University Policies
Policy Contact
Accounts Payable Email 401-863-2716

Purchasing Card (PCard) Policy

Policy No. Issue Date Effective Date

1.0 Policy Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to establish the requirements to be issued and the responsibilities of using a University-issued credit card. 

2.0 To Whom the Policy Applies

This policy applies to all faculty and staff who are requesting or who have been issued a University Purchasing Card (PCard), as well as those who review and approve PCard transactions.

3.0 Policy Statement

All purchases made with a PCard must have a legitimate Business Purpose.

PCards are issued to authorized individuals and may only be used by the individual to whom the card is issued. Sharing PCards is prohibited.

3.1 Issuance of PCards

Faculty/staff with a business need for a PCard must complete and submit a PCard Application form. PCards are issued by Accounts Payable upon the Accountholder's completion of a mandatory training on PCard policies and procedures.

3.2 Accountholder

The individual to whom the PCard is issued is responsible for safeguarding and managing transactions on the card. Additional responsibilities include:

  • Maintaining a confidential PIN for the card as required by Bank of America that issues the PCard
  • Purchasing only allowable goods
  • Not splitting a purchase in order to mitigate the Pcard’s single transaction limit or to avoid the requirement for a purchase order
  • Reviewing transaction history prior to January 1, 2021 in WORKS, if needed
  • Verifying transactions in Workday or delegating transaction verification authority to the appropriate financial steward (e.g., Cost Center Manager or Financial Coordinator), if needed
    • Review, monitor, and verify transactions in Workday in accordance with financial deadlines
    • Attach the receipt to the Pcard transaction verification in Workday or retain original receipts in accordance with documentation retention guidelines (Transactions logs must be used if the receipt was not attached in Workday)
    • Assign the appropriate worktags to the transaction in Workday
    • Provide the Business Purpose for each transaction in Workday

3.3 Allowable Purchases

The following purchases are generally allowable on the PCard:

  • Academic/classroom supplies not available through other University resources
  • Books
  • Car services approved as a Brown strategic supplier
  • Computing supplies not available through strategic suppliers
  • Conference registration fees
  • Dues & professional memberships
  • Equipment rental (other than vehicle rentals)
  • Gifts as defined in the Gifts and Donations to Individuals or Groups Policy
  • Gift cards as defined in Gift Card Policy
  • Hospitality expenses, such as the provisions of food, beverages, activities, or events
  • Newspapers and periodicals
  • Postage/express postage
  • Rail and bus tickets for faculty, staff, and students, in accordance with Brown's travel policies 
  • Software
    • OIT has previously completed a security review of the products listed on the Software And Services With Pre-Approved Risks web page. In purchasing these products, the department agrees to only store data in these products at the approved security level noted on this page. If at any time the department intends to store more sensitive data in these products, the department agrees that an additional security review needs to be conducted. If the software purchase is not already on this page, then an initial OIT data security review is required prior to purchase. For more information regarding the data security review, please email
  • Zipcar, when using a departmental Zipcar account

3.4 Prohibited Purchases

The following purchases may not be made using the PCard:

  • Airfare
  • Animals
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Any software or technology subject to the jurisdiction of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)
  • Cash advances
  • Cell phones/phone charges
  • Computers
  • Construction/renovation
  • Equipment (items with a useful life over one year)
  • Gasoline
  • Items that require additional review for regulatory compliance
  • Prohibited purchases in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act, Section 889
  • Furniture
  • Hazardous materials
  • Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Personal items, including memberships (i.e., Amazon Prime, BJ’s, etc.)
  • Prescription drugs and controlled substances
  • Radioactive materials
  • Services, including consulting services
  • Vehicle rentals (except Zipcar when using a departmental Zipcar account)
  • Weapons and ammunition

3.5 PCard Limits

PCard limits are determined by the University Controller based on the business needs of the Accountholder’s department. Transaction limits range from $999 to $2,999. Monthly credit limits range from $3,000 - $15,000.

3.6 Exceptions

Exceptions to this policy require advance written approval from the University Controller.

4.0 Definitions

For the purpose of this policy, the terms below have the following definitions:

Accountholder: The individual to whom the PCard is issued.

Approver: The cost center manager and/or grant manager of the cost center and/or grant of the allocated charges, who is responsible for financial oversight and compliance with University purchasing guidelines.

Business Purpose: A required statement that adequately describes the expense as a necessary, reasonable, and appropriate business expense for the University. All expenses must support or advance the goals, objectives and mission of the University.

Purchasing Card (PCard): A credit card issued by the University to specific faculty/staff. The PCard does not affect the credit score of the individual to whom the card is issued.

WORKS: The Bank of America online system for reviewing historical PCard information prior to January 1, 2021.

5.0 Responsibilities

All individuals to whom this policy applies are responsible for becoming familiar with and following this policy. University supervisors are responsible for promoting the understanding of this policy and for taking appropriate steps to help ensure and enforce compliance with it.

Cost Center Manager: Review and approve PCard verifications in Workday and ensure all transactions are supported by receipts and a Business Purpose.

Grant Manager: Review and approve any PCard verifications that have been assigned to a grant in Workday and ensure all transactions are supported by receipts, include a Business Purpose, and are allowable under the terms of the grant.

Accounts Payable:  Oversee general process. Process PCard applications and cancel or suspend cards as needed.

University Controller: Review requests for exceptions to this policy and use sound judgement to decide.

6.0 Consequences for Violating this Policy

Failure to comply with this and related policies is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including suspension without pay, or termination of employment or association with the University, in accordance with applicable (e.g., staff, faculty, student) disciplinary procedures.

Accounts Payable may suspend PCard privileges if policies and procedures are not followed, including when the PCard is used for prohibited purchases, personal use, or to split transactions.

7.0 Related Information

Brown University is a community in which employees are encouraged to share workplace concerns with University leadership. Additionally, Brown’s Anonymous Reporting Hotline allows anonymous and confidential reporting on matters of concern online or by phone (877-318-9184).

The following information complements and supplements this document. The information is intended to help explain this policy and is not an all-inclusive list of policies, procedures, laws and requirements.

7.2 Related Procedures

  • Purchasing Card SOP

7.4 Frequently Asked Questions

7.5 Other Related Information

Policy Owner and Contact(s)

Policy Owner: Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer

Policy Approved by: Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer

Contact Information:

Accounts Payable Email 401-863-2716

Policy History

Policy Issue Date:

Policy Effective Date:

Policy Update/Review Summary:

Removed procedure and updated language for allowable and prohibited purchases.

Previous policy version(s) superseded by this policy:

  • Purchasing Card Policy (P-Card), Last Reviewed: January 10, 2022


Website Updated October 20, 2023