Guidance from the General Services Administration calls for stable 2021 per diem rates, though some of the cities that fall into the “higher than standard” category have changed.
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has announced that 2021 per diem rates will remain the same as those provided for fiscal year 2020. The GSA’s new per diem rates go into effect on Oct. 1 of each year.
This will come as good news to businesses that often send their employees on work trips — expense projections for hotels, meals and incidentals will remain stable over the next 12 months. But, of course, there are other key factors that go into per diem rates. Here’s a look at some of the finer details related to the 2021 per diem rates as announced by the GSA.
‘Higher Than Standard’ Cities
The 2020 and 2021 per diem rates are a total of $151 — $96 for lodging and $55 for meals and incidentals. This is the maximum amount that federal employees can spend on work trips, though many private and publicly traded companies use the GSA’s standard for their own employees.
That said, the GSA does designate certain cities as “higher than standard.” That is, in these designated cities, employees get extra money to spend.
Many of these higher than standard cities will be obvious. In a 2019 post on per diems, we noted that New York City, San Francisco, Boston, Washington DC and Chicago are the most expensive cities in the United States to visit for work — and, hence, business travelers get more per diem when traveling to these destinations.
In 2020, the GSA designated a total of 322 cities as higher than standard. For 2021, only 319 cities will receive the same designation. Four cities have been dropped from the higher classification:
- Gainesville, FL
- Atlantic City, NJ
- College Station, TX
- Abingdon, VA
One city has been promoted to the higher than standard classification: Albuquerque, NM. Curious where your company’s most-traveled-to cities fall on the GSA’s per diem schedule? Use the organization’s calculator map to find out.
What About International Travel?
International per diem rates are a little bit different and more dynamic in nature. After all, currency conversion rates are constantly changing. A drought, recession, natural disaster, war or other significant event could dramatically change how much $1 is worth in another country’s currency at any given time.
The U.S. government does provide guidance on international per diem, though it is handled by the State Department rather than the GSA. While the GSA announces per diem changes each year — or non-changes as was the case this year — the State Department changes per diems for international destinations on an as-needed basis.
The State Department does offer an easy-to-use lookup system. Curious about the State Department’s per diem recommendations for countries your team members often visit? Use its handy search tool.
Maximize Your Business Travel ROI
Executives ask employees to travel because it benefits the business. Team members travel to conferences to generate new leads, to clients to make presentations, and to prospects to pitch them on services and close deals. At JTB Business Travel, we help our clients maximize the return they get for their investments in business travel.
As your travel management company, we offer a range of services that includes cost savings programs and spend management support. Want to learn how we can help your business save on travel? Contact us today.