Spend for Good: The Best Charity Credit Cards in 2021

Photo by Mei-Ling Mirow on Unsplash

You can use your credit card for more than just purchases. You can also use it to donate to your favorite charities with little hassle. 

Several credit card companies today offer charity credit cards that automatically give a charity of your choice a small percentage from each purchase that you make. Others offer cards that allow you to convert your unused rewards points into cash donations to affiliated charities. Some even donate a $3 to $10 lump sum to partnering charities each year that the card is active. 

We’ve put together a guide to the best charity cards on offer in 2021 to help you find one that matches your giving habits.

What’s the difference between a charity credit card and a regular credit card?

A charity credit card is a specially programmed credit card that donates a small percentage of your spending to a charity of your choice. It works just like any regular credit card, offering customers credit limits, spending rewards, and cash back, but with the bonus of automatic charitable giving.

The most common and visible charity credit cards on the market are affinity cards. These credit cards usually sport the affiliated charity’s logo and name on the front, and sometimes a picture representing the work that the charity does. 

Each time a customer uses this type of card, the affiliated charity receives between 0.04% and 0.08% of the transaction. The charity may also earn a one-time, set payment of $1 to $3 for every new customer that signs up for the card.

Besides affinity cards, some credit card companies also issue cards that allow you to donate your unused points and rewards to a charity. At certain times of the year, particularly during holiday seasons such as Christmas, you can convert your unused rewards points into cash donations. The donations can be sent to a participating charity in the program or pooled with donations from other cardholders.

How do you donate using a charity credit card?

If you get yourself an affinity card, your credit card issuer will automatically transfer the donation amount from each transaction to the charity. However, if you get a card that lets you convert accumulated miles, points, or cash back to cash donations, you’ll need to check the conversion rates first before you contribute.

Depending on your loyalty program, some issuers may let you exchange one point for up to 5 cash donation cents. Others may allow you to donate your miles and points to the charity directly. The charity can then use your points to cover a hotel stay or a plane ticket for one of their beneficiaries, such as flights for cancer patients to seek treatment in a distant city. 

And just because you have a particular affinity card or a loyalty program membership it doesn’t mean that you lose the freedom to donate to any charity that you want. You can still use your charity credit card to donate to a charity that is not affiliated with your card. You’ll just have to do it manually – by visiting the donation page of the nonprofit you wish to donate to and filling in your credit card details for the donation.

You’ll most likely be charged a small transaction fee for the donations done this way so keep that in mind when you choose the amount you’d like to donate.

What are the 5 best charity credit cards in 2021?

If you’re looking for a credit card to boost your charitable contributions, we’ve got you covered. Here are the 5 best charity credit cards that you can use to maximize your spending and also turn charitable giving into a habit.

Chase Freedom Flex 

The Chase Freedom Flex has one of the most balanced cashback and rewards donation programs among charity credit cards. Customers earn at least 1% cashback on most purchases and up to 5% cash back on rotating categories and travel purchases. 

Each quarter, customers have the option to convert their cashback points into cash donations and receive a 25% higher point value through the ‘Pay Yourself Back’ feature. The extra percentage gets added on top of the points’ cash value, turning, for example, a $500 cashback in points to $625 that can be donated to eligible charities.

The Chase Freedom Flex comes with no annual fees and 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months. Customers may also earn a $200 signup bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months of opening their account. This bonus can also be boosted using the ‘Pay Yourself Back’ feature that will turn it into $250 worth of cash donations.

Citi Double Cash Card

For customers who wish to donate to UNICEF USA, No Kid Hungry, and World Central Kitchen, the Citi Double Cash Card could be a good match. With this credit card, they can transfer the 2% cash back they receive on everything they buy and pay off to their Citi ThankYou account that converts the cashback into cash donations.

The ThankYou account converts the cashback points at an award rate of 1:100. Customers are given the option to donate 2,500 ThankYou points to receive a cash equivalent donation of $25; or 5,000 or 10,000 points to get $50 and $100, respectively.

You do not need to pay annual fees for this card. And for the first 18 months after account opening, you’ll be given a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers. After the end of this period, variable APR rates are between 13.99% to 23.99% based on your creditworthiness.

Charity Charge World Mastercard

Another credit card that lets you donate the cash back rewards to your selected charities is the Charity Charge World Mastercard. For every purchase that you make, you earn 1% cashback that automatically becomes a tax-deductible donation to any three different nonprofits at one time. 

Your cash back rewards can be used to fund any of the 501(c)(3) organizations, religious organizations, K-12 schools, and colleges partnering with this card. The cost of each donation is covered by a credit card so the charity receives 100% of every donation. 

The Charity Charge World Mastercard comes with no annual fee. Customers receive a  1.99% introductory APR offer for the first 6 months on purchases and balance transfers, which will then become 16.24% to 26.74% variable APR thereafter. 

Susan G. Komen Customized Cash Rewards Visa  

The Susan G. Komen Customized Cash Rewards credit card is one of America’s most well-recognized affinity cards. 

With the iconic pink ribbon emblazoned on its front, this credit card by Bank of America donates 0.08% of all net retail purchases made with it to the breast cancer research institute, on top of the $3 it donates to the institute each year that it’s active. Since 2009, the Susan G. Komen foundation has received more than $10.8 million from this program.

As a cardholder, you are entitled to receive 1% cashback on all purchases, 2% cash back at grocery stores, and 3% cash back at gas stations, restaurants, and drug stores. There are no annual fees to pay.

Defenders of Wildlife Credit Card

The Defenders of Wildlife credit card is another affinity card offered by Bank of America; this time for supporters of wildlife conservation. When you open a new account for this credit card, Bank of America donates $10 to Defenders of Wildlife’s projects to save rare animals and plants. After that, $0.05 will be donated for every $100 spent on the credit card.

With this credit card, customers can earn 3% cashback on gas, drug store, and online shopping purchases and 2% cashback on grocery shopping, which is very similar to the deal offered by the Susan G. Komen card. You automatically earn 1% cashback on all other purchases. 

You do not have to pay any annual fees for this card. If you make at least $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening, you’re eligible to receive $200 in cash rewards.

Help save the environment with the Aspiration Zero credit card

If you’re looking for a credit card that can help you save the environment, then the Aspiration Zero carbon credit card is for you. 

Offered by the B Corp-certified neobank Aspiration, the Aspiration Zero card does what few other credit cards can do: track the carbon emissions of your purchases and automatically purchase carbon offsets for you. 

Our unique program rounds up every purchase you make on the card to the nearest whole dollar and uses the spare change to plant trees on your behalf.

For each month that you plant enough trees that get your carbon footprint to zero, Aspiration rewards you with up to 1% cashback on all purchases made in that month. Sign-up today to put yourself on the waiting list for Aspiration Zero. 

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