For authorized travel expenses during your permanent change-of-station move, the Defense Department requires that most service members use the Government Travel Charge Card. When you get your orders, go to your organization’s point of contact for the travel card to secure one.

And don’t delay.

“One common trend we’re seeing is that soldiers aren’t requesting their travel card in time for the PCS,” said retired Army Col. Eldon Mullis, deputy director and chief operating officer of Army Emergency Relief.

You’re reimbursed up to the limit of your travel allowances, so if these purchases exceed that amount, you’ll have to pay the rest of the bill — and do so within the required time frame after you complete your PCS.

Relocation expenses include transportation costs, lodging and meals during your allowable travel time, along with related costs.

They also include any relocation items normally purchased with a dislocation allowance — items you’d buy at a retail store to set up your household at your new location, such as cleaning materials, a lamp or even a new television.

You can use the travel charge card for deposits at the new location, such as those for utilities and rent. But those deposits are not reimbursable from the government: You’ll have to pay the bills within the required time frame after your move.

And if you decide to take a side trip on your way to your next duty station for a quick family vacation or even a visit with relatives, don’t put those expenses on your travel card. Use of the GTCC is limited to official relocation costs.

Need more travel-card background? Check out this online tutorial.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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