Original Issuance Date: October 5, 2015

Last Revision Date:         November 11, 2022

Effective Date:                  July 1, 2020

1. Policy Purpose

The objectives of this policy are as follows:

  • Consolidate travel dollars spent for lodging and hotel based meeting & events needs with select UW System contracted or partnership lodging properties located in top travel destinations for the purposes of obtaining optimal rates with greater availability, enhanced services, favorable terms, and included amenities for top travel destinations.
  • Designate Concur or use contracted travel agencies as the preferred methods for making individual lodging reservations to achieve the following benefits:
    • Efficiency in process for making reservations,
    • Provide a platform for data collection between the UW System and contracted lodging properties to identify volume usage for contracted rates and terms,
    • Provide users a single source for access to live rates and availability directly from the lodging industry, including exclusive contract rates, promotional rates, and government rates not available on other sites,
    • Ability to determine traveler location based upon reservation data and use that information to provide duty of care notification and outreach services in emergency situations.
  • Define options for payment
  • Clarify allowable lodging expenses
  • Prescribe maximum rates for lodging
  • Define receipt and expense reporting requirements in accordance with applicable tax laws
  • To provide an exception process for the procurement and payment of lodging when traveling to locations that lack lodging availability within policy constraints.

2. Responsible UW System Officer

Vice President for Finance and Administration

3. Scope

This policy applies to all UW System sponsored lodging for employees, students, contractors, invited guests, other non-employees.

4. Background

This policy has been issued under the authority of the UW System Board of Regents as it relates to the governance of university travel and expense policies created under s. 36.11(56), Wis. Stats. The Board of Regents delegated authority for management and operation of the travel program to the UW System President in Regent Policy Document 21-5, University Travel Policies.

5. Definitions

 None listed.

6. Policy Statement

A. Overview

This policy and any related procedures apply to all individuals, including employees, students, consultants, contractors, and other non-employees, traveling on behalf of the UW System and requesting payment or reimbursement of lodging.
The UW System will pay or reimburse actual lodging costs, within the stated maximum rates for the location, when the business trip requires an overnight stay. The UW System will not pay lodging costs when a traveler is within 50 miles of their home or headquarter city unless the travel is for a multi-day event with an evening program, meeting, or other business related activity that makes returning to the employee’s home each evening impractical.

B. Maximum Lodging Rates

The UW System lodging rate maximums are based upon the federal rates in use by most higher education peers, granting agencies, and the corporate sector. The rate methodology was recommended and approved by the systemwide travel governance committee. The maximum rate is for a single/standard sleeping room per person or single occupancy.

Rates are established by the federal government (General Services Administration (GSA), Departments of State & Defense). Rates are reviewed and updated by the GSA annually, on a federal fiscal year basis (October 1). Foreign rates are reviewed and updated monthly by the Departments of State & Defense.

The UW System utilizes the rate sources as indicated below with an adjustment for Continental U.S. locations.

The official source of calculating lodging rates for the location and date of expense is the UW TravelWIse Calculator.

Location of Lodging Rate Source and Payment/Reimbursement Amount
In-state – Within Wisconsin Actual cost not to exceed the federal location rate established by the GSA. Maximum rate excludes tax and travelers are responsible for obtaining tax exemption.
Out-of–state – U.S. excluding Alaska & Hawaii Actual cost not to exceed 125% of the federal GSA rate for the location. Maximum rate excludes tax.
Alaska and Hawaii Actual cost not to exceed the maximum federal (Department of Defense) established rate for the location. Maximum rate excludes tax.
U.S. Territories, Trans-border and all foreign locations. Actual cost not to exceed the maximum federal (Department of Defense and Department of State) established rate for the location. Maximum rate includes tax.
Externally designated conference lodging, regardless of location Actual Cost as documented by external organizer
University arranged lodging for sponsored conference, meeting or event Cost not to exceed the maximum rate for the location.

C. Reservation Options and Use of UW System Contract and Partnership Lodging Properties

The UW System continues to contract with frequently used lodging properties that are located in the UW System’s top travel destinations, including Wisconsin and those locations served by UW System institutions. UW System contract rates are negotiated within the UW System maximums for the location and incorporate state government rates whenever offered by the lodging property. The UW System has also partnered via agreement with other organizations (Big Ten Alliance, General Services Administration, and National Association of State Procurement Officers) to offer “partnership properties” with either state government or negotiated rates that are within UW System policy and rate limits for top UW System travel locations.

Access to UW System contract and partnership property rates are offered within Concur or with the UW Contracted Travel Agencies. The direct benefits of utilizing UW System contract or partnership properties are to receive optimal rates for quality accommodations close to the business need, obtaining greater room availability, flexibility in waived deposits and cancellation terms, and greater efficiency in making lodging reservations, including automated tax exemption where allowable. The University recognizes that there may be savings by booking directly with a hotel or with Airbnb, and is allowable. Employees should carefully review cancellation policies, note if rooms are refundable, and carefully review all terms and conditions. Note that Airbnb cancellation policies and other terms and conditions vary from traditional hotels, and should be carefully reviewed before reserved.

  •  Note: Use of internet based lodging “brokers” or third party sites (Expedia, Kayak, Priceline, Hotwire, etc.) is prohibited and will not be reimbursed. Use of these sites often does not offer the appropriate level of receipt information and, in general, does not meet the business objectives of the UW System’s managed travel program.

The Lodging and Meal Per Diem Calculator should always be consulted for the maximum rate for the location(s) of travel prior to making reservations and users are advised to follow the UW System lodging policy when selecting rooms as payment/reimbursement will be limited to the maximum for the location. When reserving Airbnb, all cleaning fees must be factored into the maximum daily reimbursement rate per person.

Concur is a live source for air, car and hotel rates therefore availability of rooms and rates change frequently. Based on dates of stay and room availability, a State Government rate, hotel promotion or membership (Triple A, AARP, etc.) rate may be less at a UW System contracted or partnership property than the UW System’s contracted or partnership rate. In these instances, the user should compare the lower rate, room inclusions and terms to determine if the lower rate is a better value than taking the UW System rate. If the same or better, the lower rate may be reserved. Travelers are advised to always make reservations well in advance for best pricing and availability. The Concur Mobile app is available for download and can be used for making last minute reservations or when “on the road”.

UW System contracted and partner hotels are clearly defined by rate access code name within the UW System Hotel Directory and these properties will display first as “Most Preferred” within Concur search when available in the location of travel.

For rate maximum or availability exceptions:  When a UW System traveler cannot obtain a room within the UW System’s maximum rate for the required location Concur will be utilized for the reservation and the user may reserve the lowest available rate for the lodging supplier closest to the business location. The reimbursement must contain an explanation for this exception.

External Conference property reservations as specified under subsection 6.H of this policy will be made directly with the lodging property or utilizing the reservation process and/or rate code provided by the organizer. Travelers are strongly encouraged to search Concur for their conference hotel(s) as often there are rates available that are less than the conference rate.

D. Travel Packages

Lodging that is bundled with other components (air, car, etc.) and purchased as a “package” is not allowable. The components are not contracted for and/or priced individually, receipted in accordance with policy, or in some cases divert from use of required contracts.

An exception to this rule is allowed when the travel package is purchased through a UW Contracted Travel Agency.

E. Room Selection

Lodging payment/reimbursement is limited to the maximum single/standard room rate for the location per business traveler.

F. Terms and Conditions

Travelers are responsible for knowing and complying with the lodging property’s terms and conditions, including but not limited to no-show or cancellation policies and check-in/out hours. Travelers may be held personally responsible for charges incurred for non-compliance with lodging terms and conditions. See also subsection 6.O of this policy, Room Deposits and Guarantees.

G. Shared Lodging

When sharing a room with another UW System business traveler, the expense of a double occupancy room may be incurred, but may not exceed the total cost of a single/standard room rate for the location for each business traveler.

H. Externally Sponsored Conference/Event Lodging Exception

The UW System understands the benefits associated with staying at a conference or other organized event site as it typically eliminates extra transportation costs and travelers can benefit from professional networking with other attendees. Based on these additional benefits, lodging for travelers attending externally sponsored conferences or other business events will be paid or reimbursed at the actual cost for staying at a conference-site or conference designated hotel(s) when the nightly rate exceeds the location maximum.

When the conference or event organizer offers a choice in lodging properties, travelers should select the least costly option that meets the business needs. All lodging paid under this exception must include documentation supporting that the choice of lodging was either the actual conference or event-site or the conference/event designated hotel(s).

Travelers not staying at facilities designated by the conference or event materials (i.e. brochure and/or registration form as documentation) are limited to lodging costs within the rate maximum for the location.

Travelers are strongly encouraged to search Concur for their conference hotel(s) as often there are rates available that are less than the conference rate.

I. UW System Sponsored Conferences, Meetings, or Events

When sleeping rooms are required for a UW System arranged conference, meeting or event, lodging will be reserved at no more than the maximum rate for the location. Agreements for group sleeping rooms or group room blocks must be submitted to the institutional purchasing office for review and approval. When it is determined by the organizer that use of a hotel is needed for sleeping rooms and/or other conference, meeting or event needs, a UW System contract or partnership property will be utilized whenever available at the business location.

J. Group Lodging

Agreements and contracts for group room arrangements or group room blocks must be submitted to the institutional purchasing office for review and approval.

K. Use of Non-Licensed Facilities

Other than Airbnb for Work, use of non-licensed facilities for lodging presents an increased liability risk to the UW System and are prohibited. Exceptions may be granted by the approving authority after the evaluation of risk in circumstances where there is a lack of commercial lodging facilities near the business site or when the business purpose precludes use of a commercial lodging facility (e.g. remote location research assignment). When exceptions are approved, the other provisions of the policy apply and costs must be receipted to the level of detail specified.

L. Use of Campgrounds

The use of campgrounds as an alternative to hotels when no hotel facility is available or when the purpose of travel requires the use of a campground, is allowed and is a reimbursable expense. Payment or reimbursement for campground use must be supported by a receipt, received directly from the campground provider.

Understanding that some campgrounds are non-attended, which limits the receipt detail, the highest form of receipt from the campground is acceptable, provided any missing information is explained by the traveler on the payment/reimbursement request.

M. Extended/Long Term Lodging (Greater than 30 Days)

When the UW System requires that the traveler remain in travel status for an extended period of time (i.e. 30 days or longer), the employee is expected to find lodging at reasonable weekly/monthly rates. Extended stay hotels or lease of residential space (i.e. apartments, condos) obtained through a property management company or rental service should be considered as affordable options. The institution’s Risk Management office must be contacted before residential lease arrangements are made to ensure appropriate insurance applies. When accommodations are leased, costs for normal utilities, (e.g. heat and electricity) are reimbursable. Any required security deposits are the financial responsibility of the traveler and will not be paid or reimbursed with UW System funds.

The payment/reimbursement of lodging for travelers on extended leave (e.g. leave with or without pay, sabbatical, research, etc.) is not guaranteed. Each situation must be evaluated for UW System cost benefit, and payment/reimbursement approval must be obtained from the approving authority prior to incurring lodging expenses.

N. Lodging Provided In-Kind

The UW System will not pay or reimburse any lodging that is furnished in-kind or at no cost, including electing to stay with family or friends during business travel.

O. Room Deposits or Guarantees

As a standard, lodging properties address room deposits and guarantees in their terms and conditions and employees are responsible for understanding these prior to making any reservation.

If the traveler prepays a deposit and subsequently does not travel, reimbursement for the deposit is dependent upon approval by the institution’s approving authority with explanation as to why the travel did not occur as planned and why University funds should be used. Use of a UW System contract hotel with waived deposit requirements and/or reduced cancellation penalties generally eliminate this risk.

Group reservation deposits or guarantees are contingent upon contractual requirements of the lodging establishment and will be prepaid as required by agreement or contract after institutional purchasing office approval of the agreement or contract. A purchase order alone does not suffice for an approved agreement or contract.

P. Payment Methods

The approved payment methods for lodging purchases are University Purchasing Cards approved for travel or institutional or individual liability Corporate Travel Cards.

For departments that elect to pay costs with a central purchasing card, the property must be contacted for the hotel’s specific authorization for payment form. Property contact information is available within both the UW System Hotel Directory and Concur for reference.

Group lodging, contractual long-term lodging or leased lodging and any required deposits or scheduled payments may require purchase orders with payment by check or wire. These will not be paid by the UW System without the institutional Purchasing Office’s approved agreement or contract. Consult with the institution’s travel office regarding any questions on these requirements.

Q. Payment of Taxes and Other Fees

The UW System is exempt from the payment of Wisconsin sales tax for lodging. UW System travelers and travel arrangers are responsible for ensuring tax exemption is obtained prior to check-out as Wisconsin sales tax will not be paid or reimbursed. The UW System also has sales tax exemption in several other states; refer to procedures for sales tax exemption requirements and forms.

R. Receipt Requirements

All payments/reimbursements will be made in accordance with the location rate maximums and documentation requirements.  All deposits and pre-payments should be noted and proof of payment submitted for reimbursement

All lodging expenses paid or reimbursed, upon checkout, must be supported by an itemized receipt received directly from the lodging supplier and containing the following required information:

  • Name and address of lodging supplier
  • Name of Traveler(s) sleeping in room
  • Dates of stay
  • Number of people in room
  • Daily sleeping room rate
  • Room type
  • Taxes and other fees for each day of stay
  • Itemization of other costs (i.e. parking, internet, room service, etc.)
  • Proof of payment

Incidental or miscellaneous costs associated with lodging must have itemized receipts to be reimbursed. Typically this will include parking at hotel, internet services in hotel room if required for business use, etc. Tips for hotel personnel services are included in the Meals and Incidental Expenses (M&IE) per diem allowance and are not reimbursed separately. Costs specifically not allowed are listed in UW System Administrative Policy 405, Travel and Expense – General Travel & Expense Policy under Non-Payable or Reimbursable Expenses.

S. Procedural Standards

Procedures and Operational Standards for Purchase and payment of Lodging are integral to the application of this policy. Review procedural requirements.

7. Related Documents

Regent Policy Document 21-5, University Travel Policies

UW System Administrative Policy 405 (formerly 1200 (ANS), Travel and Expense – General Travel & Expense Policy

UW System Administrative Policy 435, Headquarters City & UW System-Sponsored Events Policy

University System Purchasing Card Policies

UW System Administrative Policy 336 (formerly F2), Sales and Use Tax

IRS Publication 463

8. Policy History

Revision 3:                          November 11, 2022
Revision 2:                          June 9, 2020
Revision 1:                          January 13, 2017
First approved:                 October 5, 2015*

* Previously information regarding travel was consolidated in section XL of Financial Policy and Procedure Paper (FAPP) 36 (now superseded by the travel policies in the 400 series of the UW System Administrative policies).

9. Scheduled Review

February 2021