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Adaptation vs. Mitigation: What Does Each Mean for the Environment?

Hands, Globe, Earth, Protection, Planet, World, Global

{We can either choose to adapt to climate change or mitigate its effects. No matter what, the planet’s in our hands.}

Human beings are resilient creatures who learn from an early age to roll with the times. That skill is likely going to be tested in the coming years as
climate change intensifies.  As that happens, one question should come to the forefront of the discussion: Is it better to adapt to climate change? Or should we try to mitigate its impact? This article seeks to answer that question. Keep reading to get an in-depth look at the differences between adaptation and mitigation and to see how we might use each of them to ease our adjustment to climate change.

Climate adaptation: minimizing the effects  

What is climate adaptation?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change defines climate adaption as, “The process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects.” So what does that mean? Essentially, when we talk about climate adaptation, we’re talking about changing our behaviors so that they align with what the climate looks like. For example, if it’s a very hot day outside, you might stay inside in your air-conditioned home to keep cool. That’s an example of you adapting your behavior because of a change in your climate.

What are some ways we can adapt to climate change?

Climate change experts have come up with lots of good ideas about the things that we can do to adapt to climate change. Here are some examples:
  • Prepare for more severe fire seasons by dedicating more resources to clearing brush and other types of fire preparation
  • Strengthen sea walls, drain pipes, and pumps to prepare for rising sea levels
  • Build disaster and public health plans for more severe types of weather
  • Develop new crop varieties and farming technologies to protect the food supply from prolonged droughts and extreme storms
  • Prepare for managed retreats, which are large scale resettlements due to climate impacts

Climate mitigation: tackling the causes 

What is climate mitigation?

Whereas climate adaption attempts to make the effects of climate change less pronounced, mitigation seeks to address the problem at its root. According to the European Environment Agency, the idea of mitigation is to, “[make] the impacts of climate change less severe by preventing or reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.” If you decide to swap from a gas-powered vehicle to an electric one, that would be an example of mitigation, because you’re taking an action that will reduce the amount of greenhouse gas that goes into the atmosphere.

What are some ways we can mitigate climate change?

Companies and governments are creating innovative solutions for mitigating the impact of climate change. Some examples of this include:
  • Investing in renewable sources of energy and encouraging others to do so through incentive programs
  • Increasing the size of forests and other resources that provide natural mitigation
  • Swapping from gas-powered vehicles to electric ones

Factors that affect adaptation and mitigation

In this section, we’ll cover the main factors that impact the discussion around climate adaptation and mitigation. We’ll also tell you what you can do as an individual to have an impact in each category.

Resource consumption

Our planet is full of resources that humans find useful. Many of these, such as timber from forests, can replenish over time. But that only happens when we use the resources sustainably–and we’re currently not even close to doing that. According to Population Matters, we’re currently using up the renewable resources of 1.7 earths and unless we change things, we would need 3 earths to satisfy our consumption habits by the year 2050. The meaning is clear: we’re currently using more renewable resources than we can afford to. If we don’t change our ways, then there’s a good chance that many of the resources we depend upon today won’t be available for future generations to enjoy. One of the biggest examples of this is our planet’s uneven consumption of food. There are more than 800 million people who don’t get enough food to meet their daily nutritional needs. Meanwhile, more than 650 million people are obese. Part of the problem is our exploding population numbers, which have led the UN to predict that we’ll need 70% more food by 2050. So what can you do about this? One place to start is by trying to consume fewer resources than you do currently and by encouraging the other people in your life to do the same. You may not feel like you can make a difference individually. But if everyone just did their part, we’d be in a much better position to leave future generations the same resources we enjoy.

Global and local climate policy 

Scientists have told us that we can have an impact on the rate at which climate change occurs.  But to do so, we need to take aggressive action to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas that gets released into the atmosphere. And the most effective way to do that is by creating new laws that regulate the amount of greenhouse emissions that companies and people are allowed to release. Unfortunately, getting buy-in from national, state, and local governments across the planet has proven to be an exceptionally difficult task. But things are slowly improving, and the Paris Agreement represents the best attempt at this. Countries responsible for about 97% of global greenhouse gas emissions have joined the agreement, which seeks to reduce emissions over time. Although the Paris Agreement is a big step forward, it isn’t a complete solution for climate policy. National, state, and local governments can still do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their territories. And individuals can make this action more likely by reaching out to their representatives and asking them to do more about climate change.

Social and cultural attitudes

We also still have a lot of work to do when it comes to adjusting cultural attitudes towards climate change–especially in the United States.  A sizable portion of the population doesn’t believe in climate change, despite the fact that nearly all actively publishing climate scientists support the consensus opinion on climate change. There isn’t a single reason for this. Some of the refusal to believe in climate change comes from the fact that people in many locations aren’t feeling the impact of it yet. Additionally, many conservative U.S. media sources make it a point of emphasis to cast doubt on climate change and this certainly has an impact on the beliefs of those who watch or read these news sources. That being said, individuals can still have an impact here. You can do so by challenging the beliefs of people who profess not to believe in climate change. Come armed with statistics and don’t speak down to them.  Instead, try to understand what’s fueling their climate change denial and use logic and statistics to encourage them to reexamine their beliefs without getting confrontational.

Inequality of finance and resources 

Inequality is another factor that makes both climate mitigation and adaptation a challenge. Communities with few available resources likely won’t be able to invest heavily in climate adaption technologies. Similarly, poorer nations may not have the financial capability to turn away from fossil fuels and towards renewable sources of energy. Though renewable energy usually saves money over time, it can be expensive to set up the infrastructure needed to reliably create it. It’s difficult to address this problem on an individual level. But the best way to do so is by lobbying your representatives to make fighting global climate change more of a priority. The United States spends billions on foreign aid. We can advocate for a portion of that to go to creating the infrastructure needed for poorer countries to fight global warming.

Lack of awareness of the problem

Some people are still unaware of the severity of the problems that climate change represents. These individuals see no reason to adopt a greener lifestyle because they don’t understand why doing so is necessary. This is one area where individuals can have a big impact. If we all committed to teaching our circle about the importance of mitigating and adapting to climate change, many more people would know the significance of the problem than they do now. So consider committing to educating your friends and family about climate change if you know they’re not very familiar with it. Once again, be sure not to talk down to them when you do. Use friendly language and facts to outline climate change for them and take the time to answer any questions they may have for you.

Want to do your bit for the environment?

Thinking about where we’re at with climate change and adaptation and where we still need to go can feel overwhelming. But the good news is that there are a ton of things we can do as individuals to have an impact and get us closer to our goals. One way that you can make a difference is by using a green banking service like Aspiration instead of a traditional one. Consider checking out the Aspiration Zero credit card. We’ll plant a tree every time you make a purchase and will help you go carbon-neutral by giving you access to an app you can use to track your monthly progress. Visit our website today to learn more.

Make Change Staff

September 23, 2021

The Least Polluted City in the World Is…

Industry, Environmental Pollution, Smog, Sunrise

Image by Ralf Vetterle from Pixabay

What is pollution?

Pollution is the introduction of any substance, or energy, into the environment at a rate faster than it can be cleaned, dispersed, recycled, or stored in a less harmful form. The most common types of pollution are air pollution, water pollution, and land pollution, but there are lesser-known forms of pollution that can be just as harmful.

Air pollution

Smog and particulate matter (sometimes referred to as soot) are the most common forms of air pollution.  Smog forms when emissions from burned fossil fuels react to sunlight and air. Burning fossil fuels has many uses - from powering factories to vehicles to converting energy into electricity to heat our homes.  Particulate matter, on the other hand, refers to the tiny particles of chemicals, dust, or allergens that are carried in the air. The sources of smog and particulate matter are similar, with both come from sources that combust fossil fuels, such as coal, gas, or natural gas. When these pollutants are released into the air, they can be detrimental to human and animal health. Particulates are harmful because they can penetrate deep into the lungs, causing respiratory diseases and even heart attacks The way air pollution is measured is through the number and size of particulate matter in the air. Particulate matter that is 10 micrometers or less in diameter is represented as PM 10, and particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter as PM 2.5. The higher the density of these particles in the air, the higher the risk. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately seven million people worldwide die because of air pollution. In addition to that, 90% of people on earth currently breathe unhealthy air. Air pollution is also detrimental to the planet as a whole, as it can destroy plants and trees. 

Water pollution

When chemicals or dangerous substances are introduced into bodies of water, they can be harmful to the ecosystem.  Chemicals such as pesticides, sewage, and fertilizers from agricultural runoff, or even metals like lead, are considered hazardous water pollutants. These pollutants make their way into our drinking water and cause massive harm to marine life, avian life, and entire ecosystems. Scientists use a variety of characteristics to determine water quality. Some of these include temperature, acidity (or pH), dissolved solids, and suspended sediment. Each measurement reveals something different about a particular body of water, and since these can vary widely, it can be helpful to track changes in the same body of water over time. 

Land pollution

Land pollution is the process of depositing solid or liquid waste on land or underground that leads to the contamination of soil and groundwater and threatens public health and quality of life.  Most land pollution is caused by municipal waste, industrial waste, and household garbage. Industrial waste forms a significant portion of solid waste, while hazardous waste is any liquid, solid, or sludge waste that contains properties that are dangerous or potentially harmful to human health or the environment.  Industries generate hazardous waste from mining, petroleum refining, pesticide, manufacturing, and other chemical production, like tanning leather. Households can generate hazardous waste as well, including paints and solvents, motor oil, fluorescent lights, aerosol cans, and ammunition. The best way to measure land pollution is often to test samples of dirt or land for soil contamination. Soil contaminants are a diverse list of chemicals and can include petroleum products, heavy metals, pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals. Knowing the area well and whether or not there are factories or landfills nearby will help narrow down what contaminants to look for.

Noise pollution

Regular exposure to elevated or unpleasant sound levels can lead to negative effects in humans and animals. Even though noise pollution is invisible, it can still affect the environment. Noise pollution includes loud sounds from planes, factories, traffic, and other sources. Many forms of noise pollution are a part of our daily lives and we fail to even notice them anymore. Noise pollution such as car horns, construction sites, and office noise can all lead to stress, but noise pollution can also be the underlying cause of other serious health concerns like hearing loss, hypertension, and sleep disorders. Noise pollution also affects wildlife. Ships cause underwater noise pollution and can upset whales' navigation systems and feeding schedules, and kill other species that depend on the natural underwater sounds to guide them. Noise pollution can confuse or scare birds and other wildlife, and also makes wild species communicate louder, which can shorten their lifespan. Loudness (also called sound pressure level, or SPL) is measured in units called decibels (dB). The average human ear can detect sounds that range between 0 dB and about 140 dB. Sounds that range between 120dB and 140 dB can cause pain to the human ear. For reference, the SPL in a library is about 35 dB, while the level inside a moving bus or train is roughly 85 dB.

Light pollution

Like noise pollution, light pollution is a form of waste energy that can cause adverse effects and degrade environmental quality.  Light pollution occurs when there’s unwanted or excessive artificial light in a given area.  Light pollution can cause quality of life issues for people such as sleep disturbances, but it can also affect animal life by changing their migrations patterns and feeding times. Newly hatched sea turtles, for example, rely on starlight bouncing off waves to steer them in the direction of the ocean. If there are street lights around, they often get confused and head in the wrong direction.

Who is responsible for pollution?

There’s a lot of debate over who is responsible for pollution and what can be done about it.  Ultimately, pollution and our climate crisis have been attributed mostly to the fossil fuel industry and governments that don’t regulate them effectively. However, other entities are responsible, too. Banks and financial institutions who provide loans or invest in fossil fuel projects and other polluting industries, such as the plastics industry, are responsible, as well.

The five most polluted cities in the world  

Hotan, China

Hotan - a desert area in northwestern China - ranks as the world's most polluted city. This is largely due to sandstorms that have been made worse by climate change. Hotan had the highest monthly PM2.5 averages worldwide from March to June 2020.

New Delhi, India

New Delhi is a densely populated city that struggles with air quality throughout the year. Many different factors contribute to its overall poor air quality, such as emissions from thermal plants and factories, fires on farms, and congested transportation networks. At its worst, according to IQAir’s 2020 World Air Quality Report, New Delhi’s PM2.5 levels averaged 157 micrograms per cubic meter in December 2020, exceeding the World Health Organization's annual exposure guideline by more than 14 times.

Ghaziabad, India

The third most polluted city in the world, Ghaziabad, is also found in India. Part of the capital region of Delhi, Ghaziabad’s high levels of traffic and industry play a large part in its pollution levels, but the most prominent factor is its topography, which creates a sort of “dustbowl” leading to massive amounts of dust accumulating in the city without sufficient wind to blow it away.

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Dhaka is a very densely populated city with many vehicles and factories. Its pollution problems stem mostly from a lack of rigorous environmental regulations. This has led to the continued use of inefficient vehicles that use diesel fuel, like motorbikes and trucks, and industrial pollution from unregulated factories such as brick kilns which use unregulated fuel sources for power. Aside from these two issues, there’s also the large problem of dust. High concentrations of dust are present across the city due to the quantity of open burning sites where garbage is burned. Luanda, Angola Over the last decade, Luanda has turned into an economic powerhouse. New opportunities and industries have exploded over the region, while millions of people have moved to the city for work. This has increased pollution in the area dramatically, and Luanda is now one of the most polluted cities in the world. With a PM10 level of 332 and a PM2.5 level of 182, it is dangerous to even breathe without a protective mask in Luanda. 

The five cleanest cities in the world

Honolulu, Hawaii

According to the American Lung Association, Honolulu, Hawaii has some of the cleanest air in the world.  Hawaii’s trade winds carry air particulates out to sea, meanwhile, there are very few factories or commercial industries operating in Honolulu to disperse harmful particulates. Because the islands are isolated, there aren’t any hazardous particles blowing over from the mainland.

Zurich, Switzerland

The city of Zurich in Switzerland is known for its clean air, and that’s not by accident. Widespread use of efficient public transportation, instead of individual cars, helps to cut down on air pollution in the city.  People in Zurich often cycle as a mode of transportation, and use trains, buses, and subways instead of driving. The city has also implemented strict waste management techniques which help residents to manage their garbage and recycling.

Helsinki, Finland

A city that tops most lists of “Most Livable Cities in the World” is Helsinki, Finland.  The capital of Finland is hailed as sustainable and filled with great green urban areas and is also one of the least polluted cities in the world. Residents routinely use public transportation and bicycles for mobility instead of cars. It’s easy to walk and bike everywhere, with the city maintaining roughly 2,400 miles worth of bike lanes.

Calgary, Canada

With a population of more than a million, Calgary is still considered one of the cleanest cities in the world.  This is largely due to its approach to waste management - its green composting program and waste management updates have reduced the amount of garbage going to landfills by 48%. And most of this is through something as simple as sorting out compost and recyclables.

Copenhagen, Denmark

In Europe, the Danish city of Copenhagen is among the least polluted cities in the world.  It’s a sustainable city with a strong cycling culture that aims to keep people active. Almost half of Copenhagen’s residents use bicycles as their primary means of transportation. Aside from cars, there are few things in the area that cause dangerous air pollutants. Copenhagen is expected to become a zero-emission city by 2025 and hopes to see its emissions decrease by 20% by 2015.  

Ready to help keep your city pollution-free?

To help keep your city clean and pollutant-free, you can learn how to make positive changes to the environment. One way of doing this is to get involved at a local level and speak to your elected representative about what they’re doing to encourage banks and governments to divest from fossil fuels On a personal level, you can also consider what your daily credit card purchases are funding. To learn more about sustainable personal finance, or to apply for the Aspiration zero - our carbon-neutral credit card - reach out to Aspiration today! 

Make Change Staff

September 10, 2021

How to Fight Climate Change With Your Credit Card

silhouette of trees during sunset

Photo by Matt Palmer on Unsplash

A credit card is more than just a tool for making payments. With the right credit card, you can offset your carbon emissions, donate regularly to environmental charities, and reduce plastic waste in your life. Some of the best credit cards to help you achieve these goals are carbon credit cards and affinity credit cards. Both are designed to reduce their owners’ carbon footprints. They’re often made from biodegradable materials and only contain small amounts of plastic. If you’re looking to switch to a credit card that helps you fight climate change - we’ve got you covered. In this article, we look at how mainstream credit cards can fuel climate change and what you can do to help the environment with an eco-friendly credit card.

Credit cards and impact on climate change

Many of us use our credit cards every day to buy coffee, stock up on groceries, and pay for transportation. But how often do we consider the impact that our credit cards have on the environment? 

The positive impact of using a credit card 

Making purchases with your credit can actually help you fight climate change. For example, credit cards can help us donate to environmental causes each time we make a purchase.  Some credit cards, like the affinity credit cards offered by Bank of America, donate about 0.08% of each transaction to environmental charities like The Nature Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife. Other cards allow you to convert your accumulated rewards points or cash back into cash donations to charities of your choice. Credit cards can also help us reduce plastic and paper waste that’s abundant in the banking sector. With a credit card, there’s no longer a need to carry cash or write checks.  Many credit card companies are beginning to issue sustainable credit cards to help fight plastic pollution. Made from biodegradable plant materials, recycled ocean plastics, or metal, these credit cards help reduce the amount of virgin plastics used in credit card production. 

The negative impact of using a credit card 

Despite the benefits afforded to us by credit cards, regular credit card usage can also help accelerate climate change.  Credit cards, by their very nature, can encourage us to live beyond our means. They help us borrow money that we don’t have to make purchases, which if used irresponsibly, can lead to overspending. And they entice us with cashback, bonus offers, and discounts that have the potential to gamify consumerism. The problem with this design is that it supercharges the highly polluting manufacturing, transportation, and electricity sectors - all of which benefit from the fast consumer culture that credit cards support. According to recent studies, the fashion industry alone accounts for about 10% of global carbon emissions, utilizing more energy than the aviation and shipping industries combined.  Also, plastic credit cards themselves can contribute to the climate problem. Most of the 6 billion credit cards issued annually are made from PVC plastics, which are very difficult to recycle. Despite the best efforts of card issuers and recycling companies to recycle them, millions of these credit cards end up in landfills and our waterways, where they break down into microplastics and toxic waste.

Creating a more sustainable financial future

In light of these findings, climate experts have called for changes in our spending habits. Our fast consumer culture is quickly depleting the world of its fossil fuels, forests, and minerals. 24/7 logistics operations emit close to a billion tonnes of CO2 per year. And the surprising thing is that a large percentage of the carbon emissions emitted by humans don’t come from our daily commute or energy use - instead, they come from sources further down our products’ supply chains. According to a 2015 study, 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions can be traced to the production and use of household goods and services. As countries become wealthier, more people gain better incomes and access to retail services that facilitate fast consumerism. The United States is a case in point - a typical American produces five times more carbon emissions per year than the world’s average person. The best way to halt climate change, say some climate scientists, may be for us as individuals to simply consume less.

Identifying the main stakeholders of change

While our consumer culture may be responsible for most of our climate woes, it’s not the only culprit. Our banks and governments are also implicated in this problem, and so their involvement is necessary to develop an effective climate solution.

Banks

Banks are the biggest financiers of oil and gas companies. Between 2016 and 2020, the world’s 60 largest banks invested a total of $3.8 trillion into fossil fuel projects globally.  The boom in oil wells, gas terminals, and fracking operations during this period was carried out in complete neglect of the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. These investments are believed to have effectively delayed our transition to a renewable energy-based low-carbon economy. To reverse the damage that banks have caused to the environment, it may be important to persuade them to divest their fossil fuel money and reinvest it in sustainable clean energy technologies.  Their money is vital to the creation of a low-carbon future. If banks keep financing climate chaos, they will put their future and those of their clients at high risk from the damage that extreme weather events will cause.

Governments

As the signatories of the Paris Climate Agreement, our elected governments are responsible for creating and implementing climate policies that will build a sustainable future.  They have the power to establish laws that protect ecosystems vital to the fight against climate change. With their influence and direction, they can encourage local communities to conserve forests, mangroves, and wetlands that absorb large quantities of carbon and act as barriers against storms and floods. Governments also have the authority to set national targets for greenhouse gas emissions. They can identify the most polluting industries and ask them to adopt sustainable technologies that help them reduce their carbon footprints. Lawmakers could also direct government funding towards the development of clean energy systems and low-carbon technologies.

How can I fight climate change as a consumer?

As consumers, what we buy and throw away has huge impacts on the environment. That’s why building responsible spending habits can help us reduce our environmental impact considerably. Reducing your spending is one way of helping tackle climate change. To keep your carbon footprint as low as possible, one thing to aim to avoid is fast fashion and single-use items that you’ll quickly throw away. Instead, you may want to opt for items made from durable materials that you know you’ll want to use and wear for years.  Often, the key can be to shop as consciously as possible so that you’re not buying items that you simply don’t need - or even want. 

How to fight climate change with your credit card

The credit cards we carry in our pockets can be a part of the climate solution. You can use your card to support sustainable businesses and purchase regular carbon offsets.  Here’s a look at how your credit card can be repurposed for fighting climate change.

The Aspiration Zero carbon credit card

One of the best ways to lower your carbon footprint is to use a carbon credit card, such as the Aspiration Zero issued by the sustainable neobank Aspiration. This card helps you track the carbon emissions of your purchases and automatically offset them.  For every purchase you make with this card, Aspiration plants a carbon offset tree on your behalf. When you’ve planted 60 or more trees with your credit card in a month, Aspiration rewards you with 1% cashback on all purchases in that month. Aspiration believes that our money should work for ourselves and our planet. With the Aspiration Zero, you’re given that privilege. 

Support sustainable businesses 

Even if you don’t have a carbon credit card, you can still use your regular credit card to support environmentally-friendly businesses. These are businesses that take environmental and social factors into account during the development of their products and services. They may incorporate recycled materials in their products or only use raw materials from sustainable sources. Most sustainable businesses do their best to use clean energies to power their operations.  Many sustainable businesses are leaders in their communities, taking on socially good work such as community gardening projects and reforestation initiatives. Supporting these businesses helps you pass on your money to climate-positive projects.

Divest from fossil fuels 

Many large banks invest their money in fossil fuel companies. If your current credit card is issued by one of them, it may be a good time to switch to a credit card issuer that’s aligned with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Choose an issuer that invests in renewable energy projects and helps its customers install solar panels and wind turbines. If they have net-zero emissions pledges, all the better.

Ready to learn more? 

To take the next step in investing in a greener future, check out Aspiration for tips on sustainable financial activity and pre-order the Aspiration Zero.

Make Change Staff

August 28, 2021

How Credit Card Companies Pollute the Environment

photo of coconut tree near seashore

Photo by Dustan Woodhouse on Unsplash

Credit card companies are well-known for the rewards and benefits they provide. But what’s often ignored is the amount of environmental pollution they produce. Credit card companies, just like all companies, emit greenhouse gases from their operations. Their reliance on plastic credit cards has further contributed to a plastic waste problem in our oceans and landfills, and their investments in oil and gas companies help to keep the fossil fuel industry alive. If these environmental impacts make you feel uneasy, there are alternatives you can try. You could get yourself a carbon credit card to help reduce your carbon footprint, or an affinity credit card to support conservation projects around the world. In this article, we take a look at how credit card companies pollute the environment, and what you can do as a consumer to opt out.

Why credit cards became mainstream

From just a million credit cards in circulation in 1970 to more than 365 million open credit card accounts today in America, the credit card has become one of the most popular payment methods of our times. With a credit card, you can borrow money quickly and make expensive purchases. More importantly, they help you build a good credit score.

The good bits about credit cards and their environmental impact

Just as credit cards were becoming popular in the 1970s, the environmental movement overtook public life. Activists highlighted the harmful impacts of pesticides in food production as well as the deforestation caused by high levels of paper consumption in the business sector. The banking industry, in particular, came under focus because of its heavy reliance on paper for checks, credit card statements, and office documents. In response to these environmental concerns, the credit card industry adopted sustainable measures. They began moving most of their services online to lower their paper consumption, with significant reductions in their environmental impact. Studies have found that credit card transactions using payment terminals consumed about 3.78 grams of CO2 per transaction - a lot less than the 4.60 grams of CO2 consumed by cash transactions. Cash has a higher carbon footprint due to the emissions associated with banknote production, ATM operations, and the transportation of cash. According to researchers, with the expansion of renewable energies and energy-efficient technologies, credit card issuers could further reduce the carbon footprint of cashless transactions by up to 44%.

How did credit card companies change society? 

The quick rise of credit card companies ushered in an era of increased spending.  Several businesses, especially those in the retail industry, experienced skyrocketing growth thanks to the popularity of credit cards among consumers. Customers could pay for expensive purchases without needing to pay with cash upfront. Checks were no longer needed and payments could be made in seconds both online and offline. As credit cards became easier to apply for, the buying power of the American public increased with them. People could enjoy dinners at restaurants and purchase things regularly with credit instead of having to save up to buy later.

Is credit good for our future economy?

As long as consumers are able to repay their credit card balances, credit has big potential to keep economic activity strong for several more decades. Credit enables consumers and businesses to purchase items they need. Businesses, especially new ones, may use credit to acquire tools, warehouses, and office supplies essential to their growth. Similarly, consumers might use credit cards to buy electronics, such as a personal laptop or a camera, to start a side hustle.  But it doesn’t stop there. Consistent and responsible use of credit can make consumers and businesses eligible for high-value loans. These loans enable wealth-building by giving borrowers the ability to buy property, invest in themselves and their organizations, and expand their operations, all of which are essential to the growth of the economy. When consumers and businesses can borrow money quickly, economic activity flourishes

Impact of the credit card industry on the environment

Overspending with credit cards does, of course, have some downsides.  Vigorous economic activity expands the growth of the manufacturing, transportation, and electricity sectors, which are our planet’s biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Also, many of the banks that issue credit cards invest heavily in fossil fuels. If we are to use our credit cards responsibly, understanding their environmental impact is a crucial first step.

Credit card plastic and the environment 

Recent research has found that our love of credit cards may be contributing to a major plastic pollution problem.  Most plastic credit cards are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), a sturdy plastic material that’s quite difficult to recycle. Because most recycling stations won’t accept plastic credit cards, several millions of them end up in our landfills and oceans each year. If we were to stack all of the credit cards in circulation right now on top of one another, they would create a mountain as high as 13 Mount Everests.  When plastic credit cards are left to accumulate in the environment, they break down into microplastics that harm human and animal health. Dyes and inks that wash off credit cards may also seep into groundwater reservoirs and pollute freshwater sources. It’s difficult to rein in credit card use because it helps to encourage consumer spending, which in turn spurs economic growth. But at the same time, overspending on our credit cards can lead to a fast consumer culture, in which items are bought in an instant and quickly discarded when they are no longer considered useful - leading to the unnecessary depletion of our scarce natural resources.

Sustainability - why it matters and how to opt for it 

Without any intervention, our credit card waste problem could soon spiral out of control. Thankfully, quite a few sustainable solutions are available that can help us tackle this problem effectively. These solutions allow us to enjoy the benefits of credit cards while reducing their environmental impact at the same time. Switching to a sustainable bank is one such solution. Sustainable banks actively look for ways to reduce their carbon footprints. They may cut down on their paper consumption by digitizing their products and services, or they may invest in switching their power supply to renewable energies. Additionally, you could opt for a green credit card that helps you donate to environmental causes. These credit cards are designed to donate a percentage of each transaction to the environmental charity they’re affiliated with.

Environmental alternatives to credit cards 

Mainstream credit cards aren’t the only way for you to build credit.  Carbon credit cards, affinity credit cards, and online payment accounts are alternatives that can help you spend money responsibly - while benefiting the planet. 

Go carbon neutral with Aspiration

Aspiration is a B Corp certified socially responsible neobank that puts sustainability at the core of its business.  Since its foundation in 2013, they have not invested a single dollar in fossil fuels, firearms, or private prisons. Instead, they opt to create green financial products that help customers grow their wealth and reduce their carbon footprint. The Aspiration Zero carbon credit card does exactly that. It’s a unique credit card that tracks the carbon emissions of purchases made on the card and plants a carbon offset tree each time the card is used. When customers plant 60 trees in a month, Aspiration rewards them with 1% cashback on all purchases for that month.  The waitlist for the Aspiration Zero is now open so you can sign up for early access to the card.

Affinity credit cards 

An affinity credit card can be a great alternative to a traditional credit card. These credit cards are linked to a partnering charity that receives about 0.08% of each transaction as a donation. The charity also receives about $3 when a customer opens a new card account or renews their current account.  Bank of America currently has the widest selection of affinity credit cards. Customers can choose to get a card affiliated with Defenders of Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, or the World Wildlife Fund. Some cards support health-related causes such as the Susan G. Komen breast cancer research foundation.

Online payment platforms 

Online payment platforms like PayPal, Payoneer, and Skrill can also help you use your money sustainably.  Being online-only, these payment platforms produce little to no plastic or paper waste. They may have a considerable carbon footprint due to the vast amounts of energy their data centers consume, but this is being gradually reduced as the centers are switched to 100% renewable energy over the next decade. Some platforms, like PayPal, offer digital credit lines that can help you enjoy the benefits of credit without having to worry about plastic or paper waste.

Ready to take your sustainability to the next level?

Check out Aspiration to learn more about green financing or to preorder the Aspiration Zero and start working towards becoming carbon neutral!

Make Change Staff

August 26, 2021

Environmental Celebrities: 5 Stars Who Are Doing the Work

white wooden fence on green grass field Photo by De'Andre Bush on Unsplash Celebrities often use their star power to raise awareness about gender equality, humanitarian crises, or diversity, and other social issues in the entertainment industry. Their statements often make headlines around the world, especially with the power of social media today. But some celebrities don’t just talk about the issues impacting our planet, they go out of their way to create meaningful change. One such particular issue that’s seeing a lot of celebrity activity recently? Climate change. From rap idols like Drake to Oscar-winning actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, these celebrities are investing in innovative environmental startups and committing millions of dollars in funding to environmental conservation programs.  What’s more, in addition to donating money, some of these celebrities are even going so far as to become advisors to environmental nonprofits, adding pressure on policymakers to take action on climate change. Here’s a look at 5 environmental celebrities who are doing their part to save our planet’s future. 

Drake

You may well know Drake for his chart-topping tunes and extravagant lifestyle, but how much do you know about his green credentials? Just in the past year, the Toronto-based rapper has made 2 major investments in ethical environmental companies. The first, with our very own sustainable fintech startup Aspiration, came about after Drake began looking for a partner to help him make the transition to a carbon-neutral lifestyle. Through this collaboration, Drake will use our climate-positive services to monitor and cut down on his carbon footprint. And with the help of his team, Aspiration will identify the emissions from his activities, travel, and so on, and work to select reforestation projects to offset his emissions.  Both of our teams hope that through this collaboration, more people will become aware of just how easy it can be to live a carbon-neutral lifestyle simply by selecting and using the right eco-friendly financial products. But it’s not just carbon offsets that Drake’s after. Earlier this year, Drake invested in Daring, a company producing 100% plant-based chicken, in their Series B investment round that raised $40 million.  The rapper, who went vegetarian in 2018, stated that his support for the company reflects his love for their products, which are made from soy, water, sunflower oil, salt, and natural flavoring.  Daring said in a statement that the new investment capital would be used to expand its retail and foodservice operations.

Kaia Gerber 

It’s hard not to notice teenage supermodel Kaia Gerber these days - she’s on just about every other magazine cover. The daughter of supermodel Cindy Crawford and businessman Rande Gerber, Kaia has modeled for Chanel, Saint Laurent, and Marc Jacobs since her early teens. In 2016, she made her debut magazine appearance on the cover of Vogue Paris with her mom. Then, just 2 years later in 2018, she won the prestigious Model of the Year award in London.  Today, Kaia has more than 6 million followers on Instagram and a growing public profile as a social influencer. Just before the presidential election in 2020, she organized an online discussion with Natalie and Naomi Biden, the granddaughters of President Joe Biden, about the global issues impacting members of Generation Z.  The trio chatted about the importance of fighting climate change and getting policymakers to take action on mental health issues and student loans.  Kaia is also one of the top investors in the fashion magazine, W, alongside fellow model Karlie Kloss and Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton. 

Leonardo DiCaprio 

Possibly the best-known actor-environmentalist of our time, Leonardo DiCaprio has advocated for climate change solutions since the tender age of 24. After the debut of his blockbuster drama Titanic in 1998, DiCaprio created The Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation to protect the planet’s last remaining wild habitats and to fund initiatives that help prevent environmental destruction. Through the foundation, DiCaprio has committed millions of dollars to decrease the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, in addition to releasing several environmental documentaries. “Sea of Shadows”, a film about the totoaba fish trafficking industry, won the prestigious Sundance Audience Award, and “Before the Flood”, took a close look at the current impacts of climate change on both humans and animals alike. As if that wasn’t enough, DiCaprio is also an active board member of several ecological organizations, from the World Wildlife Fund to the Natural Resources Defense Council, and regularly attends global conservation conferences. Plus, he’s not afraid to use his Hollywood standing to raise the alarm about climate change. At his 2016 Oscars acceptance speech, he told the audience that climate change “is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating." There’s no doubt that DiCaprio has followed up on his own words with action. He serves as an advisor on The Solutions Project, an organization that advocates for widespread adoption of renewable energy, and Blu-on Energy, an energy-efficiency startup. Just this year, DiCaprio pledged $43m towards conservation efforts on the Galapagos Islands, partnering with the environmental organization, Re:wild.  Like Drake, DiCaprio is also an investor in Aspiration. He says:  “To bring about long-term solutions for our planet, we need alternatives that empower everyday consumers to take action against climate change. Aspiration helps people protect our planet...I’m proud to be a part of Aspiration and their work to help save the planet.”

Orlando Bloom

He might be everyone’s favorite elf but the 44-year old actor has more than magic up his sleeve. A UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2009, Orlando Bloom works with the world’s most vulnerable climate refugees and migrants when he’s not focusing on his acting career.  The Lord of the Rings actor briefs policymakers on how environmental crises are forcing people to flee from their homes. At meetings and conferences, he urges world leaders to put in place climate prevention and mitigation measures to stem the destruction that is being caused by climate change. In early 2021, Bloom, along with other Hollywood A-listers such as Joaquin Phoenix and Jane Fonda, called on President Biden to refrain from making any agreements with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that could cause further deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest.  In addition to his responsibilities at the UN, Bloom is also an ambassador for Global Green, the American arm of Green Cross International, an organization created by former premier of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to develop sustainable environmental solutions. Bloom’s environmental activism extends deep into his personal life. To make his London home carbon neutral, he installed solar panels, used recycled building materials, and installed energy-efficient light bulbs.

Robert Downey Jr.

In early 2021, at the World Economic Forum’s Digital Davos event, actor and philanthropist Robert Downey Jr. launched a venture fund to restore the planet’s health.  Named ‘The Footprint Coalition’, the fund is led by Downey Jr. and a group of investors, donors, and storytellers who aim to scale up various climate-positive technologies using venture capital. So far, the group has invested in a diverse portfolio of companies, including Ÿnsect, an insect-based pet, and human food company, and Cloud Paper, a manufacturer of bamboo toilet paper. The Footprint Coalition also became an investor in Aspiration in early 2021. Downey Jr. and his team believe that the right utilization of AI and climate-positive technologies can solve many of the world’s environmental problems in the next 10 years. That’s why their investments are focused on sustainability-focused companies that deliver innovative products with profit as an incentive. The Footprint Coalition’s rolling capital fund is managed through AngelList, giving many individual investors who meet the minimum investment requirements (currently believed to be set at $5,000 in investment per quarter) to participate in the development of new decarbonizing technologies. The Coalition also has a nonprofit initiative that provides grants for scientific research efforts in environmental technology.

An eco-friendly credit card that’s supported by celebrities

The Aspiration Zero is a carbon-zero credit card that helps you fight climate change one swipe at a time. For each purchase that you make, Aspiration plants a tree on your behalf through one of our reforestation partners.  We also give you the option to plant extra trees using our Plant Your Change program that rounds each transaction you make to the nearest whole number. The resulting spare change is then transformed into trees. And unlike other green credit cards, the Aspiration Zero tracks the carbon footprint of every purchase that you make. Your total carbon emissions appear in the accompanying Aspiration app.  In months that you make enough purchases to reach carbon zero, Aspiration rewards you with 1% cashback on all of your purchases. Get on the waitlist today and start fighting climate change with your money.  

Make Change Staff

July 23, 2021

Can Afforestation Fight Climate Change?

soldier planting tree during daytime Planting trees has emerged as one of our most formidable weapons against climate change.  Trees absorb tons of carbon dioxide from the air and sequester it in their biomass. Scientific evidence shows that the more trees we can plant, the faster we’ll be able to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and keep global average temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. One of the most popular ways to plant more trees is through afforestation, which is the process of planting forests in regions that previously had no tree cover. Scientists believe that if implemented well, large afforestation projects can green large tracts of urban and rural lands and soak up to 189 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year, making it a promising tool against rising global temperatures. In this article, we explore what afforestation is and how it can help us fight climate change. Key takeaways
  • Afforestation is considered one of the cheapest and most natural negative emissions technologies (NETs). Trees grown through afforestation can sequester large amounts of carbon dioxide from the air and prevent them from becoming trapped in the atmosphere.
  • Afforestation projects in India, China, and North Africa have helped green desertified areas, bringing ecological benefits and new sources of income to local communities.
  • Scientific studies suggest that afforesting non-forested land could offset around 250 billion tons of carbon dioxide between 2020 and 2100.

What is afforestation? 

Afforestation is the process of growing a forest in an area that previously had no tree cover. Usually done on desertified lands, abandoned agricultural fields, and industrial areas, afforestation increases the forest cover of an area and brings ecological and economic benefits to local communities. In recent years, afforestation has gained popularity as one of the most natural and easy-to-implement negative emissions technologies (NETs). Trees grown through afforestation naturally remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis by storing the carbon dioxide in their biomass as they grow.  This carbon sequestration ability has made afforestation a favorite among policymakers and conservationists who are fighting against climate change. Afforestation can be implemented in both rural and urban areas, including barren lands such as landfills and former construction sites. As long as a piece of land can be topped with soil, saplings or seeds can be planted on it using afforestation methods.

Why is afforestation important?

Afforestation is important because it offers a variety of environmental and economic benefits to an area.  One of the key reasons that afforestation is practiced by local governments and conservation groups is because of its ability to prevent or reverse desertification. Land that has lost vegetation due to drought, wildfires, or overgrazing can become dry and prone to soil erosion.  No longer productive, these lands become void of most wildlife. But through afforestation, biodiversity can be restored through the careful and deliberate selection of tree species. As the trees grow, they attract birds, insects, and other animals into the afforested areas to establish new habitats. The growth of the trees also improves soil fertility as the trees exchange nutrients with the soil and hold the soil particles in place, preventing erosion during flooding. In addition, the trees act as wind barriers that weaken the ability of wind to carry soil particles away. They also create cool microclimates in arid and semi-arid areas that help local communities stay cool during hot summer months.  Besides its ecological benefits, afforestation can also have commercial uses. Local communities can choose to grow fruit trees and short-term crops in afforested areas to boost the local economy. Doing so turns previously arid areas into productive lands and protects the new forests from getting cut down as their produce brings in income.

Examples of afforestation 

Afforestation has been implemented in many parts of the world, from the Indian subcontinent to northern Africa. Here’s a look at how different afforestation projects have been carried out.

India

India is one of the world’s most enthusiastic practitioners of afforestation. Using the Miyawaki technique, which consists of sowing very young saplings close together, conservationists and urban planners in India have restored degraded land within 25 to 30 years.  India’s increasing interest in afforestation comes partly from its 2015 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) pledge to green 33 percent of its desertified land by 2022. In the state of Kerala alone, 22 micro-forests were grown using afforestation methods in the past few years. The state now has plants to grow at least 20 more micro-forests in the coming years.

China

There is probably no country more invested in afforestation than China at the moment. Since the 1990s, China has spent more than $100 billion on afforestation projects across the country. It has planted more than 35 billion trees through its national “Grain for Green” initiative, which encouraged farmers to convert their agricultural fields into forests to combat desertification. Afforestation has helped China reduce the risk of flash floods and crop failures in rural areas. The additional trees have also made soils less vulnerable to erosion. Researchers estimate that between 1973 and 2003, the afforested areas in China absorbed around 774 million tonnes of carbon

The Sahel

The Sahel is the site of the world’s largest afforestation movement. It’s home to the Great Green Wall movement, which aims to grow an 8,000km zone of trees across eleven countries from West to East Africa.  Using the same afforestation principles created by the Green Belt Movement that was started in 1977 by Professor Wangari Maathai, the Great Green Wall movement seeks to both create fertile lands in the arid regions of the Sahel and empower youth and women to take up ecopreneurship opportunities After completion, the Great Green Wall is expected to protect local communities from droughts and extreme hot weather events.

What is afforestation and its advantages and disadvantages? 

Advantages

Afforestation is often touted as a cheap way to reduce carbon emissions with the added benefit of improving depleted soils. Research has found that afforested areas enhance soil health, making them better able to store carbon from the atmosphere and lock in moisture. Recent studies suggest that afforesting non-forested land could offset around 250 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide between 2020 and 2100. Afforested areas usually contain hundreds if not thousands of trees that can capture carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. These trees are grown from seeds or young saplings, which are low in cost and can be planted with the help of volunteers or community members. In some areas where afforestation has been carried out using cash crop trees, jobs have also been created. Acacia mangium plantations in Brazil, for example, have boosted local economies as the trees can be quickly grown and sold as material for paper pulp and other tree products, reducing the demand for trees in natural forest ecosystems. 

Disadvantages

Despite the advantages of afforestation, some scientists and development practitioners have pointed out the unseen costs of this plantation process. One of the biggest concerns raised is that successful carbon emission reduction using afforestation will require millions of hectares of land. According to a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, at least 500 million hectares of afforested land - an area about twice the size of Argentina - will be required to limit the rise of global average temperatures below 1.5 degrees celsius.  Others point to the potential unsustainability of afforested areas. Land that has been afforested using fruit trees or commercial trees may only help store carbon for short periods as these trees have shorter lifespans than other longer-living, native species. Trees may also be cut down for fuel or export, further reducing the climate mitigating effect of afforested areas Growing new forests on patches of perceived ‘degraded’ land, such as savannas or grasslands may also destroy pre-existing ecosystems. These ecosystems could contain rare species of trees and plants, which might be outcompeted by the introduction of new, non-native species of trees, potentially leading to a loss of biodiversity. 

Afforestation vs. reforestation 

Afforestation and reforestation are processes that increase the tree cover of an area through tree planting. They’re both carried out to improve the environmental conditions of a particular area. But other than this key similarity, afforestation and reforestation differ in the locations where they’re implemented. According to the IPCC, reforestation is the establishment of forest cover in regions that have experienced a gradual decline of trees due to human activity or natural causes.  Non-governmental organizations and local governments often reforest natural areas that have been damaged by wildfires, disease, logging, mining, or agriculture to rebuild natural habitats and ecosystems Afforestation, on the other hand, is implemented in areas where there have been previously no forests, or where forests have been missing for decades. These could be desertified areas, bare urban land, or grasslands.  Unlike reforestation, which usually uses the same tree species as the ones remaining in the deforested areas, afforestation may be implemented using trees that are non-indigenous and invasive to an area. This carries with it the risk that afforestation could destroy original non-forest ecosystems

Can afforestation fight climate change? 

Yes, afforestation can help fight climate change if it is conducted in the right conditions. Some studies suggest that large-scale afforestation projects could remove more than 189 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2100, a five-fold increase in sequestration levels to what is currently being achieved now.  But for afforestation to be effective, it has to be linked to a variety of ecological safeguards. Afforested areas can serve as carbon sinks as long as they don’t damage pre-existing ecosystems and remain protected from commercial exploitation. Trees in afforested areas need to be able to mature into old age to sequester enough carbon to have a positive impact on climate change. The trees selected for afforestation projects should also help transform arid or semi-arid regions into productive areas. The trees should be able to sequester large amounts of carbon in their biomass and establish roots that keep moisture in the soil. If these conditions can be met, afforestation projects can have a net positive effect on the environment.

How to support and invest in organizations helping with afforestation 

Aspiration is a B Corp certified online financial platform that helps customers support conservation groups engaged in afforestation projects. Using our savings accounts, customers can set direct donations to environmental groups through our Environment Fund. But it’s not just charitable environmental organizations that customers can support. Customers can also buy automatic carbon offset trees through our “Plant Your Change” and “Planet Protection” programs. Our system rounds up every transaction made using an Aspiration debit card to the nearest whole dollar and plants trees with the spare change on behalf of our customers. Try Aspiration today and become a champion for afforestation.

Make Change Staff

May 22, 2021

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The Best International Debit Cards to Choose From in 2021

Mixture, Currencies, Finance, Business

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Travel more. Spend less. The best international debit card options in 2021 Not all debit cards are created equal, and that's especially true when it comes to traveling outside of the United States.  International debit cards can save you money while traveling abroad by eliminating the need for currency exchange fees. But with so many options out there, how do you know which card is right for your needs?  In this guide, we'll highlight some of the best international debit cards on the market today, highlighting their pros and cons to help you find one that suits your specific needs!

What makes a great international card? 

There are several things to consider when selecting an international debit card, but the two most important aspects of any travel-related purchase are safety and efficiency.  When it comes to deciding which is best for you, think about how much cash access you need while on your trip. If all you're doing is withdrawing cash from ATMs along your route, consider an ATM card instead. If you're planning to use your debit card for all of your purchases while traveling abroad, keep reading!

What are the five best international debit cards? 

When it comes to selecting an international debit card, there are many options available. Some of our favorites are listed below: 

Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account

The Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account is a fantastic choice for those who need quick access to cash anywhere in the world.  It's a free account with unlimited ATM withdrawals and no currency exchange costs, making it one of our top international debit card choices.
  • Service Fee: $0 
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 0% 
  • Sign-Up Bonus: No
  • ATM fee: $0.03 
  • International fees: 0% 
  • Our Rating: 4.6/5
The pros: The Charles Schwab Investor Checking Account is an excellent choice for those who need quick access to cash while traveling abroad. It's also one of the few debit cards that allow for unlimited ATM withdrawals, making it considerably easier to keep track of your spending when traveling. The cons: This debit card doesn't come with a sign-up bonus, which is its biggest downfall.  If you're looking to explore more than just Europe, consider applying for both the Charles Schwab Investor Checking account and the Charles Schwab Bank International debit card.  This will give you access to your US dollars, Euros, British Pounds, Japanese Yen, Australian Dollars, and Canadian Dollars from any ATM around the world without incurring a single currency exchange fee.

HSBC Premier Platinum Debit Card

The HSBC Premier Platinum debit card is an excellent option for those who want to earn cashback on all of their purchases. It comes with a high interest rate, offers unlimited ATM withdrawals, and earns you up to 0.35% cashback depending on your spending habits!
  • Service Fee: $75/year  
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 0% 
  • Sign-Up Bonus: No 
  • ATM fee: $0.00 or $0.50 in some countries, depending on the ATM operator 
  • International fees: 0% 
  • Our Rating: 4/5
The pros: Because this debit card gives a high-interest rate on rewards, it is ideal for people who plan to make several purchases throughout their travel. It also has no annual fee or foreign transaction fees, and it is one of the few cards that does not impose ATM withdrawal fees when used at an HSBC bank in Europe! The cons: It doesn't come with a sign-up bonus, and the interest rate isn't as high as most cashback cards.  Although the HSBC Premier Platinum debit card can be used to withdraw up to $700 per day at any HSBC ATM around Europe without incurring an additional fee, it's important to note that there are some countries in which HSBC doesn't have any ATMs at all.

Capital One 360 debit card

The Capital One 360 debit card is an excellent choice for those who want a low-fee account with no minimums. The standard monthly fee of $0 and the lack of foreign transaction fees make it one of our top recommendations for international debit cards.
  • Service Fee: $0/month 
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 0% 
  • Sign-Up Bonus: No
  • ATM fee: None when using an ATM located in the US. When outside, there is a maximum withdrawal amount ($400) after which Capital One will charge either $0.50 or $20, depending on the ATM operator 
  • International fees: 0% 
  • Our Rating: 4.2/5
The pros: Because there are no minimums and no monthly fees, the Capital One 360 checking account is one of our top suggestions for people looking for a low-fee account with no strings attached. The cons: There is no sign-up bonus with this card, and the ATM withdrawal fee is high if you withdraw more than $400 from an ATM outside the United States.  Capital One also has a terrific cashback program that allows you to earn up to 2% back on all debit card purchases. The Capital One 360 debit card is a terrific choice for saving money on purchases while traveling overseas! Fidelity Cash Management Account  A Fidelity Cash Management Account is an excellent choice for those looking for a low-maintenance account. There are no monthly fees or minimums, making it one of the most affordable options on this list!
  • Service Fee: $0/month 
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 0% 
  • Sign-Up Bonus: No
  • ATM fee: $0.00 or $20, depending on the ATM operator 
  • International fees: None! (Fidelity will refund all transaction fees up to $12 per month)
*Please note that only US citizens can apply for a Fidelity Cash Management Account.
  • Our Rating: 4.4/5
The Pros: With no monthly fees and a modest $20 ATM withdrawal fee, the Fidelity cash management account is one of our top picks for anyone looking to save money on foreign debit card usage while traveling abroad. Furthermore, there are no foreign transaction costs, and Fidelity will refund any ATM fees for domestic transactions! The Cons: This account doesn't come with a sign-up bonus, and those who aren't US citizens won't be able to apply.  If you're looking to earn cashback on your purchases while traveling abroad, we recommend opening up a checking account with a bank that offers a high-interest cashback program! Banking, Business, Button, Card, Cashless, Commercial

Prepaid debit card

For those who aren't looking for any cash access or ATM withdrawals during their trip, it might be worth enrolling in a prepaid travel card instead.  This will allow you to lock in the exchange rate before your trip, which will save you from any unfavorable fluctuations. In addition to that, a prepaid debit card comes with plenty of other benefits: 
  • No monthly fee: A prepaid travel card doesn't charge a monthly fee as most international bank accounts do. This makes it one of our top recommendations for those on a budget!
  • No background check: International bank accounts and regular debit cards require a background check before you're able to open an account. With prepaid travel cards, however, there is no background check needed.
  • Safer than cash: Traveling with large amounts of money isn't always the safest option. A prepaid travel card comes in handy as theft protection against lost or stolen cards.
  • No need to plan ahead: Since a prepaid travel card is pre-loaded with foreign currency, you don't have to worry about having the right amount of cash on hand at all times while traveling abroad.

Which countries can I use a prepaid debit card in? 

The great thing about most prepaid debit cards is that they're accepted worldwide. You can use them in whichever country you visit! However, before applying for a card, you should do your homework. Some prepaid debit cards don't cover specific nations or regions within a country, so be sure to read the fine print before you commit!

What are some common fees associated with using a prepaid debit card? 

Like most bank accounts, there are a few fees that come with using a prepaid debit card. While these vary from one issuer to the next, here's an overview of some common fees associated with travel cards: 
  • Transaction fee: It's common to pay a transaction fee with prepaid debit cards — especially those issued by banks outside of your home country. This is typically around $0.50 per purchase made abroad.
  • Loading fee: Prepaid travel cards usually come with a loading fee, which is paid every time you add money to your card. This means that if you plan on using the same prepaid debit card for an extended period while traveling abroad, it's best to load up the card before leaving.
  • Withdrawal fee: Most prepaid debit cards have a withdrawal fee, which is usually around $0.50-$0.75 per ATM transaction. However, some banks do waive this fee for their own ATMs — so check with your issuer and bank location before using an ATM!
Prepaid travel cards might be beneficial to anyone who wants to save money on international transactions while going overseas.  They are, however, not the ideal option for everyone! Before applying, make sure you understand all of the expenses associated with these cards so you don't end up paying extra fees on your trip.

Meet Aspiration Zero, an international credit card with a conscience

One of the many perks your Aspiration Zero credit card offers is a carbon offset program.  When you purchase an item with your credit card, Aspiration will help fund projects that have been verified as being environmentally friendly and beneficial to society. You’ll also be earning points for every dollar spent which can then be redeemed for rewards like gift cards or travel packages at hotels around the world. High interest The best part? There are no limits on how much you earn so there’s plenty of opportunities to customize this reward strategy based on what matters most to you!  Interested in Aspiration Zero? Apply now to get started today!

Make Change Staff

October 17, 2021

How to Increase Your Credit Limit On Your Capital One Credit Card

Credit Card, Credit Score, Mastercard, Money, Income

Image by Pabitra Kaity from Pixabay

If you want to get a higher credit card limit, start by making your case directly to Capital One. Capital One is one of the most popular credit card companies in the United States.  Millions of people have Capital One credit cards, and thousands more apply each year. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where your credit limit wasn't enough? If so, don’t worry––this guide will explain how to successfully increase your credit limit on your Capital One credit card

Understanding your credit limit 

The first step is to understand what your credit limit means.  Your current credit line is the maximum amount of money you can spend on your card, excluding any purchases made with your cash advance or balance transfers. The "credit utilization" ratio refers to the total amount of money owed on all of your Capital One credit cards. A lower credit limit, such as $500, can be problematic because it can push your debt-to-credit percentage above 30%. As a result, your credit score could suffer. When you understand how your credit limit benefits you, you will be able to understand:

Before you request a credit increase

Use your card responsibly

Before requesting an increase in your credit limit, make sure you're using your Capital One credit card responsibly. Making on-time monthly payments and never carrying a balance is always preferable! This means you'd need to make at least 12 months of on-time payments on your current cards before they'd consider raising your credit limit. If it's been at least a year since you requested a credit raise, there's no need to be concerned. Also, don't apply for too many other credit cards. Applying for too many other credit cards will almost certainly jeopardize your chances of receiving a higher credit limit. This is because lenders will interpret this as you taking on more debt, and they will be less likely to approve your request. Simple steps you can take to ensure you're using your card responsibly include:
  • Paying off your credit card in full every month
  • Maintaining a record of your spending habits and adhering to a budget
  • Using cash for small purchases, so you're not tempted to buy more than you need
  • Avoiding signing up for store credit cards unless there are benefits that will save you money
  • Checking your credit score before applying for any loans or other financial products 
  • Reviewing the terms and conditions of all contracts before signing them

Keep track of your spending habits 

If you want to increase your credit limit, you should keep track of how much money is going out (how much you are spending).  You should make sure that the amount of money you’re spending on minimum payments does not exceed 30% of your monthly income. If this occurs, Capital One will likely reject your request to increase your credit limit. In other words, make sure that you are spending no more than 30% of your monthly income on minimum payments. This means, for example, if your salary is $4000 per month, make sure not to spend more than $1200 each month. 

Plan to pay off the balances on time and in full every month

One of the most important things to do before making any kind of request for a credit increase is to have a solid game plan in place for paying down those existing credit balances within 30 days or less.  If Capital One determines that you are unable to pay off your balances on time, the request will likely be denied. Capital One advises paying off more than the minimum monthly payment. For example, if your balance is $1500 and your monthly credit card payment is only $50, you should pay more than this amount regularly to prevent accruing more debt that could risk any future requests for an increase in your credit limit.

Request a credit increase for a valid reason

If you want to increase your credit limit, make sure it's for a genuine need and not just for the sake of having more money. If Capital One suspects this is the case, your request may be denied. Valid reasons for requesting a credit limit increase include the following:
  • You've been a customer for a long time.
  • There is no outstanding balance on the account.
  • You have an excellent credit history with the organization.
  • Your income has significantly increased in recent months, or you need to purchase something expensive shortly (examples include buying your first home, paying for medical expenses)
  • You want to consolidate other debt onto this card since the terms are better than the terms on your other cards.

Consider all of your financial obligations

One of the most important things to consider before increasing your credit limit is how much debt you have currently.  Capital One recommends that if a consumer is going to request an increase in their credit line, they should first ensure that all other bills are being paid on time and within 30 days or less. This means checking car loans, mortgage payments, and any other bills you have. 4 Easy Tips to Increase your Credit Card Limit | MyBankTracker

Credit bureaus affect your approval rate 

Knowing that there is a mathematical algorithm used by all three major credit bureaus to determine your credit score (Equifax, Experian & TransUnion) makes it clear why you need to make sure that you're keeping up with responsible spending.   To determine your risk factor for payment default, this algorithm considers factors such as how much you owe, how frequently bills are paid on time, and what types of new credit have been opened recently. For example, if all three bureaus show that you've had a late or missed payment on your credit cards, getting a higher limit will be much more difficult. This is significant because it emphasizes the importance of paying off your credit card balances on time and in full each month. Repayment history accounts for 35% of the FICO score calculation. This is yet another reason why you must make all of your monthly payments on time, whether for car loans or student loans.

Keep the balance below 50% of your credit limit

Carrying balances that are less than 50% of your available credit is ideal if you want to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to increasing your credit limit.  If Capital One determines that this is not the case and that all they see are high balances due in 30 days or less, they will find it much more difficult to approve a credit increase.

Make sure your credit score is high enough

If your credit score is less than 700, the chances of Capital One approving an increase are slim. Before they consider giving you access to even more money than you already have, you'll need to have a solid track record with them. Having a credit score that is higher than the average tells Capital One:
  • You have a track record of paying your bills on time. 
  • You are financially responsible and can be relied upon to borrow money responsibly.
  • You understand how to save money and make sound financial decisions.
  • You're more likely to pay off your debts on time. 

How long does it take to process requests?

Capital One typically responds with an answer immediately after submitting the request. However, for other people, the process can be much faster. It all depends on how diligent you've been with your repayment and whether you're requesting an increase due to a genuine need.

Contact Capital One 

If you've been a good customer and have kept up with your payments in full and on time, then there's nothing wrong with asking for a credit increase. It never hurts to ask! This is how many people can successfully get their credit limit increased. If you need more credit but don't want to take out a loan or pay for things up front, then this can be a great way of doing it.

Building great credit is easy (and eco-friendly) with Aspiration

Building and maintaining good credit is crucial for your financial health. The truth is, it’s not that hard to do!  With the Aspiration Zero carbon-neutral credit card, you can build great credit just by going carbon neutral. All you have to do is be mindful of your spending habits and use your card responsibly.  We want our members to feel confident in their ability to manage their finances so we provide a plethora of articles on topics like budgeting and money management which will help get you started with building better habits around managing money.  Interested in Aspiration Zero? Apply now to get started today!

Make Change Staff

October 16, 2021

The Most Profitable (and Eco-Friendly) Credit Card Rewards Programs in 2021

Credit Card, Dollar, Cash, Money, Gray Money

Earn points toward free travel, gift cards, and more with a credit card rewards program. Which one would be best for you?

Credit card rewards programs can be a great way to earn money back on credit card purchases, but they vary in the level of rewards and the requirements for earning them.  We've compiled a list of credit cards with credit card rewards programs that will suit any credit card holder's needs. Read on to learn more about each
credit card's reward program!

Types of credit card rewards programs

There are credit card rewards programs that offer cash back, points for travel or other purchases, airline miles, and hotel credit. Here are some of the more popular credit card reward offers:

Cash Back

Cashback credit cards typically provide between one percent and five percent cash back on all purchases, depending on the type of credit card you have.  Cashback is received in the form of a statement credit or checks sent to your billing address after several weeks or months. 

Points for Travel/Flight Miles

If you love to travel, flight miles might be more your speed.  Flight miles centered credit cards usually provide between one and two airline miles for each dollar spent, but only with the use of a co-branded partner program (for example, you can earn United Airlines Miles if you have a Capital One Venture Card).

Hotel Reward Points

If hotels are your thing, hotel rewards cards may be the credit card for you. Hotel rewards cards usually provide between five and ten hotel points for every dollar spent at their partner hotels. 

Specialty Rewards Points

Finally, specialty rewards cards offer points in exchange for purchases at specific retailers or specific causes (for example, zero-waste living or eco-friendly purchases). 

The 5 most profitable credit card rewards programs of 2021

Our favorite card for frequent flyers

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card can be a great option if you’re looking to gain points for travel-related spending.  Annual Fee: $95 Rewards Rate: You can earn five times the points on travel and dining purchases, two times the points at gas stations, and one point for every dollar spent elsewhere. Introductory Offer: 100k points when you spend $4k within 90 days of opening an account, which can be redeemed for $1250 in travel statement credits or transferred 1:1 to your airline frequent flyer account. Recommended Credit Score: 720+ Our Rating: 4.5/5 The Pros 
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • The $95 yearly fee is waived the first year during seasonal promotions
  • Points can be transferred to partner airline programs. 
The Cons 
  • Very hard to get approved if you don't have a long, excellent credit history 
  • High APR of 15.99%–22.99%
  • The sign-up bonus is only available when you spend $4000 in three months.
This credit card offers high cashback rates at restaurants and hotels, along with 2X points on all other purchases. The best credit card for travel, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card has a sign-up bonus of 100,000 points after spending $4000 within the first three months.

Our favorite card for newbie travelers

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card could be a great choice for the keen traveler looking for a card to introduce them to airmiles and travel perks.  Annual Fee: $95 Rewards Rate: Two miles per dollar spent. Miles can be redeemed for travel purchases, including airfare and hotels (you still have to pay taxes on these transactions), or used as credit towards Capital One Venture's purchase protection service that protects your new purchases against accidental damage or theft for up to 120 days. Introductory Offer: 60,000 points when you spend $3000 within 90 days of opening an account. Recommended Credit Score: 700+ Our Rating: 4.2/5 The Pros 
  • High rewards rates on travel purchases and no foreign transaction fees. 
  • You can redeem your miles for travel or use them as a credit against Venture's purchase protection plan. 
  • Good introductory APRs on balance transfers and purchases of 0% APR for 12 months.
The Cons 
  • Points can be only used for travel
  • Only available for people with excellent credit scores (700+).
  • You have to pay taxes on travel purchases when you redeem miles, which can be costly depending on where you're going and how many miles are required for your ticket.  
This card is perfect if you're new to flight miles and not sure how to use your miles. The Capital One Venture card offers a good introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers, as well as double-miles for all travel-related transactions (including taxes).  The sign-up bonus is 50k miles when you spend $3000 within 90 days of opening an account––enough for a round-trip flight to Europe or Asia (depending on where you are departing from)! white printer paper on red textile

Our favorite card for cashback rewards

The Chase Freedom Unlimited can be a solid card choice for those looking to prioritize cashback on everyday purchases.  Annual Fee: $0  Rewards Rate: The cashback rewards programs that the Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers are pretty impressive. You earn one 5% cashback on travel, 3% cashback on dining, 3% cashback on all drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cashback on all other purchases.  Introductory Offer: 15k sign-up bonus when you spend $500 within 90 days of opening an account. Recommended Credit Score: 690+ Our Rating: 4.7/5  The Pros  The Cons 
  • You don't get any travel benefits like reimbursement of baggage fees or airport lounge access with this card.
  • The sign-up bonus is only available when you spend $500 within 90 days of opening an account.
  • If your credit isn't quite up to snuff, either because your score doesn't meet the recommended minimum or because you just don't have a long enough history with credit cards, then this card might not be for you. 
This card is perfect for people who want to earn cashback without having to keep track of categories or caps. By far our favorite cashback credit card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a great introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers. A great choice if you want to maximize your cashback rewards.

Our favorite card for everyday purchases

The Amex EveryDay Credit Card offers great point bonuses on everyday spending.  Annual Fee: $0 Rewards Rate: The Amex EveryDay card offers two points for every dollar spent on supermarket purchases including grocery stores and one point for all other purchases. You can get a 20% bonus on your points if you make 30 or more purchases per billing cycle. Introductory Offer: 10,000 points when you spend $1000 within 90 days of opening an account. Recommended Credit Score: 670+  Our Rating: Our Rating: 4.2/5  The Pros 
  • No introductory APR on balance transfers or purchases for 15 months.
  • No annual fee
  • An average recommend credit score 
The Cons 
  • Rewards can only be redeemed for statement credits, and points expire after 12 months of account inactivity.
  • The sign-up bonus is only available when you spend $1000 within 90 days of opening an account. 
This credit card is a great introductory card for those that don't have a long credit history. It has no annual fee and an introductory APR on purchases for 15 months, which can help you get out of debt faster if you're trying to pay down existing balances from other cards.  Plus the rewards program is great––double points at supermarkets mean that with each purchase where you use your card, not only do you get your regular amount in points but then another 20% on top of that. There's no limit to the number of points you can earn and redeeming them is easy! person holding black and brown book

Our favorite card for low interest

The BankAmericard® Credit Card not only boasts no annual fee but it has an enticing introductory low interest offer.   Annual Fee: $0  Rewards Rate: The BankAmericard credit card offers rewards points that can be redeemed as a statement credit for any purchase you make with the card. Introductory Offer: No introductory APR on balance transfers or purchases for the first 18 months. Recommended Credit Score: 670+  Our Rating: Our Rating: 4/5 The Pros 
  • No annual fee to use this card. 
  • No interest charge when you pay your bill in full each month. You'll enjoy no interest on purchases if you do choose to carry a balance for the first year. 
The Cons  This card is perfect for anyone that wants to maximize their savings without having to pay an annual fee. Plus it has a great interest rate and rewards program so if you're looking for the lowest APR on purchases, this is one of our favorites! 

Our favorite eco-friendly credit card

The Aspiration Zero can be a great option if you’re looking for rewards for yourself and for the planet.   Annual Fee: N/A Rewards Rate: Up to 1% cashback on every purchase. Introductory Offer: With the Aspiration Zero card, Aspiration plants a tree every time you make a purchase and has a rewards program that lets you plant a tree too!  Recommended Credit Score: 700+ Our Rating: 4.7/5 The Pros  The Cons 
  • The card is still new, so it may take time to build up a comprehensive rewards program 
This card has a great rewards introductory program––you earn up to one percent on every purchase! Plus with the Aspiration Zero card, Aspiration plants a tree every time you make a purchase.  That means if you use this credit card for all of your day-to-day purchases like groceries or gas, not only are you earning rewards but also helping to fight climate change. This card is perfect for our eco-friendly friends.

Ready to get started with your new card?

All of these reward programs can be great options, but when it comes down to it, there is no one credit card reward program that is better than all of the others.  While they can be great for people who travel often or those interested in eco-friendly purchases, it's important to take into consideration what type of purchases you usually make with your credit card, to get the maximum benefit.  Interested in Aspiration Zero? Apply now to get started today!

Make Change Staff

October 11, 2021

These Credit Card Offers Can Give You Extra-Sustainable Spending Power

Hands, Earth, Next Generation, Climate Protection Have you ever been enticed by credit card offers that offer cashback incentives or 0% APR?  These credit cards seem like a great deal, but what we told you there were credit card companies out there who not only promise money back and no interest rates, but also invest in a more sustainable planet?  In this article, we’ll talk about credit card offers, how to find an eco-friendly credit card, and some of the top cards on the market.

What are credit card rewards?

A credit card reward is an incentive or benefit that credit card companies give to their customers to promote their business.  The incentives are offered to you when you choose a credit card with perks and benefits, which can include cashback rewards, 0% APR on purchases, frequent flyer miles, hotel points, and more. It may seem like credit cards are doing you a favor, but credit card companies are often the ones really getting rewarded.

How credit card offers and rewards benefit credit card companies

Credit card rewards help attract new customers and can increase the lifetime value of a customer.  The longer you stay with a credit card company, the more interest you pay on your balance. The dangers of credit card rewards are that they entice you to spend more than you might be able to afford and can cause you to buy things you do not need. This causes many people to plunge into debt and not be able to pay their credit card bills on time, hence the incurring of interest rates.

What kinds of credit card rewards can you get?

Flight miles: A credit card offer that allows you the chance to earn flight miles and travel for free. They can be a great way to rack up enough rewards points before you take your next trip, but this credit card perk isn't as green as it may seem at first glance.  Cashback: A credit card offer that provides you with cashback on all your credit card purchases, which can be a great way to save money. The credit card company takes some of the profit you would have made and offers it back as cashback rewards for users who shop at their business partners.  *Note: These business partners may not be the most eco-friendly choices. 0% APR: A credit card offer that provides consumers with 0% APR on all their purchases and balance transfers. This is a great way to avoid paying interest charges, and for credit card users to invest in themselves, but it is worth bearing in mind that the 0% APR usually only lasts for a limited time.  Reward Points: A credit card that offers users reward points for shopping at different retailers. These kinds of credit card offers are great for consumers who enjoy shopping at a variety of places and can be especially beneficial for people looking to save money on gas since they get reward points for filling up their tanks.  Other incentives: Other credit card offers include hotel reward programs, online savings, and more. Even though these credit cards may not be as environmentally friendly as companies would like to think they are, they may provide people with incentives that can help the consumer invest in a more sustainable planet.  Examples include: 
  • The American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card - This credit card provides you with cashback bonus offers and 0% APR for the first 12 months. It also boasts a 6% bonus cash rewards for U.S. supermarket purchases, 3% cash rewards on transit commuting, and unlimited 3% cashback on gas purchases.
  • The Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card - This credit card provides you with a $150 sign-up bonus cash rewards offer after you use your new card to make $500 in purchases within the first three months. It also offers 0% APR for 15 months on purchases, as well as no annual fee which is great for consumers looking to save money without having to worry about hidden fees.
  • The Citi Double Cash Card - This credit card provides you with unlimited cashback rewards of up to one percent on all purchases, while also boasting no annual fee and 0% APR for 18 months on balance transfers made within the first four months. The only downside is that it doesn't offer a sign-up bonus or any other incentives.
While these can be great offers, there are more sustainable financing options out there–let’s take a look.  

What makes a credit card sustainable?

Every credit card company has different ideas about what it means to be sustainable. Some credit card companies may use recycled plastic credit cards while others may use eco-friendly credit cards The credit cards may have built-in incentives that are eco-friendly, but it is up to the consumer to decide if their company practices are sustainable. The most common ways these credit cards are sustainable is through their: 
  • Materials: Credit card companies may offer sustainable materials to credit card users such as recycled plastics or biodegradable plastic. 
  • Rewards: Some credit cards have eco-friendly incentives built into their rewards programs like reward points for renewable energy incentives or organic products.
  • Energy consumption: How much energy does the company use, and from what sources? Using renewable energy sources and aiming to reduce or offset their carbon footprint can be signs of sustainability in a business. 
  • Eco-friendly business practices: How much effort is put into eco-friendly business practices that benefit communities, consumers, and employees?
These incentives can help people invest in sustainable living, but it does not stop at the incentive program and how much energy is consumed by their business practices. The most important way for these companies to be sustainable is to use sustainable practices in their business processes, too. These are just some of the questions that you might want to be asking yourself when deciding which credit cards to use, especially if sustainability is a priority for you. You might also want to consider the following questions:

How does the company's behavior impact the environment? 

Every credit card company has different impacts on its environment and they may or may not be environmentally friendly When it comes to consumer eco-friendly cards, companies can control what materials they are buying for their products, where they source these products from, and what incentives they use for their business.

What makes a credit card green?  

Every credit card company has different ideas about what it means to be green.  Some companies may use recycled plastic or biodegradable plastics for their cards while others are not concerned with the environmental impact of producing new materials. These cards may have built-in incentives that are environmentally friendly, but it is up to the consumer to decide if these actions make the company green. 13 Best “No Interest” Credit Cards for 2021

Credit cards that offer eco-rewards

There are credit card companies out there who not only promise mainstream credit card rewards, they also invest in renewable energy projects and other sustainable practices.  We’ve pulled together the top sustainable credit card offers available in 2021 to give you extra-sustainable spending power. 

Aspiration Zero

As a carbon-conscious individual looking for ways to make the world better and greener, you might be looking for an alternative financial solution to fossil-fuel investing by big banks The neobank Aspiration is committed not just in word but through its actions–they don't invest in any fossil fuel projects or other businesses that contribute to the destruction of our planet.   For each swipe of their Aspiration Zero credit card Aspiration will plant a tree on your behalf, in addition to giving you the chance to plant a second tree by rounding up your purchase.  Not only that, but Aspiration helps you work towards carbon neutrality through its easy-to-use app that tracks the carbon footprint of your purchases–even rewarding you in the months you hit carbon neutral.  One credit card–zero footprint. As the most sustainable card on our list, the Aspiration Zero could be a great choice for everyday spending that rewards both you and the planet

The Green America Credit Card

The Green America credit card is a great way to give back and support our environment.  The TCM Bank Visa has all of the benefits that you would expect from any other bank in addition to actively supporting green businesses. By directing some money each month toward using The Green America Credit Card, you are not only helping the environment but local businesses as well.

Amalgamated Bank Credit Card

Amalgamated prides itself on being one of the pioneering socially responsible financial institutions in America It’s unionized, which means that it not only practices sustainability but also promotes partnerships and unity for better economic equity, while combating inequality from within its company, as well.  Furthermore, Amalgamated emphasizes environmentalism by using 100% renewable energy sources. Amalgamated’s bank credit card boasts no annual fee and an introductory 0% APR offer lasting 12 months UBS debuts environment-friendly credit card made of corn

Interested in a credit card that reduces your carbon footprint? Meet Aspiration Zero

If you’re looking for a credit card that can help your purchases stay within the bounds of sustainability, we recommend the Aspiration Zero carbon credit card.   This is one of the few cards in existence that rewards you with points for going carbon neutral and offsetting your footprint. Not only does this offer give you extra sustainable spending power, but it also provides peace of mind knowing that every purchase has been made responsibly. Interested? Apply now to get started today!

Make Change Staff

October 2, 2021

The Best Unlimited Cash Back Credit Card of 2021 Is…

American Express, Cards, Credit, International Pixabay, Republica Cashback credit cards can be a great deal–they enable you to earn money back on purchases that you were going to make anyway. But with so many different cashback card options on the market today, finding the right one for you can be tough. We’ve put together this article to make it easier for you. Keep reading to find our list of the best cashback credit cards of 2021.

How do cashback credit cards work?

Cashback credit cards are pretty simple–you make purchases with them and get rewarded for doing so in the form of cash. The amount you get is a percentage of the purchases that you make. For example, if a card offers 2% cashback and you spend $100, you would make $2. These cards give you the chance to earn money by making purchases that you would already be making.  Some cashback cards, such as the Aspiration Zero, go one step further by offering cashback in addition to environmental benefits, such as planting trees. 

Unlimited cashback vs. limited cashback programs

If you have the option to choose between unlimited cashback and limited cashback, unlimited may be the better choice. Limited cashback cards put a cap on the maximum amount of rewards that you can earn in a given period of time. Unlimited cards don’t. So when you choose an unlimited card, you don’t put any limits on the bonus amounts that you can get back. How does cashback work? | PaySpace Magazine

The 7 best unlimited cashback credit cards of 2021

Wells Fargo Active Cash Card

Cashback rewards rate: 2% Unlimited? Yes Other Rewards/Offers: New enrollees can earn a $200 cash reward by spending at least $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of getting the card. Pros:
  • $0 annual fee
  • No confusing category restrictions to worry about
  • Cash rewards never expire as long as you keep your account open
  • 0% APR for the first 15 months
Cons:
  • The rewards rate is lower than many specialty cashback cards
  • Need a credit score of at least 690 to qualify
The Wells Fargo Active Cash Card is one of the finest cashback credit cards on the market today. What makes it special is how easy it is. Users don’t have to worry about category restrictions or their rewards expiring. They can simply use the card and get cash back on their purchases -- no matter what they are. The downside is that the rewards rate isn’t as high as many specialty cards.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Cashback rewards rate: 1.5% - 5% Unlimited? Yes Other Rewards/Offers: New users can earn a $200 bonus by spending at least $500 within the first 3 months of account opening. Pros:
  • Introductory offer of 5% cashback on up to $12,000 spent on groceries in the first year 
  • Earn 5% on Chase travel and 3% on dining and drugstores
  • No annual fee
  • $0 introductory APR for the first 15 months
Cons:
  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • APR goes up to 14.99 - 23.74% after the first 15 months
The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is another great option. It offers opportunities to earn extra cashback on specific purchases and has solid introductory offers for new users. The biggest downside is its 3% foreign transaction fee, which means you won’t want to use it abroad. It’s also worth mentioning that your APR will increase dramatically after your introductory 15 months are complete. But, keep in mind as you’re reading through these, this is true of every cashback card with a low APR introductory offer.

Citi Double Cash Card

Cashback rewards rate: 1-2% Unlimited? Yes Other Rewards/Offers: N/A Pros:
  • Rewards available for all purchases
  • 0% APR for 18 months
  • $0 annual fee
  • Earn 1% on purchases and another 1% when you pay it back
Cons:
  • No introductory reward offers
  • Must pay at least the minimum amount on time every month to earn rewards during that time
The Citi Double Cash Card stands out by providing a unique way to earn cashback. Users get 1% when they make a purchase and another 1% when they pay it off. It’s also really simple, you don’t have to worry about categories or product restrictions. The downside is that there are no introductory cash reward offers with this card.

Citi Custom Cash Card

Cashback rewards rate: 1-5% Unlimited? Yes Other Rewards/Offers: $200 introductory offer for spending at least $750 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening the account. Pros:
  • $0 annual fee
  • Automated rewards (you don’t have to worry about any activations)
  • Boosted 5% rewards in your top spending category each billing cycle
  • 0% APR for the first 15 months
Cons:
  • Boosted 5% rate is capped at $500 monthly spending (meaning the maximum you can earn from it is $25 each month)
  • You can only get one Custom Cash Card from Citi per account
The Citi Custom Cash Card is another cashback credit card that should be on your radar. Its best feature is its boosted 5% interest rate for your top spending category each month. The downside is that this higher rate is capped, so you can only get a maximum of $25 back with it each month.

Discover It CashBack

Cashback rewards rate: 1-5% Unlimited? Yes Other Rewards/Offers: Discover will match all of the cashback you’ve earned at the end of your first year with no minimum spending requirements or maximum rewards. Pros:
  • Excellent introductory offer
  • 5% cashback on up to $1,500 in spending each quarter on certain categories
  • $0 annual fee
  • Rewards never expire
  • Can redeem cashback at any time in any amount
Cons:
  • Activating bonus categories to earn 5% can be annoying
  • Must wait a full year before getting your introductory bonus
The Discover It CashBack card offers a unique introductory offer that stands out as one of the best in its class. The card also offers up to 5% cashback in the categories you activate. It can just be a hassle to remember to activate these rewards. Another potential annoyance with this option is the fact that you don’t get your bonus right away as you do with other cards. You may end up getting a bigger bonus with this card eventually, you’ll just have to wait a full year to get it.

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Cashback rewards rate: 1-8% Unlimited? Yes Other Rewards/Offers: $200 cash bonus after spending $500 within the first 3 months of account opening Pros:
  • High rates on both dining and groceries
  • 3% back on streaming and entertainment
  • One of the highest top-end rates for a cashback card on the market
  • No need to activate anything to earn rewards
  • No foreign transaction fees
Cons:
  • The highest rates are reserved for very specific purchases
  • You may be able to get higher rewards with another card if you spend heavily in a single category
The SavorOne card from Capital One offers great rates on dining, groceries, and entertainment. You also don’t have to worry about activating anything to get these rewards. The downside is, Capital One reserves its highest rates for only very specific purchases.

Chase Freedom Flex

Cashback rewards rate: 1-5% Unlimited? Yes Other Rewards/Offers: $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months. Pros:
  • $0 annual fee
  • Rewards as high as 5% in certain categories like groceries
  • 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months
  • No minimum amount requirements for redeeming cashback rewards
Cons:
  • Have to opt into bonus categories each quarter to get the best rates
  • Bonus categories shift each month, which means they may not always align with your spending
The Chase Freedom Flex is another solid cashback option. It offers a great introductory bonus and doesn’t require you to earn any minimum amounts to claim your rewards. The downside is, you have to activate bonuses each quarter and the categories change each month. Why Your Small Business Should Use a Cash-Back Card

The best unlimited cashback credit card of 2021 is… Aspiration Zero

If you’re as passionate about the environment as we are, then the Aspiration Zero Card is hands down the finest cashback credit card of 2021. It stands out by rewarding users for going green. Each time that you use the Aspiration Zero, Aspiration will plant a tree and give you the option of planting one too. Additionally, you get rewarded for making progress towards carbon neutrality. You’ll earn maximum rewards every month that you meet your carbon goals, and Aspiration will give you a handy app to track your monthly progress towards those goals.

Does the Aspiration Zero offer unlimited cashback? 

Yes! This is one of the best features of the Aspiration Zero card. Even if you don’t do anything at all, you’ll still get 0.5% cashback whenever you use this credit card. But you can increase your cashback rate to 1% by making more of an effort to combat climate change. If you effectively eliminate your carbon footprint for the month, your purchases in that time frame will earn you 1% cashback. Want to learn more about the Aspiration Zero card? You can do so and take the first steps towards signing up for it by visiting this link today.

Make Change Staff

September 30, 2021

5 Responsible Credit Card Companies You Should Pay Attention To

Photo by Gene Gallin on Unsplash

Having recently recorded some of the highest average global temperatures in the last hundred years, the average rise in temperature is causing scientists to worry about the future of our planet. Experts forecast that over the next 30 years, rising global temperatures will cause significantly more wildfires, floods, and droughts throughout the world. This is why many consumers are looking towards more eco-friendly banking and credit options.

Credit card companies and responsibility

One of the large motivators behind change is the issue of responsibility. 

For years corporations have gotten away with being able to pollute as much they want without any significant consequences. Left unchecked, many of these corporations will likely continue to emit large levels of carbon dioxide without any sense of responsibility. For years these businesses have been financially backed by some of the biggest banks that not only invest in fossil fuel projects but produce the credit cards that Americans use for everyday purchases. While it is true that governments play a crucial role in enforcing corporate accountability, it shouldn’t be the only organization that keeps polluting industries accountable. Much of the account needs to fall on the shareholders of large companies. With that in mind, we’ve begun to see a rise in the number of investors who choose to invest in companies with sustainable environmental practices.

Impact Investing

Impact investing has become much more popular throughout the last decade.  This form of investment focuses on the social and environmental practices that companies engage in, and the rise of this type of investing is seen as one of the most underutilized ways of combating climate change and holding corporations accountable. When investors vote with their dollars, it can create an incentive for old polluting industries to engage in more environmentally sustainable practices. Without the support of the investment community, companies can be put in a position where they have to adapt to our changing social climate. This can then lead them to put a greater emphasis on finding more sustainable forms of energy while also minimizing their overall emissions. Along with this new trend of impact investing, is a call for the creation of international sustainability metrics These proposed metric standards will measure polluting corporation’s energy consumption while also taking into account the amount of carbon they emit in addition to the impact their pollution has on our natural ecosystem. This proposal would likely be enforced similarly to financial regulations and would be overseen by national regulators.

Beware of greenwashing

Greenwashing is when a company advertises itself as being “green” and eco-friendly but doesn’t change its business or processes to actually do so.  Many companies recognized that when “being green” and sustainable became popular with consumers, they needed to change their image. However, if all they changed was their image, then this is likely a case of greenwashing.  Unfortunately, many big banks have been caught not backing up their acclaimed values with their investments.  JP Morgan Chase is one of the top financiers of major fossil fuel projects, from arctic oil and gas to deep-water drilling. In fact, in 2019, they spent nearly $65 billion. Citi, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo are other big banks that invest in fossil fuel projects.  If you want to be certain that the bank you’re working with is ethical and eco-friendly, there are a few things to look for.  One is if they are a registered B-Corp, as these banks are required by law to consider the impact of their actions on the environment, community, suppliers, customers, and employees. Banks can also be CDFI certified financial institutions. These banks are committed to serving and empowering economically disadvantaged communities.  Finally, there’s the GABV (The Global Alliance for Banking on Values), whose banks are part of an independent network of ethical banks “using finance to deliver sustainable economic, social and environmental development.”

Credit cards – the catalyst of change

In this day and age of contactless and mobile payments, the credit card industry has grown significantly. Many companies are working towards a better tomorrow by making changes to their materials, their smartphone app options, and more.

Materials used to make credit cards

One of the biggest issues with credit cards is that they have always been made of plastic. Traditionally, they were made with “first use” plastic but many companies have moved to recycled plastic. While recycled plastic is still plastic, at least it is reused. Some companies are taking this one step further by using recycled ocean plastic or fully biodegradable materials in place of plastic.  Metal cards have also become popular. These are much more durable, last longer than plastic cards, and are also recyclable. Offering digital payment methods and giving the consumer the option to opt out of automatic card replacements can be another great way for a bank to limit its environmental impact. 

How spending needs to change

One of the best ways to make an impact on the environment is to change your personal spending habits, as little changes in your daily life can go a long way in helping out the planet.  Consumers are often simply not aware of the impact they are having on the planet through their purchases. Much of today’s technology is not easy to recycle due to the chips and components they are made from. Banks that offer a way to track your spending and the effect it has on the environment can help to increase consumer awareness and visibility into the environmental impact of purchases. 

5 credit companies paving the way

Here are five credit card companies that are paving the way in ethical and environmentally-friendly banking.

Amalgamated Bank Maximum Rewards Mastercard

Amalgamated is a B-Corp and GABV member that offers a variety of accounts and services in addition to credit cards.  They are net-zero and 100% powered by renewable energy, and their investments are fossil fuel-free. They also don’t invest in any businesses involved in tobacco, weapons, or private prisons. Their credit card offers no annual fee and 1.5% cashback on every purchase. Travel rewards are available as well.

Green America Rewards Platinum Visa

Green America is a nonprofit organization with a card issued by TCM bank. Green America supports fair trade, clean energy, and eliminating GMOs from the food supply. Their card has no annual fee and 9% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months. Customers earn one point per dollar on purchases with no cap on points you can earn, and points can be redeemed for travel rewards.

Amazon Watch Rewards Platinum Visa

Amazon Watch is a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the rainforest and indigenous people of the Amazon basin. The card is issued by TCM bank, and users can earn one point per dollar which can be redeemed for travel rewards.

M&F Bank Personal World Mastercard

M&F Bank is an independent community bank that is CDFI certified and Black-owned.  Their card has a $35 annual fee and a 12.24% APR on purchases. Customers earn one point per dollar on purchases and rewards are redeemable for travel.

International Living Future Institute’s Affinity Card

International Living Future’s Visa platinum card is all about redefining the green building movement. The mission is to offer green building and infrastructure solutions that will help create a better world.  There is no annual fee, and cardholders earn one point per dollar on net purchases that can be redeemed for merchandise or travel rewards. The card is issued by TCM Bank.

The Aspiration Zero card can help you shop responsibly

The Aspiration Zero is a carbon credit card issued by Aspiration, a sustainable neobank that tracks the carbon emissions of your purchases. With each purchase, Aspiration will plant a tree to offset your carbon footprint. After 60 or more trees have been planted through your monthly spending, Aspiration considers you to have reached your monthly carbon neutral goal. As a reward, you will receive 1% cashback on all purchases made that month. Try the Aspiration Zero today to start fighting climate change with your money.

Make Change Staff

September 17, 2021

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