Purchase Card Manual: Authority to Use the Purchase Card


Purchase cards are issued under the general control of the expense authority whose budget will be charged with the expenditures. It is the expense authority's responsibility to ensure that card expenditures are within his/her budget allocation.

Where a cardholder is required to make purchases that will be charged to several budget allocations, the issuance of the card should be approved by the chief financial officer or expense authority who has applicable delegation over the budget areas.

When an employee receives a purchase card, that individual may not re-delegate the authority to any other individual. Only the employee whose name is embossed on the purchase card may make purchases using the card. These restrictions provide a basis for expense authorities to determine whether or not a transaction has been properly made.

Expense Authority

Before making any purchases with the purchase card, cardholders are required to obtain authorization (preferably in writing/email) from the expense authority to whose budget the purchase will be charged. When a cardholder makes purchases for more than one organizational unit, obtaining written expense authority up front is most advantageous as it eliminates the possibility of any misunderstanding about which items are to be purchased. Expense authority is required to initiate a transaction and is applied "per transaction", however, expense authorities must still ensure that total expenditures made with the card remain within their budget allocations.

Who Should Receive Purchase Cards?

There are two general guidelines for establishing who is to receive a purchase card:

  • cardholders will be people who are most likely to make purchases for organizational units; and
  • organizational units will likely need a primary and a backup cardholder.

The first guideline was developed to place a level of control and security on the program by limiting the number of individuals who are issued purchase cards.

The second guideline was developed to ensure that there are no disruptions to operations in the absence of the primary cardholder.

Setting Transaction and Monthly Dollar Limits

Transaction and monthly limits should be set annually based on actual requirements and must be within the budget allocation of the expense authority to whose budget the expenditures will be charged. Transaction and monthly limits above $10,000 require the additional approval of Procurement Services Branch.

Monthly Limits Over $100,000

Monthly card limits over $100,000 require the approval of the Office of the Comptroller General. The request for approval should be submitted with a business case that discusses:

  • the reasons the high limit card is necessary;
  • other options; and
  • measures that will be taken to safeguard the high limit card.

Other Considerations

Ministry card coordinators should be aware that the job descriptions of employees receiving purchase cards may have to be reviewed to ensure that purchasing duties are reflected.

Inter-ministry and Inter-program Purchases

In exceptional cases cardholders in one ministry may be required to make purchases for another ministry. In such cases, the ministry paying for the purchases should authorize the purchase card by completing the Request For Card/Card Detail Change form. A copy of the form should be kept by the ministry card coordinators in each ministry.

If the employee has purchasing requirements in both ministries, he or she must be issued a purchase card for each ministry. Ministry card coordinators should ensure that employees with two purchase cards can distinguish between cards to avoid incorrect charges. One way of accomplishing this is to place a sticker on the back of the card, directly below the cardholder signature block. The sticker should indicate the ministry or program for which the card should be used when making purchases.

Authority to Implement the Purchase Card Program

The last stage of implementing the purchase card program in a ministry is issuing cards. A number of components, listed below, must be in place before cardholders receive their cards. The chief financial officer must inform the government card coordinator in writing that all the necessary elements are (or will be) in place and that the program is ready to proceed.

The requisite elements are:

  • ministry procedures are approved by the chief financial officer (after consultation with the Office of the Comptroller General);
  • ministry card coordinator and alternate are formally appointed by the chief financial officer and trained by Procurement Services Branch;
  • cardholders are trained; and
  • the Request for Card/Card Detail Change form and the government purchase card, Acknowledgment of Terms of Use and Consent are completed and signed.

Once all elements are in place, the government card coordinator will assist the ministry card coordinator in setting up the program in the Spend Dynamics system. This will include setting up the ministry hierarchy points, the ministry card coordinator/alternate and the cardholders with the appropriate rolls and permissions.

Overall Responsibility with the Chief Financial Officer

The chief financial officer has the overall responsibility for the administration of the ministry's purchase card program. The chief financial officer must ensure that there are appropriate controls in place before purchase cards are issued which includes the appropriate training for cardholders, expense authorities and the ministry card coordinator/alternate.

Issuing Purchase Cards

Purchase cards are ordered by the ministry card coordinator using the Spend Dynamics system. Cards will normally be sent to the ministry card coordinator within five to seven working days who will distribute the cards to the cardholders.


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