Petty Cash and Change Funds


This policy outlines requirements regarding establishment, use, replenishment, termination and physical security of petty cash, cash equivalents (such as prepaid parking permits, and gift cards), change funds and special cash funds.


Money in the physical form of currency and coin.

Cash Equivalents

Cash equivalents include money orders, traveler’s checks, cashier’s checks and certified checks. For the purpose of this policy, credit and debit card recordings, bank notes, gift cards, prepaid vouchers, or any other element that can be converted to or used as cash are also included.

Change Funds

An asset of the University usually held in the form of currency and coin. Change funds are administered by a change fund custodian and are used to make change for departmental cashiering functions.

Petty Cash Fund

Cash or cash equivalents used to make payments to Human Subjects and related expenses as authorized by the research award. The total of unspent petty cash and the amount in receipts must always equal the fixed amount established.

Special Cash Fund

An asset of the University held in the form of currency or coin that is administered by a special cash fund custodian.

Proof of Expenditures

A receipt for an expense paid from a petty cash fund that contains the following: date of transaction, name of payee, positive evidence that a payment was made (e.g. an original cash register receipt or original handwritten receipt on which the word “PAID” appears), payment amount, and description on the face of the receipt of the supplies or services purchased (entered by the vendor if a handwritten receipt is obtained or by the purchaser if a cash register tape is issued). Additionally, all receipts for payment to anonymous Human Research Subjects must be signed off by the Principal Investigator.

Petty cash, cash equivalents, change funds and special cash funds must be used strictly in accordance with the purpose for which they were established and authorized. Financial responsibility for these funds resides with the host department.


Requests for a new petty cash fund or change fund should be submitted to the petty cash coordinator in the Controller's Office and should include:

  1. Cash Action form signed by the custodian and authorized departmental manager
  2. Fingerprint Clearance/Background Check Memo issued by the UCPD (UCSF Live Scan Office)
  3. Certification of completion of online training course ”Policies for Petty Cash Handlers”
  4. Valid CHR (Committee on Human Research) letter (required for petty cash establishment only)

Requests for special cash funds are coordinated through the campus cash coordinator. Special cash funds are established for purposes not usually appropriate for petty cash funds. Such purposes include funds held in foreign countries and funds that require special accounting and replenishment procedures unique to a project. A special cash fund custodian may maintain only one special cash fund at a time. Certification that the special cash fund custodian has been fingerprinted and background checked is required.

Use of funds

Disbursements must comply with all restrictions placed on the source fund(s).

Change funds are used by cash handling stations to provide coin and currency in order to make change during the process of receipting and disbursing monies.

Petty cash may only be used for payments to Human Research subjects and related expenditures only from funds set up specifically for that purpose and for which confidentiality is essential. Cash payments to each individual research subject shall not exceed $150 per visit. Payments of more than $150 should be made separate submittal to Accounts Payable. Petty cash disbursements must comply with all restrictions of the fund source.

Petty cash and change funds may not be used for the following:

  1. Entertainment, meals, or light refreshments (including approved caterers).
  2. Cashing of personal checks. 
  3. Travel-related expenses, e.g. gasoline purchases, car rental fees, and per diem mileage.
  4. Purchases elsewhere of services or materials available at a lower total cost through Campus Life Services.
  5. Purchase of supplies that are in conflict with the requirements of Capital Projects and Facilities Management regulations.
  6. Restricted goods and services that require purchase through Campus Procurement, including but not limited to firearms, explosives, ethyl alcohol, controlled substances, hazardous materials, unapproved caterers, and leases or rentals of vehicles and equipment.
  7. Loans to individuals or organizations for both University and non-University transactions.
  8. Purchase of laboratory animals.
  9. Payroll payments.
  10. Services of an independent contractor.
  11. Inventorial equipment.
  12. Alcoholic beverages
  13. Parking or driving citations.
  14. Any type of personal obligations.

Petty cash and change funds should not be deposited into a bank account, including the personal bank account of the of the petty cash custodian. Additionally, funds cannot be borrowed from petty cash, change funds or special cash funds for an employee's personal use.

Special cash funds should be maintained by special cash fund custodian and should be replenished in a manner specifically approved for the fund by the campus cash coordinator.

Replenishment of petty cash funds

Petty cash funds should be replenished as needed. The replenishment may not exceed 50% of the total fund.

Petty cash custodians shall request replenishment of their fund to the petty cash coordinator and should include original proof of expenditure receipts. Additionally, the request should indicate the account to be charged and be approved by the appropriate department manager or designee who is neither the fund custodian nor an employee reporting to the fund custodian.

Petty cash reimbursement checks will be made payable to the custodian of the fund. Checks are encouraged to be cashed at the drawee bank as there is no fee due to an arrangement between the University and the bank.

Custodial change

Fund custodians and the related departmental manager are responsible for notifying the petty cash coordinator when terminating University employment, transferring to another position, or are going to be out of the office temporarily for vacations or medical leave of absences.

Department managers may elect to reassign the fund to another authorized employee. If this option is chosen, the department must complete the Petty Cash Change of Custodian form and follow the requirements in the “Establishment” portion of this policy.

Should a custodian terminate University employment, transfer to another position and neglect to return the petty cash fund or simply leave the petty cash fund in the department without closing the fund, the department head shall deposit the petty cash fund and contact the petty cash coordinator for further instructions. If the custodian fails to leave the petty cash fund in the department, the Controller's Office will charge the balance of the fund to the department, and it shall be the responsibility of the department to recover the amount of the fund from the former employee.


When a petty cash, change fund or special cash fund becomes inactive, the remaining cash should be deposited back to the University depository account. A copy of the deposit slip, any petty cash proof of expenditure original receipts which have not been reimbursed, and a Fund Termination Form (for petty cash and change funds) should be submitted to the petty cash coordinator for processing. 

Physical Security

Petty cash, cash equivalents, and change funds are particularly susceptible to theft. It is the personal responsibility of fund custodians and the departmental manager to take all reasonable precautions to safeguard the assets under their care.  In particular, each fund must be kept intact and not be mixed with other funds and only the custodian may have access to the fund. 

Non-research petty cash, cash equivalents, and change funds counts are mandatory for each fund based on amounts as follows: 

  1. Less than $200: Annually 
  2. $201 - $2000: Semi-Annually 
  3. Greater than $2001: Quarterly 

Research petty cash funds counts are mandatory for each fund based on amounts as follows: 

  1. Less than $500: Annually
  2. $501 - $2,000: Semi-Annually
  3. Greater than $2,001: Quarterly 

The Department manager may assign a staff member to perform a cash count when necessary. However, the appointee must be trained on the cash count procedures beforehand and should have a thorough understanding of the counting and documenting process.

  1. The Department manager (or designee) shall ensure that the cash fund custodian is not aware of the cash count beforehand.  
  2. Individuals assigned to conduct a cash count must complete the training course “Policies for Petty Cash Handlers”, have completed a background check, and be fingerprinted prior to performing a cash count. 
  3. Both individuals should be present throughout the cash count.  The physical cash count shall be performed by the Department manager (or designee) who also shall record the cash counted on the “Cash Fund Audit Form”. The cash fund custodian shall act only as a witness to the process. 
  4. Change fund cash on hand should equal the assigned total of the fund with any discrepancy documented on the Cash Fund Audit Form. 
  5. Petty cash on hand plus original receipts to be reimbursed should equal to the assigned total balance of the fund.
  6. Controller’s Office staff may conduct random counts from time to time to ensure compliance.

Special cash funds must be kept secure from theft and other hazards. Loss or theft of special cash funds must be reported immediately to the campus Police Department, and within 24 hours to the Campus Cash Coordinator, Audit and Management Services, and Business, Administrative, and Risk Management Services.

Special cash funds are subject to audit at any time, and a complete review by the Controller’s Office is required when the fund is closed. The special cash custodian will be notified annually by Campus Cash Coordinator to verify special cash funds held.

Departments: All departments, units or other entities engaged in any form petty cash, change funds or special cash funds are responsible for complying with the provisions in this policy. Departments, in consultation with the Campus Cash Coordinator, may adopt more stringent safety measures as appropriate for their respective areas.

Campus cash coordinator: individual in the Cash and Controls Unit within the Controller’s Office who oversees cash related activity for the University and provides guidance related to cash policy and procedures. The campus cash coordinator is the recipient of requests, replenishment, termination, or custodial changes for petty cash or change funds and is responsible for reviewing the Fund Audit form following completion of cash counts.

Petty cash coordinator: employee within the Controller’s Office responsible for the processing of petty cash fund establishment, replenishment, and termination.

Petty cash custodian: employee responsible for controlling and safeguarding the petty cash fund and for ensuring that appropriate documentation is retained on each petty cash transaction and fund reimbursement (in addition to the departmental manager). Fund custodians must be registered with the Controller's Office, have fingerprint and background clearance conducted by the UCSF Police Department and be approved by their department head.

Special cash fund custodian: the individual responsible for managing a special cash fund according to University policies and any supplemental procedures or restrictions enacted by the Campus Cash Coordinator.

Department manager: Cash Action form signed by the custodian and authorized departmental manager. Approve replenishment of petty cash funds.

Any deviation from this policy must be approved in advance by the Campus Cash Coordinator and shall be documented.