Some red-faced ministers were yesterday shredding their Ministerial Services credit cards and paying money back to the Government after being caught with irregularities in their use.

Housing and Fishing Minister Phil Heatley yesterday handed in his credit card and paid back about $1100 after the details of his credit card use became public.

Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee also issued an apology and handed in his card, paying back $152.90 for a lunch with his electorate staff in September.

Both were publicly reprimanded over their actions by Prime Minister John Key after their credit card statements were obtained by the Dominion Post under the Official Information Act.

Both surrendered their credit cards to avoid a repeat.

Mr Key said their actions were "disappointing" and he expected them to have better knowledge of the rules.

The statements show some are breaching the requirement to provide full receipts - something the Audit Office said was "a significant issue" about Labour ministers in 2002 and 2003.

The documents released yesterday show on at least four occasions Mr Brownlee had not provided a proper receipt, meaning the spending had to be referred to a senior manager at Ministerial Services for approval.

It included a lunch at SkyCity in Auckland, two lunches at Q Pot in Christchurch and a lunch for staff at the Belgium Beer Bar in Christchurch, which he has now repaid.

Georgina Te Heuheu failed to provide proper receipts for some taxi rides and Nick Smith did not do so for a lunch at the Backbencher pub, dinner at the Thai House in Auckland and lunch at the Moeraki Boulders Cafe.

It will add to concerns about ministers using the cards for non-ministerial purposes and having it signed off by Ministerial Services despite clear bending of the rules.

Mr Key said officials, too, had a responsibility to ensure the rules were adhered to but made it clear the primary responsibility was on his ministers.

A visibly distressed Mr Heatley apologised, saying any misuse was unintentional.

He had not realised the cards were restricted to ministerial travel costs. He was also unaware he could not use the card for personal spending, regardless of whether he intended to reimburse it - something Mr Heatley had done at least four times.

Mr Heatley paid back about $1100 for spending including $174 for wine and meals during last year's National Party conference and $906 for a South Island trip as Fishing Minister on which he took his family.

He had already paid for his children's costs, but repaid the remainder. Energy minister Gerry Brownlee also issued an apology and handed in his card, paying back $152 for lunch at the Belgium Beer Bar with his electorate staff in September.

While many ministers do not have a card, others were defending their use of it.

Trade Minister Tim Groser had several high-end restaurants on his bill - including The Grove in Auckland and Matterhorn in Wellington.

He said he was certain all were relevant to his ministerial responsibilities.

The cards are primarily issued to pay for travel rather than incidentals. Ministers also get the MPs' expense allowance of about $14,800 to cover costs.