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Discover teams up with Ducks

By Janna Herron · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

Discover will become the credit card mascot for wetland and waterfowl conservation group Ducks Unlimited.

The new pairing, a first of its kind for the issuer, also underscores what consumers should consider before getting so-called charity credit cards.

The credit card issuer Wednesday announced it's offering the nonprofit's U.S. members affinity credit cards. Ducks Unlimited members will have access to Discover's cash rewards program and the issuer's online shopping portal. They can even donate their cash-back rewards to the conservation organization.

The partnership marks Discover's first foray into affinity cards, according to company spokeswoman Kathryn Henry.

The fine print didn't say whether Discover would donate a percentage of the card's purchases to Ducks Unlimited. Henry didn't clarify either, saying "typically we don't disclose terms of the agreement."

"An affinity credit card is a powerful way to help organizations connect with their members and offer additional benefits outside their standard membership package," says Julie Loeger, senior vice president of brand and acquisition at Discover, in a press release.

There are some affinity credit cards that kick back a percentage to a nonprofit organization.

For example, the Pink Ribbon BankAmericard Cash Rewards Visa Signature benefitting Susan G. Komen for the Cure donates at least 20 cents for every $100 spent on the card. The nonprofit also gets at least $3 for each new account and $1 for every annual renewal. Bank of America also offers similar donations for its World Wildlife Fund Visa Signature card.

Still, make sure to look beyond the credit card and focus on the issuer's practices, says Joe Ridout, consumer services manager at watchdog group Consumer Action. Many big banks may invest money in companies that run against the mission of the nonprofit on the front of your card, he says.

"If your money is, at one hand, being directed to a well-meaning organization of your choice," he says, "but, at the same time, a big percentage of the issuer's money is undermining those goals, where does that leave you?"

You'd probably be better off writing a check to your organization to keep your contribution clean and direct, and then find a credit card that fits your lifestyle and financial needs, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com.

"Whenever you involve a credit card issuer, you have to think: What they are getting out of it?" he says. "Which is probably getting you to spend more on the card."

Do you carry an affinity credit card? What's your experience?

Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron.

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