USPS taps US Bank for purchase cards

The U.S. Postal Service last week chose US Bancorp's US Bank International Merchant Purchasing Authorization Card Government Services Division to provide the agency's purchasing card program, which will help the agency push toward paperless contracting.

The task-order contract was awarded under the General Services Administration's governmentwide charge card program, in which GSA selected six vendors to issue purchasing, travel and fleet cards.

US Bank, which has worked with USPS for 10 years, expects to process about $320 million in sales every year over the life of the five-year contract. That figure will likely be higher because the USPS purchase card program is growing significantly, said Christopher Pieroth, senior vice president of government products with US Bank. The USPS award comes about a month after US Bank won a three-year contract to provide the Defense Department with purchasing cards.

US Bank will continue to use its Government Processing Platform (GPP), which was designed specifically for government agencies, to process USPS credit card transactions. In addition, it will gradually move USPS over to a new system called the Customer Automation and Reporting Environment (CARE), which will move the agency closer to a paperless contracting process, Pieroth said.

CARE, which acts as a front end to the GPP system, is an Internet-based system that gives purchase card users and USPS managers access to billing and account information in real time via a World Wide Web browser.

"CARE allows program managers at the Postal Service to manage the program in terms of requesting new cards, getting information on accounts and closing accounts," Pieroth said. "It also allows card holders to review their transactions online. This moves the program into the electronic environment."

Today USPS users receive paper statements and reports, and users must key in accounting information to prepare invoices for payment.

USPS employees also can access data and reports electronically and create agency-specific reports. "There have been electronic reporting tools, but they have been desktop-based, where the client downloads the data and it resides on their desktop," Pieroth said. "We will maintain the system, and the Postal Service will have access to it. This is the first time banks have introduced a system that is Internet-based."

The major benefit of CARE is that it decreases the time and administration associated with the purchasing card program, Pieroth said. "It also assures [that] the accounting is accurate because it is all done electronically," he said. CARE feeds directly into the USPS accounting system.

Additionally, the card provider will give USPS a higher rebate on purchases if transactions are processed electronically.

Marie Moroney, the purchase card program manager at USPS, said the US Bank solution offered the best value to the agency. "It offered the best price and technical capability and the best value to the Postal Service," she said, adding that US Bank offered the highest rebate to the agency.

Electronic reporting is an important facet of the agency's plans, Moroney said.

"If we wanted to get a hard copy we could, but the plan is to transition to electronic reporting to take advantage of the maximum rebate," Moroney said. "[CARE] will eliminate all paper reports. It decreases paperwork and increases efficiency. CARE offers a total robust Internet system."

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