Giving Tuesday: The best credit cards to maximize your charitable donation
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new cards and additional information.
It’s both Credit Cards Week at TPG and Giving Tuesday. This one-two punch means that today is the perfect opportunity to make a charitable donation — and maximize your giving by using the right card.
Giving Tuesday is a great time to donate since many of your favorite charities may have a sponsor or donor that is willing to match. But since you are reading TPG, you’re probably also interested in how to earn the most cash back, points or miles on the giving that you do.
Here are some of the best credit cards and points programs to use when donating to charity. Let’s dive in.
Best credit cards to use for charitable donations
- The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express: Best for small business owners
- Citi® Double Cash Card: Best for cash back or Citi ThankYou points
- Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for Chase Ultimate Rewards cardholders
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for everyday spending without a premium travel rewards card
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card: Best option for high-tier Bank of America Preferred Rewards members who want cash back
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for those who are making a large donation
Comparison of the best cards for charitable donations
|Card||Bonus||Rewards rate on charitable giving (return based on TPG valuations)||Annual fee|
|The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express||None||2x (4%)||None (see rates and fees)|
|Citi Double Cash Card||None||2%; 1% when you buy, plus 1% when you pay (3.4% with a linked ThankYou account)||None|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||$200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening||1.5% (1.5x) (3% with a linked Ultimate Rewards account)||None|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||Earn 60,000 miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.||2x (2.8%)||$95|
|Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card||50,000 bonus points after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening||1.5x (1.5% – 2.625% depending on your status level within the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program)||$95|
|The Business Platinum Card from American Express||Earn 85,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within your first three months of Card Membership. Plus, earn 5x points on eligible purchases in 5 select business categories, up to 80,000 bonus points per category in the first three months of account opening. Terms apply.||1x (1.5%) on donations of less than $5,000
1.5x on donations of $5,000 or more, up to one million additional points per year (3%)
|$595 (see rates and fees)|
Welcome offer: None
Rewards rate: 2x American Express Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on the first $50,000 in purchases each year (4% return based on TPG’s valuations); then 1x point on purchases thereafter
- Expanded buying power with no over-limit fees
- Secondary car rental loss and damage insurance in most countries
- Extended warranty protection and purchase protection
- 0.0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening (see rates and fees), then a variable rate, 13.24%-19.24% (see rates and fees), based on your creditworthiness and other factors as determined at the time of account opening
Annual fee: $0 (See rates and fees)
The Blue Business Plus is a great choice for small business owners, as it has no annual fee (see rates and fees) and earns 2x Membership Rewards points per dollar on all purchases up to $50,000 per year (then 1x thereafter). If you value transferable Membership Rewards points at 2 cents each like TPG, that’s like getting 4 cents in value per dollar charged on the first $50,000 annually.
Sign-up bonus: None
Rewards rate: 2% cash back — 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay — on everything (2% return), but rewards can be transferred to a linked ThankYou account (3.4% return based on TPG’s valuations)
- 0% Intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers (balance transfers must be completed in the first four months of account opening); after that, the variable APR will be 13.99% – 23.99% based on your creditworthiness
Annual fee: None
The Citi Double Cash Card is a no-annual-fee everyday spending card that awards 1% cash back when you make a purchase and another 1% back when you pay that charge off for a total 2% return. However, if you have a Citi ThankYou card such as the Citi Premier® Card, you can transfer the rewards earned by your Citi Double Cash Card to your ThankYou account where they’ll become full-fledged ThankYou points. So, the Citi Double Cash Card’s 2% cash back return can become a 3.4% return if you transfer your rewards to a linked ThankYou account.
Related reading: Citi Double Cash credit card review
Apply here: Citi Double Cash Card
Sign-up bonus: $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening
- Purchase protection covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft, up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account
- Extended warranty extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year on eligible warranties of three years or less
- 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases. After the intro period, a variable APR of 14.99% – 23.74% applies.
Annual fee: None
The Chase Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5% cash back on purchases with increased earnings on the following categories: 5% back on travel booked through Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining and 3% back on drugstores.
If you have a premium Ultimate Rewards card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, you can convert the rewards earned by your Chase Freedom Unlimited into Ultimate Rewards points. The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a great companion to any of the premium Ultimate Rewards cards because it boosts your non-bonus category earning — including charitable donations — from 1x to 1.5x.
Related reading: Chase Freedom Unlimited: A surprisingly great credit card
Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Rewards rates: 2 Capital One miles per dollar spent on everything (2.8% return based on TPG’s valuations)
- No foreign transaction fees
- Auto rental collision damage waiver when you rent an eligible vehicle with your card
- Up to $100 credit every four years for a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee that is charged to your card
Annual fee: $95
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers two miles per dollar spent on all purchases, including donations. You can use the miles to pay off recent travel purchases you make on the card or you can transfer your miles to airline partners. TPG values Capital One miles at 1.4 cents each due to the value you can get by transferring your miles to partners — and unlike some of the other cards described in this guide, you don’t need to have another card in your wallet to unlock the ability to transfer your rewards to travel partners.
Related reading: Review of the Capital One Venture Rewards card
Sign-up bonus: 50,000 bonus points after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Rewards rates: 2 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every dollar spent on other purchases
- Up to a $100 airline incidental statement credit annually for qualifying purchases
- Up to a $100 statement credit every four years to reimburse a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee
- No foreign transaction fees
- Travel insurance protections to assist with trip delays, cancellations and interruptions, baggage delay inconvenience, lost luggage and emergency evacuation and transportation
Annual fee: $95
The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card earns 1.5 points per dollar spent on non-bonus categories, such as charitable donations. However, you can earn up to a 75% bonus on the points earned on this card based on your status level within the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program.
- Gold level requires $20,000 in assets and awards a 25% rewards bonus
- Platinum level requires $50,000 in assets and awards a 50% rewards bonus
- Platinum Honors level requires $100,000 in assets and awards a 75% rewards bonus
At the highest Platinum Honors tier, that’s a 75% bonus on the regular 1.5x ratio for a total of 2.625 cents in rewards per dollar.
Welcome offer: 85,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases on the Business Platinum Card within the first three months of card membership.
Rewards rates: Plus, earn 5x points on eligible purchases in 5 select business categories, up to 80,000 bonus points per category in the first three months of account opening. Five Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com (10% return based on TPG’s valuations), 1.5 points per dollar spent on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more (up to one million additional points per year, 3% return) and one point per dollar spent on all other purchases (2% return)
- Access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection including Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges and more
- Up to $200 airline fee credit for incidental fees that are charged to your card by one qualifying airline that you select
- 35% airline bonus when you book a first- or business-class flight, or any class flight with your selected qualifying airline, with American Express Travel using Membership Rewards Pay with Points (up to 500,000 points back per calendar year)
- Hilton Honors Gold status and Marriott Bonvoy Gold status
- Up to $400 annual Dell statement credit, distributed as up to $200 in statement credits between January and June and up to $200 in statement credits between July and December, for U.S. purchases with Dell on your card after you enroll
- Statement credit for one Global Entry application fee every four years or one TSA PreCheck application fee every 4.5 years (up to $100)
- No foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees)
Annual fee: $595 (see rates and fees)
Finally, if you’re feeling generous and looking to make a donation of $5,000 or more, The Business Platinum Card from American Express offers 1.5x Membership Rewards points for all purchases over $5,000. Just make sure that wherever you make your donation, the entire amount is charged as one transaction and not split into two or more payments — such as a monthly giving schedule — because you’ll only get the 1.5x multiplier on charges over $5,000 made as one single purchase.
Apply here: The Business Platinum Card from American Express
Best ways to redeem points for donations
When it comes to donating your hard-earned points, there are several opportunities out there. I wanted to spotlight two programs that make it easy to redeem towards thousands of fundraisers or nonprofits.
Both American Express Membership Rewards and Hilton Honors allow points in these programs to be used towards a diverse array of nonprofit organizations. Amex partners with JustGiving and Hilton partners with PointWorthy to make the process straightforward by linking your accounts.
You can earn Membership Rewards points by holding an Amex card; here are some of our best Amex card options. Likewise, Hilton Honors points can be earned not only with stays at a Hilton property but also by signing up for a Hilton credit card.
Should I sign up for a new card before making a large donation?
If you’re considering making a large donation, you may want to sign up for a new credit card before making the donation. By doing so, you can make significant progress toward the spending required to obtain the card’s sign-up bonus. Or, if you don’t want to sign up for a new card, consider whether you have a card with a threshold spending bonus.
Does the charity get my full donation?
In most cases, merchants (including charities) are charged fees on credit card charges.
For most cards and merchants, these fees are between two to four percent of the amount charged. So realize that if you donate $1,000 to a charity, the charity will likely only get $960 to $980 of your donation once various card processing fees are levied by the bank. If you want a set amount to reach your charity of choice, you may want to give a little extra to cover the credit card charges (you could also just donate using a debit card, check or cash, but then you won’t earn any rewards on the donation).
Can I donate points to charity?
Some hotel loyalty programs, airline loyalty programs and transferable currencies allow you to donate your miles to charity. However, as mentioned above, Amex and Hilton really take the crown when it comes to the number of nonprofits that you could support. There are thousands of charities that you can donate Amex Membership Rewards or Hilton Honors points towards.
Additionally, while we typically prefer to accrue miles and points and use them to travel, donating a small amount of miles or points can be a great way to keep your points and miles from expiring. Of course, if you have a large stash of points and want to do good — without spending cash — using points can make sense too.
Additional reporting by Chris Dong and Summer Hull.
Featured image by Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock
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