Work Travel Rates

Like some of you know, I work for the government.  I enjoy what I do, and I’ve got no plans on moving jobs anytime soon.  I know that I get a lot of great perks, but there’s one that I probably enjoy a lot and am unsure about how to use it (or if I should at all).  Now, this applies to all government workers (in the US at least) and for those of you in this category, I’d like to know what you think/what you do.

I noticed this during my travel heavy summer and even before that, but I’ve never actually used it.  See, whenever you’re booking a hotel, you can choose what type of rate you’d like, and they (typically) offer discounts.  One of those discounts is a government rate, and usually it’s quite substantial.  When I travel for work I always make sure to request this rate, and I have only been asked to show a government ID once.  Clearly, this got me thinking: Could I use this for personal travel as well?

On the one hand, I am a government employee and the rate is for government employees.  I can use it whenever I need it, and that should be that.  The hotel chain is the one not checking to see if I’m actually a government employee, and they have no way of knowing wether or not I’m there on official business.  Even in when I was in alaska and checking in and out at odd times then returning a few days later, I got the government rate.  I was on government business, and got the good rate.

On the other hand, is it unethical to take advantage of the system in this way?  Sure, the hotels make it easy for you to do so, but then again, just because it’s easy, should you?  This discount is nothing to scoff at – typically like 33% of the regular room price in some spaces, so it’s not like you’re only saving 8 bucks by doing this.  The hotel room will sit empty if you elect to do go to another hotel that is cheaper without the government rate, so they’d be making some money instead of none.

They say that no one cares about your personal finance situation more than you, and I firmly believe that to be the truth.  If you’re able to get a 30% discount, then you should take it.  That saved money can be used for debt repayment, to save extra money, or spent in an area that aligns with your priorities more than the hotel you’re staying at for the time being.  Why should you pay 30% over whatever price that they are asking just because?

Readers: What do you think?  Would you use the discount to your advantage every chance you got, or would you use another discount method (such as AAA) or just pay the full price?

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Jeff is the founder of sustainable life blog and has been interested in sustainability for most of his life. After realizing in 2007 that his finances were a total wreck, he started reading financial blogs and quickly realized that what is best for your wallet is typically better for the earth, and is usually healthier. On sustainable life blog Jeff shares his journey to a more sustainable lifestyle. For updates, subscribe by email or like us on facebook.


  1. As much as I am about saving money I think this would be dishonest. You really should only use this discount for work travel. I wouldn’t risk getting busted either. That could really hurt you.

    • I havent used it yet when booking hotels Miss T. I was just wondering what others in this situation did. My office wasnt clear on it, either. Some i KNow do it, Some dont.

  2. Actually, that is one of your benefits as a government employee. It is not a work only benefit. If it were, trust me, there would be restictions like having to pay with a “company” card. It’s not just the government that does this. Some private businesses also negotiate better rates for their employees to use personally because the company can guarantee so many business bookings a year.
    That’s how the hotel government employee rate works. The hotels agree to give the rate because they know it guarantees them so many booking a year. In addition, that rate is then extended to government employees, even when they are not on government business. It is perfectly legal and ethical to use your work place benefits. Really, its just like asking if they have a AAA or senior discount.
    But if you’re really uncertain, call your HR/Benefit office and ask them.

    • That’s a good point. I was offered a company card but turned it down so I could get the points. They always say to present id, but I’ve never been asked for one

  3. What does your travel policy say? If it says you can use the discount whenever you want, go for it. If not, I would use AAA or something else.

  4. Wow. I dislike morality questions because they’re so, so personal, BUT here are some thoughts:

    1) I agree with Jenna. What’s the travel policy? You don’t want to lose your job to save $30.
    2) If there is no travel policy where you’ll lose your job, then (in my mind) the onus is on the hotel chain. I might ask them “I’m with the government. Can I get that rate?” If they quickly answer “yes”, then you didn’t lie and their policy must be that gov’t employees get a certain rate. If they ask if you’re on “gov’t business”, tell them the truth. Possibly they’ll still offer the rate and you didn’t have to sink your moral compass.

    Now, is that what you should do? I don’t know…but that’s probably how I’d handle it.

    • I also think its on the hotel. In a rational economic situation I would do whatever I could to get a discount (perhaps cutting coupons) then I should in this case as well

  5. Don’t they ask for proof like a government ID? I would qualify as a teacher, senior discount and AAA member. I could pick the lowest rate!

  6. Well that depends… what value do you place on your own ethics? While I certainly wouldn’t risk a job over saving a little cash, more important to me is my view of myself.

    In the financial field, there are lots of opportunities to do something that benefits me more than a client. In fact, that’s why I quit my job at the bank.

    I’d leave a job to preserve my ethics, but I wouldn’t compromise my ethics and potentially lose my job. Make sense?

  7. I use the government discount for personal travel be abuse I was told by my superiors that it is not an abuse of position. Much like I get a discount at Apple for being a fed. No morality concerns here.

  8. I equate this to student benefits. If you have a student ID card, and you are able to use this student ID card to receive a discount, then you should do it! Your student status does not leave just because you leave your college campus. If you receive discounts from your employer, then you should be able to receive these at all times, not just on official business.

    Unless there is a specific HR policy forbidding this type of thing, I would say go for it!

  9. I second Average Joe for an above average answer!

  10. Yeah, I feel like this benefit is for you as a government employee, not necessarily as a government employee traveling for work. Unless the hotel or your employer have policies that say the discount is only to be used for business travel, you’re still a government employee when you’re traveling for pleasure. I would use it, and I wouldn’t feel guilty about it!

    As another comment said, it’s really on the hotel to make sure you’re getting a discount that was intended for you. If they’re not even checking your government ID, I really doubt they’re going to make sure you’re traveling for business. (p.s. That discount ROCKS! Maybe I should work for the government…)

  11. I am a government employee as well and I do use this benefit for personal travel. There is no policy against it and when I’ve booked rooms or checked in, they generally don’t ask if it’s for business or personal. Honestly, I’ve never been asked for my government ID, either.

    I agree with Shanendoah. Travel discounts are a perk of being a government employee. I don’t have many perks left and I have no problem using this one.


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