Socially Responsible Credit Cards: Do They Add Up?

Many readers of Triple P consider themselves socially-responsible investors. But what about socially-responsible creditors? How do banks use the profit they make from interest fees, late fees, annual fees, and balance fees? Which banks use our money to further projects of greater worth, and which invest in projects that degrade the plant and contribute to global income disparity? The cover story of this month’s Real Money, distributed by Co-op America, gives us the inside scoop on the best credit cards for our conscience. Many of these cards have great APR, no annual fee, and directly fund several social/eco endeavors.

Conscious credit cards fall into two categories: “affinity cards” and “cards connected to better banks.” Affinity cards are issued by major banks (read: banks that have been historically linked to socially “un”responsible investment practices), in conjunction with a specific organization or charity. The issuing bank donates a percentage of every dollar spent to respective social or environmental groups. Examples of affinity cards include “Working Assets” Visa Card and “Brighter Planet” Visa Card. Both cards are issued by Bank of America.
A smarter choice, according to Co-Op America, is to go with credit cards that are issued by socially responsible banks, credit unions, and community investing institutions. Examples of these type of cards include: WainwrightBank Visa Card, Permaculture Credit Union Visa Card, and Redirect Visa. For more recommendations, see their list here.
Where you put your or your company’s money matters. By switching to a credit card with a mission, you send a message to major institutions that it’s time to get real about responsible investing.

Shannon Arvizu, Ph.D., is a clean tech educator and cutting-edge consultant for the auto industry. You can follow her test drives in the cars of the future at

4 responses

  1. It would seem that if you are a responsible credit card user, that is, you don’t invoke any fees, then you’re still better off going with BofA’s Working Assets card, where real money is donated to various sustainable causes with every purchase… unless you are opposed to B of A’s practices and cancel your Working Assets card out of principle.

  2. According to Co-Op America’s article, less than 1/2 of 1% of every dollar spent on BofA’s affinity cards go to cause-oriented organizations. On the other hand, you may find that cards issued by credit unions, socially responsible banks, or community investing institutions may use more of their profits in ways that are meaningful/impacting.

  3. Well, the best way to use a credit card is to pay the balance immediately after you use it. If you do that, the credit card company will never receive any interest from you. Except American Express and some other credit cards company who ask for a montly or yearly fee to issue the credit card to you.

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