Choosing a credit card according to your personal values

girl using her credit card

Choosing the right credit card provider depends on a variety of factors – from credit rating and spending limits, to interest rates and bonus incentives. But if you’re someone who cares about social issues, you might also want to consider a credit card issuer with socially-conscious practices. For instance, Bank of America offers a credit card that donates a portion of your purchases to the World Wildlife Fund, while the Charity Charge World Mastercard makes it easy to support causes you care about.

Credit card options for social responsibility

Charity affinity cards– Issued by a bank or financial institution, a charity affinity credit card features the logo of a specific charity or foundation on the card. Whenever you make a purchase with this card, a portion of your spending will be donated to this particular charity. The Susan G. Komen® Cash Rewards Visa® donates 0.08% of eligible purchases to the Susan G. Komen foundation for breast cancer research.

Community banks and credit unions- Many people choose credit cards from community banks and credit unions rather than the big banks because they’re devoted to improving the local economy. Some of these cards like Green American Visa contribute to green projects, such as clean energy.

Looking to sign up for a charity affinity or credit union card? Here are a few of the top cards that support various causes:

Credit CardCharity/Cause SupportedDonation AmountCardholder RewardsAnnual Fee
Bank of America Susan G. Komen MasterCardSusan G. Komen® foundation for breast cancer$3 and 0.08% of all purchases1-3% cash back on purchases$0
Charity Charge World Mastercard® Credit CardOrganization of your choice1% cash back on your purchases1% cash back on your purchases$0
Bank of America World Wildlife Fund VisaWorld Wildlife Fund$3 and 0.08% of all purchases1-3% cash back on purchases$0
The Green America VisaGreen America’s green economy programsOne reward point for every dollar spent$0
International Living Future Institute’s Affinity CardInternational Living Future Institute’s Green building movementOne reward point for every dollar spent$0
Hope Federal Credit Union VISACommunity development in the south of the USOne reward point for every dollar spent$0
The Amazon Watch VisaProtect the Amazon rainforestOne reward point for every dollar spent$0

Keep your personal finances at the forefront

When you’re shopping for a socially responsible credit card issuer, don’t forget to make your own finances a priority. It’s enticing to sign up for a card that donates a portion of your spending to a charity you care about, however, if the interest rates are exorbitant, you might want to look elsewhere.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when comparing credit cards:

  • Know your needs: If you invest a lot of money on groceries or traveling, ensure that your socially-conscious card also offers incentives for your spending. For students who are looking to build their credit, the card should report to all three credit bureaus. You should also ask the issuer if its possible to upgrade your card over time as your credit improves.
  • Look for low APR & annual fees: No matter how much money the issuer contributes to charities or local organizations, if the APR or annual fees are high, it’s not in your best interests to sign up. Look for a card with a zero or low annual fee and compare interest rates among the cards you qualify for.
  • Check the balance transfer policy: Balance transfer allows you to move around the balance to cards with lower interest rates. If you have or plan on opening multiple credit cards, this feature is important to look for when comparing cards.

Use your rewards card to donate your points or miles to charity

If you can’t find a socially-conscious issuer that works for your personal finances, know that you can still use your credit card to be a benefactor. Here are a few of the most popular rewards cards that allow you to donate points or miles to charity:

  • Discover it® Cash Back: With the Discover it® Cash Back card, you can receive 5% cash back on up to $1,500 worth of purchases in bonus categories that rotate every quarter. When it comes to claiming your rewards, Discover allows you to directly donate the cash from their rewards portal to a non-profit organization. Take advantage of a 0% APR for the first 14 months of enrollment. The organization that earns the most in donations by the end of the year will get an additional $25,000 from Discover.
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited: The Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card allows you to make 1% cash back on everyday purchases, plus 5% cash back on quarterly bonus categories. In the past, bonus categories have included charitable organizations. 
  • American Express® Gold Card: This American Express credit card offers an incredible membership bonus program, with 4x reward points at restaurants and grocery stores, and 3x reward points on travel. With the Members Give program, you can use your points to donate to charity. Choose from over a million charitable organizations around the US.

Make sure you read the fine print

Always read the terms and conditions before signing up with a card issuer. Here are a few of the things to watch out for:

  • Donate through your credit card platform or the airline directly, don’t use third party sites.
  • Each loyalty program differs in its rules and regulations, so look closely at the charities it supports. For instance, there might be a minimum contribution amount required. 
  • If you wish to claim a tax deduction, make sure that you’re eligible through rewards or that tax receipts will be issued. More often than not, it makes more sense to earn cash back and then donate it directly to the charity. 
  • Research whether the charitable foundations will have the freedom to use the rewards at their own choosing.

Bottom line

Credit cards might ultimately be for making purchases and building credit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give back in the process. Look for credit cards that offer some type of socially-conscious incentive, but don’t forget to check the terms and conditions.