07 - 007 Travel Meals

Please review Policy 07-001 Introduction to Travel for an overview of USNH travel policies. The procedures below provide more specific requirements related to Travel Meals.

If a USNH traveler’s trip results in an overnight stay, meals are reimbursed in an amount not to exceed the standard (i.e., per diem) meal allowance, unless an exception for actual meal expenses in excess of per diem allowance has been granted (see Policy 07-001 Introduction to Travel, Section D.3). A single day traveler is not entitled to actual or per diem meal reimbursement. Please refer to Procedure 08-009 Meals and Entertainment for cases where supper money may be appropriate.

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


1.   A traveler may be reimbursed for meals and incidental expenses (M&IE) based on the federal M&IE per diem rate in effect for their destination on the date of travel. On the day the traveler returns home (e.g., last day of travel), the traveler is entitled to per diem based on their location the night before.

2.   The General Services Administration of the U.S. Government establishes the M&IE per diem rates. A complete list of current rates is available by contacting your campus finance office or calling USNH Travel Coordinator (862-2642). In addition, the rates may be obtained at Procedure 07-002 Website for Travel References. (Note: US General Services Administration (www.gsa.gov) also provides access to additional travel information).

3.   The per diem method is preferable due to its simplicity and reduced cost of administration. However, a traveler may be reimbursed for less than the per diem rate if they so choose.

4.   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.

5.   The time, place, and business purpose of the overall travel must be substantiated using USNH standard travel forms (see Procedure 07-004 Travel Expense Reimbursement).

6.   Different per diem rates apply to the following:

a. Travel inside the continental U.S. and the District of Columbia
b. Travel outside the continental U.S.
c. If a specific per diem rate is not available for a town or city, the applicable county rate should be used. If no rate is available for the county, the CONUS (contiguous United States) rate must be used per the IRS regulations.

7.   When claiming per diem allowance, no receipts should be submitted.


Per diem rates must be adjusted in the following circumstances:

1.   A traveler is not entitled to be reimbursed for the applicable portion of per diem for any meal provided as part of a conference registration fee. For example, using the data in the table below: if the full day per diem is $50 and breakfast is provided at the conference, the allowable reimbursement would be reduced by $11.25 resulting in a payment of $38.75.

2.   A traveler is not entitled to be reimbursed for the applicable portion of per diem when a colleague, vendor, or other third party pays for a meal.

3.   A traveler is not entitled to be reimbursed for the applicable portion of per diem when the USNH traveler claims the actual cost of a business or entertainment meal (see Procedure 08-009 Meals and Entertainment).

4.   Hotel breakfast included in the hotel/lodging reservation price or international airfare meals provided as part of the airline ticket price for longer flights do not require a deduction from the per diem allowance.

5.   On the first and last day of travel, a traveler is entitled to 75 percent of the appropriate M&IE rate regardless of what time the traveler departs or returns and there is no need to adjust for any provided meals on first or last day of travel.


1.   A traveler in the continental U.S. who is entitled to less than the full per diem rate as described above should claim reimbursement for meals expense according to the following schedule:

  Per Diem - example at $50 per diem rate (not real per diem rate)
M&IE - for the day per the chart $50.00
Incidental $5.00
Meal only excluding IE $45.00
Breakfast - 25% $11.25
Lunch - 28% $12.60
Dinner - 47% $21.15
First & Last Day of Travel $37.50

In those instances where the sum of the individual meals is more than the full per diem rate, the traveler's reimbursement is limited to the full per diem rate. The on-line USNH Personal Reimbursement Form automatically calculates the allowable pro-rated meal based on the daily meal rate, and a traveler is entitled to the incidental rate on each day of travel except the first and last day which already include the rate for incidentals.

2.   A traveler outside the continental U.S. who is entitled to less than the full per diem rate should adjust their per diem rates in the same manner as indicated in section C.1, using the same percentages for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


In general, no one should claim per diem on behalf of another traveler. Each traveler must submit his/her own travel reimbursement form. However, under certain circumstances, it might make business sense to request per diem reimbursement for a group of students or volunteers on USNH business travel. These cases must follow campus specific policy and procedures related to team travel and other specialized activities and may require written pre-approval from the Campus CFO or designee.


If this method is approved for use, the traveler may be reimbursed for his/her actual cost of meals and gratuities or the cost of a moderately-priced meal of acceptable quality, whichever is less. Tips for meals in excess of 20% of meal cost are generally not appropriate as a USNH business expense and therefore will not be reimbursed. Note this method is not suitable for federal sponsored programs and should not be used for travel under these programs.

1.   A USNH P-card holder may not use his/her USNH provided card to purchase his/her personal meals unless he/she has obtained prior approval from the USNH P-card Administrator.

2.   Original (or legible scanned) receipts are required for all meal expenses, regardless of amount, if this option is chosen. If a group of colleagues splits a bill and receipts are not readily available, the traveler should document the cost of their individual portion of the bill as well as the circumstances.

3.   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.

4.   If the traveler paid meals for others, the receipt for meals expense must also include the date, time, location, names and titles of those in attendance, and business matters discussed. In cases where there are more than 6 people in attendance, the name of the committee or organization and the number of participants will suffice (e.g., Faculty Senate meeting, 12 in attendance). In some cases, the names of certain individuals in attendance may warrant non-disclosure such as meetings with potential donors or when conducting interviews or meetings related to litigation matters. In these cases, those individuals may be referred to as Applicant 1, Applicant 2, Donor, Litigant, etc.

5.   After making a purchase on a P-Card, employees must complete the P-Card Expense Form on the USNH Finance Hub and compile receipts to demonstrate the business purpose of any transactions. Once completed, employees should email their form and receipts to the FOC. Employees are required to secure any necessary approvals prior to submission. 


The per diem meal allowance does not apply when entertaining others. IRS regulations pertaining to entertainment meals require 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 08-009 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 section B.1.f above). Charges to federally funded projects for entertainment meals are not allowed.


USNH does not reimburse for the following meal costs:

1.   Alcohol unless an appropriate source of funds is cited and a bona fide business purpose is disclosed for functions allowed under Procedure 08-003 Alcohol.

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 section B above).

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 20% of meal cost.

4.   Meals for spouse or other personal travel companion without a valid business purpose (see Procedure 08-007 Spousal Expenses).

The official version of this information will only be maintained in an on-line web format. Any and all printed copies of this material are dated as of the print date. Please make certain to review the material on-line prior to placing reliance on a dated printed version.

This page last updated Tuesday, May 11, 2021. For information on the adoption and effective dates of policies please see explanation on the OLPM Main Menu.