Matthew Talbert - USAID

Matthew Talbert

​Travel Card Program Coordinator, Financial Policy and Support Division (FPS)
US Agency for International Development (USAID)
10 Year Veteran of the GSA SmartPay Program (Level 1 A/OPC)

Describe some of your responsibilities related to the GSA SmartPay program.

I handle all aspects of the travel card program at USAID including; all account maintenance and setup, assisting almost 3,000 
Individually Billed Account (IBA) cardholders globally with issues ranging from lost cards to general use questions, support 60 
Centrally Billed Accounts (CBAs) used for ticket purchases, and 2,000 Declining Balance Cards (DBCs).

How does your agency/organization use the GSA SmartPay program to accomplish its mission?

As an Agency operating globally, USAID has staff traveling every day of the year somewhere.  The program allows us to have 
Centrally Billed Account (CBA) cards to consolidate airline cost, and Individually Billed Account (IBA) cards so travelers are not 
paying out of pocket or having to get cash advance for travel.     

What do you see as the major benefits of the GSA SmartPay program?

The program has allowed USAID to pursue a policy of not doing cash advances for US staff.  This allows the Agency to streamline the authorization and vouchering process resulting in cost saving and removing a control weakness that cash causes.

What are three words to describe the GSA SmartPay program?

The three words that come to mind after 10 years of working with card programs are: Flexible, Innovative and Supportive. Both GSA and Citibank staff have been all of these through [GSA] SmartPay and [GSA] SmartPay 2, providing me and USAID with tools to better manage many of the payment aspects of the travel process.

What is the most interesting/important way that you’ve seen the GSA SmartPay program used within your agency/organization?

USAIDUSAID has worked with Citibank over the years to implement a card product that can be issued to our Foreign Service National (FSN) staff and other Local Engaged Staff (LES). These are staff that could not be issued a regular Individually Billed Account (IBA) card due to the lack of a Social Security Number (SSN). The Declining Balance Cards (DBC) have allowed the Agency to capture spend for a segment of staff that previously were forced to carry large sums of cash in some of the least safe zones to travel. We are now able to improve the safety of a large portion of our staff and reduce the risk of loss associated with cash.
The DBCs have also proven to a be great tool during emergency post evacuations, and were extremely useful in 2011 during our evacuation of our Cairo office during the Arab Spring uprising, which occurred while the Agency had an extra 150 staff in Cairo for a conference.  We were able to put [the] card in their hands so they could pay for lodging and make alternate travel arrangements quickly after being evacuated to Cyprus. 

What’s one fact/piece of information about the GSA SmartPay program that you’d like to share with the account holder?

Take advantage of the banks’ online tools to manage the account. 

What’s one fact/piece of information about the GSA SmartPay program that you’d like to share with the general public?

That the program actually promotes transparency and when used properly it can save the Government money by reducing paperwork and the number of transactions associated with travel.