Big Changes to How You Pay for Your PCS

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We have all heard the advice: start saving for you next PCS now, because even though many of the expenses are reimbursable, they come out of your pocket first.

Now all of that has changed, in theory.

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Instead the military has directed PCSing troops to pay for their reimbursable PCS travel expenses with their issued government travel credit card (GTC), not out of pocket or on their own credit card.

That means that instead of dipping into your savings account to cover hotel rooms or airplane tickets along the way, you charge them to your government travel card. When you arrive at your receiving duty station and file your claim, you will be reimbursed for those costs and able to pay off your GTC with that money. You can read all about what the DoD said about that in my news story over here.

UPDATE — The DoD says you are going to have more time to pay off the card during and after a PCS. Go here for the details.

 

You’re probably wondering what kinds of things qualify as reimbursable PCS costs. Here’s a quick list:

— Mileage from driving your car to your new home (based on the “official” distance between duty stations — not your personal mileage  calculations). You can learn about how that is calculated here.

— Lodging and meals, reimbursed in the form of a “per diem” rate (and you can look up those rates per location here) for up to 10 days.

— Airline tickets to your new duty station

That means, according to the new guidance, you can charge to your GTC card any and all expenses for actually moving. That means things like:

— DITY move expenses like truck rental and gas for the truck.

— Gas.

— Lodging

— Plane tickets

— Dinner

When you submit your reimbursement request to finance, you’ll receive the per diem rate and mileage rate back. So be sure you don’t charge to your card more than what you’ll receive in repayment.

Of course there is a catch to all of this. Because nothing ever works exactly the peachy way it should, right?

As folks over on the Military One Source page have correctly pointed out — there’s one big, BIG problem with this plan. The whole idea behind it is to keep you from having to spend money out of pocket (while giving the government a hefty rebate kick-back, which I mention in my story). But as everyone who has ever sought a reimbursement from a finance office knows, things can be a little slow in coming. We never did see that separation pay from when my spouse went to Ranger School, even though he applied for it multiple times.

And that means your GTC bill could come due before your reimbursement comes through.

“When the credit card bill came due we had to pay it out of our pocket. Here it is close to three months after our PCS and we still haven’t received a dime in reimbursement from the Air Force for our expenses,” wrote Air Force spouse Jami Moore on the OneSource page. “The GTC card doesn’t make a difference when a service member is forced to pay out of pocket for a move if they aren’t reimbursed right away. Luckily we have savings, but others may be forced into a situation where they either have to buy food and risk getting paperwork for not paying their GTC card or pay their GTC card and not eat. And if you can’t pay it it goes on the service member’s credit report.”

In theory you can get a bill extension on your GTC. But it doesn’t always work that easily. And so it’s not that far fetched to think that you could be forced to pay out of pocket after all is said and done anyway to cover that GTC bill while finance gets their act together.

We’re still waiting for the DoD to get back with us with more information on exactly what happens for people who don’t have a GTC (I know you’re out there) and to those who havent been reimbursed before the bill is due. What we get the answers we’ll post them.

 

Photo courtesy US Air Force.

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on CNN.com, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.
  • AFWife

    I saw the article on military.com just this week and it truly had me baffled. You see, my husband has had and utilized a GTC since at least 2007ish. He’s used it for deployments, TDY, and our last PCS in 2010.
    We have not once had an issue with our card…using it or having the amount paid in a timely manner.
    What baffled me about all of this was my belief that all the branches had been utilizing the GTC program the entire time.
    Ah well..as I said earlier..my husband has had it for years and used it in a variety of situations without issue, so just relax and enjoy how much easier your moves will be.

    But just remember the rules and don’t do stupid stuff. They will catch you if you do and the results aren’t pretty.

  • Guest

    I only know a few people who even have GTCs, and they are immediately-deployable Coasties. None of my Navy or Army friends or family have them continuously, but some have been issued a command card for TAD or escort travels. Imagine my surprise to read the article assuming everyone has them! Will everyone be issued cards as a part of this? What happens if – like my neighbors – you’re PCSing next month and were told a GTC would be issued to you in 6-8 weeks? Seems like a mess waiting to happen… for everyone without a GTC, at least.

    • ken

      If you don’t have a GTC then ask for a travel advance if you need funds in transit.

    • Charles

      As of June 2014 it is mandatory for all active army (don’t know about the other branches) to have one

  • Kelly

    My biggest issue is being paid in a timely manner. When we left Ft Hood to go to BOLC then to Campbell it took us well over a year to actually see the money. We left Hood in March of 2012 to head to BOLC in AZ and from there we then arrived at Campbell in October 2012 and did not get any of our travel pay until October 2013 because they kept losing it or processing it incorrectly. I would not be okay with not being able to get a travel advance and to just trust the system. Our pay is constantly messed up.

    • Amy_Bushatz

      Kelly we’re here at Campbell, too. Is it just me or is finance here particularly bad!!? No Ranger school sep pay (we basically gave up applying for it) and now here we are in October and the promised separation pay for the 60 plus day JRTC rotation is ….?????

  • Jamie Chapman

    This is not a good idea. You have never been allowed to do this for a reason….and that reason is that the ARMY takes forever to pay Soldiers for their PCS. We have made 7 ARMY moves in 12 years and this summers move was the worst yet. We moved 14 July, it is ALMOST 1 November and our settlement is still not done. Our BAH hasn’t been changed our Per Diem and DLA is still no where to be seen, although we do have the promise for the 5th time it will be in our EOM pay. Soldiers need to make sure to ONLY spend what they get upfront. Apply for it in enough time if you can and be very careful. We have never had to pay out of pocket for a move and we have 5 people in our family, we always get the 60% upfront and still have money leftover. Definitely DO NOT use the GTC because you will be in so much trouble if you do not pay it on time.

  • ken

    I would ask who makes the inputs to settle travel vouchers. If is the local finance office, then I would ask why they are not doing it in a timely manner? If it is DFAS then ask the local finance office to talk to them on your behalf. I

  • Lane

    We are one of those families that don’t have a GTC and are set to pcs in 4weeks. No one has any answers to give and half of the people in the CoC don’t even know of the policy. The question is-there isn’t time to get a GTC and we can’t get plane tickets…so what are we suppose to do???

  • Apryl

    The problems my husband has had getting his GTC activated before he travels is the reason why I/we would never consider using our GTC for a PCS. We’ve had to pay with our personal card for some of his TDY as the 3 people in the chain that have access to turning the damn card on so it’s useable have been on vacation.