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Short on cash but don’t want to forgo your usual charitable contributions? Try donating your credit card rewards — whether it be cash back, points or miles.
One-third of rewards credit card holders didn’t redeem rewards in 2020, according to a 2021 Bankrate survey. And seeing as many charitable organizations gladly accept credit card rewards in lieu of cash, this could be a solution for you if you’re sitting on a stash of points or inflation is hurting your wallet.
Keep reading to learn more about donating your credit card rewards, including specific information based on which card issuer you have.
How to donate your credit card rewards, by issuer
Though unconventional, donating your credit card rewards is a great way to give back. Whether you have a stockpile of rewards you’re willing to part with or you’re looking to prevent account closure due to inactivity, you can put those earnings to good use.
Most major credit card issuers let you donate your rewards, but the process (and restrictions) can vary. You’ll typically have a list of partner charities to choose from, including point donation tiers and dollar amount equivalents.
American Express gives cardholders the option to donate Membership Rewards points through its partnership with JustGiving. American Express converts your points into a monetary donation to your choice of thousands of U.S. charities.
Additionally, cardholders can donate Membership Rewards points through the PayPal Giving Fund, and American Express will send 0.7 cents for each Membership Reward point donated to the organization of your choice. With this option, you can donate Membership Rewards points to specific U.S.-based fundraisers, crowdfunding efforts or charities, including UNICEF USA, American Red Cross, International Medical Corps and more.
If you own a Discover credit card, you can donate your cash back rewards to one of Discover’s charitable partners. To do so, just call 1-800-DISCOVER or donate online through the Discover Card Account Center.
Charitable organizations include:
- American Cancer Society
- American Red Cross
- Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
- Junior Achievement USA
- Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
- Operation Homefront
- World Wildlife Fund
ThankYou points earned with your Citi card can also be used to donate to one of Citi’s charitable partners, starting at $25 (2,500 ThankYou points), $50 (5,000 ThankYou points) or $100 donations (10,000 ThankYou points). You have the option of upping the “quantity” of donations to donate more.
- American Red Cross
- No Kid Hungry
- Smile Train
- Susan G. Komen
- UNICEF USA
- World Central Kitchen
Chase Ultimate Rewards points cannot be directly donated to charitable organizations, but you can donate through Chase’s Pay Yourself Back (associated with some cards). Basically, the Pay Yourself Back program provides cardholders with another way to redeem points for statement credits on eligible purchases.
In fact, for some Chase credit cards, choosing the Pay Yourself Back redemption option can make your points 25 percent to 50 percent more valuable. Through December 2023, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card points are worth 1.25 cents apiece when redeemed toward charities via Pay Yourself Back, and Chase Sapphire Reserve® points are worth 1.5 cents apiece.
These are the charities you can donate to through Chase Pay Yourself Back:
- American Red Cross
- Equal Justice Initiative
- Feeding America
- Habitat for Humanity
- International Medical Corps
- International Rescue Committee
- Leadership Conference Education Fund NAACP Legal Defense and
- Education Fund National Urban League
- Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
- Thurgood Marshall College Fund
- United Negro College Fund
- UNICEF USA
- United Way and World Central Kitchen
Keep in mind fees and security
You may be subject to an interchange fee to process your rewards donation (normally a few dollars), but don’t let it deter you from donating. Some issuers may even waive these fees when it comes to donating rewards.
Further, if you have a particular charity in mind that isn’t listed by your issuer, you may be able to donate your rewards directly or via a third-party point donation site like PointWorthy. It’s important to verify the legitimacy of the charity or website before donating to avoid scams, of course.
Other ways to donate
Donate your airline and hotel rewards
Most major hotels and airlines allow you to donate loyalty points and miles to charity. For example, Marriott is partnered with over 30 organizations that allow point donations, including World Central Kitchen and UNICEF, to name a few.
For donation specifics, check with your airline and hotel loyalty programs.
Another option is donating miles directly to an organization. For instance, Miles4Migrants is a nonprofit that uses donated frequent flyer miles to book airfare for migrants, including refugees, experiencing financial hardships. Consider the surge of Ukrainians seeking refuge in foreign countries over the past year, for example — donating your stash of unused miles could quite literally save a life.
Transfer points to family or friends
If you personally know someone that needs help (maybe a friend who could use miles, for example, to escape a difficult situation), there’s always the option to directly transfer your credit card rewards to an individual or even pooling your points.
Rules and restrictions for point transfers and pooling vary from issuer to issuer, so do your research before reaching out to a loved one.
The bottom line
Instead of letting forgotten miles, points or cash back rewards you earn on your credit card sit in your account or expire, consider donating them to a charitable organization. Depending on which card you own, you’ll be able to donate to a wide variety of reputable charities, including American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and more. It’s an easy way to give back or keep up with your giving goals, even while your other expenses are rising.