What Is an Environmentally-Friendly Credit Card?

Hands, Protection, To Protect, Tree, Globe, Earth

{Whenever you need to spend money, why not keep an environmentally-friendly credit card in your wallet and, at the same time, invest in a greener future?}

Fighting climate change starts in our own backyards. 

Maybe you maintain a vegetable garden or even ride a bicycle to work everyday. While it may seem like that’s all you can do to contribute, there are even simpler ways to make a difference. Imagine fighting climate change every time you make a purchase with your credit card—a card that’s environmentally friendly.

An environmentally-friendly credit card can be environmentally-friendly in terms of being made of biodegradable materials, or in the sense of its use and impact. Let’s explore the impact these cards can have on our planet. 

How are credit cards bad for the environment?

By the year 2025, Statista reports over “30.6 billion” credit, debit, and prepaid cards will be in circulation around the world. Unfortunately, most traditional credit cards are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. This is the same material that floods our landfills and is difficult to incinerate without releasing toxins into the atmosphere. 

Physical material

Petroleum is the core material in most traditional PVC-made credit cards. Known for its resistance to recycling, environmentally-friendly card issuers are now replacing this “first-use” plastic with biodegradable alternatives, such as polylactic acid (PLA), which is recyclable and non-toxic. 

Even better, some companies are molding their cards from plastic waste material harvested from the ocean. So, instead of transferring countless tons of ocean plastic directly into a landfill, it’s repurposed into an environmentally-friendly credit card.

Connections to the fossil fuel industry 

The connection between “big bank” card issuers and the fossil fuel industry is no secret.

In fact, according to a report issued by the Rainforest Action Network organization, since 2016, banks and investment firms from around the world have invested close to $4 trillion dollars in the fossil fuels industry. At the same time, their eco-responsible competitors are fighting even harder to offset that damage through eco-friendly investments.

What do environmentally-friendly credit cards do differently?

Let’s take a look at some of the eco-responsible incentives some cards are rolling out.

Eco-friendly partnerships

Instead of lending or investing your annual fees or monthly interest to big oil or jet fuel manufacturers, eco-responsible financial institutions are often focused on partnerships with environmental non-profit groups and carbon-offsetting initiatives, such as reforestation projects and renewable energy advocates. 

These are partnerships that will help us edge closer to carbon neutrality and minimize our collective carbon footprint as much as possible.

Commitment to minimizing our carbon footprint

Offsetting our carbon emissions can be an important part of fighting climate change. 

One of the ways some financial institutions such as Aspiration do this is by investing in reforestation projects. Trees are one of the most effective ways to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and offset the damage we do everyday. 

How do environmentally-friendly credit cards work?

An environmentally-friendly credit card works the same way as any other credit card, only it can actively offsets your carbon emissions and minimizes your carbon footprint, all with a single swipe.

Card-holder incentives

Environmentally-friendly card issuers understand that you have options when it comes to choosing the greenest card for your wallet. That’s why eco-incentives are even more important than your typical reward-points sign-up bonus or low introductory APR offer.

From eco-rewards for achieving carbon neutrality, to choosing which nonprofit you support with every purchase, to ultimately shrinking your carbon footprint, it’s now easier than ever before to choose a card that aligns with your moral and financial values.

Carbon neutrality

The ability to see the size and extent of your carbon footprint could be right at your fingertips – beginning with what you spend with your credit card and who you spend it with.

With the touch of an app, cardholders can study their spending trends and a store’s commitment to fighting climate change, leading to more eco-friendly choices over time. 

The top 5 most environmentally-friendly credit cards of 2021

Aspiration Zero

Protecting its eco-focused mission from the fossil fuel industry and committing to a greener, sustainable future, Aspiration tops the list with its upcoming environmentally-friendly credit card, Aspiration Zero.

With its motto, “Put your money where your values are,” Aspiration offers its cardholders the best of both worlds, even if we can only inhabit one. Of course, a low APR and annual fee are enticing, but more importantly, its commitment to literally planting your money into the soil and back into your pocket is what separates it from the rest. 

“We have a responsibility as a company to help the planet,” says Aspiration CEO Andrei Cherny, “and we’re bringing this card to people who feel they have a responsibility, too.”

Cardholder Benefits: 

  • Reforestation: Every purchase you make of $1.50 or more, Aspiration, with its partners, the Arbor Day Foundation, One Tree Planted, and the Eden Project will plant a tree in your name, which will offset your carbon emission for that purchase. 
    • As an added bonus, if you choose to round up your purchase you can opt for Aspiration to keep the difference, and it will plant another tree.
  • An app to track your carbon footprint: Aspiration’s app can help you to assess the carbon footprints of the companies you purchase from, helping you to make greener decisions and eco-friendly decisions for yourself and the planet.
  • Carbon-neutral incentives: For every month you reach carbon-zero status, Aspiration will reward you with up to 1% cash back on all of their purchases.

Doconomy’s DO Black card

Doconomy has launched this biodegradable card made of PLA that supports eco-initiatives in developing countries, such as developing windmill farms in India. 

Its focus is to make fighting climate change a transparent process, and that begins with its Planet Loyalty program – which asks that merchants volunteer to share their carbon footprint for all of their products and what it’ll take to offset those emissions.

Cardholder Benefits: Because of its Planet Loyalty program, cardholders will receive a categorized breakdown of the carbon footprint of multiple companies and products where they use their card.

Also, once a cardholder reaches their monthly CO2 cap, they won’t be able to continue using their card. 

Amalgamated Bank credit card

With no connections to the fossil fuels industry, and by using 100% renewable energy sources in its brick and mortar locations, Amalgamated’s mission is “to be America’s socially responsible bank empowering organizations and individuals to advance positive social change.” 

This means not only is it committed to shrinking its carbon footprint, but it also invests in nonprofits that focus on fighting for social and racial justice. 

Cardholder Benefits: In addition to partnering with a credit company committed to environmental and social justice, there are a few practical perks for a future cardholder. For example, anyone interested in a non-secured credit card can forego an annual fee upon approval. 

Also, its Maximum Rewards Mastercard boasts a 0% introductory APR period for the first 6 months. Note, this will change to 18.24-28.24% afterward, depending on your credit worthiness.  

Mechanics and Farmers (M&F) Bank personal credit card 

Established in 1907, M&F is one of the oldest Black-owned, independent banks in the US. M&F is committed to community development and claims to “recycle 83%” of all deposits received “back into the communities we serve in the form of loans,” as in loans to individuals, community businesses, and even local nonprofit organizations.

Cardholder Benefits: While M&F offers several credit card options, most of the benefits associated with them focus on travel perks and a lack of international transaction fees. 

Its most popular card, the Platinum Payback Mastercard, comes with no annual fee, and a rewards program that for every $1 you spend, you’ll receive one point. You can then spend those points in its Perks Points Mall, or receive a cash-back equivalent.

Green America Visa card 

A card created by TCM Bank, the Green America Visa card aims to bring attention to climate change and ethical consumerism.

Cardholder Benefits: Green America is devoted to a number of eco-friendly initiatives, including conservation and clean air. If you sign up for this card, you’ll enjoy the option to donate a percentage of each purchase to Green America’s eco-efforts.

New cardholders will also enjoy 0% APR for the first 12 months (this will change to 9.99-17.99% afterward), and there’s no annual fee associated with this card.

The greenest card is the best, sustainable choice

While a cash-back offer or a significant number of sign-up bonus points may attract you to one credit card company over another, determining just how environmentally-friendly your card is could be the first step to investing in a greener future. 

Aspiration Zero is in its early access phase, so, in the meantime, you can join its waiting list and experience the early benefits of an environmentally-friendly credit card that will plant its promises where it matters the most.

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