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How the World’s Largest Government Charge Card Program Uses Technology to Make Government Better

| David Shea, Director of GSA’s Center for Charge Card Management
Post filed in: SmartPay

If you've ever traveled for work, fueled a government vehicle, or purchased something for less than $10,000 for your office or agency, chances are you used the GSA SmartPay® program.

As the world's largest government charge card and commercial payment solutions program, the GSA SmartPay® program shows the many ways GSA offers streamlined purchasing methods and commercial technology to improve government business.

GSA's Center for Charge Card Management (CCCM) provides leadership and management of GSA SmartPay®, with each participating federal agency responsible for their particular implementation of the program.

21st Annual Training Forum

Center for Charge Card Management will wrap up the on-demand portion of its 21st annual GSA SmartPay® Training Forum at the end of August. The largest annual training event GSA offers, it included over 230 virtual class sessions for more than 5,000 registered charge card managers across the federal government and around the world. Topics included: the availability of mobile payments, virtual accounts, cardless solutions, and contract payment options. These topics offer an exciting glimpse into the future evolution for a program designed to support agencies through fiscal year 2031.

GSA SmartPay® offers a suite of modern and innovative card and cardless payment solutions across the federal government to help with:

  • Economic recovery: In Fiscal Year 2020, agencies used GSA SmartPay® for $28.7 billion in mission-related purchases and payments. This money went right back into the economy, supporting the suppliers who do business with the federal government.
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility: Fast payments (generally within one to three days) help small and emerging vendors maximize their cash flow.
  • Climate: Electronic transactions and account statements minimize paper use and reduce reliance on traditional paper-based processes GSA SmartPay® also supports the largest federal employee transit subsidy programs, helping to reduce our carbon footprint.
  • Low-Friction/Low Cost/High Speed Commercial Buying Process: Charge cards represent not only one of the fastest ways to pay, but also to buy. All buying and payment methods have costs. These typically include time for users to process actions and obtain approvals; systems development, operations and maintenance; training, etc. As a total package, GSA SmartPay® charge cards offer a total solution that's hard to beat!


In addition to the benefits listed, there are no up-front costs for participating agencies to obtain charge cards and related card account management, data and oversight systems. Government agencies also earn refunds (cash back) for using the program, which they can reinvest in activities supporting mission delivery.

FY20 saw the second-highest level of refunds earned in the program's history — more than $403 million went back to the participating agencies. Since program inception, agencies have garnered more than $5 billion in total refunds. This impressive achievement means taxpayer dollars go further.

For vendors, particularly small businesses, one of the major benefits for card acceptance is cash flow. Generally, vendors accepting a card receive their payment in one to three business days. Conversely, typical/routine contract payment processes can take 30 days or longer.

The GSA SmartPay® program has been continuously innovating for almost a generation and is designated as "Best-in-Class." It serves more than 560 federal agencies, organizations, and Native American governments providing convenient, efficient, and effective payment solutions in support of mission delivery. Further innovations will ensure agencies have the opportunity to derive even more benefits from the program.

At GSA, we strive to modernize and simplify the way the government works. The GSA SmartPay® program is a key component in the comprehensive portfolio of solutions we offer for our partner agencies, the federal workforce, and the suppliers providing goods and services to help the government support the road to economic recovery.