Travel Nursing Pay Lingo, Part 2

As discussed in Travel Nursing Lingo, Part 1, there are many new terms that a person just becoming a travel nurse should know and understand. In Part 1 we looked at the language used in travel nursing contracts. In this part, Travel Nursing Pay Lingo, Part 2, we will introduce you to the different terms used when it comes to travel nursing pay.  

M/I (Meals and Incidentals) Pay (also known as Per Diem)

This is an amount of money to cover meals and incidentals that is usually paid out for every day of the contract. Normally it will be added to your paycheck and is tax-free. Occasionally a company will give a person a prepaid Mastercard/Visa card that will be reloaded every week.

Housing Allowance/Stipend

You are given the choice of using housing that is provided by your agency or find your own. If you decide to find your own housing you will receive a housing allowance. It is usually paid out as a monthly rate, but prorated and added to each paycheck. It is also tax-free. The amount you are given will vary based on the cost of living/housing in the area of your assignment.

Reimbursement for Travel

Depending on how you are getting to your assignment, flying, driving, etc. will depend on how much your nursing agency will be willing to pay out. You will usually receive half of that reimbursement in your first check and the other half in your last paycheck. Things that are usually covered include renting a U-Haul, hotel stay, miles traveled. Bonus, travel reimbursements are also tax-free.

Allowance for Housewares

Depending on your agency will depend on whether or not they will offer, a certain amount to cover dishes, towels, bedding, etc. This reimbursement is also tax-free.



Bonuses are offered when there is a huge or immediate need to have a contract filled, extended or completed. The downside to this is that most bonuses are heavily taxed.It is in your best interest to negotiate and see if the agency can roll the bonuses over into either housing, travel or housewares which are all tax-free.

Health Insurance

Many companies will offer you health insurance, however, most travel nurses find it is easier to carry their own insurance. You will be reimbursed on a monthly basis, up to whatever amount the company offers.

Bonus for Holidays

When a travel nurse opts to work several holidays, within one contract, most travel nurse agencies offer bonuses. This is even on top of the holiday pay that is offered.

Differential in Shifts

It is important to ask if there is a shift differential and what the differential will be on your assignment. What that can mean for you is that often, the day shift and the night shift pay the same amount. You also need to understand what the OT and DT laws are for the state in which your assignment will be because the laws can vary from one state to another.

Composite and/or Combined Rates

Primarily in California, there is one rate for the regular 8 hour day, overtime for 8-12 hours, and double time for anything 12+ hours. The problem with this is that some companies will quote you the combined amount. If you don’t work those hours or get sent home early your paycheck could be much less than you thought. The best way to avoid that is to ask what the Base Hourly Rate will be. Then you are able to calculate what your salary will be.

Missed Hours

Most contracts include a penalty for missing hours. If you call off a shift, you will not get paid, and there will be a deduction for any other benefits you already received or were due to receive. Usually, you can pick up more hours and make that loss up, but it is important you are aware of what the penalty could be if you call off.

Becoming a travel nurse can be a bit overwhelming. Understanding the Travel Nursing Pay Lingo that is used for pay can make it much less overwhelming. It is also a great idea to talk with other travel nurses who have been traveling for awhile. They can give you hints and language to watch out for, within the pay and contract.  They can also share mistakes they made early on and tips they have learned along the way.


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