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Credit Card Use and Acceptance

This page provides examples of credit card policies and procedures adopted by local governments in Washington State, including the use of credit cards by government officials and employees as well as the acceptance of credit card payments by customers and members of the public.

Credit Card Use

RCW 43.09.2855 allows all local governments in Washington to use credit cards for “official government purchases and acquisitions” and requires the legislative body to adopt a system for distribution, administration, and oversight. The statute also prohibits local governments from using credit cards for cash advances.

Each and every credit card purchase must be supported by documentation. If credit cards are used for travel purchases, local governments must also comply with RCW 42.24.115, which requires officials and employees to submit a fully itemized travel expense voucher upon billing or no later than 30 days past the billing date and provides procedures if a charge is disallowed or not properly identified. For examples of travel expense policies, see our page on Travel Expense Reimbursement.

For accounting requirements, see BARS Manual Section 3.8.4 on Purchase Cards (GAAP Manual and Cash Basis Manual).

Under no circumstances may an employee or elected official use a government credit card for personal expenses. According to a 2011 informal opinion letter from the state Attorney General’s Office, local government officials may not use a publicly issued credit card for personal purchases, even if they reimburse the government before the bill is due.

Examples of Credit Card Use Policies

Below are examples of credit card use policies and procedures adopted by local governments in Washington. These policies address topics such as allowable and disallowable charges, credit limits, receipts and documentation, card security, internal controls, and consequences or disciplinary action for cardholders who misuse the card or do not provide proper documentation.

General Credit Card Use Policies

Fuel Card Policy

Credit Card Acceptance

Many local governments allow users to make payments with credit cards, debit cards, or similar instruments. These payments may include, but are not limited to, taxes, fees, charges, and fines.

Credit card companies charge a processing fee for each transaction. As the result of a 2013 settlement agreement, local governments may pass these fees on to customers as long as certain conditions are met (see our blog post for more details). That settlement was reversed in June 2016, but the credit card companies that changed their policies as part of the settlement have chosen to continue allowing merchants to pass on the fees to customers while litigation continues.

Local governments may not charge customers a fee for using debit or prepaid cards.

Examples of Credit Card Acceptance Policies

Recommended Resources

Last Modified: April 02, 2019