Purchasing Card Standards

Responsible Service:
Financial Resources

Date and Instance of Approval:
August 23, 2023
Vice-President, Finance and Administration


1.1.    This document sets out the procedures and guidelines governing the use of cards for small purchases of goods and services the University needs in order to operate efficiently. This procedure is to be applied in conjunction with Policy 36 — Procurement and Procedure 4-3 — Procurement Standards.


2.1.    Purchasing cards (PCards) are the best way to purchase items valued at less than $5000 that are not covered by campus-wide agreements (including VORs and catalog purchases).


3.1.    Generally, PCards are reserved for purchasing specialists. However, budget managers may request PCards for staff members involved in special purchases for their sector. Approval will be at the discretion of Procurement Services.


4.1.    Any University employee may request a purchasing card for themselves or for another employee. To request a card, log into the self-service portal TOPdesk.

a.    Requesting a new PCard: Request a card for yourself or someone else.

b.    Modifying a PCard: Submit this request to permanently or temporarily change some aspect of a current card, such as the monthly limit or the per-transaction limit. Such requests must be approved by the cardholder’s immediate supervisor.

c.    Cancelling a PCard: This request is used to cancel a PCard when a staff member leaves their position or is no longer employed by the University of Ottawa.

d.    Suspending a PCard: This request is used to suspend a PCard when a staff member takes maternity leave, sick leave, refresher leave, etc.


5.1.    Once the request has been submitted, depending on the type of request, the system will automatically send the approval request to the approvers. Requests are approved by the cardholder’s immediate supervisor, by the budget manager and by Procurement Services. Procurement Services reserve the right to deny any request.


6.1.    Cardholders must sign the user agreement before their card can be activated.

6.2.    PCards are issued to one individual only. Cardholders must not loan their card to, or share the number with, anyone else. The cardholder alone may use the card and is responsible for all purchases made with it. The card and all associated information must be kept secure.

6.3.    Procuring goods or services for personal use is strictly prohibited.

6.4.    Cardholders must ensure that all card purchases are legitimate and in accordance with the policie and procedure referenced in paragraph 1.

6.5.    Funds must be available before purchases are made.

6.6.    The following purchases may not be charged to purchasing cards:

•    Services for which the University is required to produce income tax slips, such as T4As for professional fees;

•    Travel expenses,* except for conference registrations, transportation expenses, accommodation reservations, and payment for accommodations reserved on reputable travel agency websites.

•    If a purchase is declined, it may be because of limits on the card, as described in paragraph 12.
*Travel expenses are subject to Policy 21 and related procedures.

6.7.    Procurement Services may cancel or suspend a PCard without notice if it has reason to believe that the card is not being used in complete compliance with regulations or if its use violates the obligations of the University or the financial institution. Disciplinary measures may also be taken. Cardholders are fully responsible for all authorized purchases and all other fees associated with such purchases.

7.    LIMITS

7.1.    Purchasing cards have two basic limits: a per-purchase limit (also known as credit transaction limit) and a monthly limit.  

a.    The credit transaction limit of a card, determined according to the faculty’s or service’s needs, is normally set at $5000.

b.    The monthly credit limit of a card, which is also based on the faculty’s or service’s needs, is normally set at $20,000. Lower or higher limits may be requested, if necessary, when applying for a card.

7.2.    Requests for temporary or permanent increases in either limit must be submitted through the self-service portal TOPdesk, in accordance with paragraph 4.

8.    TAXES

8.1.    For accounting purposes, cardholders or persons submitting expense claims must check that the taxes have been coded properly, based on the type of purchase.

a.    For goods purchases, taxes are charged according to the delivery address.

b.    For service purchases, taxes are charged according to the billing address.

8.2.    Purchases from outside Canada are subject to self-assessment (depending on the type of goods or services). The tax code must be changed for self-assessment according to customs clearance regulations. Cardholders should contact their purchasing specialist if they have any questions.


9.1.    Splitting purchases to circumvent purchasing card limits is strictly prohibited. The entire purchase must appear as a single transaction in order to be compliant. If the cost of the purchase exceeds the limit of the purchasing card, a purchase order must be used. If the supplier only accepts credit cards as mean of procurement, request a temporary per-transaction limit increase through the self-service portal TOPdesk.


10.1.    Procurement Services adds controls for the types of expenses that may be paid using a PCard. Every PCard is encoded according to the operational requirements of the service or faculty. Accordingly, if the PCard is presented to an unauthorized supplier, the transaction will be declined. Should operational requirements change temporarily or permanently, you can send a request to Procurement Services to have the merchant codes changed.


11.1.    The billing cycle runs from the 27th day of the current month to the 26th day of the following month. Bank account statements are available on the Scotiabank website after each billing cycle.

11.2.    Cardholders or their delegates must reconcile their card purchases on a regular basis and not wait until the end of the month. This is because once transactions are approved, they appear in the actual budget, allowing for up-to-date financial reporting. Cardholders must attach all appropriate supporting documents for each transaction to their expense report.

11.3.    The financial authority approving the expense report in the financial system must ensure that purchases are properly documented and compliant, and that the details of the requisition are accurate and complete (e.g., FDM, expense category, supplier, taxes, currency, attachments).

11.4.    Cardholders may not approve their own expense report under any circumstances.

11.5.    Should the cardholder leave their position before current transactions on the card are settled, the financial authority or delegate from the faculty or service will be responsible for reconciling the transactions on the card in the cardholder’s absence.


12.1.    Cardholders are responsible for securing and safeguarding their card. Every precaution must be taken to keep all card-related information confidential. Cardholders are responsible for checking daily that all transactions appearing on their account statement are legitimate.

12.2.    Fraudulent use, loss or theft of a card must be reported immediately to Scotiabank at 1-800-813-6602 and to Procurement Services.

12.3.    As a preventive measure, Scotiabank may also block a transaction that it has flagged as potentially fraudulent. If a legitimate transaction is blocked, the cardholder should contact Scotiabank to ask that the block be removed to allow the transaction to proceed.


13.1.    In the event of a fraudulent transaction on a PCard account, the PCard holder should first contact the supplier to discuss how to correct the error. If the supplier agrees that an error has occurred, they will credit your account. If the supplier disagrees that an error has been made, the cardholder will contact Scotiabank to begin the dispute process. Disputes must be initiated within 60 days of the monthly statement date. Scotiabank will open an investigation into the dispute on the cardholder’s behalf and will inform the cardholder and the supplier of their final decision. The dispute resolution process can take up to one year.

14.    AUDIT

14.1.    Procurement Services reserves the right to conduct an audit at any time to ensure compliance with Policy 36 and this procedure.

14.2.    Similarly, internal or external auditors may also conduct audits at any time.


15.1.    Send your questions and comments by email to Procurement Services.