Two weeks ago, TriplePundit.com ran an article about socially responsible credit cards. The article covered credit cards offered through Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) whose mission includes supporting economic development in low to moderate income areas. There is another type of credit card, affinity cards, that also link social benefit with credit-based purchases.
What are affinity cards?
Affinity cards are offered through partnerships between major banks and nonprofit organizations. Every time you make a purchase with your affinity credit card, your banking institution donates a percentage to the nonprofit partner.
Do they really make an impact?
It’s hard to generalize what kind of impact you can really make when using an affinity credit card as it depends on the contract between the bank and the nonprofit. In a dailyfinance.com post, Lita Epstein talks about some of the pros and cons of affinity credit cards. One example she uses is the Susan G. Komen for the Cure card offered through Bank of America. The organization receives $3 for each new account and .20 percent of net retail purchases.
Green America, in an article titled Responsible Credit Cards, says that on average, nonprofits will receive “half a penny for every dollar you charge or transfer.” This doesn’t sound like a lot, but over time and with many credit card users these small amounts can add up to large donations for those nonprofits. However, there are lots of other factors to consider when measuring the impact of donations through affinity cards. Are your donations tax deductible? What kinds of fees are you paying through your affinity card? What are the ethical practices of the bank offering the card? These questions should be considered carefully before deciding on a credit card; you want to know whether your donation would have a bigger impact if it went directly to the nonprofit.
The Working Assets Visa card is offered in partnership with Bank of America. When you use this card, ten cents from every transaction is donated to forty different progressive organizations.
Another Bank of America card, offered in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, donates $100 after qualifying transactions, additional contributions with each purchase and a tree is planted in Brazil every year a card user remains active.
Signal Financial Federal Credit Union offers three different affinity credit cards: one focuses on cycling safety, one supports clean energy and the third supports cooperative development. In all cases, two cents are donated with each purchase.
[Image Credit: Working Assets]
Heidi Sistare is a freelance writer who just completed the documentary writing and multimedia storytelling program at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. She holds a BA in Social Work from Warren Wilson College and has experience in non-profit management, community development, and planning for small businesses. Visit her website at: www.heidisistare.com