Travel & Reimbursable Services

Washington State University
Travel Services

Travel & Reimbursable Expense Services is dedicated to being experts in Travel for Washington State University, following the policies and the laws of the State of Washington. Travel & Reimbursable Expense Services is committed to providing exceptional operational support to our WSU partners. Travel & Reimbursable Expense Services strives to be knowledgeable and a well trusted resource to everyone we serve.


Prior approval is required for ALL official University travel outside of the State of Washington in order for the traveler to be eligible:

  • To travel on behalf of WSU, and
  • To receive reimbursement for authorized and allowable expenses (see BPPM 95.05).

For employees this also is required in order to be covered under WSU’s worker’s compensation insurance while in travel status


Employee in-state travel allows for verbal approval except when:

  • Requesting an exception to policy, and/or
  • Travel is partially or fully funded by a third party.

All other travel requires written approval done via the Spend Authorization via Workday, or a department’s substitute form.
Note: Departments may have more strict policies and require written approval for all travel.


The Spend Authorization, or the department’s substitute form, has to include:

  • The traveler;
  • Business purpose of the trip;
  • Detailed itinerary, with dates of when the traveler will be in various locations;
  • Any exceptions to policy;
  • Signature of official authorized to approve travel; and
  • Detailed budget of authorized expenses, including:
    • Program/Project/Gift/Grant Number
    • Cost Center/Fund/Region
    • Amount


Daily Per Diem Rates include the total of the lodging rate plus the meals and incidentals (M&IE) rate. The rates are set by various state departments based on the locations.

  • The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) sets the CONUS Rates for the continental U.S.
  • The Department of Defense sets the OCONUS Rates for Alaska, Hawaii, U.S. Territories, and Possessions.
  • The State Department sets Foreign Rates.

The following links contain additional information on per diem rates.


CONUS and OCONUS locations do not include taxes. Only the nightly rate needs to be under the per diem amount for that location.

Foreign locations include taxes. The nightly rate, plus associated taxes, needs to be under the per diem amount for that location.


The meal rate used at WSU combines the allowance for meal and incidental expenses into a single rate. To determine the rate for the meals while in travel status, apply the below percentages to the daily Meals and Incidentals (M&I) rate:

  • 25% for breakfast,
  • 30% for lunch, and
  • 45% for dinner.

Note: This is to be applied to all rate schedules.


The WSU Travel Charge Card is a personal liability Visa card issued to WSU employees to be used for payment of expenses incurred while traveling on behalf of WSU. The benefit of the Travel Charge Card is that the employee does not have to use personal resources to pay for business trip expenses. Upon return a Expense Report still has to be completed and the balance on the card paid in full with the reimbursement from WSU.

For more information, policies, and forms, see: Card Programs – Travel Charge Cards


Travelers may be reimbursed for the following types of expenses while in travel status via Workday Create Expense Report process:


– Reimbursed at the actual cost up to the daily maximum allowable lodging rate in effect at the time of travel for the location.

  • Travelers must use a commercial lodging facility in order to seek reimbursement.
    • Shared venue lodging (i.e. AirBNB, VRBO, etc.) have been classified as commercial lodging facilities per the State and are allowable per WSU policy as of June 2017.
  • Lodging within 50 miles of the closer of either the traveler’s official residence or official station is not reimbursable.


– Reimbursed at the meal rate in effect at the time of travel for the location. Location for overnight trips is based on where the traveler sleeps; for single day trips it is the primary destination.

  • If actual cost is used, an itemized receipt is required and reimbursement will be capped at per diem for the location and time.
    • No reimbursement for alcohol.
  • For single day trips that meet the 11-Hour Rule, all qualified meal reimbursements are taxable. If the 11-Hour Rule is not met the meals are not reimbursable.
  • Meals are not reimbursable if provided regardless if:
    • The cost was included in a registration fee;
    • The meal does not comply with dietary decisions for religious or other optional choices; or
    • The traveler attended the function where the meal was served.
      • Example: Chose not to attend the reception and dinner at a conference.


– When available, the tourist-class air fare is the maximum amount that is reimbursed regardless of mode chosen. Price comparisons are required when a different mode is chosen.

  • Rental cars are reimbursed at rental cost and actual gas receipts (see BPPM 95.12).
  • Privately-owned vehicles are reimbursed at the applicable mileage rate for miles traveled outside of standard commute (see BPPM 95.11).
    • WSU is not liable for any damage to the vehicle while in travel status.


– Other expenses essential to the transaction of official state business are reimbursable to the traveler.

  • Any miscellaneous travel expenses in excess of $50 must be submitted with original receipts.
  • Any miscellaneous non-travel expenses require a receipt regardless of amount.
    • If the expense is more than $50 it should be purchased through standard purchasing channels.


– Reimbursed at actual cost.



Personal expenses and those not essential to the transaction of official state business are not reimbursable. The following is a non-exhaustive list of expenses that are not reimbursable:

  • Duty station parking
  • Trip/health/travel insurance
  • Medical/hospital services
  • Childcare
  • Shipping charges for any personal items
  • Room service
  • Any expense paid with miles/points/bitcoins
  • Itinerary changes without a business purpose (i.e. change/cancellation fees, etc.)
  • Expenses/fees due to negligence of the traveler (i.e. fines or parking tickets, locksmith, missed flight, etc.)
  • Personal entertainment expenses, including transportation to and from the location
  • Bellhop services
  • Valet parking, unless it is required
  • Cash paid to other traveler
  • Alcohol
  • Airline club membership and fees
  • Spouse/dependent expenses without a bona fide business purpose
  • Fuel for personally owned vehicles
  • Tolls associated with the use of high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes or associated with daily commute
  • Claims associated with rental car damage when renter did not use WSU’s state contract and opted out of the loss damage coverage

Note:There may be additional restrictions based on the funding source as well.


WSU follows an accountable plan, as outlined in IRS regulation 463. In order to meet the accountable plan per the IRS, the following three conditions must be met:

  • The expenses must have a business connection.
    • The trip purpose on the Expense Report is needed to document this, along with an audit of the expenses and whether they are essential to the transaction of official state business. Our team will request additional information if the business purpose of the expense is unclear.
  • The expenses must be substantiated and adequately accounted for within a reasonable time.
    • The IRS has defined the reasonable time being within 60 days from when the expenses are paid or incurred. WSU will use the trip end date and the date the claimant signed the Expense Report to determine if this requirement is met.
  • Any excess reimbursements/advances are returned within a reasonable time.
    • The IRS has defined the reasonable time being within 120 days after the expense was paid or incurred. WSU will use the date the excess reimbursement or the advance was paid to the employee to determine if this requirement is met.

Note:  If these conditions are not met, the applicable amount will be reported to Payroll Services and payroll taxes deducted from the WSU employee’s paycheck. The applicable amounts will be reported as additional taxable income in box 1 of their W-2.


  • If claiming meals and lodging, a location to determine the allowable per diem rate is required:
    • For single day trips use the primary location of the trip.
    • For overnight trips, IRS publication 463 requires all meals to be reimbursed at the rate in effect for the area where the traveler stops for sleep. The meal reimbursement rate for the last day of travel (return day) would continue to be the rate for the location where the traveler last stopped for sleep.


  • Travelers must be in travel status during the entire meal period(s) in order to qualify for meal reimbursement (SAAM 10.40.50.b):
    • Breakfast: 7 am thru 9 am
    • Lunch: 12 pm thru 2 pm
    • Dinner: 5 pm thru 7 pm


For non-overnight travel assignments (single day trips), a traveler may be reimbursed for meal expenses when the traveler has been in travel status for at least eleven hours.  If the 11-Hour Rule (SAAM 10.40.50.b) is not met, meals are not reimbursable. For non-overnight travel assignments, meal payments that are a fringe benefit are taxable on the traveler’s W2.

Helpful Resources

The following documents are helpful resources for travelers and administrators. These should be reviewed prior to traveling, or authorizing travel. Keep in mind policies change regularly and it is advised to review them periodically to ensure you are aware of updated information.

Travel FAQ

Complete an Affidavit of Lost Receipt when a receipt is lost or inadequate. The receipt is inadequate if it does not properly show detailed information of the expense, including date and time, location, vendor, amount, and that the expense had been paid in full.  Lodging and airfare that is submitted with an Affidavit of Lost Receipt will also need to have a bank statement or other proof of payment submitted along with the request.

Reimbursements for expenses incurred prior to the trip are not allowed per state policy. If the traveler meets the travel advance requirements they can be issued an advance to defray the costs expected to be incurred for the trip. Our policy states a traveler must:

  • Be an employee;
  • In travel status for more than 14 days; and
  • Have no outstanding advances

WSU policy also states that the traveler cannot receive the advance more than 30 days prior to the trip start date.  If the request is outside of state policy (i.e. for a student, more than 30 days prior to the trip start date, or for airfare) the advance would have to be issued on 17A funds. Advances are then cleared upon returning from the trip via a TEV substantiating the expenses.

Access training materials on the Workday Knowledge base website. Here you search for your specific inquires.

The University maintains a zero tolerance policy for any personal usage of University Travel Charge Cards.  Because the card is issued by Washington State University for University business travel expenses, the University may cancel the card account for misuse and/or payment delinquency.

Yes. Students traveling on behalf of WSU can have their lodging direct billed regardless of whether they have a hourly position.  The student’s department is responsible for making the arrangements.

WSU is not responsible for repairs to personal automobiles. The POV mileage rate that individuals are reimbursed at factors in the cost of owning and operating a vehicle, which includes maintenance and personal insurance as that is the primary coverage when choosing to travel via POV.

If the rate is offered to all government employees, whether or not they are on official business, then yes.  If the hotel requires you to be on official business, then you cannot accept the government rate.  To do so would be to use your official position to secure a special privilege.  Reference:  WA State Ethics Board

WSU has coverage for faculty and staff who travel to foreign lands, with information found in the Program Summary and on the Risk Management site. If additional information is needed contact the WSU Risk Manager to get answers to specific questions. For the plan for students and their travel coverage contact International Programs.