510.00 Introduction

The Legislature creates laws governing travel, the Montana Department of Administration prescribes regulations to follow, and the effective managerial controls and enforcement rest with Montana State University.

The three references with information regarding state employees' travel are:

  • Montana Codes Annotated (MCA)
  • Administrative Rules of Montana (ARM)
  • Montana Operations Manual (MOM) Volumes I, II and IV

Personal contact is often the most economical and practical method of achieving effective communication and objectives. However, an employee should follow these guidelines when considering travel:

All travel will be approved in advance by the department head or designated representative.


  1. The number of personnel attending a given function requiring travel will be held to the absolute minimum.

  2. Transportation will be the most economical in terms of direct cost to the State and the employee's time away from the office. All commercial air travel will be by the least expensive service available. Trips should be scheduled to avoid unnecessary backtracking and overlapping.

  3. Employees using automobiles in an approved travel status will obey all posted speed limits and will make every effort to maximize the benefits to the State of the travel.

  4. Although Montana State University is encouraged to assist and support other states and organizations, Montana cannot do so at its own expense. Therefore, only travel that will benefit the state of Montana will be allowed. If another state or organization is willing to pay travel costs for a Montana State employee for lecturing or providing other assistance, the department head may contribute the employee's personal service costs to the project.

  5. The State of Montana will not pay any employee's travel costs to attend a function that does not benefit the State. To promote employee initiative and efforts of self-improvement, the department head may provide an employee time off with pay to participate in the desired function--if the time-off with pay conforms with the provisions of ARM title 2, chapter 21, sub-chapter 15.

510.10 Frequently Asked Questions

    Frequently Asked Questions

520.00 Forms

The following forms are available by download:

  1. Regular BPA's
  2. Travel Authorization and Advance (word format) or Travel Authorization and Advance (PDF format)
  3. Travel Expense Vouchers 2017, Travel Expense Vouchers 2018  Instructions

530.00 Travel Advances

Travel advances may be obtained by MSU employees or students to avoid hardship or undue strain on personal finances.  Applications for travel advances should be filed with the University Business Services at least 10 working days in advance of the departure date.  Due to audit recommendations, advance checks will be requested through the State Auditor's office.  Only unanticipated travel advances will be written on campus.  If the Office of Sponsored Programs needs to approve the travel, additional time should be allotted.  If the travel is out of state, the justification section of the Travel Authorization and/or Travel Advance Request form MUST be completed.  Advances will not be given for amounts less than $50.00.  A travel advance may be denied to anyone abusing this privilege or who has not followed the designated time schedules for application or filing dates.  A travel advance is for the convenience of the traveler and is an advance expenditure of travel.  The travel advance request must be approved and funded in the same manner as any claim.

The original Travel Authorization and/or Travel Advance Request form is required to process the Travel Advance.  Upon University Business Services's (or OSP's) receipt of this original, a copy stamped "For clearing purposes only - the ORIGINAL located in University Business Services" will be returned to you/your department.  This stamped copy must be returned with the Expense Voucher, receipts, etc.

Trip Cancellation--If a trip is canceled after an advance is received, the advance should be repaid in full to Accounts Payable in University Business Services office no less than 10 days after cancellation. (Do not deposit funds directly back to your account.)

540.00 Travel Authorization:

The Travel Authorization and/or Travel Advance Request form is required for all MSU employees or students who wish to travel out-of-state. 

It is important that the traveler apply for the authorization as soon as possible since a copy of the approved authorization MUST accompany all applications for travel advances (including airfare).  The original copy (if NOT being used as a Travel Advance) should be retained by the department and submitted with the Travel Expense Voucher upon completion of travel. 

550.00 Reimbursable Expenses:

Reimbursable travel expenses include only those expenses incurred while traveling on official State business. These expenses are divided into six groups:

550.10 Transportation-Mode of Travel:

Commercial Airfare--State travel policy requires travelers to use the State Purchasing card for individual employee (not team or large group) airfare purchases. This applies to ticket purchases made through a travel agent, purchased directly from an airline, or purchased from an online travel source.   Please note that this is for individual travel only, and does not apply to team or group travel, for which we often issue a check.

IN LIEU OF AIRFARE, an employee may wish to use other than the most economical and expeditious mode of transportation to complete a travel oriented work assignment. For example, an employee may prefer to drive a private vehicle to a particular destination rather than fly. To drive would require more travel time and more cost than airfare. When other than the least expensive class service is used, a full explanation of the justifying circumstances MUST be included with the claim. The employee will be given "air travel equivalent"--the most economical airfare in lieu of mileage and allowable meals and lodging as though the trip had been made on a commercial airline. The remaining travel time (in excess of air travel time) would have to be completed on the employee's time (non-working hours of vacation).

CANCELLATION OF TICKETS AND REFUNDS--In the event a purchased ticket is NOT used, the ticket must be returned to University Business Services as soon as possible for a refund. UNUSED TICKETS SHOULD NOT BE SURRENDERED TO THE TRAVEL AGENTS. If a lower fare is obtained after the purchase of the ticket, the travel agent should issue a check to the Montana State University, not the traveler.

GIFTS AND BENEFITS--Any benefits derived from approved, justified travel becomes the property of Montana State University and MUST be turned over to University Business Services. These may include airline promotions, such as frequent flyer credits, rebates, coupons, etc.

  • Private Aircraft--Anyone piloting a private aircraft should note their license number on the Travel Expense Voucher. The reimbursement for private aircraft is double the personal car mileage rate. If a plane is rented, the invoice must have an RC# and be signed by the employee. If the rental is not charged, the original invoices should be marked "Paid" and submitted to University Business Services for reimbursement.
  • State Owned Vehicles--The MSU Motor Pool maintains a fleet of cars for MSU employees to use for official travel. Several types of vehicles are available according to the traveler's needs. Requests to use a Motor Pool vehicle should be made through the Motor Pool Office. The Motor Pool will bill the department monthly and payment will be processed automatically by Centralized Accounts Receivable. Rates on vehicles are available from the Motor Pool Office. State vehicles are to be used for official business only. No MSU employee will use or authorize the use of a state-owned or leased motor vehicle for personal or private use.
  • Personal Vehicles -- MSU employees may use their personal vehicle and received reimbursement at the rate of 26.20 cents per mile.  No MSU employee will be compensated for driving their own vehicle unless it is used for State business.

Employees are encouraged to use University owned vehicles while on University business. Employees utilizing personal vehicles shall carry their own insurance with business use protection. The employee's personal vehicle insurance coverage is considered primary. Certification of such coverage is included in the validity statement, to be signed by the employee on the Travel Vendor Payment Authorization.

Personally owned vehicles are only protected for liability to third parties for an employee's negligent act(s) in the exercise of official University business. Such liability coverage is secondary to the named insured's personal auto policy. Property damage to an employee's personal automobile is not covered for collision or other than collision by the University's motor vehicle insurance coverage.

A personal vehicle would normally be used when a Motor Pool or other appropriate vehicle is not available or when it is prudent to utilize a personally owned vehicle. The following explanations will be considered prudent for utilization of a personally owned vehicle for University business:

  1. The State Motor Pool has been contacted and there is not a vehicle available for the day(s) requested, or the vehicle available does not fit the traveler's requirements.
  2. Weather or road conditions justify the use of a personal vehicle.
  3. The legitimate purpose of the trip easily subject to misinterpretation, a personal car is a more prudent choice.

The signature of the Traveler at the disclaimer section (above the Other Expenses) on the Travel Expense Voucher will acknowledge that the above requirements were verified and the use of a personal vehicle was approved.  The signature of the department head on the bottom of this form will constitute the department's approval.

The current Montana Highway map will be used to determine mileage among all points of travel. All vicinity mileage must be justified with an explanation on the Travel Expense Voucher.

Reimbursement will be from the work location if travel begins or ends during the travel shift and from the home residence if the travel begins or ends outside the travel shift.

It is usually necessary to begin traveling prior to the time established for a meeting appointment, a conference, etc. Business activities may terminate late in the day and because of bad weather, fatigue, and the unavailability of transportation, it may not be feasible for the employee to return promptly to headquarters. In such cases, travel expenses are allowed for a reasonable amount of time preceding and following the actual business activities that necessitate travel. Because circumstances vary, the "reasonable" criterion will have to be applied on an individual basis.

The following Travel Allowance Schedule is used to reimburse State and MSU employees:


Private vehicle (requirements not met & director of dept approves) 26.20 cents/mile 26.20 cents/mile
Private vehicle used requirements met, traveling less than 1,000 miles 54.50 cents/mile as of January 1, 2017 54.50 cents/mile as of January 1, 2017

Private vehicle used requirements met, traveling more than 1,000 miles in a month the balance over 1,000 miles

51.50 cents/mile 51.50 cents/mile
Private aircraft 1.09/Nautical Mile 1.09/Nautical Mile
State vehicle NONE NONE
Public Transportation actual/reasonable actual/reasonable

550.20 Meals:

The following travel allowance schedule is used to reimburse MSU Employees in accordance with State policy.

Morning 12:01 am - 10:00am $5.00 $11.00
Mid day 10:01am -3:00 pm $6.00 $12.00
Evening 3:01 pm - 12:00 am $12.00 $23.00


Departure time and return time is normally considered to be when an employee leaves from and returns to headquarters. However, if the employee departs from or returns directly to his/her residence without stopping at headquarters, this starting and/or ending time should be used in computing the travel allowances.

A "travel shift" is defined as that period of time beginning one hour before an employee's regularly assigned shift and ending one hour after the employee's assigned work shift.

To be eligible for a meal reimbursement while traveling on official business, the employee must have been in a "travel status" for more than three (3) hours within the meal time frame and be a distance of at least 15 miles from headquarters or home, whichever is closer. In the event that meals are included in a registration fee, no meal allowance should be claimed for that meal.

A receipt for meals is not necessary to obtain reimbursement (except for International Travel).

Travel by air is considered to be out-of-state from the time of boarding a flight with a destination outside Montana, or returning from outside Montana. When using other modes of transportation, the geographical location will determine instate and out-of-state meal reimbursement allowances. Travelers not flying must indicate the time of crossing state lines on their Travel Expense Voucher.

550.30 Lodging

The following schedule gives the rates for lodging reimbursements used by MSU employees:

Max Allowed with receipt $93.00* $93.00**
Max Allowed without receipt $12.00 $12.00
High Cost Cities ACTUAL ACTUAL

*Plus the current Montana Bed Tax

**Effective 10/01/17, reimbursement for lodging is based on federal per diem schedules and is actual cost NOT TO EXCEED the prescribed maximum standard rate for the location plus taxes. The standard federal lodging rate is $93.00 per night. A number of locations have been assigned a higher maximum lodging rate. This list is available on the Internet: Travel and Transportation Management Policy.

**Effective 10/01/16, reimbursement for lodging is based on federal per diem schedules and is actual cost NOT TO EXCEED the prescribed maximum standard rate for the location plus taxes. The standard federal lodging rate is $91.00 per night. A number of locations have been assigned a higher maximum lodging rate. This list is available on the Internet: Travel and Transportation Management Policy.

DISCOUNTS--Many hotels and motels have an educational or state discount. Travelers should always inquire about these discounts.

ORIGINAL RECEIPTS--In order to claim lodging reimbursement, an ORIGINAL receipt from the lodging facility MUST be attached to the Travel Expense Voucher. Other receipts, such as credit card receipts, canceled checks, etc. are not acceptable.

NON-STATE EMPLOYEE TRAVEL--If an employee is sharing a room with a non-state employee, the lodging rate for single occupancy MUST be stated and claimed (i.e.. a spouse travels with the employee).

LODGING PROVIDED--In some instances, lodging is provided to the employee but no charge is assessed. Therefore, no expense can be claimed. Examples of this would be:

  • Industry or governmental seminars where lodging is provided "on-campus"
  • Lodging is included in the registration fee.
  • A cabin is provided for backwoods work.

REQUEST FOR ACTUAL COST LODGING - IN-STATE/OUT-OF-STATE --  In some instances, lodging will be more than the standard federal rate.  For those occasions, this section of the Travel Authorization and/or Travel Advance Request (word format) or Travel Authorization and/or Travel Advance Request (PDF format) form may be completed.

550.40 Registrations

Travel expenses included in registration fees--If lodging and/or meals are included in the registration fee, the lodging and meal expense cannot be claimed for reimbursement. Whenever lodging and/or meals are included in a conference or registration fee, they must be noted on the Travel Expense Voucher.

550.50 Miscellaneous Expenses

Miscellaneous business expenses associated with travel are reimbursable. Individual expense items of $25.00 or more per day MUST be supported by paid receipts. All miscellaneous expenses are reported in the "Other Expense" column of the Travel Expense Voucher and must be explained in the space provided at the bottom of the form with sufficient information to be verified. Examples of allowable miscellaneous expenses include: needed work supplies purchased on an emergency basis, taxi fares, business telephone calls, etc. Miscellaneous expenses do NOT include tips and taxes on meals.

ITEMIZED RECEIPTS--When a traveler incurs any expense of $25.00 or more per day, an original receipt must be filed to assure reimbursement. Credit card statements and canceled check are not acceptable receipts. Any exceptions must be approved by University Business Services.


550.60 International Travel

For travel to a location outside of the United States, allowances for meals and lodging follow the United States Department of State maximum travel per diem allowances for foreign areas as established in Section 2-18-501(4), MCA MOM Employee Travel Policy, IX, A - B. The federal schedules for International Travel are available in the Department of Administration or at the following Internet site: http://aoprals.state.gov/content.asp?content_id=184&menu_id=78

Under the new GSA system, reimbursement is limited to actual lodging expenses, up to the maximum dollar lodging amount for the area, plus a per diem amount for meals and incidental expenses. The first column of the federal International Travel schedules specifies the maximum per diem for meals and incidental expenses (M&IE). The federal meal per diem is allocated at the rate of 15% for breakfast, 25% for lunch and 40% for dinner, rounded to the nearest dollar. By using these rates the 20% foreign incidental allowance not allowable under state law is excluded from the per diem calculation.
For travel to a location outside of the United States , except as provided in section 1-0360.10 and 1-0360.20, the meals and lodging rates provided in Section 2-18-501(4), MCA, follow:



Morning meal


$  7


Midday meal



Evening meal



Total per day



Per night


Note: Employees must submit receipts for both foreign meals and lodging to receive reimbursement.

In order to claim foreign lodging reimbursement, the original receipt from the lodging facility must be attached to the travel expense voucher. Other receipts, such as credit card receipts, are not acceptable.

560.00 Travel Expense Voucher

Travel Expense Vouchers must be filed within ten(10) days after the trip has been completed. Failure to do so may lead to denial of future advances. Original receipts must accompany the Travel Expense Voucher with detailed information for all allowable expenditures. If a travel advance was received, it must be recorded and deducted from the gross amount of expenditures. If the expenditures exceed the advance, a final reimbursement will be issued to the traveler. If the travel advance exceeded the expenditures, a deposit reimbursing the state MUST accompany the Travel Expense Voucher.

TRAVEL EXPENSE VOUCHER INSTRUCTIONS--With each travel expense voucher is a complete set of instructions. To speed up processing time, please submit the information in the following order:

  1. BPA (only if a reimbursement is required)
  2. Travel Expense Voucher 2018
  3. Receipts - If they are small, tape to an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper. More than one receipt may be attached to the same sheet.
  4. Copy of Travel Authorization and/or Travel Advance Request (word format) or Travel Authorization and/or Travel Advance Request (PDF format)
  5. Attach together with two staples (one in each upper corner)

If a reimbursement is owed to the State, staple check and completed cash receipt to the Travel Expense Voucher and send to the cashiers.

570.00 Non-State Employees Travel

Reimbursement for non-state employees is limited to:

  1. Job Applicants
  2. Honorariums
  3. Visiting Lecturers
  4. Consultants
  5. Workshop Personnel
  6. Other non-state employee travel may be approved on a individual basis.

570.10 Team Travel

Effective July 1, 1982; state per-diem travel rates will not be applicable to intercollegiate team travel.

Coaches traveling with the team are expected to file individual Travel Expense Voucher for reimbursement and follow State guidelines UNLESS their expenses are included in the team travel.

When team members are advanced cash in order to pay for their own meals, individual receipts will not be required; however, intercollegiate athletics will be required to submit a list of names and amounts individually signed by each member as documentation for such cash disbursements.

570.20 Student Travel

Effective January 1, 1991, students who are traveling for the State must follow the process listed below:

  1. Complete a Travel Banner Payment Authorization. (These forms are available to be downloaded.)

  2. Have his/her advisor sign the liability statement on the travel BPA.

  3. Submit a Travel Authorization and/or Travel Advance Request form if traveling outside Montana.

  4. Follow the State's allowances for meals and lodging. (They no longer have to save meal receipts unless required by the grant funding the travel.)

  5. Save all other receipts and file a Travel Expense Voucher within 10 days of completion of travel.

Advances issued will be 100% of the requested allowance. (Revised 11/16/12)