
New York, NY 10027

Call: (212) 854-3612

Fax: (212) 854-9801

Office Hours
MondayFriday
9:00 a.m.5:00 p.m.

Student Groups & Events

Get your student group news and event information and manage your group memberships.