What is the Government Purchase Card?

By Ariana Billingsley, SBTDC/PTAC counselor at East Carolina University

The Government Purchase Card (GPC) Program (General Services Administration SmartPay Program) provides charge cards to agencies and departments throughout the U.S. Government. There are currently over 350 participating agencies in the program, including the Department of Defense. Based on the most recent data (FY 2014) the government spent approximately $17.1 billion (not including travel and fleet) with 20 million transactions and 265,000 cards. The purpose of the GPC Program is to streamline the payment process for small purchases, minimize paperwork, and generally simplify the administrative effort associated with procuring goods and services under the micro-purchase threshold.

The GPC is not only the preferred method for purchasing and paying for goods and services below the micro-purchase threshold, but is also authorized for use above the micro-purchase threshold to place task or delivery orders (FAR 13.301(c)(2)) and as a method of payment (FAR 13.301(c)(3) and 32.1108).

GPC Purchase Thresholds

The current micro-purchase threshold is $3,000 (set to increase to $3,500 on October 1st 2015), except:

(1) For acquisitions of construction subject to the Davis-Bacon Act, the threshold is $2,000;

(2) For acquisitions of services subject to the Service Contract Act, the threshold is $2,500; and

(3) For acquisitions of supplies or services that, “as determined by the head of the agency, are to be used to support a contingency operation or to facilitate defense against or recovery from nuclear, biological, chemical, or radiological attack, as described in FAR 13.201(g)(1), the thresholds are:

  • $15,000 in the case of any contract to be awarded and performed, or purchase to be made, inside the United States; and
  • $30,000 in the case of any contract to be awarded and performed, or purchase to be made, outside the United States.”

When purchasing below the micro-purchase limit, the Open Market Concept is used i.e. shop for the best value. When exceeding $3,000 up to the maximum of $25,000, competition must be documented.

Process and Procedures

Each organization/department has specific policies and procedures regarding the use of the card, eligible purchases, receipt of purchased items, and payment. In general, the following guidance must be applied for each single purchase:

  • The purchase card may be used only for official Government business.
  • Personal use of the card is never authorized.
  • No one other than the authorized cardholder may use the card.
  • All purchases must be proper, legal, reasonable, and satisfy a bona fide need of the Government.

As part of government- wide efforts to maximize small business access to government contracts, GPC holders are reminded of the importance of considering small businesses when buying goods and services at or below the micro-purchase threshold.

While information on individual card holders is not public, as a small business you can still take some simple steps to increase your company’s visibility to GPC holders. These may include identifying that you accept government purchase cards on your website, SBA profile and capability statement. If you require assistance with your SBA profile of capability statement, please contact your local PTAC counselor.

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