Subject Payments

This page outlines the appropriate and approved methods of paying human research participants. Please ensure that IRB approval is secured in advance of any research. 

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Human Research Participants

Paying Human Research Participants Policy & Procedure

Please read through the University Policy and Procedure links below before determining the best payment method:

Maintaining Records

Labs are required to maintain, manage and secure human participant payment files and make available documentation in the event of an audit. 

Cash Advance

Key Points

  • Funds are deposited into the requester's bank account to be withdrawn and used to pay participants.
  • Cash must be locked up.
  • Unused cash must be reimbursed 
  • Immediate reward for participants
  • Easy to vary the amount of pay (if paid hourly or per task completed)
  • Cannot pay remote participants

General Information

  • All cash advances must be in compliance with applicable rules, regulations, and University policies. Please review these policies before requesting an advance:
  • Cash advances are directly deposited into the requestor’s designated bank account or personal checking account associated with the requestor’s employee id.

Requesting a Cash Advance

  • Cash Advances can be requested through Chrome River
  • The minimum amount required to open a Cash Advance is $100
  • Create a new expense report in Chrome River
    • Under "Trip Type" select "Cash Advance Request"
    • For the expense start and end dates, use the timeframe in which you plan to pay out the cash advance
  • For more information on requesting a cash advance, see Job Aid

Reconciling a Cash Advance

  • Cash Advances will be reconciled through Chrome River
  • Cash distribution logs, transaction justifications, and other support documentation accounting for the cash are required when submitting a reconciliation
  • Identifying participant information must be redacted and justification must include the phrase "Documentation is on file in the department, available for audit" to indicate that the participant records are kept on file securely.
  • If the distribution logs are less than the Cash Advance, the employee will be offered the opportunity to repay the leftover balance either via payroll reduction or a bill.
  • If the distribution logs are greater than the Cash Advance, the employee will be reimbursed for the overage.
  • For more information on reconciling a cash advance, see Job Aid.

ClinCards (Prepaid Debit Cards)

Key Points

  • ClinCards (prepaid debit cards) are physical gift cards that can be used to pay human participants and reimburse them for travel.
  • The cards can be loaded with varied amounts through the ClinCard portal and reloaded if there are repeat participants.
  • They can be given to human participants in person or mailed. If cards are mailed, they should not be activated and loaded until the participant confirms they have received the card.

General Information

When a human participant comes into the lab and participates in a study, their information should be collected in order to register them on the ClinCard Portal. Once they are registered, they can be assigned a card. Once a human participant is assigned a card, they will call a number on the card to activate it, just like a debit card, and the researcher will deposit the designated amount on the card from the ClinCard Portal.

The whole process

  • The researcher decides that ClinCard is the method they want to choose
  • Researcher fills out the Prepaid Debit Card (PPDC) Study Form (UM 1833)
    • Include the total amount you intend to payout
    • Request as many cards as you will need for a 3-month period
  • The researcher provides the PPDC Study form, a justification, and a chart string to be charged (along with the proper approvals) to the designated accountant.
  • The ClinCard office will reach out to the researcher and designate a time to get the cards to the researcher
  • Once the cards are received and the researcher confirms that they have access to the ClinCard Portal, testing can begin.
  • Use the ClinCard Portal to enter human participant information, assign them a ClinCard, and load amounts onto their card
    • When entering human participant information into the portal, we recommend you enter their name, address, and date of birth in case they need to call the bank and verify their identity - we discourage the gathering and entry of social security numbers
  • Once testing is concluded, contact Alicia Theisen ( to return any unused cards and close the study's ClinCard account

When the cards are received, they are not activated and have no balance on them. While that means they cannot be taken and used, they should be locked up and kept track of. 

Resources for More Information

Gift Cards (Digital)

Key Points

  • Digital gift cards can be purchased from vendors (commonly and Target) and emailed to participants
  • Can be used to pay remote and in-person participants
  • Physical gift cards are highly discouraged
  • Processed as a PCard transaction with the exception of Amazon, those will need to be processed through Purchasing Services. See instructions below.

General Information

  • Gift cards from various vendors can be used as participant payments.
  • Gift cards can come from any vendor but the most universal and commonly used ones are from Target or
  • Physical gift cards can be purchased but they are highly discouraged

Purchasing Gift Cards

The steps are similar for most vendors, below are the two most commonly used gift card vendors.

  • Target
    • Go to
    • Search "Gift Card"
    • Follow the prompts until you get to the card selection screen
    • Under "filter results"  and "Delivery Type", click <e-mail>
    • Choose your desired amount and click <Add to cart>
    • Repeat the steps until the desired amount of cards is in the cart 
      • Note: If they're all the same amount, you can go straight to the cart and just change the quantity
    • Go to your cart and complete the checkout
    • Option #1: Amazon Gift Cards
      • Gift cards are good for situations involving the same dollar amount per card, a small number of recipients, and if they can be delivered to participants on a set basis (once every several weeks, etc.). Once the request is approved, Purchasing Services will purchase the cards and send them directly to the participants in the check-out process. The person making the request will be notified once the purchase is completed. From ticket submission to distribution, the typical turnaround is 1-3 business days.
        • Example: You need to send 5 interview participants incentive gift cards at $50 per person. You have already have the email addresses of the individuals and they've completed their interview.
    • Option #2: Amazon Claim Codes
      • Claim Codes tend to offer more flexibility such as varied compensation, not knowing email addresses of participants upfront or they should not be shared due to the nature of the study, or there is a high number of participants, etc. Purchasing Services shares a spreadsheet listing the Claim Codes with the research team/requestor(s) and they can distribute the codes as needed. When the study is running low, the lab can submit another request to purchase more.
      • Example: Study participants can earn $15 if they participate in one study obligation and can earn another $10 if they have complete a secondary study obligation. You do not know who is going to complete what portions of the study, but you have a pool of 100 people. You order a batch of 80 claim codes for $15/each and another batch of 60 claim codes for $10/each. Research admin/assistants disperse these correct code as each obligation is completed for each participant.
    • Purchasing Instructions: To purchase Amazon digital incentives, email the following information to
      • Justification for Purchase:
        • What is needing to be purchased
        • Why does this item need to be purchased on Amazon
        • Who is this item being purchased for (include study name and PI, project name and lead, etc.)
      • Purchase Information:
        • Date needed by
        • Total Dollar Value of Purchase
        • ChartField String Information
        • Account Code
      • Use plain text or a CSV/Google Sheets, document to provide the following information:
        • If using claim codes: dollar amount per code and quantity of codes
        • If using gift cards: dollar amount of gift card(s), email address of recipients(s), "From" message (department, study name, researcher, etc.), and "Message"
    • Note that the gift cards or claim codes are nonrefundable. Please only request the quantity that you’ll need for a 2 month period to avoid waste.

Reconciling Gift Card Purchases

  • Make sure to provide itemized receipts showing all of the gift cards
  • Ensure that the PCard holder's signature is on the receipt or their approval is attained via email
  • Submit a PCard reconciliation form with the relevant documentation, chart string, and justification to the designated accountant of the PCard holder.

For more information on how to process a PCard purchase see PCards.

Survey Services (MTurk/Prolific)

Key points

  • This is the best way to get a survey out to a massive audience and get quick results
  • This cannot be used for in-person participants
  • Participants get an immediate reward
  • This is processed PCard transaction

General Information

  • Amazon's Mechanical Turk (MTurk) and Prolific is a great resource for mass survey results. 
  • Survey Services must be paid for via PCard. Out-of-pocket reimbursements are not allowed and will be denied. 
  • MTurk and Prolific hold a balance that is used up when surveys are run and subjects respond. One of two things must happen when you pay into the balance 
    • *Do the math to calculate how many responses you want, how much you'll pay per response, and how much will be paid for fees.
    • Pay in more than will be used and credit the remaining balance to the account that initially made the payment.

* Preferred method

Reconciling Survey Service Payments

  • In the case of both Reimbursements and PCard reconciliations, you will need the same documentation
    • The receipt from the initial payment
    • The transaction record shows the initial payment, all of the subject payments, and all of the fees. 
    • If the balance is overspent or underspent, explain how the difference will be handled
      • Note that if there's a leftover balance, no matter how small, it should be refunded to the source (PCard)
  • The transaction record should be submitted electronically

Check Request

This is the least preferred method, due to it having the most administrative burden and taking the longest to process. Please look at other options before choosing this path.

Key Points

  • Easy to vary the amount of pay (if paid hourly or per task completed)
  • Can pay remote participants

General Information

The reason check request is the least preferred method of subject payment is that there's a lot that can go wrong with a mailed check. If a participant has a supplier ID and it's unknown to the lab, this can cause confusion for Accounting. If their address changed recently, this can delay payment greatly. The last reason check requests can be so troublesome is the aspect of being mailed. If a check is lost in the mail, the original check must be canceled, and a new one sent. 

How to Process a Check Request

  • At the time of the session, fill out a Research Subject Payment Form and use it as the basis for the Check Request form
    • By clicking the link above the form will be automatically downloaded to your desktop.
  • Fill out the Check Request Form (UM 1659)
    • If no vendor number (supplier number) is available, use "SPV024"
    • For the justification only enter "Documentation on file in the department, available for audit."
    • Ensure the address is correct and needs no apartment or unit number.
    • If they have a vendor number, confirm that the listed address is the same as the address on file.
  • For research assistants, the supervisor of the accounting approver should sign the left line.
  • The right signature line should be left blank.
  • Submit the Check Request Form and the Research Subject Payment Form to the designated finance professional of the faculty member associated with the study.
    • Make sure a copy of the subject payment form is kept on file in the lab.
  • If there are any issues, the finance professionalaccountant will contact the lab to request more information

If a participant asks about their check, the lab can ask their designated finance professional about the status of the check but it should be remembered that this is the slowest form of participant payment.

Sarah Jahn
Finance and Grants Manager
S253 EltH | 626-7975
Kamran Motevaze
Finance Professional
S252 EltH | 626-8146
Angela Park
Finance Professional
S254 | 625-5429
Svena Saenvilay
Student Finance Assistant
Anjeanette Roy
Grants Coordinator
N256 EltH | 626-0871
Kristen Abernethy
Grants Coordinator
S250 EltH | 624-4325
Elliot Skurich
Senior Grants Administrator
Abby Roberts
Student Finance Assistant
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