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Purchasing Cards (Pcards)

Revised: February, 2014



A P-Card is a credit card that authorized University personnel may use to purchase goods and limited services for use by the University. P-Cards are issued to individuals who meet the appropriate requirements and can only be used by the individual named on the card. Columbia University is liable to the financial institution that issues the P-Cards for all valid transactions and pays the financial institution directly. P-Card transactions bring greater efficiency to the purchasing process because transactions can be made without a purchase order and payment is streamlined.

The University has chosen a Purchasing Card program offered through a card-issuing Financial Services Provider (“Card Issuer”). This program is governed by the terms and conditions of a Master Agreement between Columbia University and the Card Issuer. The Card Issuer provides a web-based system to manage the Program.


Procurement Services, Accounts Payable is responsible for administration of the Purchasing Card program, policies, and procedures in close coordination with the Purchasing Office, Treasury and the Controller’s Office.


It is the responsibility of all University personnel who participate in the P-Card program to review and understand this policy.


Cardholders are strongly encouraged to use the University’s preferred vendors (UwPA’s) for their P-Card Purchases. For the most current list of UwPA’s please visit the Purchasing website. Procurement Services, Accounts Payable will review P-Card transactions on a regular basis to analyze preferred vendor utilization and will review any resulting opportunities with the Departmental P-Card Administrator. Procurement Services, Accounts Payable will also work with the Card Issuer and VISA to encourage vendors who do not accept credit cards to add cards as a payment method.

All purchases must be made in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, including, but not limited to Columbia University’s policies and procedures, which can be found on the Finance Gateway at

The P-Card may also be used to procure some types of non-consultant services. In general, non-consultant services may be purchased via the P-Card so long as they are governed by a University-wide Purchasing Agreement (UwPA), or where they do not require contractual or purchase order terms and conditions binding the University or the vendor.


Misuse of the P-Card and violation of the P-Card policy will result in disciplinary action. Examples of misuse and policy violation include, but are not limited to:
• Purchase of items for personal use
• Purchase of restricted commodities
• Splitting of purchase or service cost over multiple card transactions in order to circumvent the single transaction limit
• Use of the card by anyone or any department other than the authorized cardholder
• Failure to obtain and maintain supporting documentation for all card transactions
• Failure of Cardholder and/or Approver to sign off on transactions by hard close deadline
• Lack of timely and proper reconciliation of posted transactions
• Allocation of charges to sponsored project accounts in a manner that is inconsistent with federal or other guidelines
• Approval of transactions that violate University policies
If any P-Card participant violates the P-Card policies and procedures, the participant may be subject to sanctions including suspension of the card program privileges, card cancellation, and other disciplinary action as deemed appropriate by the University.



Authorized University personnel who make frequent, low-dollar purchases for University business and are issued a P-Card will hold the role of Cardholder. A Cardholder makes purchases, has a legitimate business purpose for all P-Card transactions, regularly reviews his or her transactions, allocates transactions to the correct accounting codes, provides a business purpose when necessary, and maintains their P-Card receipts for review and audit purposes.

P-Card Reconciler

A Reconciler is the person to whom the Cardholder has delegated all the functions associated with post-purchase processing in the ARC including account allocation and providing a business purpose when required. The Reconciler role can be given to either the cardholder or assigned to a proxy to reconcile on the cardholder’s behalf. A Reconciler CANNOT make purchases using the card belonging to the Cardholder for whom they reconcile. The Cardholder is responsible for all actions taken by the Reconciler on his or her behalf.

P-Card Reviewer

A Reviewer reviews P-Card transactions for a cardholder(s). This role is view only and will not have the ability to either reconcile or approve transactions.


An Approver is the person who approves purchases that have been made by the Cardholder(s) to which he or she is assigned. By approving each transaction, the Approver exercises critical control by ensuring authorized and appropriate P-Card use and correct allocation of expenses in accordance with Accounts Payable, Purchasing and other related University policies. Approvers should also review receipts where appropriate to ensure compliance with this and other University policies. An Approver must have DAF voucher approval authority of $2,500 or greater.
No Cardholder may approve his or her own purchases/transactions nor may he or she direct someone else to approve transactions in a manner that would violate policy, i.e., without reviewing the transactions in detail, etc. As a general rule, the Approver should not report to the Cardholder whose transactions he or she is reviewing.

Departmental P-Card Administrator

A Departmental P-Card Administrator is responsible for ensuring that his or her school or department follows the policies and procedures for the P-Card program. A Departmental P-Card Administrator is also the primary liaison between Procurement Services, Accounts Payable and the P-Card program participants in his or her department or school. He or she manages and approves the documentation related to new card applications and changes in cardholder information (name, mailing address, increase or decrease in limits, etc.) or employment status.
The Departmental P-Card Administrator should conduct a regular review of transactions for compliance with P-Card policies and procedures. The Departmental P-Card Administrator is also responsible for working with Procurement Services, Accounts Payable and/or their senior management to administer all disciplinary policies for his or her P-Card participants. The Departmental P-Card Administrator can request that a card be terminated by the P-Card staff at any time.

See full policy at right.