What do I need to Know?

Harvard faculty, staff and students must follow specific travel guidance.  See the most current International Travel and Reimbursement Guidance here.   

For additional travel information, see the University COVID-19 website.

Traveling for Harvard-related business? See what you need to "Know Before You Go":

Online Booking Tool

Harvard has selected Egencia as our on-line booking tool. Egencia offers low fees for on-line booking.  

Click here to access Harvard's Egencia website.

To learn more about using Egencia and how to obtain a username, please visit the Travel Services website here.

Preferred Agencies

The preferred and most convenient way to book your travel is through one of Harvard’s preferred agencies. By using one of these agencies you will be able to take advantage of University discounts and benefits negotiated with preferred travel partners. Additionally, these agencies are familiar with travel requirements due to COVID, Harvard’s travel policies, assist with management of unused tickets available for re-booking and support Duty of Care by knowing where our travelers are in case of inclement weather or domestic/international incident.  You can also save time by completing a traveler profile which contains your travel information, preferences and frequent flyer and loyalty program information.    

Note: If you are traveling on Sponsored funds, please let the agent know that before you begin making your reservations.

Traveling by Air

Preferred Travel Partners

When traveling by air, it is recommended that you use a Harvard Preferred Airline whenever possible. These are airlines that Harvard has negotiated discounts and benefits with including complimentary preferred seats, priority check-in, priority boarding and priority re-accommodation.

These benefits and discounts can only be obtained by booking through one of our preferred Travel Agencies. Discounts will vary by airline, destination and fare type and do not apply to every fare.

In many cases the fares you book will not be eligible for further discounts because they are already deeply discounted. However these low fares are often limited and when they sell out, our negotiated fares insure that we do not pay a premium.

Click here for the full list of Harvard's Preferred Airline Partners and the benefits available to Harvard Travelers.


Fare Guidelines

Travelers are expected to book the lowest and most reasonable nonstop airfare consistent with their itinerary, the business purpose of their trip, and the requirements of the funding source.

Flight Comparison Documentation

If travelers are combining business and personal travel on the same trip or upgrading airfare on sponsored funds, the traveler would need to obtain within one business day a flight comparison to show what the cost would have been had the traveler not externded their trip or upgraded their airfare.  Travelers should follow this guidance to ensure they have proper documentation for reimbursement.

Airline Fees

Harvard will reimburse employees for reasonable and necessary fees such as baggage fees and ticket cancellation and change fees (provided there is a valid reason for the change or cancellation.

For detailed guidance on fare guidelines and airline fees, please review Appendix A of the Travel Policy.

Fly America and Open Skies Agreements

Generally, if a traveler is traveling on funds provided by the federal government, he/she must use a U.S. flag carrier (an airline owned by an American company), regardless of cost or convenience. If you are scheduling international travel that is federally funded, you must ensure that all flights, where possible, are scheduled on U.S. flag carriers or on foreign air carriers that code share with a U.S. flag carrier. Visit the Fly America Act and Open Skies Agreement to learn more.

Traveling by Ground

Public Transportation, Shuttle Services and Taxis

Travelers should consider public transportation and shuttle services where they are available. Taxis may also be used where other methods of travel are unavailable or impractical.


Business Use of Personal Cars

Travelers may use his or her personal car for University business travel if doing so is less expensive than other means of transportation. Harvard reimburses travelers for the business use of a personal car up to the current federal government mileage rate. All requests for mileage reimbursement must include the traveler’s itinerary, the dates the mileage expenses were incurred, and the number of business-related miles driven. The University will NOT reimburse travelers for gas expenses in lieu of miles. Commuting expenses, repairs, and ticket and traffic violations are not reimbursable


Rental Cars

Harvard’s Preferred Car Rental Partners are Enterprise and National. When renting a car for Harvard sponsored business, you should select a vehicle from one of these vendors. Harvard has negotiated special pricing with these vendors which includes the required insurance coverages and limits for business rentals. In order for the insurance to be included, you must use Harvard’s Corporate ID’s (listed below) when booking your car. If you use a vendor other than Enterprise, National or Hertz, you must purchase a minimum of $250K in supplemental liability insurance. Additional information on required insurance while renting a car on University business can be found in the Insurance Grid (click here).  

For detailed guidance on business use of personal cars, including mileage reimbursement requirements and required insurance, as well as for rental car requirements and the use of Zipcars, please reference Appendix B of the Travel Policy


Rail Travel

All rail travel is expected to be at the lowest fare that offers reserved seating. For rail travel over six hours, first-class seating is reimbursable. For most international rail travel, reserved seating is only available in first class.


The University will reimburse travelers for lodging expenses while on official University business further than 50 miles one way from the traveler’s place of work. Per diems are not permitted for lodging reimbursements at SEAS.  Actual lodging expenses must be submitted for reimbursement.


Preferred Travel Partners

Harvard strongly encourages travelers to book lodging through one of Harvard’s preferred hotels or travel agencies. To learn more about Harvard’s travel agency partners and exclusive travel discounts, visit the Harvard Travel Services website, here.



Harvard travelers are expected to seek lodging that is safe, comfortable and reasonably priced. It is strongly recommended that travelers book their lodging with one of our preferred hotels or through one of our preferred travel agencies. Supporting our preferred vendors enables us to negotiate better rates and amenities with increased usage. 

For Airbnb bookings, the nightly rate must be reasonably priced and comparable to the expected nightly hotel rate based on the city of location. Any questions regarding reasonableness should be raised prior to booking the Airbnb residence. For stays in a rental accommodation such as Airbnb or VRBO that are longer than 30 days, the traveler must provide documentation of the rental accommodation's lower cost. No such documentation is required for shorter term stays. Please note folks should refer to fund specific allowability in relation to sponsored projects when considering Airbnb stays.

For more detailed guidance on allowable room types, reimbursable charges and alternate lodging alternatives such as: private residences or sabbatical lodging, please see Appendix C of the Travel Policy.


Individual Meal Expenses While Traveling

Travelers will be reimbursed for reasonable individual meal expenses while on University business. Harvard will not reimburse for excessive meal costs that are not substantiated by a complete and explanatory business purpose. Per IRS regulations, the University does not reimburse individual meal expenses for one-day travel except when the travel time is greater than twelve (12) hours. Per diem rates may not be used for one-day travel, nor may they be combined with actual expenses from the same trip.  When submitting a reimbursement for a single trip, all meal expenses must be in the same form of reimbursement (i.e. either all per diems or all actual expenses incurred).

Per Diem Rates - U.S. Domestic

Per Diem Rates - Foreign

Business Meals with Others While Traveling

Business meals are defined as meals with faculty, staff, students, donors, or other external parties during which specific documented business discussions take place. Travelers must exercise fiscal responsibility when choosing restaurants; travelers should avoid high-end establishments unless circumstances dictate that such a choice is appropriate, as when conducting University business with a major donor or foreign dignitary. Harvard will not reimburse for excessive meal costs that are not substantiated by a complete and explanatory business purpose.

Alcoholic Beverages
Alcohol purchased at business meals should be kept to a minimum, and must be charged to object code 8450 (expenses ineligible for federal reimbursement).

Itemized Receipt
The reimbursee often receives two receipts. One showing what was purchased and the second showing the payment method and tip. Both should be submitted. If an itemized receipt is not available and:
  • If the meal(s) did include alcohol and the reimbursee can attest in writing to the alcohol cost, then the alcohol portion with applicable tax and tip must be charged to object code 8450. No alcohol may be charged to a federal award.

    SEAS Best Practice is to use the 8450 calculator to determine the breakout, while including a copy in the supporting documentation.
  • If alcohol was included and the reimbursee cannot attest to the alcohol cost, then no portion of the meal cost can be charged to a federal award. The full amount of the meal cost should be charged to object code 8450 on discretionary funds.

Note: While not required on the receipt, the number and name(s) of the guests are required for reimbursement. If 5+ attendees, only the number of guests and summary of their affiliation is required.

Sponsored Travel

As outlined in the Sponsored Expenditure Guidelines Policy, travel-related expenses are allowable as direct expenses when they provide a direct benefit to the sponsored award.

Domestic and foreign travel charged to a sponsored project must follow these guidelines as well as the Harvard University Travel Policy and funding agency requirements, whichever imposes the greater restrictions.


Business Class Airfare or Upgraded Economy

If business class travel or upgraded economy is allowed under the Harvard Travel Policy, the difference in fare between the least expensive economy fare class and the business class fare must be charged to a non-sponsored account.

  • The traveler must obtain, within one business day of booking the flight, a price quote for the economy fare for the same itinerary. The economy class fare can be charged to the federal award and the difference must be charged to a non-sponsored account.
  • The Federal Lowest Economy Split Coding Job Aid can be utilized to calculate the charges and retained as supporting documentation. If the traveler does not obtain written documentation of the lowest available economy fare for the same itinerary within one business day of booking the flight, then NO portion of the fare may be charged to the federal award. Post-booking quotes are not allowed as substitute documentation


Fly America Act

All air travel on federal awards must comply with the Fly America Act and use U.S. Flag Carriers even when a less costly foreign flag carrier is available, unless the flight meets the circumstances and exceptions described in the Harvard University Fly America Travel Reimbursement Exception Form. Departments/local units need to retain documentation of the Fly America exceptions.

The Open Skies Agreement is an exception to the Fly America Act requirement and it allows travelers to fly on airlines from the European Union, Australia, Switzerland and Japan under certain circumstances. To determine if a flight meets the Open Skies Agreement criteria, see the Fly America Act and Open Skies Agreement Decision Tree



In order to charge a business meal on a federal award, an itemized receipt should be presented even if the total amount of the bill is less than $75. If an itemized receipt is not available, use a Missing Receipt Affidavit (MRA), and:

  • If the meal(s) did not include alcohol, the traveler must attest in writing that no alcohol was charged, and the entire amount can be charged to the appropriate federal award.
  • If the meal(s) did include alcohol and the reimbursee can attest in writing to the alcohol cost, than the alcohol portion with applicable tax and tip must be charged to object code 8450. No alcohol may be charged to a federal award
    • SEAS Best Practice is to use the 8450 calculator to determine the breakout, while including a copy in the supporting documentation.​​​​​

  • If alcohol was included and the reimbursee cannot attest to the alcohol cost, then no portion of the meal cost can be charged to a federal award. The full amount of the meal cost should be charged to object code 8450 on discretionary funds.
For more detailed guidance around requirements for travel expenses charged to federal awards, see Appendix G of the Travel Policy.
Required Documentation and Deadlines for Reimbursement

Harvard will reimburse for allowable, reasonable, properly substantiated expenses that are necessary and appropriate in the conduct of University business. All business expense reimbursements must meet the IRS accountable plan rules in order to be excluded from the recipient’s gross income, per the University Business Expense Reimbursements Policy.

In order to be reimbursed, all expenses must contain a detailed business purpose, be accompanied by supporting documentation and be submitted in accordance with University deadlines.


What Is an Acceptable Business Purpose?

A detailed Business Purpose includes all the information necessary to give the reviewer a clear understanding of the reason for the expense. Complete details include who, what, when, where and always why.

  • Who - person who traveled or incurred the expense
  • What - the purchased item/travel/conference, etc.
  • WhenDate range of travel/conference; date(s) of activity
  • Where - Location of travel/conference; location of activity
  • Why -  Justification for the purchase; RE: specific research (must be clear and specific!)

A detailed business purpose should be clear enough that a person with no prior knowledge of the transaction can discern all aspects of the transaction.  Any abbreviations or initials used should be identified and explained in the comments section to the approver. 


Receipts/Required Documentation

Receipts are essential for record keeping and to ensure compliance with IRS guidelines, as well as University Policy and Best Practices.

Harvard must follow specific rules that comply with the IRS Accountable Plan to ensure reimbursements are not taxable to the recipient/reimbursee. One requirement is that a reimbursement request must be substantiated with receipts showing evidence of payment. Receipts are required for purchases equal to or greater than $75, though strongly encouraged for all transactions.

Minimum Requirement for Receipts:

  • Date of transaction
  • Name of merchant
  • Transaction details (what was purchased)
  • The amount of purchase
  • The form of payment used (credit card, cash, check)
  • Indication that the amount was paid
  • Handwritten receipts that do not contain the above information require a Missing Receipt Affidavit (MRA)
  • Credit card statements alone are not acceptable in lieu of receipt
  • Documentation and justification must be maintained according to the Harvard Records Schedule.

It is the responsibility of the cardholder (if charged to Corporate Card or Pcard), card administrator (Department Card) or reimbursee to provide the support and documentation for the reimbursement.

For additional guidance, check out this helpful document on the Definition of Receipts and the slide deck from our SEAS Financial Operations Brown Bag Session about Receipts and Required Documentation held on June 15, 2021 


Deadlines for Submission

If UFS receives
report in:
0-30 days after trip end date - SEAS Internal Deadline to submit is 30 days   Reimbursement without tax implications to the Reimbursee. 
91-182 days after trip end date   Reimbursement will be treated as income to the employee and must be processed via Payroll. Reimbursement will be processed as additional pay and taxes will be withheld; departments must include an Additional Pay form with the reimbursement request. Payments may NOT be grossed up.
183+ days after trip end date   Expenses will NOT be reimbursed with University funds.

Please note reimbursement for travel-related expenses cannot be made until after the travel has taken place. The only way to pre-pay travel expenses is by using your Harvard Corporate or Department Card.

Non-Harvard Employees: While reimbursements to non-employees are not technically bound by the same 90-day deadline; Harvard encourages units to pay non-employee expenses in the same fiscal quarter as they are incurred.

How Do I Get Reimbursed?

Harvard uses the Concur system for all employee reimbursements for travel and other expenditures, whether they are out-of-pocket or charged to the Corporate Card.  Non-employees are reimbursed via the Non-employee Reimbursement Form (NERF) in B2P.

What is Concur?

Concur is Harvard University’s electronic Travel & Expense Reimbursement System. Click here for detailed information about Concur.


How can I access Concur?

Use this link to access Concur using your Harvard credentials.


Is there any training available for Concur?

Use this link to access a complete library of Concur training items. This includes quick start guides and job aids for setting up your profile, processing and approving reports in Concur and much more.


Is there a mobile App for Concur?

Concur provides a mobile app which assist users in preparing and approving expense reports. The Concur App lets travelers use a smartphone camera to take pictures of receipts, create and submit expense reports, and review and approve reports. To download the app, access your mobile app store and search for ‘Concur’. Use this link for more information.


Have more questions about using Concur?

Use this link to access frequently asked questions about the use of Concur.


Need to contact Concur support?

Use this link which provides contact support information for any additional questions or issues.