Policy paper

Payment cards - Pan-Government policy

Policy for central Government departments and their Arm’s Length Bodies (ALBs) governing the use of payment cards.


Payment cards: Pan-Government policy

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Payment cards are used by Government as a method of prompt payment, not as a credit card, and can be used to pay for all goods and services, irrespective of value, subject to the restrictions set out in the document. They are also the recommended method of purchasing and paying for goods or services under ten-thousand pounds (£10,000.00).

There are three types of payment card: physical, lodge and virtual. Physical cards refers to the plastic card issued to a specific person within a department. Lodge cards are embedded into a supplier’s system (e.g. a travel management company for booking travel without having to provide card details for each booking). Virtual cards are a randomly-generated card number associated with a physical payment card which can be used to once of multiple times, depending on your preferences. For the avoidance of doubt, this policy applies to all three types.

All card payments are categorised into Merchant Category Groups (MCG) with further breakdown into Merchant Category Codes (MCC). These codes identify the merchant by their business line. They provide a way to identify and categorise reportable transactions and can be used for blocking purchases for specific companies or categories of businesses (e.g. gambling, gaming or pay-day loans).

There are many benefits to using payment cards, such as reducing procurement process times, operational efficiencies and supporting the Government’s prompt payment initiative for Small and Medium Enterprises. The official Government payment card programme is offered under the Crown Commercial Service’s (CCS) ePurchasing Card Solution (ePCS) framework. An additional benefit of using the ePCS payment card is a rebate based on a percentage of all transaction values.

Payment cards are to complement local purchasing and payment systems not to replace them. The cards will be used as defined by the departmental procurement acquisition model agreed by procurement and financial colleagues.

Published 14 December 2017