Who else has got the number?


The man taking my booking for a hotel room asked if I’d stayed there before.

I had, he looked up the records,  confirmed the information he found was mine and checked that the details were up to date.

Then we got to requiring a credit card to secure the booking and he told me he had my number and asked if it was alright to use that card.

I am sure I had never been asked if the hotel could keep a record of my credit card.

I wonder how many other businesses routinely keep credit card and other information without telling the owner?

Given how easily Whaleoil was able to access personal information from a Labour Party website I’m not entirely relaxed about the idea that credit card numbers and other data might be stored by people who have a similarly lax attitude to security and privacy.

Whaleoil has said:

I have decided to with­hold the vast bulk of mate­r­ial that I found, because I absolutely agree that as the law stands,  every­day New Zealan­ders should be free to con­tribute to polit­i­cal par­ties with­out fear of their name being made public.

Not everyone who comes across private information would resist the temptation to use it, especially if there was the potential to gain from doing so.

Capital cafes cop unexpected consequences of credit card disclosure


The revelations on credit card spending of politicians and public servants have been diverting, although the capitals cafes and restaurants might not be as happy as most of the public is.

Trans Tasman notes:

As if a chill wind wasn’t already blowing through the accounts of Wellington eateries, the swathe of newly released credit card details from Govt dept heads can be expected to have a further dampening effect on dining habits in the capital. Perhaps the only pleasure politicians and senior public servants will be able to take from this is it will almost certainly reduce the hosting opportunities to which the Press Gallery – writers of most of the credit card exposes – will be invited.

The amount it cost to produce the records has led to questions of whether the exercise can be justified.

I think it can because the knowledge that expenditure is likely to be made public in future will be a good restraint on extravagance.

However, it’s important we don’t get too Presbyterian about the dining habits of politicians and public servants.

Business does happen over meals and relationships are built round a dinner table in a way that doesn’t happen in an office. We can’t expect that to happen over fish and chips on a park bench.

Providing the bill meets the “actual and reasonable” test applied to covering expenses in most private businesses we shouldn’t complain about them in the public sector.

Waitaki shows how to use council credit card


The Waitaki District Council has only one credit card which is locked in the council safe and requires authorisation by the chief executive or financial manager before it can be used.

The ODT reports that in the last two years it had been used for just 24 transactions totalling $11,126.

The Dunedin City Council has a less Presbyterian approach to credit cards. The ODT found that in the last three years the DCC’s 206 credit cards had been used for purchases totalling more than $4.8 million.

Exactly what those purchases were has not been divulged because council chief executive Jim Harland wants the paper to pay the cost of getting the spending details.

In his response, Mr Harland said he would detail the spend after the newspaper paid the estimated $8278 it would cost to research, collate, and produce it.

The newspaper’s last request was processed free of charge, despite the draw on council staff hours, as he accepted there needed to be a degree of accountability for senior staff, he said. . .

. . . Mr Harland cited privacy and harassment concerns to decline the newspaper’s request to release information about staff who might have apologised, made repayments, or had otherwise been spoken to about possibly inappropriate spending.

Mr Harland also declined to release the positions and names of those behind the $4.3 million spend, citing privacy and harassment concerns.

Naming them would subject them to publicity not warranted by their positions, he said.

THe ODT isn’t the only paper having problems extracting information on council credit cards. The Sunday Star Times is attempting to find out who Manakau mayor Len Brown wined and dined to the sum of $810 charged to his mayoral card. 

If council employees are spending council money on council business, where’s the problem? If they’re not, don’t the public whose rates fund councils have a right to know about it.

 If they took as much care to use the card correctly as the Waitaki Council does they, and their ratepayers, would have nothing to worry about.

It’s about character


The glovebox in the stock agent’s car was full of petrol vouchers.

The friend who saw them there asked why so many. The agent without a blush said, he’d bought them on the company petrol card.

Misuse of cards isn’t confined to ministers and Michelle Boag has just made a very good point on Q&A – it comes down to character.

Some people are mean and will claim every cent to which they are entitled and more, others won’t claim anything, most will err on the side of caution when making legitimate claims.

Some people have left comments wondering about Helen Clark and Heather Simpson. Any regular reader will know that I am not a fan of either of them but I will be very surprised if there is anything untoward on their cards. Labour under Clark was very good at spending taxpayers’ money on policies to help other people who may or may not have needed it, but she was not personally extravagant.

The only thing that’s been commented on her card so far is a $19 pair of gumboots. That’s very cheap, the last pair I bought cost around $100.

People who misused their cards deserve the opprobrium being heaped on them but it wasn’t every minister who did and some of the expenses being queried are legitimate.

If people are running the country and travelling the world as part of their duties we can’t expect them to stay in backpackers and eat at street stalls.

I might also accept them putting everything on the minsiterial card and including a cheque for personal expenses when they sent receipts.

But given some can’t be trusted it would be better to leave them to pay on their own cards then claim back legitimate expenses.

What do they have in their wallets?


Of all the excuses given for mis-using ministerial credit cards, the one I find most difficult to believe is that it was the only one they had.

Everyone I know has several  in their wallet – one friend has 32 cards in his wallet among which are both personal and company credit cards.

If I’m going overseas I take out anything which is only useful in New Zealand but that would still leave  credit and EFTPOS cards.

Whether they’re at home or abroad some past ministers said they didn’t have their own cards to use for purchases – so what did they have in their wallets then and what do they do now they don’t have the ministerial cards to use?

Points for paying back


The ANZ has developed a points scheme for customers who pay back all they owe their credit cards each month.

The Everyday Rewards Visa is aimed at customers who pay their balance in full every month and replaces points for purchases with points when they pay back money spent.

Credit cards generally have the highest interest rate for unsecured credit (with the dishonerable exception of loan sharks). It’s a sad indication of financial illiteracy that a lot of people don’t realise they’d be better taking a bank loan or increasing the mortgage rather than racking up credit debts they can’t pay back in full.

However, this scheme is an interesting concept which gives an incentive to the prudent and it might appeal to people who don’t realise the very high interest rates on credit card debt means paying the balance in full on or before the due date provides a reward in itself.

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