Your All-Inclusive Travel Therapy Glossary

From per diem to pro-rate to perm, all the new vocabulary you pick up when beginning travel therapy can be enough to make your head spin.

Because of this, we’ve created this handy travel therapy glossary to refer to the next time you get an email from a recruiter that you feel like was written in another language.


Allowance:  A less common word for your housing and meals and incidentals stipends.

Assignment:  A travel therapy job. Sometimes also referred to as a placement or a contract.

Audit:  A process the IRS performs involving scrutinizing your tax return to insure your income and deductions are truthful and accurate. Travelers are sometimes considered a higher audit risk due to their ability to take large tax-free deductions.

Benefits:  Anything a travel company may offer you in addition to your hourly pay, including stipends, reimbursements, retirement accounts, PTO, student loan payments, bonuses, etc. May be eligible Day 1 or may require a period of employment before they begin.

Bill rate:  The hourly amount a travel company bills the facility for your services. This is the rate that your take-home pay, the travel company’s cut, and the recruiter’s bonus comes from, as well as any other reimbursements such as licensure or mileage.

Blended rate:  Your hourly rate including all tax free stipends. Can generally be found by taking the amount in stipends you receive per week divided by the number of hours you work, + your taxed hourly rate.

Company housing:  A benefit offered by some companies in which instead of giving you a housing stipend, they cover the costs of your housing up front.

Completion bonus:  A bonus given for completing a travel assignment. Generally money that should be redistributed into your take home pay.

Contract:  The document you sign that delineates the terms of your employment. Also sometimes used to refer to the job itself, i.e. “I’m working a contract in California until April.”

Contractor:  Another term that traveling therapists are sometimes referred to as – though depending on your company and contract, you may actually be an employee by IRS standards.

Credentialing department:  A department that some travel companies have that will assist you with filling out paperwork to obtain licensure, TB tests, background checks, or any other items needed to legally work for a facility.

Deduction:  An expense you are able to deduct from your taxes.

Duplicate expenses:  The expenses you pay at your tax home that make you eligible to receive tax free stipends.

Extension:  An agreement made between the facility and traveler to extend the contract past its original end date. A win-win for both parties – and extra take home pay can usually be negotiated.

Facility:  The location/company where work will actually take place. Generally a different company than the travel company.

GSA rate – General Services Administration:  the agency that sets the maximum allowable housing and meals and incidentals per diems for a given area.

Guaranteed hours:  An agreement made between a traveler and a facility that states that as long as the traveler makes themself available, they will be paid for a consistent amount of hours regardless if work was unavailable. Can be made for a full 40 hours or any amount lower.

Holiday rate:  A rate paid to travelers working on holidays. Generally higher, but may need to be negotiated.

Hourly rate:  Also known as taxed rate. Generally lower than an hourly rate for a perm position due to some income being expressed as per diems instead.

Housing:  Generally used to refer to a tax-free stipend travelers may be eligible to receive. (Be sure to check out our all-inclusive guide to travel therapy housing here for an array of options).

Itinerant employee – An employee that travels but does not have a tax home. Not eligible for tax free stipends, but is not required to duplicate expenses.

Licensure compact: A compact between states that allows a licensee to use one state’s license as eligibility to work in another. Currently only available for physical therapists in a select few states. [For more on how to advocate for an OT cross-state licensure compact, check out our article on this here.]

Meals and incidentals:  Another tax-free stipend travelers may be eligible to receive.

Mileage rate:  A reimbursement negotiated into a contract for travelers that drive between building or patients. Typically given at the current government rate of 58 cents per mile. Also sometimes used to calculate travel reimbursements between contracts.

Overtime rate:  The rate you make for working daily or weekly overtime. If not negotiated, may only be paid out 1.5x your hourly rate – even if the travel company is able to obtain 1.5x the bill rate. Always ask!

Pay per visit:  A payment model where a traveler is paid a higher set amount for each appointment instead of an hourly rate. Generally seen in home health, though also possible in outpatient.

Per diem:  Also known as tax-free stipends. Income meant to go towards Housing and Meals and Incidentals that is allowed to be untaxed due to duplicate expenses.

Perm:  A technique used to curl hair. Kidding! Permanent – usually used when comparing temporary travel contract to long-term jobs.

Permanent address:  Your legal address. Where you are registered to vote, keep your driver’s license, send your mail. May also be your tax home – but not necessarily.

Placement:  A travel therapy job. Sometimes also referred to as an assignment or a contract.

Point system:  A system sometimes used in home health to determine pay and productivity. For example, a therapist may be required to complete 25 points in a week, with Start of Cares as 2.0, Evaluations as 1.5, and Treatments being 1.0.

Pro-rate:  A way to divide an amount proportionally. In travel, can be seen with stipend pay – if a traveler does not work a full 40 hours, a travel company may reduce stipends proportionally.

Recruiter:  The employee at the travel company that is your first point of contact – will help you find a contract, answer any questions, and provide support throughout. Typically receives a portion of your bill rate as a bonus.

Referral bonus:  A bonus that someone receives for successfully referring a traveler to a contract. Typically comes out of a company’s marketing budget.

Reimbursement:  A catch-all term for any expense that the travel company may pay for – such as licensure, travel, mileage, CEUs, etc. Sometimes also used to refer to per diems.

Reward day:  A term some companies use for PTO. Typically much less than perm jobs and often only applies to your hourly rate, not stipends.

Staffing agency:  Also known as travel company. The business that actually finds the travel contracts and hires you – typically different from the facility.

Stipend:  Also known as housing and meals and incidental per diems. Money paid to a traveler that is not required to be taxed due to duplicate expenses.

Submit:  The step that your recruiter will take to send your profile to a facility with an opening. Typically only done with your approval – it means you are interested in the job.

Subsidy:  Another way to refer to per diem.

Take home pay:  The amount, usually expressed weekly, that a traveler will make after taxes. Generally, your hourly rate x hours worked after tax, + untaxed stipends + mileage – any deductions like health insurance. This is the way that most contracts are discussed and compared.

Tax free benefit:  Yet another way to refer to per diem. People obviously love discussing and putting their own spin on untaxed money!

Tax home:  An IRS designation that is your main place of business or work. May also be your permanent address. Duplicating expenses here is what causes travelers to be eligible for tax-free stipends. For a more in-depth look at tax homes, check out our article here!

Taxed rate Also known as hourly rate. Generally lower than an hourly rate for a perm position due to some income being expressed as per diems instead.

Travel company:  Also known as staffing agency. The business that actually finds the travel contracts and hires you – typically different from the facility. See our take on the question, “What is the best travel company?” here.

Travel reimbursement:  A reimbursement given for the travel required to get to a new contract – may cover mileage, hotels, meals, plane tickets, or other costs reasonably incurred.

Traveler:  Shorthand for travel therapist, or any other professional such as travel nurses or travel radiologists

Untaxed rate: You guessed it. Stipends, per diems, allowance, etc that are untaxed.


There you have it! It may be a lot to take in, but soon you will know these terms like the back of your hand. I find it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with them especially when comparing contracts between companies – with so many interchangeable words, it can be difficult to make a fully informed decision if you don’t yet know what benefits align with each other. Happy negotiating!

Do you have any other travel therapy glossary terms to add to this list? Please share them in the comments below!


Additional My OT Spot Travel Therapy Readings

Four Tips to Know Before Becoming a Travel Occupational Therapist

Should I Become a Travel Therapist?

The Ultimate Guide to Travel Therapy Housing

How to Ace Your Travel Therapy Interview

What To Know About Travel Therapy As A New Grad


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