University Finance, Travel, and Expense

Reimbursement Guidelines for Faculty, Students, Staff

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:



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:

  • By default, Students and Guests (Outside Parties) do not have access to Concur.  To assist Students and Guests with reimbursable expenses, a Staff member can create and complete a Travel and Business Expense Report on their behalf.
  • To request reimbursement for a Student or Guest, the user must select CU Non-Profiled Payee as the Type of Report. Please follow our Report Header Guidance when completing the Create New Report screen in Concur. The following worksheet should be completed and included with all CU Non-Profiled Payee reports:
  • Web Form: Non-Profiled Payee Travel and Business Expense Worksheet

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 Expenses

The following policies relates to legitimate and reasonable travel expenses incurred on behalf of the University. These policies are governed by Columbia University and conform to Federal and State Law:

Guidance of Summer Travel Policy for Summer 2021

Travel Expense Policy
International Travel Planning Policy


  • 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

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).


  • 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 Ryan McGhee (rm3557) or Nancy Hirshan (nh2047) for assistance.
  • Please see the list of non-reimbursable items.

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.

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