Credit card issuers, banks waive fees for Japan relief donations

Credit card companies and financial institutions are putting their muscle behind Japanese relief efforts, making it easier for people to make donations and charities to be spared credit card transaction fees.

Visa, MasterCard and Discover announced they were waiving their usual transaction fees on donations to a number of U.S.-based charities. The charities vary, depending on the credit card you use, but include the American Red Cross, Save the Children, Habitat for Humanity and Doctors Without Borders.

American Express will rebate charges for donations to Japanese relief organizations listed on the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) website.

Discover is also allowing cardholders to donate their cashback bonuses to the American Red Cross. Capital One sent out an e-mail blast to its customers Thursday encouraging them to donate their rewards. The e-mail reminds cardholders that donating rewards creates a tax deduction whose size "is determined by the cash equivalent of your rewards donation as detailed in your receipt, not the quantity of No Hassle Miles or Points redeemed."

Banks and credit card companies have also stepped forward with relief donations of their own. MasterCard is donating $250,000 and says it will double-match employee contributions to disaster relief.

Meanwhile, American Express is donating $100,000 to the American Red Cross and Save the Children, and matching employee contributions to those organizations.

JP Morgan Chase has committed $5 million to Japanese relief and said it will also match employee contributions. The company also said customers with Chase Sapphire, Ink from Chase and Chase Freedom credit cards will be able to make relief donations through the company's Ultimate Rewards program.

Wells Fargo pledged an immediate $500,000 donation and said it will match employee contributions up to $500,000.

Banks did not waive their fees immediately after the Haiti earthquake in January 2010, but quickly did so after some public scolding.

See related: Credit card scams rise after Japan disasterCharitable charging fees come under scrutiny after Haiti disaster

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Updated: 10-18-2018