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How to use charity credit cards to boost your charitable giving

Credit cards that target charities can help you donate hundreds of dollars per year to a worthy cause

Summary

Charity credit cards can help you boost your contributions to the world. Some offer rewards and cash back in addition to donating a portion of your purchases to charity. Here are some of the best available options, and how you can also donate rewards earned from general-purpose credit cards.

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If you’re looking for a way to boost your contributions to the world and feel better about your purchases, you may want to consider a charity credit card that donates a portion of your transactions to a designated nonprofit or charity.

Some charity cards, such as Bank of America’s line of affiliate credit cards, still offer cash back or points, in addition to a charitable donation. Others, such as the Charity Charge Mastercard, will automatically donate any rewards you’ve earned to a good cause.

See related:  How to donate unused rewards miles, points

Give your rewards savings to charity

The donations are often small. For example, Bank of America donates just 0.08 percent of your transactions on the World Wildlife Fund Credit Card. It also donates $3 every year you renew your card. However, the donations can add up – especially if you also choose to donate your cash back.

If you charge around $2,000 a month to the World Wildlife card, for example, Bank of America will donate at least $22 a year on your behalf. Depending on what you purchase, you could also earn up to roughly $440 in cash back yourself and then donate those earnings directly to the World Wildlife Fund or to another socially responsible nonprofit.

Similarly, the Charity Charge Mastercard offers just 1 percent cash back. But if you use it for all or most of your purchases and charge at least $2,000 a month, the charity of your choice will get a $240 donation by the end of the year. If you’re a heavier spender and charge $4,000 a month, the nonprofit of your choice will be awarded $480.

You can pursue a similar strategy with any rewards credit card – as long as you don’t mind taking the time to donate your rewards savings yourself instead of having it automatically donated for you.

For example, if you charged $1,500 a month to a 2 percent cash back card, such as the Citi® Double Cash Card, you’d have $360 to give to charity by the end of the year. (The card earns 1 percent cash back when you spend and another 1 percent back when you pay for your purchases.) Donating your cash back yourself will also allow you to deduct the donations from your taxes.

If you don’t mind owning multiple credit cards, you could also charge your charity donations to a card that awards extra cash back for donations and then redirect those earnings to the nonprofit of your choice.

For example, the U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card awards an extra 2 points for every dollar you spend on charitable donations. You’ll get the most value from your card spending if you redeem your points for travel. But rather than pocket your travel savings, consider donating that money instead.

See related:  6 ways to give a charitable donation by credit card

Options for socially-responsible cards are limited

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it used to be to find a card that automatically donates a portion of your spending. So if you’re looking for a card that donates money on your behalf, you may have to widen your search to smaller banks and credit unions.

Some cards marketed to consumers with a social conscience, such as the CREDO Visa card, the Halo credit card and the Sustain:Green Mastercard, have been discontinued. Others, such as the long list of socially responsible affinity cards issued by Beneficial State Bank, have stopped accepting new applications while Beneficial retools its “values-driven” credit card program.

The good news is that a number of credit unions will donate a portion of your credit card spending to a good cause. For example:

  • KCT Credit Union in Illinois supports a number of local school districts through its affinity credit card program. When you sign up for an affinity card, KCT will donate a portion of every transaction to the regional school district of your choice.
  • The Los Alamos Schools Credit Union in New Mexico also supports public schools through a unique credit card program that matches your donations. Every time you use a Giving Gold credit card, 25 cents will be added to the cost of your transactions. The credit union will then pass on your 25-cent donation to the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation. In addition, it will match every 25-cent donation you make. So, for example, if you make 60 transactions a month, you and Los Alamos School Credit Union will donate a combined $360 to New Mexico schools after just one year.
  • Christian Community Credit Union will automatically donate $100 to the anti-slavery charity Freedom Challenge when you open a Freedom Challenge Visa card. It will also donate a small amount every time you use your card. In addition, you’ll get 2 points per dollar spent when you charge a donation to a ministry. Christian Community Credit Union also offers a number of other charity cards with similar donation structures.

If you see a card you like, check to see if you qualify for a credit union’s field of membership. Even if you live far away from the credit union or don’t belong to a specific group, you may still be allowed to join.

Some credit unions will welcome you as a member if you donate a small amount of money (in some cases, as little as $5) to a preferred organization or if you join another group. Also, check with your local credit union or with a credit union affiliated with your profession to see if they offer a charitable giving program.

See related:  9 ways to make cash back more fun

Think twice about donating points or miles on regular cards

Some rewards credit cards also let you redeem your points for charity. However, you could inadvertently leave money on the table by choosing to redeem your rewards for charity, rather than cash, travel or another rewards purchase.

Points that are redeemed for charity are often less valuable than points redeemed for cash or travel. For example, a point redeemed for travel may be worth as much as one to two pennies or more. However, the same card may only value points redeemed for charity at half a cent.

Check your card’s rewards program to see how the card values points redeemed for charity. You may be able to make a bigger impact by redeeming your points for a reward you were already planning to buy – such as airfare or clothes funded with a gift card – and then donating whatever money you’ve saved by using a rewards card.

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Published: October 8, 2019

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