Marco Rubio’s Real Credit Card Scandal: How the Candidate Failed Rewards 101

Republican Governor Scott Walker, who dropped out of the Presidential race, pays 27% interest on his credit card debit.

We know that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie put $1 million in travel spend on his state American Express card. That’s bonus category spend! But we don’t know the exact charges because a court ruled the statements don’t have to be released, since doing so could ‘compromise security’.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio has his own credit card problems. He had a Florida Republican Party credit card from 2005 through 2008. He would ‘take the wrong card out of his wallet’ on occasion and use the party card for personal expenses.

According to the campaign, over the four years Mr. Rubio had access to the card, 73 of the 1,307 total charges were personal. Those charges added up to $22,003.19, or 12%, of the $182,072.55 Mr. Rubio billed to the party’s credit card.

He paid all of the charges that were deemed personal himself. An ethics panel ‘cleared him of wrongdoing’ in 2012.

His campaign has now released the 2005 and 2006 American Express statements from his state party credit card. Charges included, for instance:

  • There was $1,745 in personal expenses for trip to Las Vegas (this was what he paid American Express himself to extend his hotel stay and rent a car; Venetian charges alone were for $3343.58 and $1455.40).
  • $1,625 at the St. Regis Hotel New York

He has expensive taste in travel. He doesn’t have significant personal wealth. And he wasted $22,000 in personal charges, neither using it to meet minimum spend for a lucrative credit card signup bonus nor earning category bonuses.

What I want to know is whether he had his own card(s), and what their limits were, during the time he was putting personal charges on a Republican Party card. Was it absent-mindedness, cash flow, or lack of alternatives that led him to use the state party card?

Regardless, he clearly didn’t maximize his miles. I know plenty of business travelers who resent having to put lucrative travel spend on a company card rather than a personal card (and taking reimbursement). Here Rubio gave up legitimate spend that could have been working for him, and supporting his travel. He could have stayed in Las Vegas or New York for free!

Goodness knows this isn’t a partisan concern. Hillary Clinton was the most-traveled Secretary of State, and she clearly didn’t travel commercial as much as she could have to maximize her miles…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Everyone likes to make a big deal about “wrongdoing” on both sides of the aisle. However, as a government employee I would be fired much faster for Marco Rubio’s infractions than Hillarys. Only if Rubio’s card was a government issued one, lol.

  2. How come no one talks about Bernie Sanders’ credit card debt (25-65k was in his disclosure)?

  3. @Gary I well aware of his corporate card status. I said “only if” he had a government card. My point is that he misused a corporate card. If it was a government card he had of misused it is a firable offense. Everyone should be held to the same standard when running for office. What he did was wrong. Additionally, my government travel card works very similar to his corporate card. I’m still reponisble for all charges.

  4. Think about what the scandal would be if a miles and points person ran for office and their credit history became an issue: “Candidate X has opened 22 credit cards in the last two years and has opened an average of 9 credit cards a year for the last 10 years. In a statement Candidate X said claims that he is just taking advantage of bonuses provided by banks and has no problems managing his/her credit…”
    I think the optics on that one would be bad. Either you seem like you are bad at credit or your are trying to cheat the banks.

  5. I wouldn’t be surprised if his credit score is well below 650 given his history of delinquency and inability to manage his own personal finances very well. Realistically he probably can’t qualify for a premium credit card.

  6. There are all thieves. They probably cleared the card bills when it became clear that they would be running for office. Obviously not with their own money, but probably gifts from family and “friends” who will expect repayment of the favor later. So they are prostitutes too. Pimping themselves for money. And all this emcees enabled because John Roberts thinka money is free speech and there should be no limits on campaign contributions. Decades from school kids in China will be taught the money democracy died in the USA was when John Roberts was appointed to supreme court, or maybe when 43rd was elected president by crook. Anyway how is your Chinese?

  7. @credit Rubio paid the bill directly to Amex and that’s recorded on the statements themselves not ‘when it became clear he’d be running for office’ (he already held a high office in florida by the way which is how he got the card in the first place).

    As far as “money is speech” you might enjoy/get something out of this short video:

  8. @cliburn Obviously Bernie’s credit cards are his own….and I bet he pays his bills in a timely fashion…or we would have heard about it. 🙂

  9. Members of Congress and Senate has horrible credit scores and many of them have filed personal BK… This is why I don’t understand how these people get elected into office. If banks look at credit score and diem you “reliable” and some jobs run credit checks to see if you are worthy of the job then people who can write big checks should be under the same scrutiny..

  10. You prob should preface the article with the fact that you are a hardcore LIberal and disdain everything about the Republican party

  11. Really, A, you’d be fired faster for charges you re-paid on a corporate card than for having your own personal server on which you emailed classified information?

  12. @Chris Really, yes I can guarantee you that if I put the same charges on my government issued travel card that Rubio put on his “corporate” card I would be in serious hot water (fireable offense). Do you know that Clinton sent marked classified information on an unclassified personal account? I don’t know the answer to that, nor do you. Spillage of unknowingly classified information happens all the time. My point is that these are both serious violations and should not be taken lightly.

  13. @DS ummm, you haven’t been reading me very long have you if you think I am a ‘hardcore liberal’? While I am not a Republican, that’s right, the rest is dead wrong.. 😉

  14. @DS why are you making this a political issue, Gary pulled this story off the wire, it’s known fact that many members of government have horrible credit reports and scores. But to turn the tables and make this a political rant is not called for.

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