Carnegie Mellon University

Business and Travel Expense Policy

The university pays for business and travel expenses incurred in connection with university business that is appropriately documented and in accordance with IRS accountable plan rules.

The basic premise governing business and travel expenses is that an individual should neither gain nor lose funds in the course of conducting university business.

Appropriate examples of Business-related (non-travel) expenses include:

  • Refreshments for a Student Advisory Council (SAC) event
  • Paper goods and utensils for events
  • A department head-approved recruitment dinner between current students and new graduate recruits

The department maintains a small fund to help with travel for students who are attending conferences and presenting research at meetings.

Appropriate examples of Travel-related expenses include (click for further details regarding each type of expense):

All expenses must have a valid business purpose. The university will not reimburse or pay for expenses that are inherently personal in nature. Below are some examples of personal expenses:

  • Personal grooming services, such as barbers, hairdressers, toiletries, and shoe shines;
  • Child care costs, babysitting, and house-sitting costs;
  • Pet care, including fees for boarding pets and other animal care;
  • Any personal clothing and accessories;
  • Prescriptions, over-the-counter medication, and other medical expenses;
  • Personal reading material, such as non-scholarly magazines, books and newspapers;
  • Personal recreation or entertainment such as greens fees, sightseeing fares, theater tickets, entry fees, lift tickets, etc.;
  • Credit card delinquency fees and finance charges;
  • Dues in private clubs;
  • Gym and recreational fees, including massages, manicures/pedicures and saunas;
  • Amenities such as movies, in-room bars, saunas, massages, etc.;
  • Personal insurance costs such as life insurance, business travel accident insurance, personal automobile insurance and baggage insurance;
  • Lost baggage;
  • Loss or theft of travel advance money, airline tickets, personal funds and other personal property;
  • Parking tickets or traffic violations.

Some important things to keep in mind:

    This is the most important thing to remember in the reimbursement process.
    If you don’t have a receipt, the expense might as well have never happened and you won’t be able to be reimbursed for it.
  2. Students must complete the Student Travel Request Checklist at least 1 month in advance of travel.
  3. Graduate students are not permitted per diem reimbursements (for food and/or lodging). Remember 1) ORIGINAL RECEIPTS ARE REQUIRED FOR ALL REIMBURSEMENTS.
  4. Ask before you spend. Never assume that there will be money available to you for an expense you incur. If you have been invited to a conference that you would like to attend, talk to Business Manager Laura Butler about possible funding available.

Other things to keep in mind:

The university will not provide travel advances, pay directly or make reimbursements for the travel expenses of companions/spouses or non-employees who accompany anyone on university business, except in limited circumstances (See Companion/Spousal Travel and Business Expenses in the Carnegie Mellon University Business and Travel Expense Policy).

Guidelines for specific expenses:


The class of air travel chosen is expected to be the lowest-priced coach airfare ticket available using a commercial discount or coach class or standard accommodations.

Frequent Flyer Programs

Travelers may personally retain frequent flyer plan rewards or other bonuses that may accrue from business travel. However, in no case may the traveler choose a reservation at a higher cost in order to accumulate additional plan rewards. The university will not purchase frequent flyer miles from travelers or reimburse them for tickets purchased with frequent flyer miles. Any membership fees to join frequent flyer clubs are considered personal expenses and will not be reimbursed by the university.

Checked baggage fees

Charges by airlines for checked baggage when traveling on University business are a reimbursable business expense. Excess baggage expenses are reimbursable in any of the following circumstances:

  • Traveler is transporting university materials;
  • Traveler is on an extended period of travel;
  • Department has approved of the charge.


A request for reimbursement for an upgrade for seats, premium boarding, etc. must include a description supporting the business purpose as to why the upgrade was appropriate and must be approved by the individual’s supervisor and designated departmental finance representative.

Lost luggage

The university does not maintain any lost luggage/items insurance coverage for any loss of personal belongings of its employees while on university business travel. University employees are encouraged to make their own arrangements for this type of insurance coverage either through their personal homeowners/renters insurance company or with their travel agent at the time of travel. The university will reimburse for this type of insurance only if there is a valid business purpose and the expense is approved by the designated departmental finance representative.

Transportation to the airport

Airport or other business parking will be reimbursed, but travelers are urged to use long-term, lower-cost parking lots when available. If public transportation or a cab is taken to or from the airport or other business location, that will be reimbursed as well.

When the use of a personal automobile is necessary for university business, reimbursement for its use will be made at the mileage rate published by the IRS (55.5 cents/mile).

It is the responsibility of the traveler to ensure that the proper mileage rate is being used and the distance is based upon actual driving distance using the most direct route. The mileage reimbursement rate covers reimbursement for use of the vehicle as well as any repairs, gas charges, and the owner's personal automobile insurance coverage, which provides the coverage in case of an accident. Tolls and parking fees are reimbursable. The university will not reimburse employees for parking tickets, fines for moving violations, vehicle towing charges, or auto repairs and maintenance.


If you choose to rent a car, you must choose a standard car class or lower. The university will not reimburse for an upgrade to a higher car class. In addition to the payment for the cost of the rental car, the only other permissible expense for rental cars in most cases is the cost to purchase gasoline.

Vehicles rented for university business purposes for less than thirty (30) days are considered short-term rentals by the university’s current automobile insurance carrier. Coverage of short-term rentals under the university’s automobile insurance policy is subject to the following conditions:

  1. All drivers of rental vehicles must be over the age of twenty-one (21).
  2. Any rental vehicle that has a value over $75,000 must be specifically scheduled with the Risk Management Office prior to the start of the lease/rental agreement.
  3. Coverage under the university's automobile insurance policy is only provided for vehicles rented in the United States, the territories and possessions of the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada.
  4. Rented vehicles should be leased as: Carnegie Mellon University - (name of faculty, staff, or student).
  5. Individuals renting vehicles for more than thirty (30) days should contact the Office of Risk Management Office to confirm applicable insurance coverage.

The insurance coverages below should not be purchased by those traveling in the United States, any territory or possession of the United States, Puerto Rico or Canada. The university already maintains automobile liability insurance within these countries and territories. Costs for the following coverages will not be reimbursed:

  1. Loss Damage Waiver/Collision Damage Waiver;
  2. Liability insurance supplement/Additional Liability insurance;
  3. Personal accident insurance.

For details on international rental cars, please visit the CMU Travel and Business Policy

The university will directly pay or reimburse a traveler for lodging expenses for the single occupancy cost of a standard room incurred during university-related travel.

The university will not pay for free accommodations awarded in connection with hotel frequent guest programs or any complimentary room accommodations provided by a hotel or other third party.

The university will reimburse travelers for the reasonable cost of their own meals incurred during the time they are away from home.

As a general rule, travelers are expected to incur no additional cost for meals which are provided as part of a fee for attendance at conferences, workshops, hotel cost, etc., or which are provided by an airline while en route to their destination.

Alcohol may be reimbursed as long as the expense is deemed reasonable and is not being charged to a Federal grant.

Other travel expenses may include, but are not limited to:

  • business telephone calls using personal devices while traveling;
  • hotel internet service fees;
  • fees for currency exchanges;
  • expenses associated with baggage handling and storage, including excess baggage charges and tips; and
  • phone calls home in a reasonable amount.