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Human Subject Express Card Overview

Learn about using the Human Subject Express Card.

The Human Subject Express Card (HSEC) is designed specifically to purchase merchant gift cards to compensate Human Subject participants in clinical trials as part of your research.  It is a unique tool within the Express Card program that differs from the standard Express Card in that it is solely designed to meet the specific procurement needs of compensating human subject study participants.

The Human Subject Express Card (HSEC) is a Visa purchasing card issued by U.S. Bank to UCSD employees who have the authority to buy merchant gift cards on behalf of their Principal Investigator and have a current IRB Approval Letter and Consent to Act as a Research Subject document.

Note: If it is anticipated that total payments to any one subject during the course of a study will total $600 or more in a calendar year, the payment(s) must be processed as a direct Payment to Participant using MyPayments, and issued in the form of a check or ACH. Information required for these payments include the subject's name, address, and SSN (submit W-9). This information will be reported to the IRS, and Form 1099-MISC will be sent to the payee at the end of the calendar year in which the payment(s) were made.

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  • Purchase merchant gift cards as needed with one HSEC without having to submit a cash advance
  • Easily attach required documentation to each transaction with the ECManager Attachment Tool
  • Easily track purchases using FinLink Express Card Transaction Query (login required)
  • Offers department more control to access of gift cards
  • Same Human Subject policy and procedures apply


One card per study

  • The card’s default account is 637279 and the default index is the study index, no need to change

 One card for multiple studies

  • The card’s default account is 637279 and the default index can be changed in ECManager before the charge posts to the operating ledger
  • Each transaction must be for a specific study i.e. cannot split one purchase between studies 


The Human Subject Express Card is restricted, by policy, to the purchase of merchant gift cards that will only be used to compensate human subject participants*.  This card cannot be used for any other type of purchases. Card limits include a transaction limit of $4999 and cycle limit of $10,000 (cumulative total of all transactions within the cycle).  The cycle period begins the 16th of every month.    

* Gift cards are tax reportable when necessary.

Authorization and Training

See How to Become a Human Subject Express Card cardholder.

BUS 49 requires that staff handling cash and cash equivalents receive training on cash handling procedures.  Refer to the Handling Cash or Checks Blink page, featuring resources including the Cash Handling online tutorial (login required) available through the UC Learning Center.

Cardholder and Transaction Reviewer Responsibilities

  • Each Human Subject Express Card (HSEC) bears the cardholder’s name, however, the card is issued to UCSD
  • Each card is embossed with “ Human Subject Program”
  • Never lend or share of your Human Subject Express Card (HSEC)
  • Cardholders are responsible for returning the Human Subject Express Card when reassigned or terminated, or upon department request
  • Transaction Reviewer enters the IRB # in the Manager Comment field prior to the transaction postdate
  • Transaction Reviewer ensures each receipt is uploaded to each transaction using the ECManager Attachment Tool within 15 days of the email notification

For detailed information on cardholder and transaction reviewer responsibilities, see:

Operating Ledger Postings

Express Card transactions are posted to the operating ledger 10 days after they are received from the bank. You can view a list of transaction by accessing the operating ledger in FinancialLink.

You can also view the Express Card Process for an illustration of the transaction and posting process.


UCSD is responsible for all charges against valid cards.  However, cardholders are obligated to use the Human Subject Express Card responsibly in accordance with the cardholder agreement (PDF) and the Human Subject Cardholder responsibilities.


You should file a dispute when you:

  • Are billed for purchases you did not authorize
  • Have duplicate or incorrect charges that the vendor will not credit
  • Are not credited for a return

In case of a dispute, the merchant should be contacted directly by either the cardholder or department bookkeeper.

If you are unable to resolve a dispute by contacting the merchant, file a formal dispute with U.S. Bank within 60 days of the disputed item's transaction date.

The bank will take these actions on your behalf:

  • Work with the vendor to determine if the charge is valid
  • Contact you if further information is required
  • Credit your account while researching the dispute
Note: If the dispute is valid, your account will be adjusted accordingly.

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