University Finance, Travel, and Expense

Reimbursement Guidelines for Faculty, Students, Staff

If you have further questions, please contact Nancy Hirshan at [email protected] or Willson Nguyen at [email protected]. Alternatively, you can contact the Finance Service Center


  • All expenses must contain a valid business purpose that is necessary and reasonable in order to conduct University business and must provide a clear benefit to the University. Please be sure to include the business purpose with every reimbursement request.
  • Please submit reimbursement requests in a timely fashion. Any receipts received by the department after 120 days of the last expense date may be subject to tax.
  • Any reimbursement requests for expenses dating past 365 days will not be accepted.
  • All receipts (including meal receipts) must be itemized and include proof of payment (confirmation that a card was charged, or a copy of a bank statement highlighting the charge).
  • Purchase of equipment or supplies over $500.00 (including books) must be made through the Business Office- please contact Nancy Hirshan at [email protected] or Willson Nguyen at [email protected] for assistance.
  • Please see the list of non-reimbursable items.


Columbia University is now using Concur, a new platform for processing Travel and Business Expenses. TBER forms will no longer be accepted for reimbursement purposes. We ask that you please read and acquaint yourself with this new system using the following resources.

Faculty and staff who completed training last year re: how to use Concur, the University’s travel and expense management system, may not have used the system much since then.  With travel and business expense activity increasing and based on the feedback we’ve received from users and the Finance Service Center, we’ve developed the following refresher guidance:

  • Concur Profile Quick Guide: covers the basics of setting up your Concur Profile so that you can immediately begin using Concur to book travel or submit Expense Reports.
  • Concur Expense Report Quick Guide: details how to create Business and Travel Expense Reports in Concur, adding Expenses to a Report, and submitting it for approval.
  • Concur Refresher Quick Guide: reviews the basics of Concur with links to resources where you can access more in-depth training.


Where do I go for additional help?

  • For a full, searchable library of all training materials related to Travel and Expense and Concur (job aids, videos, training guides, etc.), visit the Columbia Finance Training Library, which has been filtered for these materials.
  • For questions regarding Concur profile setup, workflow and local policy, please contact your School or administrative unit Senior Business Officer.
  • For inquiries about Concur system functionality and processing of reimbursements, please contact the Finance Service Center.
  • Non-Profiled Payee Travel and Business Expense Worksheet webform is available to assist guests, students, and employees who have not been granted access to Concur (aka non-profiled payees) with the organization of reimbursable travel and business expenses. The completed webform can then be used by an authorized departmental Concur user to process a CU-Non-Profiled Payee Expense Report in Concur as outlined below:

  • Fill out or ask the non-profiled payee to fill out the Non-Profiled Payee Travel and Business Expense Worksheet. The worksheet can be sent electronically as an attachment or provided as a printed PDF to an authorized departmental Concur user for processing along with supporting documentation, including receipts.

  • Prior to processing the expense report in Concur, users should check ARC to validate that the payee has an active vendor profile and take note of the vendor ID and vendor classification (Employee, Outside Party, Student Employee, or Student Non-Employee). Departments will not be able to reimburse non-profiled payees without an active ARC vendor profile and must continue to leverage the ARC vendor maintenance process for Outside Party Vendors. Note, vendor profiles for Employees and Students are being set up systematically via integration with PAC and SIS and the associated vendor IDs have a prefix of ‘CNR’.   
  • Departmental authorized Concur users will select CU Non-Profiled Payee as the Type of Report in Concur, selecting the Vendor Type (Employee, Outside Party, Student Employee, or Student Non-Employee) as well as the Vendor Name / ID.
  • After completing the Concur expense report header and line details, Concur users will submit the expense report into the workflow. Expense Reports for Non-Profiled Payees will route to an Initial Reviewer (not Supervisor) if the expenses are being charged to a Sponsored Project (when PC Business Unit is SPONS). If expenses are not being charged to a Sponsored Project, workflow will skip the Initial Reviewer and route directly to the Financial Approver. 

Original receipts must be provided for all air, lodging, and rental car expenses. For all other expense types, receipts must be provided if the expense is equal to or in excess of $50. A receipt may take many forms (i.e. cash register receipt, copy of an order form, web receipt or confirmation).

A receipt must identify:

  • The date of purchase
  • The vendor name(s)
  • An itemized list and unit price of the purchase items
  • The total amount

For missing receipts over $50, payee justification is required and a Missing Receipt Affidavit must be completed. Please refer to Document 6 (link) under the “Columbia University Finance Training Documents” for assistance and more information.

Alternatively, the Law School has also created an easy to navigate guide to begin using Concur with dedicated sections for each operation. Please visit here.

Travel Guidance

To ensure the most efficient and expeditious manner in processing your reimbursement request(s), we ask that you please read and abide to the following guidelines:

All travelers on international Columbia-related travel are required to register their travel through the Register a Trip tool on the University’s Global Travel website. Registering trips ahead of time enables the University to mobilize more quickly and effectively in response to your needs and in the event of an emergency.

The University’s International Travel Planning Policy includes additional pre-departure requirements, so please review it closely as you plan your trip.

We urge members of our community who plan to travel abroad to stay up to date on guidance issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Department of State, including guidance on countries’ entry and exit requirements. For more guidance on immigration and related issues, please contact Columbia's International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) at [email protected].

We also encourage you to browse through other related topics, including travel tips for non-immigrant visa holders, at our Global Travel website. You will find information about travel alerts, logistics, and other resources for international travelers, including the many services available when traveling for University-related business as well as for leisure.

All travelers are strongly encouraged to review the University’s COVID-19 related travel guidance, which includes links to critical public health-related resources, prior to departure and CDC guidance on travel to and from the U.S. Please also review the University’s recently issued Public Health Update: Masking Recommended in Public Settings, which contains helpful guidance about precautions advised at this time. Full-time students are eligible for pre-travel health appointments at both the CUIMC and Morningside campuses.

Effective for all Columbia-related travel beginning September 6, 2022 or later, there are no longer COVID-19–related travel restrictions. However, the following guidance remains:

Prior to Travel

For all international travel, including personal:

  1. Review U.S. Department of State website for COVID-19-related risks and restrictions. 
  2. Review U.S. Department of State website for country-level travel advisories.
  3. Review CDC guidance for international travel during COVID-19.
  4. Review CDC COVID-19 travel recommendations for your international destination.
  5. For Columbia-related travel, complete International Travel Planning Policy requirements, which apply to all affiliates.

For all domestic travel, including personal:

  1. Review CDC guidance for domestic travel during COVID-19.
  2. Become familiar with the public health conditions in your destination state.
  3. Review COVID-19 information and travel guidance provided by your destination’s state or territorial and local health department.

During Travel

  1. Masking is strongly encouraged in any indoor setting with large number of attendees.
  2. Adhere to all Columbia Community Health Compact elements during travel.
  3. Exercise caution and judgment, as the national and global public health context and local conditions may quickly change.
  4. Become acquainted with local public health conditions and all rules and regulations of your destination state or country.
  5. Follow New York State and City guidance upon return.
  6. Follow all Columbia return to campus requirements.
  7. Continue to check this site leading up to any travel. The University reserves the right to implement requirements as conditions change.

Upon Return from Travel

It is recommended that all domestic and international travelers get a COVID-19 test 3-5 days after return.


  • Columbia expects the traveler to purchase an economy class airfare. Since there are different economy class tickets available (Basic, Main, Plus), the University will reimburse any ticket that is within the economy class.
  • A flight may be upgraded to business or first class if there is a documented condition as to why an upgrade is necessary, or if the flight is in excess of 5hrs. If an upgrade is necessary, please obtain a quote for a round- trip economy flight as well at the time of booking and submit with your purchased ticket. The difference in the airfare total will be documented.
  • Please ensure that the proof of payment is clearly visible and that the itinerary for the airfare is included.
  • If using a federal grant, you must comply with the Fly America Act
  • Arrive the day before your event begins, and depart the day after it ends. Extending travel beyond the minimum days for personal reasons requires additional documentation, or travel will not be reimbursed.


  • Up to $350 per night for domestic stays
  • Up to $400 per night for international stays
  • Please provide a final folio showing that payment was made and detailing all expenses incurred.

 Ground Transportation

  • Transportation must specify the origin and destination (i.e. taxi from airport to hotel).
  • Car rentals should be booked through Hertz when possible. When using Hertz, do not purchase liability or any other insure from the agency. Loss/ Damage waiver and liability insurance is included under the Columbia contract.
  • Provide a copy of the rental agreement with proof of payment. 
  • Gas purchases will only be reimbursed when renting a vehicle.


  • Provide an itemized receipt showing all items purchased.
  • Ensure proof of payment is visible on receipt (payment in Cash, Visa XXXX charged or similar).
  • Provide the names of all participants at the meal (when number of attendees is 10 or less). If greater than 10, please include the total number of attendees.

Business meetings involving only University personnel and students should not exceed the following thresholds (per person) excluding tips and tax:

  • Up to $25 for breakfast
  • Up to $35 for lunch
  • Up to $75 for dinner
  • Up to $50 for lunch and $100 for dinner for external speakers
  • Up to $150 for recruitment and fundraising

To learn how to book domestic flights, hotels, and car rentals in Concur Travel, watch the following video:

Video: Using Concur Travel to Purchase Domestic Air, Hotel, and Rental Car

Users should review the following chart for a complete description of transaction fees booked on Concur Travel or with a WTI Travel Counselor over the phone: Transaction Fee Chart

Travelers are advised to contact a Columbia University designated Travel Counselor at World Travel, Inc. (WTI) at 1-855-961-0313 to book their international trip and ensure all requirements are met to travel internationally.

Users can assign delegates to act on their behalf and book their travel. To act as delegate and book travel on behalf of others, the delegate must select the user on their Profile under "Acting as other user." 

Users should follow this job aid for guidance on how to assign and manage their delegates:

Job Aid: Assign and Manage Delegates

By default, Students and Guests (Outside Parties) do not have access to Concur. To assist Students and Guests with travel, a designated Staff member can book on their behalf. Only designated Travel Arrangers can book travel for Students and Guests (Outside Parties).

Forms & Training Materials

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, all Concur users must complete a web-based training: Columbia ELM Concur Training Module.

You can upload your legible receipts into Concur directly from your computer or you can download the Concur Mobile app and take legible photos of the receipts. Additionally, you may email receipts to [email protected] from your verified email address.

Please review Setting Up Your Concur Profile for detailed instructions

You can add as many delegates as you want.

No, delegates must be set up by the user.

No, delegates can only prepare the report.

No. Student Non-Employees and Student Employees are not opted in and therefore do not have access. The department needs to create and submit the report on behalf of the Student by selecting "CU Non-Profiled Payee" as the type of report in Concur or by using this link.

No, expenses over 365 days old will not be reimbursed.

Yes, but you will be subject to income tax withholding.

In order for Columbia to maintain its Accountable Plan with the IRS, all expense reimbursements submitted after 120 days are reported to Payroll as imputed income and added to the employee’s W-2 wages and tax is withheld.

It is rare to avoid this, so be sure to submit your reimbursement in a timely fashion.

Yes, you absolutely can.

A flight may be upgraded to business or first class if there is a documented condition as to why an upgrade is necessary, or if the flight is in excess of 5hrs. If an upgrade is necessary, please obtain a quote for a round- trip economy flight as well at the time of booking and submit with your purchased ticket. The difference in the airfare total will be documented.

For departments outside of  WEAI, they will need to enter the below information in the "report header" field if they are using our chart string and require approval: (1) Type of Report: CU Business Expenses (2) School: A&S Core – Interdisciplinary (410000X) (3) Division: A&S Institutes (41NS00X) (4) Sub-division A&S Weatherhead E Asian Inst (410900X) (5) Admin Department (4109102)

You can access Concur from your desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone.

We recommend saving all your receipts as PDF (Portable Document Format)

After you have added Expense Items to the Expense Report you created. First, Select the checkbox(es) next to the Expense Items you are allocating to alternate ChartStrings. Second, Click the Allocate button. The Allocate screen appears indicating the Default (ChartString) for the report is allocated for 100%. Third, Click the Add button. The Add Allocation window appears. Fourth, Edit the desired ChartFields and click Save. The ChartString is listed in the Allocation Screen. If needed, repeat steps 3 and 4 to add additional ChartStrings to the Allocation. Fifth, Indicate the Percent % of each ChartString in the allocation. Alternatively, you can select Amount and indicate the amount for each Chartstring in the allocation. If the allocation of the ChartString(s) you added is less than 100%, the remaining percent or amount will be allocated to the Default. Sixth, Click the Save as Favorite button to save this Allocation to re-use for future Expense Reports and then click Save.

Please view the full Job Aid here for instructions on how to Delete or Recall an Expense Report.

Please view the full Job Aid here for instructions on how to Append Additional Receipts or Documentation to an Expense.

If you have further questions, please contact Nancy Hirshan at [email protected]. Alternatively, you can contact the Finance Service Center

As of December 7, 2021, please refer to this presentation on event rules. 

The first step before purchasing promotional items is to choose one of the following vendors are licensed to use Columbia trademarks for promotional giveaway items: Approved Promotional Vendors

The second step is to determine if the amount of the purchase will be less than or more than $2,500. Purchases from approved promotional vendors under $2,500 can be paid for using the P-Card. If the amount of the purchase is $2,500 or more, it will require the issuance of a Purchase Order.