First, there was the banking collapse of 2008. Then, in 2011, tents popped up in Zuccotti park and the Occupy movement began. In the last five years people from all walks of life have begun to ask serious questions about how the banking system does or does not support people, communities, and the environment. Of course these questions didn’t begin in 2008 and they certainly continue now after most Occupy campers have cleared their sites.
For those of us who are concerned about the social impact of the companies we entrust with our money, it helps to have a guide for sorting through our options. There are many banking products to look at: retirement accounts, mutual funds, checking and savings accounts and credit cards. In 2008, TriplePundit ran an article about socially responsible credit cards. The article differentiated between affinity cards, which are cards issued by a major bank in collaboration with a particular non-profit, and credit cards that are offered through socially responsible financial institutions.
Green America, a non-profit membership organization focused on economic, social and environmental sustainability, published an article titled Responsible Credit Cards. Green America recommends banking with a community development bank (banks with a mission to support economic development in low to moderate income communities and certified by the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund) or a credit union (“member-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperatives”).
Green America features nine credit cards that are offered by community development banks or credit unions. The cards they list include:
Hope Credit Union Platinum MasterCard: No annual fee, credit limits up to $10,000. Credit union's mission is to "strengthen communities, build assets, and improve lives in economically distressed parts of the Mid South."
Permaculture Credit Union Visa Card: No annual fee. Credit union operates based on the ethics of permaculture: "care of the earth, care of people and reinvestment of surplus for the betterment of both."
One Pacific Coast Bank Visa Platinum Card: No annual fee. The bank works to "produce meaningful social justice and environmental benefits at the same time that it is financially sustainable."
Self Help Credit Union Visa Classic Card: 12.95% APR. No annual fee. Credit union's mission is "creating and protecting ownership and economic opportunity for all."For more information about community banking and socially responsible credit cards you can download a pdf of the Green America Community Investing Guide. Check out the TriplePundit site next week for another article focused on affinity credit cards. [photo credit: Images_of_Money] 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
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