Buying and Paying
- Support the productivity and safety of those traveling on University business
- Ensure compliance with external and internal requirements
- Use University resources wisely
- Travelers should neither gain nor lose personal funds as a result of business travel on behalf of Princeton University.
- Be sure to have necessary approvals and travel documents in order prior to your travel.
- Book airline tickets as far in advance as possible (ideally 14 days or more) in order to obtain advance purchase discounts and optimal travel times.
- Use University contracted travel suppliers, credit card, and booking and expense management tools.
- Follow the terms of sponsored research agreements for travel under such agreements.
II. Who is Affected by this Policy
- Anyone who travels or entertains on behalf of the University using University or sponsored research funds.
- Anyone who approves or processes travel arrangements and expenses.
An expense that is suitable or fitting for a particular valid business purpose.
A necessary, reasonable, and appropriate expense incurred for the primary benefit of University business and therefore permitted to be reimbursed or directly charged based on the permission of the University or by the terms of federally or privately sponsored agreements.
Travel for the purpose of conducting business for the sole benefit of the University.
Minimum purchase or service required to achieve a particular business objective.
The original merchant receipt or invoice issued by the supplier or service provider to document and substantiate the business transaction. A digital image of the original receipt is allowable provided that it is legible and the paper receipt is destroyed.
A per diem is an allowance determined by the U.S. government to cover meals and incidentals while traveling for business purposes. Per diem amounts are published by the General Services Administration (Domestic) and State Department (International) and are specific to major cities.
An expense that is ordinary and reflects a prudent decision to incur the expense on behalf of University business. Not extreme or excessive.
- PRE- AND POST-TRIP PLANNING
- Funding Sources
University travelers are responsible for understanding and adhering to specific restrictions that may be required by the funder. These restrictions supersede any restrictions outlined in this policy.
- Alternative to Travel
Please consider videoconferencing or web conferencing as an alternative to travel. The University provides a variety of options, including desktop videoconferencing, videoconference rooms, and portable videoconferencing. For more information on video and web conferencing, including available locations and instructions, visit the Videoconferencing website.
- Receipt Requirements
Receipts for all expenditures greater than or equal to $50 are required. Receipts for expenditures less than $50 should not be submitted. If sponsor requirements are more restrictive, the more restrictive receipt requirement will take precedence. If a required receipt has been lost, a missing receipt affidavit must be submitted.
- Cash Advances
Travelers may receive a cash advance to pay for travel expenses when other payment options (e.g. credit card) are not available or do not meet the business need. Advances must be requested and arranged by first contacting the Financial Service Center. Cash advances must be properly substantiated and submitted within certain time limitations. For specific requirements, please see Reimbursement Policy.
- Submission and Approval of Expenses
All travel and entertainment related expenses must be substantiated and submitted for approval within 30 days after the expense is incurred. Expenses that are not submitted in a timely manner may be reported to the IRS as taxable income. For additional detail, please see our reimbursement policy.
It is not necessary to wait until the completion of travel to submit an expense report, and more than one trip may be included in the same report.
Approvers are responsible for verifying that funds are available for the trip and that any required special approvals have been obtained prior to departure (e.g., approval for foreign travel under sponsored projects). Approval of the Expense Report will be taken as evidence of the reasonableness of the claim, the availability of funds, and the necessity of the trip in furtherance of University business.
- Pre-Trip Approval
The traveler is responsible for ensuring that they have the necessary approval from their supervisor to take the trip, and for coordinating with the appropriate business manager to ensure that funds are available.
- Federally Funded or Non-Federally Funded Sponsored Projects or Programs
In order for sponsored project or program funds to pay for travel to scientific, technical, or scholarly meetings, the trip must be approved by the principal investigator as being of definite value to the work covered under the sponsor award. In certain cases, the principal investigator may need to seek sponsor approval for the trip. Sponsor approval requests should be coordinated well in advance of the trip through the Office of Research and Project Administration (ORPA).
Normally, travel to scientific and scholarly meetings at the sponsor’s expense will be limited to project personnel. However, other factors such as the size of the project and the agenda of the meeting may justify sending additional participants. Travel costs incurred by large groups for special activities of the project must be approved in writing by the sponsoring agency and the principal investigator. When a large group attends a scientific meeting, an attempt should be made to obtain reduced rates for travel and hotel accommodations.
Refer to the sponsor guidelines for specific compliance requirements. Questions on sponsor award travel should be directed to ORPA. Questions about group travel should be directed to the Princeton Travel Department.
U.S. Sales, Occupancy, and Other Tax
The University is a non-profit 501(c)(3) institution, and as such is exempt from tax on most domestic purchases. However, tax exemptions vary by state and by type of good or service purchased. University business travelers must make every reasonable effort to ensure that tax is not paid. For more information on tax exemptions, including a list of exemption certificates by state, see: Sales Tax Exemptions.
Foreign Value Added Tax (VAT) and Goods and Services Tax (GST)
Foreign tax, including VAT and GST is an allowable business expense.
- Passports and Visas
Expenses related to visas and passports required for business travel are allowable expenses.
Expenses for vaccinations required for business travel are allowable expenses. University travelers are strongly encouraged to obtain vaccinations through University Health Services.
- Emergency Contacts
The University's Travel Care Program is an important resource to help keep our travelers safe and secure. Traveler's should complete and maintain their profile information, including mobile phone numbers and contact details, within the Concur Travel and Expense system. Additionally, undergraduate students must register through the submission of a Travel Request in Concur, all University sponsored overnight travel, except for within the New York City – Philadelphia corridor, and graduate students must register all University sponsored international travel.
Emergencies When Traveling Overseas
The University has contracted with International SOS to provide worldwide access to emergency and medical assistance services 24 hours a day. International SOS services are designed to help you with access to medical, personal, travel, security, and legal services when away from home. Call International SOS at any time to gain assistance with simple or critical matters.
For additional information, including contact information, and to print an International SOS card, see here.
- Accidents, Thefts, and Other Safety Issues
Accidents, thefts, and other crimes while traveling on university business must be reported immediately to the proper authorities, consistent with local/state laws. In addition, report issues to the Department of Public Safety at (609) 258-1000 and to your home department as soon as possible.
- Exceptions to Travel Policy
There may be unique and valid business needs which require exception to the travel policy. Exceptions must meet a valid business need and not simply a traveler preference, and must be requested prior to incurring the expense. Exceptions must be properly documented on the Expense Report. Please contact the Financial Service Center which can assist in routing the request to the appropriate approver.
- Travel Reimbursed by an Outside Entity
When travel (not part of a sponsored project or program) is paid for by Princeton, but will be reimbursed to Princeton by an outside entity, the traveler is responsible for completing a business travel expense report and indicating that the expense will be reimbursed by an outside entity. In these cases, the department is responsible for billing the outside entity and for ensuring the appropriate funds are received.
- Personal Travel
If personal travel is combined with University business travel, only the business portion of the trip is an allowable expense. Personal expenses should be paid for using personal credit cards or other methods that do not result in the University paying for the personal expense.
- "In Lieu of" and "Tradeoff" Expenditures
Submission of "in lieu of" and "tradeoff" expenses is not allowed. Expenses above the guidelines prescribed by this policy will not be allowed even if the cost is equal to or less than a different hypothetical cost, e.g. two colleagues traveling together are not permitted to rent a luxury vehicle on the basis that two individual compact car rentals would be equally or more expensive.
- Funding Sources
- BOOKING RESERVATIONS
Travel arrangements should be made through the Concur Travel online booking tool or by calling the University's travel management company, World Travel, Inc.
- Reservation Timing
Travel planning should be completed as far in advance as possible, ideally 14 days or more. Advance travel planning is key to obtaining the lowest airfares and securing first choice flight times and room accommodations.
- Frequent Flyer/Guest/Reward Points
Travelers may keep all rewards related to travel (e.g., Delta Sky Miles, Marriot Rewards, etc.). Enrollment fees for these programs are a personal expense and are not allowable. Travelers will not be reimbursed for the value of any personal points used for business travel.
- Itinerary Changes
Fees associated with changes, provided there is a business reason, are allowable. To be allowable on a sponsored research project, the change fee must be justified as having a direct benefit to the research.
- Reservation Timing
- AIR TRAVEL
- Booking Airfare
Reservations should be made in advance, ideally 14 days or more, to ensure the most convenient and cost effective fares. Transaction fees associated with business travel reservations are allowable.
- Airline Requirements for Federally Funded Sponsored Research Projects
Under the Fly America Act (FAA), government regulations require the use of a U.S. air carrier when traveling outside the U.S. In some instances, a non-U.S. air carrier may be used if it meets one or more of the exception criteria listed in the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) guidelines section 301-10.135-138.
For more information about the Fly America Act and how to ensure compliance, see: Fly America Act.
- Fares/Ticket Types
Non-refundable fares should be booked in the majority of cases. Change fees on non-refundable tickets are an allowable business expense. To be allowable on a sponsored research project, the change fee must be justified as having a direct benefit to the research.
- Trip Insurance
Trip cancellation insurance is generally not an allowable expense except in special circumstances, such as group travel.
- Class of Service
Travelers must purchase the lowest available economy class airfare that meets the needs of the business trip. Travelers may upgrade the level of service at personal expense or by using their “frequent flyer” points, except as outlined below.
Economy class upgrades (e.g., Economy Plus, exit row, aisle seat, etc.) are an allowable expense, except on sponsored research awards.
Business class may be used for travel if your business office confirms before purchase that appropriate funds are available, and if any of the following conditions are met:
- Any flight segment has a scheduled in-air flying time in excess of five hours, OR
- The total scheduled in-air flight time, including connecting legs, is in excess of seven hours, OR
- A medical justification has been documented by a primary care provider.
- Booking Airfare
If a flight meets the criteria for business class but business class is not offered (e.g. 2-class plane) the forward cabin will be considered business class, even though the ticket may be issued in first class. The traveler is responsible for documenting this exception on the expense report.
Students must travel economy class regardless of duration or length of the flight.
For travel expenses that are administered by Princeton but will be reimbursed in full by a 3rd party, business class travel is allowable if approved and documented by the sponsoring institution/entity and documented in the expense report.
In rare cases, other extenuating circumstances may justify the use of business class for trips that do not meet the above conditions. These requests for exception must be approved in advance by the department chair or office head and by either the Dean of the Faculty or the Executive Vice President depending on the employee’s status.
In cases where sponsored funds are being used, and where business class airfare or economy class upgrades are not an allowable expense, but the flight meets the exception criteria above, departmental funds may be used to cover the difference. The flight differential must be properly documented and attached to the expense report.
When a medical condition requires an upgrade above economy class and sponsored funds must be used, the PI is responsible for securing written documentation from the physician stating that the upgrade is required due to a medical condition. The department manager is responsible for keeping that medical documentation on file, and be ready to present it upon request. The department manager approving the expense report is also responsible for ensuring that a note is included on the expense report to indicate the department has the appropriate documentation on file.
Costs associated with upgrades to business/first class are not an allowable business expense, except as outlined above.
- Changes, Cancellations, and Unused Tickets
When travel plans must be changed due to unforeseen circumstances, the traveler is responsible for notifying World Travel, Inc. Apply the unused ticket to the next business trip.
Changes to an airline ticket for business reasons or circumstances beyond the traveler’s control are allowable expenses. For tickets purchased using federally-sponsored funds, contact your Sponsored Research Accounting Analyst to determine if the penalty may be charged to the grant.
Unused tickets cannot be used for personal travel.
- Airline Clubs
Airline club membership is not an allowable business expense.
Charges for baggage that is reasonable and appropriate for the purpose and length of the trip are allowable. Charges for baggage that is personal in nature (e.g. golf clubs for a business trip) or that is not reasonable and appropriate for the purpose and length of the trip, is not allowable.
- Private Plane
Travel by private airplane may be reimbursed at the cost of an equivalent coach fare, when such commercial plane service is available. When commercial plane service is not available, reimbursement will be at the lowest cost for other means of public transportation, if available.
Reservations may be made online through Concur Travel or by contacting World Travel, Inc. When booking a hotel for a conference where there is a special conference rate, the reservation may be made directly with the hotel.
The itemized hotel bill must always be included on the expense report.
Travelers must cancel reservations to avoid no-show charges.
- Hotel Class and Rooms
The class of hotel must be reasonable and appropriate for the business purpose and location. University travelers should stay in standard rooms only. Suites and other upgraded rooms are not allowable expenses. If there is a valid business need for a non-standard room, the business purpose must be documented on the expense report.
- Rate Guidelines by Location:
The following are guidelines for maximum nightly rates by location (before taxes). If the nightly rate exceeds the amount below, the business purpose must be clearly documented on the expense report. This list will be reviewed and updated periodically.
--$350 New York City, San Francisco
--$300 Washington D.C., Boston
--$250 All other U.S. locations, except Princeton
--$190 Princeton, except during Reunion/Commencement week
--$350 Delhi, Johannesburg, London, Mumbai, Nairobi, Paris, Rome
--$300 All other international locations
Travelers may only accept complimentary upgrades. Costs associated with upgrades are not an allowable business expense.
- Hotel Exercise Facility/Gym
When exercise facilities are not provided for free by the hotel, exercise facility fees are allowable up to a maximum of $15 per night and must be itemized on the hotel bill. Exercise facility fees are not allowable on sponsored research projects.
- In-Room Movies
In-room movies are not an allowable business expense.
- Laundry and Dry Cleaning
Laundry and/or dry cleaning charges are allowable when an employee travels for 4 or more consecutive nights. The charge must be incurred while traveling (not after the trip is complete). International per diem rates include laundry and dry cleaning in addition to tips for services, and may not be claimed separately.
- Lodging at Private Residences
Although travelers may stay at private residences, this is not encouraged. Gifts in lieu of lodging are not an allowable expense.
- CAR RENTAL
- When to Use
Rental cars should be used when they are less expensive than alternative means of transportation (e.g., taxi, car service, or train) or where there are convenience or safety issues that justify the additional cost.
Reservations should be made through Concur Travel or by contacting World Travel, Inc. to ensure that travelers receive the negotiated rate, insurance and other benefits.
- Car Class
Rental of up to a mid-sized car is an allowable expense. Exceptions may be made if there are three or more employees traveling together, if the traveler is transporting sizeable equipment, or if there are other valid business needs. The exception must be documented on the traveler’s expense report.
Motorcycle/moped rentals or vehicle upgrades are not an allowable business expenses.
While on domestic University business, decline Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and personal liability insurance offered through the rental company, provided that the reservation is made through Concur Travel or by contacting World Travel, Inc. If proof of insurance is needed, contact the Department of Risk Management at (609) 258-3046.
When renting vehicles in a foreign country, collision auto liability insurance options must be accepted. Undergraduate students are prohibited from renting vehicles in international locations.
Employees are expected to refuel the rental car prior to returning to the rental agency and to decline the pre-paid fuel options. The cost of fuel is an allowable expense.
- Incidental Expenses
All business-related tolls and parking charges that are not part of an employee’s regular commute are allowable expenses.
Tickets or fines associated with parking or travel violations, and charges for vehicle lockouts are not allowable expenses.
- When to Use
- When to Use
Taxis should be used for in-city destinations whenever possible, unless a rental car or other means of transport is more cost effective or where there are convenience or safety issues that justify the additional cost.
It is customary to provide a tip to for taxi service of approximately 15%. A reasonable tip for taxi service is an allowable expense.
When possible, use a taxi service that accepts credit card payment and include the tip in the charge.
- When to Use
- LIMOUSINE & SHUTTLE SERVICE
- When to Use
Limousine and shuttle services should be used when they are less expensive than alternative means of transportation (e.g., train, taxi, or personal auto) or when there are convenience or safety issues that justify the additional cost. When traveling with others, it is often more economical to coordinate travel times and share a limousine or shuttle service.
- Reservations & Preferred Service Providers
Use one of our preferred vendors when reserving limousine or shuttle service for travel in the Philadelphia to New York corridor. Make reservations online using Concur Travel or by contacting World Travel, Inc.
Tips are included in the price we have negotiated with our preferred vendors for travel in the Philadelphia to New York corridor. Additional tipping is not an allowable expense. When using a non-contracted limousine or shuttle service for travel outside the Philadelphia to New York corridor, a tip of approximately 15% is an allowable expense.
- When to Use
- PERSONAL AUTOMOBILE
- Acceptable Usage
Use of personal auto for business purposes is allowed when it is less expensive than alternative means of transportation or when there are convenience or safety issues that justify the additional cost. Use of personal automobile for normal commute is not an allowable expense.
- Mileage Reimbursement
If a personal automobile is used for business purposes, you will be reimbursed at the current IRS authorized mileage rate for miles incurred in excess of your normal commute. The personal mileage reimbursement covers all costs related to the operation of the vehicle, including service, maintenance, insurance, depreciation, and gas.
- Intercampus Travel
The University provides a comprehensive free shuttle service for intercampus travel, including Forrestal and PPPL. Reimbursement for use of a personal automobile for intercampus travel is not an allowable expense unless there is a documented medical need.
The price of gas is factored into the mileage reimbursement rate and is therefore not an allowable expense when traveling by personal automobile.
All tolls incurred while traveling for business are allowable expenses. This does not include tolls incurred for normal commute.
All parking for business purposes are allowable expenses. Commute-related parking charges are not allowable expenses.
Regular car maintenance, fines, penalties, towing, and repairs are not allowable expenses.
- Acceptable Usage
- OTHER TRANSPORTATION
- Use of Government Auto
Some government-sponsored projects have government vehicles assigned to them through the General Services Administration (GSA). Whenever possible these vehicles should be used by project personnel to meet travel requirements. Normally, the use of personal vehicles will not be permitted by sponsors for projects that have access to GSA vehicles. If a personal car is used, the traveler should indicate why a GSA vehicle was not used.
- Use of Princeton University Owned Vehicles
The University owns a number of vehicles that may be available for business travel needs. Travelers should check with their business office or with Transportation and Parking Services to determine if there is an appropriate vehicle available for use. University vehicles may only be operated by approved drivers and only for University business. When driving a Princeton University Owned Vehicle, the purchase of gas is an allowable expense. See Fleet Safety & University-Approved Drivers for more information.
Travel by rail is allowed when it is less expensive than alternative means of transportation or when there are convenience or safety issues that justify the additional cost. Business Class travel is allowable for regular Amtrak service as well as for Acela Express Trains. For international rail travel, travelers should purchase a fare that offers reserved seating. Often, reserved seating is only available in first class. Roomettes are allowable for overnight travel.
In cases where sponsored funds are being used, and where business or first class fares are not an allowable expense, departmental funds may be used to cover the difference.
- Use of Government Auto
- MEALS & ENTERTAINMENT
- Individual Meals & Incidentals
For travel of 30 days or less, travelers must claim actual meal and incidental expenses (M&IE). Actual daily expenses claimed should be reasonable and appropriate and typically should not be more than $75 for domestic travel and $125 for international travel. (To accommodate faculty research and teaching, faculty may continue to claim per diem for travel.)
For travel lasting more than 30 days but less than one year, a travel allowance of up to 50% of the federally published per diem rates for meals and incidental expenses may be claimed, and receipts are not necessary. Use the domestic or foreign per diem rates applicable for the city and dates of travel. Incidental expenses included in the domestic per diem rates are tips for services (e.g. porters, baggage carriers, bellhops, and hotel maids). International per diem rates include laundry and dry cleaning in addition to tips for services. If a travel allowance is claimed, additional expenses for meals and incidentals will not be permitted.
- Group Meals and Entertainment
In situations where an individual is conducting business with one or more guests, reasonable meals and entertainment expenses are allowable except where noted below. Business meals and entertainment must be directly related to University business.
The University expects the cost of business meals to be reasonable and to be $125 or less per person (including tax and tip). When sound business reasons necessitate that business meals exceed $125 per person, the excess cost of the business meal must be approved by the Dean of the Faculty or the Executive Vice President, depending on the employee’s status. Costs in excess of $150 per person will not be allowed.
Entertainment of government personnel is not allowed, even if the expense is charged to a non-sponsored fund. Entertainment costs are not allowable on federally funded sponsored research projects.
The purchase and use of alcohol places significant legal exposure on the University. Therefore the use of alcohol for business meals and entertainment purposes should be kept to a minimum. Alcohol may never be charged to federally sponsored projects. Any meals being charged to a federal grant must have all alcohol clearly itemized on the expense report and must be charged to a non-federal funding source.
The Internal Revenue Service requires all business meals and entertainment expenses to be properly documented. This includes a list of attendees including titles and affiliation, or identification of a discernible group, total number of attendees, and the business purpose of the meeting.
- Individual Meals & Incidentals
- Telephone Usage While Traveling
Phone calls that are reasonable and necessary for conducting business are an allowable expense. The itemized hotel bill or an original phone bill with itemized calls must be attached to the expense report. This includes personal telephone calls allowing the traveler to stay in reasonable contact with their family. Use of air phones is not an allowable expense, except in emergencies or extenuating circumstances. An explanation must be noted on the expense report.
- Mobile Communication Devices
Cell phone or accessory purchases made outside of the University’s corporate account program are not an allowable expense. See Mobile Communication Devices Policy for more details. Travelers are encouraged to plan ahead and secure a loaner device through the Office of Information Technology if necessary and appropriate. Loaner devices are available for both domestic and international travel. See the Office of Information Technology's International Travel Guidelines for more details about technology restrictions, and data safety and security.
- Internet Access
Internet access (e.g., hotel, airport, hotspot, etc.) is an allowable expense provided that the access is necessary for business purposes and not personal use. Travelers are encouraged to plan ahead and secure a MiFi (hotspot) (https://kb.princeton.edu/KB0011496) from the Office of Information Technology’s Loaner Program.
- Telephone Usage While Traveling
- Business Travel Accident Insurance
The University provides eligible travelers with business travel accident insurance at no cost. Please see Travel-Related Insurance for more information.
- Examples of Unallowable Expenses
Annual fees for personal credit cards
Baby sitting (faculty may be eligible for support through the Dependent Child Care Travel Fund)
Barbers / hairdressers
Car service for normal commute
Personal mobile phones
Hotel or car “no-show” charges
Luggage and briefcases
Membership reward fees
Meals for social occasions
Non-business membership fees
Optional baggage insurance
Parking and/or speeding tickets
Personal accident insurance
Personal entertainment (e.g. sporting events)
Personal property insurance
Souvenirs and personal gifts
Vacation and personal expenses when on business trips
- Tips Guidelines
The following would be considered reasonable and appropriate:
Skycap: $2 per bag
Porters/bellperson, etc.: $2 per bag upon check-in/check-out
Maid service: up to $2 per day
Meals: 15% – 20% (if not included in the charge).
Car Service: Tip is included in the negotiated rate. If using a non-contracted service, 15-20% is appropriate.
- Spousal and Dependent Travel
Travel and associated meals for an employee’s spouse/partner and/or dependents is not an allowable business expense unless pre-approved by the Dean of the Faculty or the Executive Vice President, by the Vice President of PPPL for PPPL employees, or by the sponsor in the case of sponsored research projects.
- Faculty Expenditures While on Leave
Please refer to the Dean of the Faculty's guidelines for the allowability of expenses while on leave.
- Business Travel Accident Insurance
6/9/2022 - Update to Internet Access section, referencing MiFi.
1/28/19 - Removed/updated outdated links.
10/1/18 - Updated Executive Sponsor listing.
6/27/2018 - Updated references to World Travel, Inc.
10/31/17 - Removed reference to outdated webpage
2/13/17 - Clarifications for Fly America Act, added section on "In Lieu of" and "Tradeoff" expenditures, clarified faculty expenditures while on leave of absence
3/24/15 - Clarification for Spousal and Dependent Travel to include Vice President of PPPL.
2/2/15 - Clarification for faculty per diem. Faculty may claim per diem through June 2015.
11/6/12 - This is an entirely new travel policy, which supersedes the previous policy.
2/6/12 - Update regarding "Open Skies Agreements" for booking air travel related to sponsored research projects.
11/21/11 - Clarification on booking air travel related to sponsored research projects.
2/25/11 - No change to policy or substance; revised organization and language for web-based policy library. Relevant language from former “Expense Guidelines” was also incorporated.
10/4/2010 - Clarified policy on approval of upgrade for airline reservations.
5/14/2010 - Airline boarding passes are no longer required to substantiate travel. Clarified policy on baggage fees.