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Air Force officials to cancel 100,000 travel cards

WASHINGTON -- More than 100,000 of the Air Force's government travel cards will be canceled in early October for lack of use, according to the service's travel card program manager.

The move, said Michael Weber, is part of a servicewide effort to "clean up the books" and will affect those people who have not used their card for a year or more. He added that precautions are in place to ensure no one is caught empty-handed in a time of need.

"We won't leave anyone stranded," Weber said. "If for some reason an individual didn't hear about this (policy) and is checking into a hotel and the card is rejected, (he or she) can always have the hotel staff call the number on the back of the card to have the bank override the transaction. We can force authorize restaurants, rental cars and airline tickets, but not automatic teller machines."

The actions come as a result of a recent task force formed in response to congressional hearings on government credit cards. The task force confirmed that the Department of Defense has too many cards in the hands of people who are not using them, Weber said.

The Air Force has the largest travel card program in the Department of Defense with approximately 532,000 travel cards issued, or 37 percent of the DOD total, according to Weber.

"It's not as bad as it appears on the surface. A lot of these cards are already expired," he said. "We estimate that out of the 100,000 cards (subject to cancellation), 80,000 of them are expired or unused." The card cancellations, set to begin Oct. 3, will help the Air Force and Bank of America clean up their databases, Weber said. Those who have their card canceled but still need one for Air Force travel will have to go through a re-application process. New applications should be available in September on the Web.

"This could inconvenience some people, but we know of no easy way to do it," he said.

Commanders and agency program coordinators will receive lists in early September of cards expected to be canceled. If anyone on the list is traveling in the near future, he or she can call the bank to get an authorized override on the account. It will still require a phone call by the merchant at the point of purchase.

The government travel card remains an integral part of the Defense Travel System and represents the best option for Air Force travelers, Weber said.

"I still get people who tell me they don't like the travel card," he said. "But I've yet to have someone suggest a more modern way to travel."

Furthermore, Weber said, the proper use of the card relates to military readiness.

"If we need you to travel and you don't have a card, your travel will have to be handled special," he said. "We no longer have the manpower or facilities to do that for a person.

"Gone are the days when we had people in uniform behind a counter, looking at your orders and handing out cash. The travel card helps the Air Force to use manpower in more pressing areas, such as the war on terrorism."

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