By donating to your friends’ and family’s favorite organizations, you can do good and let them know you’re thinking about them. And if you put it on your credit card, you can earn rewards too.
Do you have a little one who’s wild about whales? A sibling who’s devoted to their local school? Or parents active in the arts community?
Giving to their favorite nonprofits can be the perfect holiday present. During the season of giving, it shows you really understand them and have taken time to learn what they’re passionate about. (Plus, no wrapping, no shipping and no waiting in lines.)
See related: Holiday guide of credit card tips
5 tips to make the most of your donation
Giving the gift of a donation also gives you a great opportunity to maximize card rewards and even boost your donation amount on someone else’s dime. If you don’t know where to start, here are some tips on how to make the most of your donation:
1. Search for matching opportunities
When is giving a dollar really giving $2? When you find someone else willing to match your gift. “Taking advantage of matching offers is a great way to maximize your gift,” says Ashley Post, communications manager for Charity Navigator.
During the holidays, it’s not hard to find companies willing to match. Corporations making matching gifts will spread the news, as will charity groups who benefit from the matching grants.
For example, Wells Fargo is teaming up with Feeding America, a national network of food banks and organizations that feed the hungry. They will match donations made through Dec. 31, up to a total of $5 million, says Sarah DuBois, spokesperson for Wells Fargo.
Holiday pledge drives through National Public Radio or your local PBS station will also include periodic matching opportunities – but often for a short time only, says Gabe Cohen, senior director of marketing and communications for Candid, a company formed from a merger between Foundation Center and GuideStar.
Local stations also give out some pretty nifty “thank you” gifts. This means you can double your contribution and give your loved one a little something under the tree, too.
This time of year, you might not even have to look beyond your cubicle to find matching opportunities. Some employers offer matching to employees who make charitable donations; some may even go above a dollar-for-dollar match.
2. Pick something tangible
There are a number of organizations that make it really easy for you to use your credit card to give money that will directly translate to physical items that people can use. This one can be especially fun for children since they’ll be able to see tangible results from the donation.
Through Heifer International, donations of various amounts equate to specific animals that will help families feed themselves. And giving a cow, sheep or chickens is something children can easily picture and understand. “Heifer International is a great one for working across the globe,” says Post.
Another group, DonorsChoose, lets you select a school classroom project and contribute toward that. You can fund part of a project or the whole thing. This organization “is great with connecting” recipients with donors, which helps kids see the results of their gift, says Post.
3. Give your gift recipient a choice
Don’t know what charities a family member would favor? You can buy a charitable gift card – that lets them choose which organization will get the donation. GlobalGiving is one such example.
“They offer a gift card that can be used toward your friends’ and family members’ favorite [causes and] communities,” says Cohen. Once you purchase the gift card, the recipient will be able to donate to projects in locations around the world. “GlobalGiving has boots on the ground in all these communities,” he says.
Some credit cards also allow you to purchase these gift cards with your rewards. If you have a Wells Fargo credit card, for instance, you can use purchase a Charity Choice gift card through their GoFar Rewards program, says DuBois. The conversion rate is 1 cent per point, so 2,500 equals $25 to a charity, and it comes with zero fees or charges. Best of all, Charity Choice includes a menu of more than 1,000 nonprofit organizations. So you can give the gift card, and your recipient gets to choose which group receives the gift.
4. Give those credit card rewards
If you have a pile of points you don’t know how to use, you might be able to give them to your loved one’s favorite charity without having to spend a dime.
If you have an American Express card, the company allows you to donate its Membership Reward points, says Elizabeth Crosta, vice president of corporate affairs for American Express.
And some charities, like Make-A-Wish, will be happy to take those frequent flyer miles, says Post.
Other groups prefer actual cash. For the most part, “no one wants anything more than they want cash,” says Cohen. So, you can convert those points or miles and give the money. One cent per point or mile is a common exchange rate.
If you have a Discover card, you can donate your Discover Cashback bonuses – with no fee – to the card issuers charitable partners, says Matthew Towson, community affairs director for Discover. Those partners include major charities that work in areas from disaster prevention and health to children and supporting military families to animals and wildlife.
See Related: How to donate unused rewards miles, points
5. Be aware of transaction fees
When you make a purchase with a credit card, the merchant pays a fee to the card issuer for the transaction. Called an interchange fee, it averages about 2% of the total. And the same thing happens when you use a credit card to make a charitable donation.
Some cards and card processing networks will reduce the interchange fee when the recipient is a charitable group. Visa does this, according to Marni Goldberg, a spokesperson for Visa.
But if you want to find out how much your card will charge or if your charity will qualify, it pays to pick up the phone and call your card issuer.
Some charities offer the option of adding that amount to your donation – to make sure nonprofit groups get the entire benefit of your intended gift. So if the interchange rate was 2%, you’d pay $102 for a $100 donation.
Whatever method you choose to use, donating during the holidays has never been easier. And by implementing a little strategy, you can make your donation – and your loved one’s gift – go further.