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Employee Non-Cash Gifts and Awards

Find out how to award employees with non-cash awards and give gifts in certain circumstances.

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Departments can present employees with non-cash awards to recognize accomplishments, length of service, retirement, or as an expression of sympathy.

General Guidelines for purchasing gift cards and certificates

To qualify as a non-cash award, gift cards and certificates must be non-negotiable and redeemable as tangible personal property.

A gift card or certificate is considered tangible if it is:

  • Inscribed with the recipient's name
  • Not transferable
  • Not redeemable for cash
  • Not redeemable for payment on the balance of the recipient's account with the merchant
  • Not redeemable for services, such as a facial, spa treatment, golf lessons, etc.
  • Not purchased for less than $10 (Under California law, cards with a value less than $10 are redeemable for cash)
    • Note: If a gift card cannot be inscribed with the recipient's name, the department should inform the employee that the card is non-transferable. Having the name inscribed on the card is preferred as this provides the optimum documentation for meeting IRS guidelines.

Quantity purchases of on-the-spot recognition awards: Non-cash employee recognition awards (usually gift cards) given throughout the year to recognize an individual or team effort are oftentimes referred to as "on-the-spot" awards. A department might award an employee with a single recognition award not to exceed $75 in a calendar year, or can award an employee up to 3 awards per year (not to exceed $75). These on-the-spot awards can be purchased in advance quantities if the following rules are followed:

  • Gift cards and certificates are kept in a secure place
  • Proper documentation of gift card and certificate use is maintained
  • Gift cards and certificates aren't purchased in quantities greater than what is to be awarded in a fiscal year
  • The value of the gift card or certificate does not exceed $75

Specific Guidelines, approval requirements, allowable amounts, and how to pay for non-cash awards or gifts

When vendor requests payment using wire transfer, see how to request a wire.


Department heads have the authority to approve transactions.


When UCSD policy is followed, non-cash awards and gifts are not taxable to the employee. See limits.

Disbursements Gift Card Program

Departments can request Vanilla Visa Gift Cards from UC San Diego Disbursements as part of an employee recognition award, retirement gift, or otherwise allowable gift or award.

Please note that the Vanilla Visa Gift Card is only available for official UC San Diego business purchases (not available for personal use).

Review the award guidelines

See "Overview" section above for information on guidelines for awards or gifts.

Request gift card(s)

See "Overview" section above for information about how to pay for specific awards or gifts.

Card Pick up Options

You can select one of the following options for receiving your gift card(s) when completing your payment request in MyPayments:

Pick up card at the Disbursements office:

  • Select the Payment Method Order gift card - Pick up card from Disbursements.
  • Once the value has been loaded on the card, the requestor will receive an email from BFS Support indicating the order has been fulfilled.
  • The requestor or authorized receiver (cannot be the card recipient) must bring ID to the Disbursements office, and sign for the card upon pick up.

Request card to be sent via intercampus mail:

  • Select the Payment Method Order gift card - Have card sent to mail code.
  • Once the value is loaded on the card and the card has been mailed, the requestor will receive an email from ASK indicating the order has been fulfilled.
  • The requestor should anticipate receiving the card within 2 - 3 business days.
  • The department is responsible for any lost/stolen cards. 

Note: To receive the card for the gift/award presentation, we recommend ordering at least one week in advance if picking up at Disbursements, or two weeks to have it mailed to a campus mail code.

Card fee

Once loaded, cards cannot be cancelled and are non-refundable. The department index will incur the card fee even if the card is lost, stolen or not received by the department once the order has been picked up at Disbursements, or mailed by Disbursements.

  • The amount loaded on the card is dependent upon the per person limit of the award/gift, not to exceed $400 per card.
  • Gift cards are available for amounts starting at $20, the fee per card is $1.15.
  • Cards cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.

Viewing gift card transactions on Operating Ledger

Gift card charges will appear on the Operating Ledger on the same day that the card(s) is issued. The card fee will show as a separate transaction.

  • Document field contains MyPayments document number
    • Drills down to the MyPayments document
  • Description field = "MYPAYMENTS GIFT CARD JV DEBIT" for card value, "MYPAYMENTS GIFT CARD FEE JV DEBIT" for card fees
  • Rule = F053
  • Doc Ref Number = Reference Number from MyPayments document

Paying for UCSD Gift Cards

Departments can purchase gift cards from the UCSD Bookstore, Birch Aquarium, Triton Cash or other non UC San Diego vendors as part of an employee recognition award, retirement gift, or otherwise allowable gift or award.

Review the award guidelines

See "Overview" section above for information on guidelines for awards or gifts.

Request gift card(s)

See "Overview" section above for information about how to pay for specific awards or gifts.

Note: When making payments for gift cards from UC San Diego Bookstore, Birch Aquarium, Triton Cash, or other non UC San Diego vendors, select the Payment Method Request vendor payment.

Enter the desired store's Payee ID:

  • For UC Regents - Starbucks, use Payee ID 00484014E.
  • For UC San Diego Bookstore, use Payee ID 00293324E.
  • For UC San Diego Birch Aquarium, use Payee ID 00361591E.
  • For UC San Diego Triton Cash, use Payee ID 00293181E. 

When you receive the check (issued to your requested store, i.e., UC Regents-Bookstore, UC Regents-Birch Aquarium, or UC Regents-Triton), you can take it to the store to pay for the gift card. 

Note: If the value of a non-cash gift or award exceeds the per-person limit, it is taxable and will be reported on the employee's W-2.

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Notice: UCSD's non-cash award policy is derived from UC Policy and Regulations. Published policy is decisive as it has been adapted to UCSD's organization, delegation of authority, terminology, and chart of accounts.