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FAQs for Management Memo #14-03

Management Memo #14-03 (PDF) announces a new travel policy which requires all state agencies to make all travel arrangements through the Department of General Services' Statewide Travel Program. 

The Management Memo (MM) #14-03 leads us to believe that either a department uses Concur Travel/CalTravelStore for employees or not at all. What if we don’t fit either category?

The intent of the MM #14-03 is to announce a travel policy change for all executive branch departments/agencies requiring the use of Concur Travel and/or CalTravelStore for all air, car and hotel reservations.  During the implementation period for each department, the SWABIZ and sites will be shut down and there will be no other options for booking travel. 

Would this mandated activity require an interagency agreement?

There is no interagency required at this time.

What is the difference between the use of the CalTravelStore versus Concur Travel? Are they the same or not?

The CalTravelStore is the state’s only authorized travel agency and Concur Travel is an online self-booking tool provided by CalTravelStore to the State of California.

What are CalTravelStore's business hours?

Concur Travel is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  The CalTravelStore is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with full-service after-hours services from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m.  You can reach the after-hours service for urgent travel needs by calling the main line (1-877-454-8785) and following the prompts.  There is an additional fee for this service.

With regard to the 18 month implementation period, is this when all employees must use Concur Travel/CalTravelStore exclusively for all travel?

Yes, that is the goal; however it will ultimately be based on each department’s business needs.

Will the timeline for implementation and training deployment be discussed with each department?

Yes, the timeline for implementation and training deployment will be discussed with each department and can be adjusted to meet each department’s business needs; and the Department of General Services would appreciate the opportunity to discuss training.

What methods will be utilized to implement training for large organizations to assure successful transition within the required timeline? (Majority of travelers book via SWABIZ, Enterprise & Agents)

In regards to CalTravelStore reservations, 80% of reservations are currently made on Concur Travel and 20% are called into a travel agent. During your department needs assessment, we will determine specific training needs and timelines. The training options available will include: in-person, webinar, train-the-trainer, conference calls, and user guides and templates. Use of SWABIZ and Enterprise websites for state travel reservations will not be discontinued until implementation and training is complete. The Statewide Travel Program will work with you throughout the transition period and will assist in any way possible to get your travelers up-to-speed on the new system.

Implementation during year end is very difficult. Can the timeline be adjusted?

The timeline can be adjusted to meet each department’s needs.

Would we need a readiness assessment or is this only for departments who don’t use Concur Travel/CalTravelStore at all?

State employees will no longer be able to book on SWABIZ and and the hybrid process will cease to exist.  If departments already use Concur Travel and CalTravelStore, the readiness assessment will cover the post-implementation support to be provided by the DGS.  It should be nothing more than an hour or an hour and half meeting to determine the department’s needs and to ensure the implementation goes smoothly for the travelers.

As our department has some experience with the Concur Travel/CalTravelStore, we would prefer to do our own training. Would this be allowable?

Absolutely, and we would provide any support based on your direction.

Will my department be able to continue booking non-refundable fares?

The Management Memo #14-03 does not make any recommendations on non-refundable versus refundable fares. The Best Practices Guide has information on utilizing non-refundable flights for cost savings but is provided only as a resource. Non-refundable fares are 40% to 60% lower than the comparable refundable fares. The non-refundable fare option will provide a significant savings if they meet the business need of the department. The analysis of business need versus cost will still be conducted at the department/agency level and each department/agency will set the policy for the use of refundable versus non-refundable fares.

Will my department be able to continue an agreement with the CalTravelStore to seek approval from Accounting prior to booking any non-refundable flights?

Since your current booking process is through CalTravelStore there would be no change. Travel management best practices propose an approval chain that includes the travelers’ direct manager and excludes the accounting staff to accommodate for separation of duties within the Accounting office.

The use of refundable versus non-refundable fares is determined by management and should be part of the budget review process for their respective units. Concur Travel tracks unused credits and prompts travelers to use the funds for their next trip while, in contrast, SWABIZ did not.

Finally, the recommendation for the use of non-refundable fares is provided solely if it meets your business needs. Your Department/Agency can set the policy for the use of refundable versus non-refundable fares. The Department of General Services realizes the use of non-refundable fares will require a documented policy and process to manage the credits and we are available to assist. The fares are 40% to 60% lower than the comparable refundable fares; A significant savings for any travel budget.

How will the enforceability/accountability of the mandate be handled for individual traveling employees who may have special circumstances? (Concern re: CalTravelStore's volume capacity)

We understand your concern. At the current time, approximately 80% of the State’s transactions are completed using Concur Travel. We expect a significant increase in the volume of call in reservations for hotels during implementation. Since one of the primary reasons for this transition is the acquisition of travel data for hotel negotiations, we would work with your department to explore options given the allowance of exceptions for special circumstances.

What is “pre-trip approval process”?

The pre-trip approval process is an electronic option with Concur Travel whereby employees’ travel itineraries are routed to their managers for approval before any charges are incurred by the State.  Manager’s approvals can also be done via email but must be done prior to the employee receiving travel confirmation.  This pre-trip approval process does not involve CalTravelStore verifying employees.  The departments can choose to set up this pre-trip approval process, if it meets their business needs.

Since booking charges do not always identify the travelers, will this be fixed to assist with the reconciling of the American Express statement?

We are aware that some Hotel Direct Bill charges that hit the American Express Business Travel Accounts do not contain all of the pertinent data required for reconciliation. Concur Travel will transmit all pertinent data to the iBank reporting system and will be available for reconciliation purposes. The Hotel Direct Bill is a small piece of this process and is an exception. The benefit is realized with having all of your department’s travel data in the iBank reporting system.

AMEX and Concur Travel charges have a one month lag but the Enterprise charges can have a two month lag in transactions. Will Concur Travel or CalTravelStore provide ability to download invoices?

Travelers will be able to access invoices through the EReceipt function in Concur Travel or through the iBank Reporting System.

Will the invoice process be the same? (Currently, Accounting receives a hard copy invoice from American Express, and an emailed-monthly invoice from Enterprise & Concur Travel as a total charge.)

The accounting process will remain the same for transaction fees and Enterprise charges.

Depending upon the reports/information the CalTravelStore will have available, will there be additional workload requiring staff to manually identify which div/unit expenditures should be posted to?

Concur Travel allows for input of division, unit, billing, PCA, object and expenditure codes (as well as other codes based on your financial system—Oracle/SAP/Other) at the time of booking that will be accessible in the iBank Reporting System and sortable in an excel format. The reports can be sorted to match the American Express Business Travel Account Statements so reconciliation would be simplified. An additional benefit would be the ability to have all of your Department’s travel data in one repository.

Concur Travel/CalTravelStore require billing code, index, and PCA codes when establishing profiles. Is it possible to transition to agency/PRU being utilized to be in line with SAP & CalATERS Global?

The coding required in Concur Travel is customizable based on your requirements. We would be happy to work with you to transition your coding structure to be in line with SAP and CalATERS Global.

It appears that there might be increased costs to Departments. Please clarify.

The current booking processes require travelers to use 3 different sites to make a simple air, car and hotel reservation. Travel data is housed in various repositories and adversely impacts our ability to negotiate the best rates, track and locate our travelers, manage our travel spend, reconcile our accounts and respond to PRA’s.

Our research shows state travelers spend an average of 1 hour to 1 ½ hours to make a simple air, car and hotel reservation. The time to find a hotel offering the state rate is the biggest inefficiency for our travelers.

If an agency is estimating 3,000 transactions annually at $10 per transaction the savings in staff time would more than offset the fees. If an average (traveling) employee salary is $40 an hour (a conservative estimate) and each transaction takes an average of 1 hour to complete, the cost in staff time is $120,000.

It is estimated the state spends upwards of $75 million dollars annually on lodging. Having a single booking process will give us the hotel data we need to negotiate better rates. We capture only 1.5% with the current open booking environment. With an open booking policy we cannot capture any of the commissions when travelers book with the hotel directly. Standard commissions are between 5% and 10% on most bookings so the state is losing between $3 million and $7 million dollars in commissions as a result. This does not take into account the fact that the state is unable to negotiate better rates without this lodging data. Overall, it is too much to ignore.

Additionally, Concur Travel will automatically track unused tickets on Southwest. DGS was able to identify $48,732 in unused tickets, of which $14,065 had expired. This centralized booking process would have allowed DGS to use those funds before they expired. The amounts will vary based on an agency’s travel spend, but it has proven to be significant.

Lastly, the iBank reporting system provides reports to assist accounting staff with reconciling the American Express BTA statements.

This booking process will reduce the time spent on reservations and allow state employees to complete their business objectives faster and more efficiently thereby meeting their mission to California taxpayers. Ultimately the data will give the State the ability to leverage our spend and negotiate lower rates.

Note:  Effective April 5, 2015, the current transaction fees are as follows: 


Transaction Fee

Agent Assisted Transaction Fee

Air/Rail/Car/Hotel* Reservation

$ 7

$ 12

Hotel and/or Car Only Reservation

$ 5

$ 12

After Hours (Per Call)
Business Hours: 8 am – 5 pm


$ 16

*Flat fee for booking any combination of domestic or international air, rail, car, and hotel.

Lodging expenses are capped under CalHR regulations and Bargaining Unit agreements. How will use of Concur Travel/CalTravelStore yield savings for lodging costs?

True, lodging costs are capped under CalHR regulations; however, a significant amount of our lodging is over the per diem and requires additional paperwork to process (STD255C). Concur Travel provides hundreds, if not thousands of lodging options on one site so travelers can make comparisons and decisions based on real time data. Travelers should not be spending an inordinate amount of time surfing multiple 3rd party hotel sites or calling the hotels when a more efficient option is now available. The use of Concur Travel will not have an impact either way on travel claims.

The additional costs would not diminish any Department’s ability to deliver their mission to California taxpayers. In fact, this process improvement would provide the data we need to negotiate better lodging rates and amenities, such as parking, breakfast and WiFi.

I do not use an American Express government card and do not want to use my personal credit card. How can I reserve a hotel room via Concur Travel without entering a credit card number?

An option you may consider when reserving a hotel room via Concur Travel is using a prepaid or reloadable credit card.  The reservation will be held with the prepaid card, and, upon your hotel check in, if necessary, you may switch the form of payment.

Currently, we must call CalTravelStore to cancel or change airline reservations. Will the mandate affect the cancellation and change process of airline reservations?

Effective April 5, 2015, the following provides a summary of changes with the Travel Management Services contract transaction fees:

  1. Travelers can now make changes to Southwest reservations on Concur at no additional cost.
  2. There are no online transaction fees for changes, voids, cancellations, or exchanges; however, if an online transaction requires agent intervention for post-ticketing changes, the original online transaction fee will be adjusted to an agent assisted transaction fee, not a total of both fees.  This will be an additional $5.00 charge.
  3. After-hours calls that result in a new reservation will only be charged the after-hours fee. Travelers will not incur both a transaction fee and an after-hours fee.

If I am on the road and I have to make a change via the CalTravelStore, will there be a charge?

This depends on how you initially booked your reservation, see below:

    • Yes, there will be a charge if you made your reservation via the Concur Travel online booking tool and you need CalTravelStore agent assistance to make a change.  The original online transaction fee charge will be adjusted to an agent-assisted transaction fee, not a total of both fees.  This will be an additional $5.00 charge.
    • No, there will not be a charge if you made your reservation via a CalTravelStore agent.

How will travel be handled for employees who often decide on what lodging to use when they complete their work day and arrive at their lodging site without prior reservations given no computer access?

The Management Memo #14-03 allows for exceptions for special circumstances. 

How will travel be handled for employees who are called to travel status on an urgent or emergency basis?

The Management Memo #14-03 allows for exceptions for special circumstances.

If I let someone edit my profile, will they see my credit card information?

No, only the last 4 digits of credit cards will be displayed.

Is it safe to add my personal credit card to my Concur Travel profile?

Yes, the credit card information stored in Concur is protected by the same state-of-the-art encryption and security used by most major financial institutions. It’s safe, secure and effective.