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Best Charity Credit Cards
Posted By Jim On 12/16/2008 @ 7:13 am In Credit | 3 Comments
Charity credit cards, credit cards that donate a portion of your spending to a charitable organization, have increased in popularity the past few years as companies vie for your business. In the past, credit card companies often replaced reward programs with these charitable programs, keeping their costs the same while offering something new cardholders may prefer. Now, many of the charity credit cards offer both – the standard 1% rewards program plus a small donation based on your spending. With where transaction fees are nowadays, it doesn’t cut too deeply into their bottom line.
I prefer to donate money directly to organizations for several reasons. First, I try not to spend a lot on my credit cards. If a card donates 25 cents on every $100 and I spend $1,000 a month, that’s a mere $2.50. In my mind, I may be thinking I’m far more generous than I really am and forget to give otherwise. Second, 1% is fine as a backup card but there are categories in which you can earn more than 1% as cash, rather than “rewards” that can be watered down in value. Third, I can get a tax deduction on my donations (this only mitigates the fact that I’d be donating more directly than through a card).
Ultimately, these types of cards are emotionally appealing but you still have to analyze them as you would any other credit card. Check the terms and conditions to get the full scoop on interest rates, annual fee, rules, etc. If you carry a balance and one of these cards has a higher interest rate than your existing card, it doesn’t help you or the supported organization. You’ll end up paying more interest, money you could use to directly contribute to the cause. Incidentally, none of the cards listed have an annual fee but some charity credit cards do.
Having said all that, the first card listed offers a very compelling offer if you’re a supporter of micro-financing projects in developing countries. I think the old paradigm of nations simply loaning or giving (we tend to forgive the loans anyway) billions of dollars to developing countries is less effective than individuals loaning money directly to entrepreneurs through micro-financing. Rather than giving fish, you help teach a man how to fish.
The Organization: Kiva  is an organization that lets individuals offer micro-loans to entrepreneurs in the developing world. You can sign up to Kiva, read about all the entrepreneurs who need funding, then fund the project. Kiva handles the transaction. They aren’t monitored by CharityNavigator but they are a registered 503(c)3 non-profit organization.
The Cards: If you want to support Kiva, you will want the Kiva BusinessCard. Advanta will match dollar for dollar on your grant to Kiva for up to $200 per account per month. They will also give you a 5% statement credit on your first $1,200 each year in grants to Kiva (they call them grants, rather than loans, it’s a legal thing). When the loan from the matching grant is repaid, the funds are returned to Advanta (when your grant is repaid, you can decide what you will do with it).
The card also has a tiered-rewards program based on your purchases (there are no tiers for the statement credit because of Kiva grants, that is 5% starting at the first dollar). The Kiva BusinessCard also has an introductory 0% APR balance transfer  offer for 15 months, no annual fee, and is open to individuals.
The Organization: The Nature Conservancy  is an organization that seeks to “preserve the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.” Headquartered in Arlington, VA, they score four stars on Charity Nagivator’s ranking with a score of 65.45  and a fund-raising efficiency of $0.11 (they spend only 11 cents to raise each $1).
The Card: The Nature Conservancy Platinum Plus® Visa® Credit Card is offered by FIA Card Services, N.A., the credit card division of Bank of America, and they donate 0.25% of all net retail purchases to The Nature Conservancy. So, for ever $100 you spent, The Nature Conservancy gets $0.25. This is a pretty standard donation amount for these types of cards offered by Bank of America.
This card also offers Worldpoints, which is Bank of America’s cashback points system at 1 point per dollar of spending. New card holders will also receive a complimentary one year membership and subscription to Nature Conservancy magazine. Finally, it also offers a 12 month 0% balance transfer and no annual fee.
The Organization: Ducks Unlimited  “conserves, restores and manages wetlands and associated habitats for North America’s waterfowl. These habitats also benefit other wildlife and people.” They are headquartered out of Memphis, TN with a Charity Navigator rating of 41.73 , primarily because they are in a weak financial state.
The Card: The Ducks Unlimited card is another card offered by Bank of America. While it’s not written on the application or in the terms & conditions, other screens show that they donate 0.25% of net retail purchases to the organization. The card has no annual fee and offers an introductory 0% balance transfer for 12 months.
The Organization: Brighter Planet  “is dedicated to helping you take charge in the fight against global warming and build a clean-energy future. With a majority of Americans wanting to do something for the environment, our products are an effective way for individuals and businesses to reduce their impact on the climate.” They have tools to help you determine your environmental impact and then a variety of ways (products you can purchase, such as ) to help you offset your carbon footprint.
The Card: The Brighter Planet™ Visa Credit Card is another offering from Bank of America and you earn $1 EarthSmart™ point for every $1 spent in net retail purchases. A thousand (1000) EarthSmart points will be converted into “an estimated 1 ton of carbon offsets,” through the financing of projects such as wind turbines, farm methane and solar energy. After your first purchase, you’ll automatically earn 1,000 bonus points and you can earn another 1,000 bonus points for electing paperless statements. The card has no annual fee and offers an introductory 0% balance transfer for 12 billing cycles.
Bank of America has several of these types of cards, if you look around you can probably find one that donates to an organization you support.
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 Kiva: http://kiva.org/
 0% APR balance transfer: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/list-of-cards-with-0-balance-transfer-offers-for-12-months.html
 The Nature Conservancy: http://www.nature.org/
 65.45: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=4208
 Ducks Unlimited: http://www.ducks.org/
 41.73: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=3631
 Brighter Planet: http://brighterplanet.com/
Thank you for reading!