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Air National Guard gets new travel card

Charleston, W.Va. -- The Air National Guard, under a directive
from the Air Force, has partnered with CitiBank to begin rolling out a new
travel card program April 1.

The new card, named Citi Controlled Spend Account, differs from the previous
card, the Defense Department Government Travel Charge Card, in that it is a
prepaid card instead of a traditional credit card, said Senior Master Sgt.
Bobby D. Carpenter, a budget analyst in the 130th Airlift Wing finance
office and an administrator of the new program.

"The new CSA card is mission-driven and is replacing the GTCC program as an
efficient tool to accomplish our mission instead of a misuse and delinquency
management program," said Carpenter. "There is no value on the card if you
are not on orders so there isn't a possibility of misuse like the previous
card. The GTCC had a full-time available credit limit of $4,000 or $7,500,
which unfortunately resulted in people using it when they weren't authorized

The program is expected to save the Air Force more than $10 million and
380,000 man-hours per year, according to Carpenter.

"We were previously losing a huge opportunity in rebates because of the lack
of use and delinquent payment," said Carpenter. "Most people were only using
the GTCC for their airline tickets, lodging expenses and rental cars, but
while on orders the member was supposed to use the card for all expenses
while traveling on official orders, including meals and gas."

Carpenter further explained that the previous program turned into a
delinquency management program, forcing commanders and first sergeants to
spend significant amounts of time on disciplinary actions for misuse and
delinquency, as well as the finance office acting as a debt collection

"The new card moves the fiscal responsibility of misuse and abuse to the
individual and off the chain-of-command," said Carpenter. "It falls on the
integrity of our Guardsmen."

The new CSA card also solves a lot of problems for Airmen who previously had
problems getting approved for the GTCC, according to Staff Sgt. Chad T.
Himstedt, staff accountant for the 130th Airlift Wing finance office and a
program administrator.

"The new card is approved instantly without the need for a credit check,"
said Himstedt. "We had people who had problems with their personal credit
history that prevented them from being able to get approved for the GTCC and
first-term Airmen who didn't have any credit or members who went through a
difficult financial time - it caused them a lot of headache when they went
on orders."

The credit history of an individual will have no effect on the new CSA
program, which expects to have finished distributing cards to all members
before Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

"All Airmen will have a CSA, and if they embrace this new program, they will
see how streamlined the process has become," said Carpenter.
"Once orders have been created for an individual, the amount to be
transferred to the pre-paid card will be calculated to the exact dollar
value of the orders. This amount will include transportation, lodging and
per diem costs."

People need to make sure they manage their finances smartly while on
government travel, according to Carpenter.

"The exact amount of your trip will be on that card," said Carpenter.
"If you go over that dollar amount, you will be responsible to pay the
balance in full to Citi. On the other hand, any additional money left over
is yours to spend however you would like. The only two places not authorized
for use are massage parlors and casinos."

Individuals worried about locations accepting the new card have no reason to
be concerned, according to Himstedt.

"The card is a Visa and acts just like a debit card - it can be used
anywhere that accepts Visa," said Himstedt.

There are also provisions in place for emergency situations or travel
changes according to, Carpenter.

"If there is something that changes or something unexpected happens that
differ from the original orders and an individual needs an increase in the
amount on the card, all they have to do is make a phone call to Citi and
they will instantly add the money," said Carpenter. "Previously, increases
had to be approved by members of the unit who were available during business
hours - now, they have a customer service representative available to them
24 hours per day."

"If a situation arises where money needs to be added, it happens instantly
and an e-mail notification is sent to the program administrators," said
Carpenter. "This provides an extra level of security."

Airman on base began receiving the new CSA cards in April and some have
already used them on government travel.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey A. Bevins, executive officer for the 130th Airlift Wing,
has used the card twice now.

"The CSA card in the two times I have used it has been very easy to use,"
said Bevins. "As soon as the orders were cut in the Defense Travel System,
the money was loaded. When I bought my plane ticket in DTS, the money
automatically came off of the card so what was left was for my food and
lodging. I haven't had a single problem using it."

For more information, contact the finance office or visit:

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