Looking For A
Green Credit Card?
Find out how a socially responsible credit card can fight climate change and make a positive impact.
What Is a Credit Card?
Credit cards allow folks to receive a line of credit in order to make purchases, receive a cash advance, and transfer outstanding balances. They are as American as apple pie. As of 2021, there are more than 176 million Americans who use at least one credit card. That’s a staggering number that underscores just how reliant we’ve become on credit cards as a nation.
There are certainly a number of solid reasons for this. Credit cards are incredibly easy to use and let us purchase the things we want without spending cash. It’s not inherently bad to use a credit card.
However, modern financial institutions have seriously taken advantage of our reliance on credit cards. The average credit card interest rate is 17.87% and that number can be much, much higher for people with a credit score that’s anything less than good (less than 670, according to Equifax)
On top of that, credit cards often have deceptive terms and conditions which take advantage of people who are just looking for a bit more financial freedom.
That’s why you should seriously consider signing up for a green credit card. These cards make it easy to access the credit you want without having to commit to strict fee structures and unclear terms.
Below, we’ve put together all of the information that you need to know about green credit cards
What Is a Green Credit Card?
First thing’s first. You might still be unsure of what a green credit card is so let’s review it. Green credit cards are credit cards that donate a percentage of each purchase to an organization that combats climate change.
So if you spend $100 and you pay with a green credit card, something like $1 of that will go towards preventing climate change. The exact percentage will vary based on your provider and the specific green credit card that you choose.
In this way, green credit cards make it very easy for the average person to consistently contribute to preventing climate change. You just spend the money you were going to spend anyways and take comfort in the fact that some of that is making a difference in the world.
Most green credit cards are also built in such a way as to limit their impact on the environment. For example, lots of green credit cards are made from eco-friendly materials, such as corn-based plastic. Many are also built without magnetic strips to improve their recyclability.
Are Green Credit Cards New?
The concept of a credit card that gives back to charity isn’t entirely new. Nonprofit organizations have often partnered with banks and financial institutions to provide credit cards that support their cause.
For example, the Bank of America World Wildlife Fund credit card is the result of a partnership between the World Wildlife Fund and the Bank of America.
In these arrangements, the bank handles the payment processing and the organization gets a percentage of all money generated by one of these cards. This type of partnership has existed for a while.
Green credit cards take this a step further. They’re typically offered by banks and financial institutions that are committed to environmental issues themselves. That’s a key difference that’s worth exploring.
Under the old charity credit card model, the company that did the payment processing was still only really concerned with profits. But the companies that offer green credit cards are mission-focused rather than profit-driven; for example, many of them, like Aspiration, are B corporations. B Corporations are certified companies that demonstrate high social and environmental performance, make a legal commitment to making their corporate governance account table, and exhibit transparency. This is a new idea in the world of credit and it’s part of what makes green credit cards so exciting.
Is My Credit Card a Socially Responsible Credit Card?
The conventional credit card industry has needed to be disrupted for quite some time now. For years, credit card providers have mailed millions of offers to U.S. consumers who didn’t ask for them. Often, these include plastic sample cards that can’t even be recycled.
Green credit cards seek to correct all of this waste. Many cards are biodegradable and only shipped to you after you’ve confirmed that you want one. Additionally, with eco-friendly financial institutions, you generally don’t have to worry about getting extra mail sent to your home only for you to end up throwing it away instantly.
Everything about green credit cards is designed to limit your environmental impact as much as possible. This represents a profound shift from the style of business employed by traditional credit card companies.
How Green Credit Cards Compare to Traditional Credit Cards
Green credit cards can be similar to traditional cards. Many of them offer APR, credit limits, and reward systems that closely mirror what you would get from a company like Capital One.
That means you often aren’t having to sacrifice anything by choosing a green credit card over another option. The only real difference is that some of the money you spend will be going to support a charitable cause.
Certain types of green credit cards go beyond that as well. For example, Aspiration has a program called Plant Your Change. Every time that you use a credit card that’s included in this program, we’ll plant a tree.
There are other differences between green credit cards and traditional options as well. More information on these is included in the following section.
The Most Common Features of Green Credit Cards
Fair Interest Rates
When you think of green credit cards, environmental impact is likely the first thing on your mind. However, these credit cards tend to offer several additional features that make them a smart choice for many consumers.
For example, some green credit cards have rates that start as low as 13.15%, better than the offers that you’re getting from traditional credit card companies.
It would be impossible to discuss the benefits of green credit cards without mentioning charitable donations. This is a hallmark of the product type that nearly every provider offers.
Typically, green credit card companies donate a set amount of each purchase to a pre-determined charitable organization. The percentage can vary from provider to provider and card to card.
You have some flexibility to shop around here. You can decide exactly where your money goes by signing up for a green credit card that donates a percentage of all revenue to a cause that you care about. The widespread availability of these cards makes it easier to zero in on a cause that you believe in.
Transparent Terms and Conditions
Lack of transparency is one of the most significant ethical problems in the traditional credit card industry. That’s why green credit cards are almost always committed to offering transparent loan terms and conditions.
For example, green credit card companies usually have a policy that states all of their fees must be transparent. This ensures that you know exactly what you’re spending before you spend it, which is something that should be a feature of any payment system you plan on using.
With that said, no matter how transparent your card’s terms and conditions may be, it’s important that you actually read them. Make sure you read everything the company puts in front of you!
Doesn’t Encourage Excessive Spending
Traditional credit card companies have an incentive to get you to spend as much as possible. The more that you spend, the more that they make on interest, fees, and other costs. But this isn’t usually a problem with green credit card providers.
Green credit card companies aren’t focused on getting you to consume as much as possible. Instead, they just want you to do your part to help the environment. That’s why many green credit card companies offer their customers helpful credit counseling information and reporting tools that help consumers stay on top of their spending.
The more information that you have about your spending, the likelier that you are to keep it under control. That’s why Aspiration has included powerful spending tracking features in its app.
Eco-based Rewards Systems
Many credit card companies will give you cashback on your purchases. This is one of the main benefits of using a credit card. It essentially enables consumers to get free money for purchases that they were already going to make.
Green credit card companies also usually offer cashback features. However, these are different than what traditional credit card providers offer. Many green financial institutions provide cashback programs that incentivize environmentally friendly behavior.
For example, Aspiration Zero rewards you with cashback when you get to carbon zero spending. With this system, the better you treat the planet, the more money you make. That’s very different from the traditional credit card cashback model, which incentivizes you to spend as much as possible, no matter how damaging it is to your finances or the environment.
Best Ways to Use Green Credit Cards
You don’t have to radically change the way that you spend money to start making a positive impact on the planet. Instead, just a few tweaks to your existing habits will be more than enough to do your part. Green credits will help you achieve this.
For example, you can use them to shop with companies that prioritize social issues like climate change. The more that you do this, the more cashback that you’ll earn on your purchases. That’s a pretty easy way to unlock the full potential of your credit card while still supporting planet earth.
Beyond that, you’re really free to use a green credit card however you wish (though not all transactions may be eligible for rewards; check your terms & conditions!). If your card contributes a percentage of each purchase to an eco-friendly charity, then you can spend money on anything (again, confirm via terms & conditions) that you want and still give back to the environment.
The one thing that’s important to note here is that you do still need to be responsible with your credit card spending.
Green credit cards do still have interest rates, so you need to be careful that you don’t rack up more debt than you can comfortably afford to pay — even if it does feel great to give back to the environment with every purchase you make.
The Aspiration Zero Credit Card
One of the easiest ways to maximize the potential of your green credit card is to pick the one that best matches your ecological mission. To that end, you should seriously consider the Aspiration Zero card. It makes it super easy to do your part for the environment. Here’s why.
Fight Climate Change
Every time that you make a purchase with the Aspiration Zero card, a tree is planted on your behalf.
Go Carbon Zero
Aspiration’s powerful app-based reporting dashboard makes it easy to mitigate your current carbon emissions.
Get Rewarded for Saving the Planet
Aspiration will give you up to 1% cashback on every purchase that you make in months that you’ve achieved Carbon Zero with your Aspiration Zero credit card.
Visit Aspiration’s website to learn more about the benefits and terms and conditions for the Zero credit card.
How to Apply
Applying for the Aspiration Zero card is super easy. Just enter your email address on the Aspiration website and follow the steps.
You may also want to consider some of Aspiration’s other climate-supporting services. We’re committed to helping consumers protect the planet with powerful financial tools.
Our Spend & Save account make it easy to reforest the planet while you do your normal shopping. We’ll also let you pay whatever you want in fees and will give you up to 5% cashback on socially conscious spending. Learn more here.
Check out our homepage to learn more about how Aspiration is helping consumers do their part to fight climate change.
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Photo by Emil Kalibradov on Unsplash A 2019 survey by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation discovered that 5.4% of American households, or about 7 million