Navy Delays Requirement for Some Sailors to Pay for Moves Using Government Charge Cards

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Government Travel Credit Cards.
The ability to use a government charge card has been available to sailors for years, but the push to make it mandatory has faced resistance. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Faram)

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to accurately reflect the mandate began in 2022, not 2023.

The Navy has put a hold on its plan to require all its sailors to use a government charge card when paying for duty station moves, sparing junior service members.

The mandate, which started in January 2022, is still in effect for senior officers and enlisted -- chief petty officer ranks and officers at the rank of lieutenant commander and above -- while troops below those ranks will still be able to use personal credit cards for now. 

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The ability to apply for and use a government charge card has been available to sailors for years, but the push to make it mandatory has not only hit delays but resistance from the fleet.

According to Cmdr. Rick Chernitzer, a spokesman for Navy Personnel Command, the pause in the rollout is because the service "determined we needed to establish a process for handling interim payments of the Government Travel Charge Card by Sailors on long training tracks."

"Once we've determined the best way forward for that, we will issue further guidance on a new implementation date," Chernitzer added in an email Tuesday.

From the Navy's perspective, moving the fleet to the charge card has benefits for both the service and sailors. One Navy document notes that the card "opens up the option for eliminating out of pocket expenses" for the sailor doing the move while reducing "accounting errors [and] unmatched disbursements" for the Navy.

However, on social media, the move has been met with opposition by sailors and dependents who see the mandate as rife with problems. Many posts cite personal stories of slow reimbursement from the Navy, which in turn delayed their ability to repay the card. Although the card is tied to the Navy, the program is run by Citibank, and sailors are required to handle the billing directly.

In a previous interview with Military.com, Rear Adm. Stuart Satterwhite, the Navy's pay boss, noted that administrative transactions including reimbursing sailors for moves have faced delays that he is trying to remedy.

There are also stories of entire commands having trouble with getting sailors paid correctly.

Other social media comments from sailors and their families noted that the change also takes away the ability for sailors to charge an entire move to a personal card, netting them rewards or points.

One key advantage of a government card, however, is the ability to defer paying the balance until the sailor actually reaches their new command and is able to file for reimbursement. A Navy website notes that the service is able to "prevent the GTCC bill from being due prior to reporting to [the] new [duty station]."

The Navy message announcing the changes released in December said the push to mandate all ranks to use the card "is on hold."

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

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