B-236219, May 4, 1990

B-236219: May 4, 1990

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Is entitled to keep the entire rebate. The rebate is not directly related to official travel and. Is not the property of the federal government. Use of Discover Charge Cards: This decision is in response to a request concerning cash or credit rebates which accrue to employees of the Government Printing Office who charge official travel expenses to their personal "Discover" charge cards. /1/ The agency asks whether these rebates might conflict with pertinent decisions and regulations governing the receipt of gifts or promotional materials by federal employees during the course of official travel. The general rule is that a federal employee is required to account for any gift. Any payments tendered to the employee are viewed as having been received on behalf of the government.

B-236219, May 4, 1990

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Travel - Bonuses - Rebates - Acceptance - Propriety DIGEST: A federal employee who charges official travel expenses on a personal charge card and who receives a cash or credit rebate for purchases made on that card during the calendar year, is entitled to keep the entire rebate. The rebate is not directly related to official travel and, therefore, is not the property of the federal government.

Use of Discover Charge Cards:

This decision is in response to a request concerning cash or credit rebates which accrue to employees of the Government Printing Office who charge official travel expenses to their personal "Discover" charge cards.

/1/ The agency asks whether these rebates might conflict with pertinent decisions and regulations governing the receipt of gifts or promotional materials by federal employees during the course of official travel.

The general rule is that a federal employee is required to account for any gift, gratuity, or benefit received from private sources incident to the performance of official duty, and any payments tendered to the employee are viewed as having been received on behalf of the government. See John B. Currier, 59 Comp.Gen. 95 (1979), involving denied boarding compensation. Likewise, we have held that employees generally may not retain bonus or gift coupons or promotional materials received in connection with official travel. See e.g. Discount Coupons, 63 Comp.Gen. 229 (1984); B-199656, July 15, 1981.

Although we have not previously considered cash or credit rebates in our decisions concerning gifts and promotional benefits received in the course of official travel, we would distinguish such rebates from promotional benefits which accrue through official travel. In the case of promotional benefits such as half-fare coupons and bonus points, the benefits received by the employee are directly related to the official travel for which the promotional benefits are received.

In contrast, the employee's use of a personal credit card in the course of official travel is a matter of personal convenience and is not directly related to the official travel. This choice of payment mechanism is purely personal on the part of the employee, consistent with applicable regulations governing the procurement of common carrier transportation and the issuance of travel advances. /2/

We note that the government would not be obligated to reimburse the employee for any finance charges or annual fees incurred incident to the use of a personal credit card in connection with official travel. In the same manner, the government should have no claim to any discounts or rebates which might accrue to the employee through use of a personal credit card. We note further that the Discover Card rebates involved in this case are not based solely upon official travel but upon all purchases made by the individual with the Discover Card during an entire calendar year. Finally, the purpose of using the Discover Card is not to receive a cash or credit rebate incident to official travel, and the employee receiving a rebate based upon his purchases on the Discover Card is not being doubly reimbursed for the cost of his official travel.

Therefore, we conclude that a federal employee, who charges official travel expenses on a personal credit card and who receives a cash or credit rebate for purchases made on that card during a calendar year, is not obligated to account to the government for any rebate, and such rebate would not be the property of the federal government.

/1/ This decision is in response to a request from Mr. George W. Berard, Chief, Voucher Examination Branch, U.S. Government Printing Office.

/2/ Federal Travel Regulations, 41 C.F.R. Part 301-10 (1989).