07 - 007 Travel Meals


While the traveler is in overnight travel status, meals are reimbursed in an amount not to exceed the standard (i.e., per diem) meal allowance. Exceptions for actual meal expenses greater than the per diem allowance require approval by the following:

  • UNH: President, Vice Presidents or Deans
  • PSU: Campus Travel Coordinator
  • KSC: President or Vice President for Finance and Planning
  • GSC: Vice Presidents or CFO
  • Chancellor's Office: Vice Chancellor

In any event, the traveler may not "mix and match" between actual expense and the per diem allowance on a given trip, except in the case of business entertainment meals (see Section B below).

1. Per Diem Allowance The traveler may be reimbursed for meals and incidentals based on the amount computed at the federal meal and incidental expense (M & IE) per diem rate (see Procedure 7-008, Per Diem Rates, Domestic and Foreign) in effect for the locality of travel on the date of travel. Locality of travel is the place where the traveler stops for sleep. On the day the traveler returns home (e.g., last day of travel), the traveler is entitled to per diem based on the place the traveler slept the night before.

a. The per diem method is preferable due to its simplicity and reduced cost of administration.
b. The traveler may choose to be reimbursed for less than the per diem rate at the traveler's option.
c. If the federal per diem rate changes during a trip, reimbursement will be based on the federal rate in effect for each day of travel.
d. The time, place, and business purpose of the overall travel must be substantiated using USNH standard travel forms (see Procedure 7-121, Travel Forms).
e. Different per diem rates apply to the following:

i. Travel inside the continental U.S. and the District of Columbia
ii. Travel outside the continental U.S.
iii. If a per diem rate for a city is not available, use the applicable county rate. If no rate is available for the county, the CONUS rate must be used per the IRS regulations.

f. For those times a traveler is not entitled to the full per diem rate, the rate must be adjusted (see Procedure 7-008, Per Diem Rates, Domestic and Foreign).
g. For meal reimbursement up to the amount of the per diem allowance, no receipts are required.

2. Actual Expenses. If this method is approved for use, the traveler may be reimbursed for his/her actual cost of meals and gratuities or the reasonable cost of a moderately-priced meal of acceptable quality, whichever is less. Tips for meals in excess of 15% to 20% of meal cost are generally not appropriate as a USNH business expense and therefore will not be reimbursed.

a. Original receipts are required for all meal expenses, regardless of amount, if this option is chosen. If a group of colleagues splits a bill and original receipts are not readily available, the traveler should document the cost of their individual portion of the bill as well as the circumstances.
b. Costs incurred for meals must be reasonable. Meals may not be either lavish or extravagant. The per diem rate should be used to judge the reasonableness of actual meal costs incurred.


The per diem meal allowance does not apply when entertaining others. IRS regulations pertaining to entertainment meals require original receipts for meals, the name(s) of the guest(s), title(s), or other designation(s) as well as the business relationship to the traveler. In addition, the business purpose, place, date, and amount of the expenditure must be documented. (See Procedure 8-009, Meals and Entertainment). Travelers using the per diem meal allowance method of reimbursement who are entitled to reimbursement of an entertainment meal must modify the full day rate (see Procedure 7-008, Per Diem Rates, Domestic and Foreign). Charges to federally funded projects for entertainment meals are not allowed.


USNH does not reimburse for the following costs:

  1. Alcoholic beverages
  2. Meals in lieu of those included in conference registration fees. If a traveler chooses to decline a meal provided as part of a conference and purchase a meal elsewhere, he/she will generally not be reimbursed for that meal. If the per diem meal allowance is used, the allowance must be appropriately modified (see Procedure 7-008, Per Diem Rates, Domestic and Foreign).
  3. Tips on meals, if the employee is reimbursed based on the federal meals and incidental expense (M&IE) per diem rate. Otherwise, tips on meals may not exceed 15% to 20% of meal cost.
  4. Meals for spouse or other personal travel companion without a valid business purpose (see Procedure 8-007, Spousal Expenses).
This page last updated Monday, September 19, 2016. For information on the adoption and effective dates of policies please see explanation on the OLPM Main Menu.