Petty Cash

Petty Cash

Petty cash is a small amount of discretionary funds in the form of cash used for expenditures when it is not feasible to make the disbursement by check or electronic funds transfer. The University requires each petty cash fund to have an approved Custodian, who documents expenditures, keeps receipts, and safeguards the funds. Wherever possible, units should use other disbursement methods (i.e., ePayment, GEMS, BuySite, etc.) instead of petty cash. If petty cash is to be used for human subject testing fees on an on-going research project, a separate human subject petty cash account should be established. If the research subject-testing project is a "one-time" event, the Principal Investigator should request a Cash Advance.

Opening a Petty Cash Fund

Understand appropriate uses of petty cash. Petty cash funds are for non-routine, extraordinary expenditures that cannot be paid through another means. Whenever possible, office supplies or office related expenditures should be processed through ePayment, GEMS, BuySite. Petty cash should not to be used as an operating fund, i.e., to pay invoices for goods or services, to pay salaries or wages, or to make advances or loans. In accordance with Policy 1505, the petty cash fund cannot be used to:

  • Purchase goods currently covered by a University negotiated contract.
  • Pay travel expenditures, except for local travel under $50.
  • Pay personnel services (i.e., typing, photography, entertainers, caterers) that would be considered either wages (Payroll) or Independent Contractor payments (DPV).
  • Pay personal loans or salary advances.
  • Cash personal or business checks.
  • Reimburse an expenditure greater than fifty ($50) dollars ($100 limit for human subject petty cash disbursements).
  • For additional human research subject restrictions, please visit Independent Contractor Services.

Designate a petty cash fund custodian. Prior to requesting a petty cash account, the unit should identify an individual who will be fiscally responsible for the custody and maintenance of the petty cash. The custodian must be a University of Chicago employee.

Requesting a petty cash account. All requests for a petty cash account require authorization from the department executive or financial administrator, as well as the divisional financial dean or designee. To request a petty cash account, click here. Please note that petty cash account requests for human subject payments require the identification of the associated grant/contract FAS account number that is funding the human subject research, as well as the award end date. The completed form should be returned to

Accounting Services is responsible for final approval and creation of the petty cash account in FAS. Once approved, Accounting Services will request a check payable to the custodian at the address provided on the form (in person check pick-up is no longer allowed). The check can be cashed free of charge at Maroon Financial Credit Union.

Maintaining a Petty Cash Fund

Safeguard the cash. The cash should be kept in a locked drawer or cabinet with the key in the custodian's possession. The custodian should be the only person with physical access to funds. Petty cash should be maintained on an imprest basis, which means that the amount of the petty cash fund should remain constant. The amount of currency and coin plus the petty cash receipts in the fund should equal the authorized amount of the fund. The custodian is responsible for maintaining a petty cash payment log and receipts for every transaction.

For human subject fee petty cash funds, the custodian is responsible for maintaining a human subjects payment log, which must include the subject's full name, amount disbursed, date of disbursement and signature of recipient acknowledging receipt. If the custodian or the PI determines that the names of the research subjects are of a confidential nature, then code identifiers should be used and logged onto a Coded Log of Payments to Human Subjects. Instead of identifying the individual subject by name, a code can be assigned. The PI should maintain a file that cross-references the code identifier to each research subject. This file should include the same information required for the human subjects payment log. It is the principal investigator's responsibility to retain this information for a minimum of three years, after the final financial report is submitted to the grant or contract agency.

Custodian responsibilities for petty cash.

  • The custodian is responsible for obtaining the original receipt for each transaction.
  • The custodian is responsible for completing a Petty Cash Receipt for every transaction and ensuring the receipt is signed by the recipient of the petty cash disbursement.
  • Petty cash recipients should comply with Payment Services Supporting Documentation Standards. NOTE: This link includes information on documentation required for instances of missing receipts.

Replenish the funds. All petty cash reimbursements should be submitted via ePayment. Petty cash should be replenished at least annually, but it is recommended to replenish quarterly (monthly for human subject fee petty cash funds). Petty cash accounts should be active. Funds are inactive if there has been no activity within a twelve month period and are subject to closure by Accounting Services.

Changes to existing funds. Any and all changes to existing funds, such as increasing/decreasing the authorized fund balance amount, changes to custodianship, theft, out of balance accounts, etc. should be reported to Accounting Services via

Closing a Petty Cash Fund

To close a petty cash account, please perform the following steps:

  1. The custodian should replenish the petty cash account funds by using the ePayment.
  2. Upon receipt of the reimbursement check, a Report of Money Received Form (Form 133) should be completed identifying that the cash will be deposited in the FAS Petty Cash account. Departmental deposits are processed by the Maroon Financial Credit Union. Click here for further information on departmental deposits.
  3. Once the deposit is completed, the custodian is requested to complete the Petty Cash Account Closure Form. The Account Closure Form, a copy of the Maroon Credit Union Receipt and Report of Money Received should be sent to Accounting Services at


Out of balance funds. Please contact Accounting Services at

Theft of Funds. Inform the University Police Department of the theft. Once a report has been issued, forward a copy of the police report to Accounting Services. Accounting Services will charge the identified guarantee account for the amount of funds stolen

Failure to comply with any or all petty cash policies and procedures may result in the closure of the petty cash fund and the return of the full authorized amount to the University of Chicago by Accounting Services.

Policies related to Petty Cash

Financial Policy 1505, Imprest Balance Accounts: Petty Cash

Forms related to Petty Cash Accounts

Petty Cash Request (Account) Form
Petty Cash Change of Custodian Form
Close of Petty Cash Account Form

Forms related to Petty Cash Reimbursements (these should be included in ePayment petty cash reimbursement requests)

Petty Cash Receipt (Form 47R)
Request for Reimbursement of Petty Cash Fund