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Per Diem (Travel Allowance)

Find out about travel per diem rates for meal expenses.

Per diem is a daily amount to cover meal expenses for UC San Diego employees traveling on official UC San Diego business. Per diem applies to the following travel situations:

  • Foreign travel
  • Alaska, Hawaii, or U.S. possessions travel
  • Long-term travel (30 days or more) in the continental U.S.

Per diem is not the same as meal and incidental expense (M&IE), which applies to short-term travel (29 days or fewer) in the continental U.S.

Note: Only actual expenses should be claimed for lodging expenses for the above travel situations. Please reference the U.S. Department of State - Office of Allowances website for more information.

Incidentals

The incidentals portion of a per diem rate includes tips for service and costs for ground transportation directly connected with a meal (e.g., taxi from hotel to restaurant and back).

Claiming Actual Expenses

The claim should reflect the traveler's actual costs up to the per diem rate. Travelers can claim:

  • Actual expenses that are less than the per diem rate (best option).
    • To claim actual expenses less than per diem does not require receipts and can be rounded to the nearest whole dollar. For example, a traveler may keep a log of expenditures and use it to calculate expenses.
  • The per diem rate (only if actual expenses are equal to the per diem rate).
  • An exception to per diem when actual expenses exceed per diem and required conditions are met.

See the Knowledge Base Article on Travel Expense Reports for more information.

Calculating Travel Allowance

Use Concur to determine per diem maximums which are automatically calculated based on location and duration. Travelers should only claim actual travel expenses (e.g., sustenance and lodging) up to the per diem rate. Should travelers exceed the maximum per diem rate for lodging and/or meals a valid business purpose is required and receipts must be attached.

For each meal or lodging provided at no charge during travel or paid as part of a registration fee, the daily per diem must be adjusted.

Reimbursement by Receipts Instead of Per Diem

Travelers can be reimbursed for actual travel expenses up to the per diem rate in either of the following cases: 

  • The travel is to a foreign destination and lasts 29 days or less
  • The travel is to Alaska, Hawaii, or the U.S. possessions and lasts 29 days or less

If actual expenses exceed the per diem rate, receipts are required. Examples include: 

  • The traveler is required to attend a meeting or conference where meals and lodging must be obtained at a prearranged place, and lodging consumes all or most of the per diem allowance
  • The travel is to an area where lodging and meal costs have temporarily increased because of a special event or function (e.g., a national or international sports event)
  • The travel is to an area where lodging and meal costs have temporarily increased because of a special event or function and affordable lodging is not available within a reasonable commuting distance or the costs of commuting consume the savings from occupying less expensive lodging

Other circumstances: If the reason for requesting reimbursement for actual lodging and meal expenses in lieu of per diem is not listed above, contact UC San Diego Travel via Services & Support prior to requesting reimbursement for the trip.

Reimbursement: Use Concur to request reimbursement for official business travel. For guidance, see the Knowledge Base Article.

Maximum reimbursement: Reimbursement for actual expenses for meals and lodging cannot exceed 300% of the maximum per diem established for the location of travel.

Receipts: When requesting reimbursement for actual lodging and meal expenses that exceed the per diem rate, an itemized receipt for lodging and individual receipts for meals must accompany the Concur Expense Report that you submit to UC San Diego Travel following trip completion.