Politicians can apologise and keep their jobs but over in the private sector misusing a company credit card can end in losing your job.

It has been revealed that Labour MP Chris Carter bought flowers and massages on his ministerial credit card while his colleague Shane Jones paid for pornographic films in his hotel room and Judith Tizard bought a bottle of Bollinger. National's Minister of Trade Tim Groser charged spirits from his hotel mini-bar to the ministerial card. All have kept their jobs.

Companies spoken to by nzherald.co.nz today, however, had clear policies when it comes to employees using credit cards.

At New Zealand's largest listed company, Fletcher Building, blatantly misusing a company credit card is treated as theft and can result in a dismissal.

Fletcher Building spokesman Phillip King said every month credit card accounts were signed off by an authorised manager and anything unusual would stand out.

"So it is quite difficult to do anything that is not by the rules," Mr King said.

"The policy is very simple: Don't put personal expenses on the company credit card."

And if an employee did use the card for personal use, then the circumstances would be looked at and it would most likely result in disciplinary action, Mr King said.

"It is a form of theft," he said.

Asked if buying your partner flowers or chocolates on the company account after a long business trip would be okay, Mr King said: "No.

"I travel a lot. When I took the job on, I knew there would be travelling and most people understand that," he said.

He said employees had to accept travel was part of the job and needed to weigh that up before taking on a job.

"The expectation is that you will be given a reasonable hotel room and food but it does not extend a lot beyond that," he said.

At Telecom the policy on personal spending with company credit cards is much the same.

Telecom spokesman Ian Bonnar said if an employee mistakenly used the company credit card for personal purchases, the amount would be deducted from their wages when the credit card account was reconciled at the end of the month.

"Repeatedly charging personal items to your company card would be a disciplinary matter, but the outcome of that would depend on what the person was doing. Repeated and intentional misuse could lead to a dismissal," Mr Bonnar said.

Progressive Enterprises spokeswoman Penny Newbigin said she would ask for an invoice to settle a business expense, rather than reaching for the credit card.

She said Progressive staff tended to use their own credit cards and were then reimbursed by the company.

Ms Newbigin said staff with company phones went through their bills at the end of every month and paid for personal calls.

Asked what would happen if they did not disclose and pay for personal calls, Ms Newbigin said she would find out and call back.

Fonterra spokesman Nick Stride said he would not comment on the company's credit card policy.

Minter Ellison Rudd Watts employment lawyer Bridget Smith said, like all employment law, misusing the credit card will come down to the circumstances.

However, if an employer has a clear set of rules then it could result in dismissal.

"You could potentially argue that it was theft," Ms Smith said.

She said watching pornography on the company card added another dimension because it could result in bringing an employer into disrepute.

"The employee can fall on their sword and say: I'm sorry, I'm going to repay the money. The question then becomes: Is that enough? Can you still have a relationship of trust with that employee?" Ms Smith said.