Daily Dose: Traveling on the Government’s Dime? Just Charge It!

Or not…

Road warriors and the impulsive beware! While buying on credit here and there might seem like a harmless activity, you might want to think twice about whose card you pull out of your wallet next time. It could soon cost you your job!

There’s nothing like a credit card to give one the sense of financial freedom, right? Blissfully purchasing whatever you need or want with the swipe of a card, and not having to see the cash fly out of your account right then and there- it truly is frighteningly easy. Heck, it’s like getting stuff for free!

Of course, anyone with any financial sense whatsoever understands that this is not the case, but what does this have to do with you?

In a recent blog post over at the Federal Eye column of the Post, Ed O’Keefe reports on a bill which was passed by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee this week, and promises to crack down on government employees who abuse agency credit card privileges.

Federal agencies issue charge cards to certain employees to purchase office supplies or other incidentals, or for government-paid travel and related expenses.

But several watchdog and news reports through the years have discovered abuse of the cards at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Postal Service and Tennessee Valley Authority, among others.

A bill passed this week by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee would force agencies to better police the cards and enact stricter penalties — including termination — if workers are found abusing the card program.

Bill cracks down on government charge card abuse

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I just might be the stingiest person alive, but as such, it is difficult for me to understand how government credit card abuse could get so out of hand that we have to pass legislation about it. Shouldn’t this be common sense? Maybe I’m not seeing the bigger picture here or how large of a problem this truly has become? Perhaps government credit cards are more likely to be abused because the holder feels like it’s not “their” money? What if the government stopped issuing credit cards to their employees altogether, and relied solely on expense reports and reimbursement?

Thoughts? Comments? Experiences with spend-happy individuals? What’s your opinion on government entities and the way they handle work-related expenses? Share them below! And if you haven’t already, check out GovLoop’s Per Diem Calculator.


“Daily Dose of the Washington Post” is a blog series created by GovLoop in partnership with The Washington Post. If you see great stories in the Post and want to ask a question around it, please send them to [email protected].

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My experience is in the end we spent more money hiring people overseeing these charges than the money we save. It’s one of those examples where it makes a great IG report or great media story that someone charged an extra $20k that was illegal. But people forgot it took $50,000 in 3 people staff time to track that down.

Once SSA spent about 40 staff hours trying to track down $18.51 they overpaid me as an intern in my last paychex over a year previously. Cost/benefit analysis maybe?

Allison Merkley

I have a government travel credit card. It’s supposed to be used for travel only, and my goodness-they track it very closely! They track it to the point where they even dispute which hotel you should use and whatnot. Now, perhaps the more generic ‘credit card’ used for office supplies and the like is easier to abuse. But I can honestly say that GovTrip will not allow you to really overcharge a travel-related expense.

Carol Davison

I agree that we spend dollars to save pennies. The person who authorized 40 hours of staff time (average grade is GS-12, pay is about $30 an hours) to track down $18.51 should have been fired.

We don’t need more laws we need to enforce the ones we have.