Advanced PCS Pay Axed, and Mandatory Government Travel Card Use Is Coming for Sailors

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Household goods team assists sailors Yokosuka, Japan.
Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Yokosuka household goods team assists unaccompanied sailors in the barracks, June 2, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Brandon Taylor)

Kate Horrell is a finance columnist for Military.com.

The Navy will soon require sailors to use a Government Travel Charge Card (GTCC) for all military Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves, the service announced late last year, while also using the MyPCS Travel Voucher system for claims and eliminating advanced travel pay in most instances.

The change puts the Navy in line with the other military services. Mandatory use of the card starts July 1, 2022. Sailors should work with their chain of command to apply for a card.

Using the GTCC for PCS moves can make it easier for service members to handle costs incurred during moves without needing to take advances or pay out-of-pocket.

While that sounds great, the GTCC program and the PCS mandate do cause concern for many, thanks to potentially slow reimbursement and the impact on personal credit scores from not paying the card on time.

That's a worry officials acknowledged in their December announcement, saying that pairing the GTCC with the new travel voucher system will give faster reimbursements.

"Mandatory use of the GTCC for PCS travel expenses and electronic submission of travel claims through MyPCS Travel Voucher will help the Navy improve accountability and auditability of funds and reallocate resources for more timely travel claim processing," the release states.

Sailors can still request advanced Dislocation Allowance (DLA), but the guidance says exceptions will be made only for dependents who are traveling on separate orders or for sailors who don't qualify for the card.

Sailors and other military members often have questions about how they are supposed to use the GTCC during their PCS move, how the bill will be paid, what items can be charged to the card and what happens when there are paperwork problems -- all good questions.

But first, a disclaimer: Always follow the rules that are given by your branch, your chain of command, or your support office. This information can and does vary by branch, and can change at any time.

What Can I Charge to My GTCC?

  • Lodging en route between your old duty station and your new duty station
  • Meals en route between your old duty station and your new duty station
  • Temporary lodging at your old or new duty station (as covered under the Temporary Lodging Expense/Temporary Lodging Allowance)
  • Fuel for your personally owned vehicle used as transportation for the move, or being moved
  • Tolls or ferry fees
  • Rental car, if authorized in your PCS orders
  • Personally procured move expenses (depending on your branch)
  • Dislocation allowance (DLA)-type expenses

That last one is really tricky. Dislocation allowance is a flat rate, based on rank and dependency status and payable to everyone who moves. While its purpose as stated by the Pentagon is to defray the costs of leaving an old home and setting up a new home, there are no specific rules about what it can and cannot be used for. You don't have to explain it to anyone. You could literally take your dislocation allowance to a casino and play blackjack with it. (Please don't.)

But when you use your GTCC for DLA-type expenses, there is accountability. So what should it be used for? I'm not a lawyer but, based on my personal experience with nine military moves, here are some ideas of things that are probably reasonable expenses in this category:

  • Having the carpets cleaned when you move out of your old house
  • The basics of that Target run when you get to your new home: toilet brushes, shelf liner, shower curtains, curtain rods, cleaning supplies, etc.
  • Utility deposits

What Items Cannot Be Charged to My GTCC?

  • Personal expenses that are not part of the PCS move
  • Airfare, which must be booked through the appropriate office for your branch of service
  • Entertainment of any kind
  • Medical expenses, even if they happen during the PCS
  • Any personal travel days during the move/leave en route
  • Personally procured move expenses (depending on your branch)

How Does the Bill Get Paid?

You must submit a travel claim when you arrive at your new duty station, and the system you use for doing so depends on your branch. While your card should be set to mission critical status for a move and not require immediate payment, it's still not a good idea to delay your claim.

You will be reimbursed up to the limit of your allowances, including temporary lodging expense/temporary lodging entitlement, dislocation allowance, monetary allowance in lieu of transportation (mileage), and per diem for travel days. Any amount that exceeds those allowances is your responsibility. If you have a dislocation allowance remaining after the reimbursement, that should be paid to you.

The Government Travel Charge Card does solve some PCS problems, but it is important to use it properly and file your claim in a timely manner after arriving at your new duty station. Think of it as another tool in your military life toolbox.

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