Purchase Card Manual: Introduction

The purchase card is the primary instrument for making small value dollar purchases for government. Its use has increased the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of government purchases; however, it has not replaced the reliance on sound procurement practices and effective financial controls.

The Province of British Columbia purchase cards are currently issued through the Bank of Montreal (BMO) MasterCard program.


The purchase card is a corporate liability charge card. Cards are issued to designated individuals to make purchases on behalf of the government. Cardholders are not personally liable for any unauthorized purchases made with the card if the card has been lost or stolen; however, they are personally responsible for unauthorized purchases resulting from inadvertence, carelessness or intentional misuse.

Picture of Purchase Card

Purchases that are made in the name of the government with the purchase card are subject to PST and GST/HST.


The purchase card program provides an easy, low cost payment processing tool that increases the efficiency of the procurement and accounts payable functions within government, thus reducing costs. It replaces some traditional financial controls with electronic controls. The primary advantage of the card is the efficiency it achieves in combining many purchases into one payment.

The specific benefits of the purchase card program are:

  • reduced costs of government purchasing;
  • improved timeliness of payments to suppliers;
  • improved control over government purchasing; and
  • improved management reporting on government purchasing.

Commonly Asked Questions and Their Answers

How was I selected to be a cardholder?

Ministry-specific procedures for determining who receives cards may differ, however, cards are generally issued to personnel who make purchases on behalf of government as part of their normal duties.

I have never been involved in purchasing before. How will I know what I can and cannot buy with the card?

You should be given direction from your expense authority; however, generally, purchases are for business purposes only. The Cardholder Information Guide contains the central agency rules about the use of the purchase card. Chapter six of this manual contains a decision guide that will help you determine whether a potential purchase on the purchase card is allowed. Public sector purchasing policy is published in the Core Policy and Procedures Manual, chapter six. Your ministry ministry card coordinator and alternate are knowledgeable in this area, and it is their responsibility to ensure that you know the rules before you are issued a card. Procurement Services Branch also makes purchasing training available to you.

What if purchasing is not in my job description?

If your job content changes significantly, you can ask to have your job description reviewed. Regardless, if you are identified as the logical employee in your area to make purchases, you will be required to make purchases with the card when directed.

Will having a purchase card affect my personal credit rating?

No. The charge account is in the name of the Province of British Columbia. You are only an authorized purchaser on that account. The only information that is available is from the application form (your name, work address, etc.) and there will also be records of the purchases made with your card.

Will I be responsible if the card is fraudulently used without my knowledge?

If you followed reasonable precautions to safeguard your card, you will not be held responsible. However, it is your responsibility to promptly report the card lost or stolen and you may be expected to assist in a forensic investigation.

What are "reasonable precautions"?

There may be particular requirements in your ministry, but generally, they amount to common sense. Treat it much as you would your own card, although you may want to leave it in a safe place at work for weekends or vacations. Another way to think of it is as petty cash:

  • don't flash it around or leave it visible and unattended;
  • never lend it or give permission to others to use it for phone purchases;
  • make sure you have signed the card.

What if the government is billed for an item that I did not purchase? Will I have to pay for it?

You will not be required to personally pay for any charge that results from your card being lost or stolen. Charges made for your personal benefit by you or others who have access to your card are your responsibility. If you make such purchases, you could also be subject to disciplinary measures for misusing the card. It is your responsibility to ensure that the card and card number are kept secure and not accessible to co-workers, family members or others.

What if the expense authority does not remember telling me to buy something? Will I be held financially responsible?

You should obtain written purchase authorization (email is acceptable) in advance from your expense authority where possible, particularly if the purchase is for $1,000 or more.

I am opposed generally to credit cards and do not have any myself. Do I have to use the purchase card?

There are electronic controls to prevent anyone from charging more than their established limit, which should be based on normal purchasing patterns. The account balance will be paid in full by the government monthly, thus, no large balances can be accumulated.

If you are identified as the logical employee in your area to make purchases, you will be required to use the card, just as you would have to use a computer if you were a secretary or financial officer.

I have just been given the responsibility of Expense Authority (EA). What does this mean?

Expense authority is the authority granted to some ministry positions to approve expenditures and accounts. It includes, but is not limited to, the authorization of the purchase of goods and services, approval of transfers and entitlements, and approval of financing transactions. It is important to note that expense authority is granted to positions rather than individuals.
The roles and responsibilities of EAs are essential to financial governance and it is important that you receive adequate training to fully understand your responsibilities as well as expenditure policies.  FM 111: Expense Authority, an online course available through the Learning System, is designed to provide you with training regarding your responsibilities. Also, see CPPM 4.3.2 for the policies related to Expense Authority.

Can the Purchase Card be used to make a purchase on the Internet?

Yes, if certain policies and guidelines are followed.  See the Purchase Card Manual, 6.0 Making Purchases.

The Corporate Travel Card is a “shared liability card”.  What are my responsibilities?

The travel card provided by the Bank of Montreal is a personal pay / shared liability product. The Province is liable for all legitimate travel expenses for which the employee has not been reimbursed, and the employee is liable for any ineligible charges and for approved travel expenses for which he/she has already been reimbursed. It is the employee's responsibility to pay the monthly statement balance in full by the due date. It is therefore essential that employees and ministry staff submit and process travel voucher reimbursements in a timely manner to avoid account delinquencies and interest charges. See CPPM 4.3.19 for more details.

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