Turn your credit card rewards into charitable donations


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‘Tis the season for giving, and there’s no shortage of causes to support over the holidays. But no matter which organizations you’re looking to support, you can use your available resources to maximize your donation.

Using the right credit card to make a donation can both simplify the process, especially for donating online, and allow you to use points or miles you’ve accumulated throughout the year for good.

Whether you want to make your mark on Giving Tuesday, which takes place on Tuesday, Dec. 3 this year, or you want to give back at any point throughout the season, here are a few tips to ensure you’re maximizing your contributions to the cause.

Donate your rewards

If you’ve been stockpiling rewards points or cash back throughout the year, consider redeeming them in the form of a donation.

Instead of travel redemption or a statement credit, you can choose to donate the monetary equivalent of your rewards to a nonprofit or cause. You may choose to donate your cash back
equivalent yourself or your issuer may offer the option to donate points directly through its site.

Don’t forget about your rewards when you choose to close a credit card or you have a card with points that can expire, either. Since, in most cases, your points expire once you close an account, that’s an easy way to both do good and make sure your points won’t go to waste.

If you’re a frequent flyer, many airlines also allow you to donate airline miles to charity. For example, you can donate miles to the Make-A-Wish Wishes In Flight Program to help make wish experiences come true or contribute them to the Red Cross through your airline to help volunteers and staff reach areas in need.

Be cautious in making any donation online, though. Donate directly through the airline, credit card issuer or organization’s site to avoid potential fraud and increased fees from third party sites.

Earn rewards for donating

Not only can you use your already-earned rewards to make donations, but many cards have points or cash back categories that reward you for doing good throughout the year.

For example, the U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card awards 2X points for qualifying charitable donations, in addition to its 2X points categories for airlines, gas stations or grocery stores (wherever you spent the most each month) and with cellular providers. The Charity Charge Mastercard is another giving-focused option; it earns 1 percent cash back on every purchase and automatically donates all earnings to your nonprofit of choice each quarter.

If you have a specific cause in mind, some larger organizations have co-branded credit cards, like the World Wildlife Fund Credit Card. The Bank of America-issued card has the same rewards structure as the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, but the World Wildlife Fund receives at least $3 for every account opened, $3 each annual renewal and an additional 0.08 percent of all net retail purchases made with the card.

Even a standard cash back card, like the Citi® Double Cash Card or the Chase Freedom Unlimited® can help you easily earn money on each purchase you make throughout the year to then pool for your donation during the holiday season.

It’s easy to set up ongoing donations throughout the year on your credit card, too. Many major charities will allow you to choose whether you’d like your donation to be a one-time payment or a recurring charge each month.

Consider interchange fees

Using your credit card for all of your spending, including donations, may make it easier to track your spending and seamlessly donate online, but there are some things to keep in mind.

Each time you make a purchase with your credit card, it incurs an interchange fee, which can reduce the amount of money that ultimately goes to the merchant. This could reduce the amount of your actual donation by a few dollars (though these fees can vary). When possible, and especially when you’re donating to smaller or local organizations, cash or check may be a better option to consider.

If you’re unsure whether your card issuer will charge a small amount to process the donation, consider tacking on a few extra dollars to cover the cost. In some cases, such as with American Express, you can avoid fees that would incur from using your card for a regular donation by using your accumulated rewards instead.

Bottom line

Using your credit card to make your charitable contributions during the holidays is a great way to simplify the process while maximizing your giving and spreading some cheer over the season. Consider whether you’d like to earn rewards on your donations using a card with corresponding categories or donate using your already-earned rewards and potentially reducing transaction fees associated with your giving. And always remember to donate directly through the organizations you support or your issuer’s portal for a seamless experience.

The information about the World Wildlife Fund Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.