Personal purchases via rewards programs


April 18, 2011 | Staff travelers get to use the frequent flyer miles that they accumulate via UCAR travel for personal travel. Does it work the same way for rewards programs such as Office Depot? May the purchaser use the accumulated points for personal purchases?

Answered on April 12, 2011


This is an interesting question and I appreciate the opportunity to address it.

We follow the federal government’s guidelines on Frequent Flier Miles (FFM), which allow travelers to “keep” the miles they earn. It’s important to note that FFM can be accrued on both personal miles and UCAR business miles, as well as on credit cards, all of which are difficult and costly to sort out. UCAR business miles often include travel before and after business hours, and hardship on travelers being away from family and work (I can assure you that business trips are not vacations!). Any UCAR business travel involves approvals by senior management and audits by the UCAR Travel Office. Also, the airlines, despite repeated requests, will not issue two FFM member cards to individuals. In accordance with airline rules, individuals cannot sell their FFM.

In contrast, rewards “earned” by placing orders for supplies to be used for UCAR business are required to be credited back to our federal sponsors, in compliance with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circulars to which we adhere. Rewards are not to be used for personal gain.

It’s clear in UCAR policy and guidelines that personal gain, or even the appearance of personal gain, is prohibited. So, no, it is not the same thing.

Katy Schmoll
Vice President for UCAR Finance & Administration