The Best Credit Cards to Use for Charitable Donations
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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature
We know from experience that many TPG readers have very big hearts, and with the Carolinas and surrounding region suffering from the effects of Hurricane Florence, along with Typhoon Mangkhut hitting Hong Kong and the Philippines, folks may be eager to send help to those in need. As with everything, there are credit cards that are more rewarding when charging charitable donations than others, and if you’re looking to maximize a charitable donation from a miles and points perspective, we want to help you out.
Be aware that in most cases, the charity is charged an interchange fee on credit card charges, just as is the case when you use a credit card at a restaurant, retail store and so on (which is how the banks afford your points). In rare cases, banks have waived these fees for charities accepting credit cards donations during times of extreme disaster. But outside of those rare exceptions, know that $1.40-$2.00+ out of every $100 in donations charged to a rewards credit card will probably not make it to the charity due to card processing fees. So to get more of your money directly to the charity, consider using a debit card, check or cash.
That said, people generally donate more when it’s convenient, so don’t let extra hurdles stop you from sending money. With that in mind, here are six of the best credit cards to use when donating to charity.
1. U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature
The U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card is the only credit card in this lineup that specifically has charitable donations as one of its built-in bonus categories, earning 2 points per dollar on charitable donations as a permanent bonus category. The rate was actually higher at 3 points per dollar until 2018, when it dropped by a point as part of the card’s earning structure overhaul. The points earned on this card are worth a fixed value of 1.5 cents per point when redeemed for eligible travel charges, meaning that you earn 3 cents in travel for every $1 of eligible donation.
Annual Fee: $0 the first year, then $49.
The Blue Business Plus is a great choice for small business owners who want to make charitable donations (and beyond), as it has no annual fee and earns a staggering 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar on all purchases, up to the first $50,000 per year (then 1x thereafter). If you value transferable Membership Rewards points at 1.9 cents each like TPG, that’s like getting 3.8 cents in value per dollar charged on the first $50,000 charged annually.
Annual Fee: $0 (See Rates & Fees)
The Chase Freedom Unlimited has no annual fee and earns 1.5% cash back — which can be converted to Ultimate Rewards points. There isn’t a special bonus category for charitable donations on the Freedom Unlimited, but since TPG values Ultimate Rewards points at 2 cents each if you also have a premium Ultimate Rewards card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, that makes for a potential 3 cents in value for every dollar you spend.
Annual Fee: $0, though the premium cards you need to make these points more valuable and transferrable to travel partners do carry annual fees.
This card earns 1.5 points per dollar spent on non-bonused 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. Again, this is not a charity specific bonus, but a good card to use for charity donations — especially if you’re in a higher Bank of America Preferred Rewards tier.
Annual Fee: $95
If you want to charge your charitable donation and get some cash back, you could use the Citi® Double Cash Card, which awards 1% cash back when you make a purchase and another 1% back when you pay that charge off. The card carries no annual fee and couldn’t be much more simple, so
Annual Fee: $0
More interested in travel than cash back? The Capital One Venture Rewards card offers 2x miles on all purchases, including donations, and you can use the miles to “erase” any travel purchases you make on the card over the previous 90 days. The Venture card does come with a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived for the first year. And when you’re traveling yourself, you can also use the Capital One Venture to earn a whopping 10x miles per dollar on hotel reservations made with Hotels.com through the dedicated link and paid for with the Venture Rewards card.
Annual Fee: $0 the first year, then $95
Finally, if you’re feeling extremely generous and looking to make a donation of $5,000 or more, the Amex Business Platinum Card offers 1.5x Membership Rewards points for all purchases over $5,000. TPG himself used his own Amex Business Centurion card — which has the same 1.5x feature for large purchases — when he made his donation to Bethenny Frankel’s #BStrong initiative to assist with hurricane relief. 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.
Annual Fee: $595 (See Rates & Fees)
If charging a donation is best for your situation, a charity would prefer to get 98% of the money rather than 0%. And since most cards don’t have a specific bonus category for charity, you generally don’t have to worry about how the charge gets coded to make the most of your donation. So if you’re going to use a credit card for your donation, make sure to choose one that earns you a little something back.
Featured image by Spencer Platt / Getty Images.
This card from Bank of America gets really interesting if you have a BofA checking, savings or investment account. Depending on the value of your combined accounts you can potentially get as much as 3.5x points on travel/dining and 2.625x points on other purchases making it the richest consumer banking bonus out there.
- Receive 50,000 bonus points – a $500 value – after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
- Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
- If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase
- No limit to the points you can earn and your points don't expire
- Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center
- Get up to $200 in combined airline incidental and airport expedited screening statement credits + valuable travel insurance protections
- No Foreign Transaction Fees
- Low $95 annual fee