If charitable donations are a part of your ongoing household budget or you simply pause once a year to make an annual donation to your favorite cause, you may be interested in how to earn rewards on such a transaction.
While it’s rare that credit cards offer any bonus category earnings for charitable giving, there are still plenty of opportunities for earning rewards on charitable donations.
And that’s what we’re going to be discussing today. We’re going to look at a few scenarios where it might make sense to utilize your card to earn rewards on your donations and also look at another option for earning rewards while still making a difference.
Then finally, we’ll review how to donate your miles and hotel points to a worthy cause.
Let’s move forward to explore the possibility of earning rewards on your charitable donations.
Why Use a Credit Card for Charitable Donations
The primary reason you’d want to use your credit card for charitable donations is to earn rewards. Donating to charity using a rewards-earning card is not only convenient, but you’ll be also earning rewards on every dollar donated.
Additionally, credit card annual statements can work well for keeping track of expenses, including charitable donations.
Downsides of Using a Credit Card for Charitable Donations
We’re all familiar with the fees credit card payment processors/issuers charge merchants. The same fees can be charged to charitable organizations when you donate using your credit card.
Granted, the organization is probably happy to receive the donation and likely not reluctant to pay a fee in order to receive the funds. However, you could simply add 3% to the donation made with your credit card to cover any fee on the organization’s behalf.
Bottom Line: Making a charitable donation using a rewards-earning credit card allows you to earn rewards while giving back. You can offset any fees charged to the organization by adding an additional amount to your total donation to cover some of their costs.
The 5 Best Personal Credit Cards for Charitable Donations
If you want to make a cash donation and earn rewards by using your credit card to do so, ideally you’ll want to use a card that earns the most rewards possible per dollar spent.
Since most credit cards earn just 1x reward on every dollar spent, let’s look at some examples of cards that offer higher earnings of 1.5x rewards, 1.5% cash-back, or greater.
1. Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
This top premium card with worldwide lounge access, a $300 Capital One Travel credit, 10,000 Capital One miles at renewal, and cell phone coverage, offers tremendous value. You’ll also have the ability to transfer miles earned on the card to airline and hotel partners to purchase award flights and free hotel nights.
And when it comes to earnings, you’ll enjoy bonus earning categories that deliver up to 10x miles per dollar spent. Every other purchase will earn 2x miles, including charitable donations made with the card.
2. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Capital One keeps it simple when it comes to earning rewards on the CapOne Venture card. You’ll earn unlimited 2x miles per dollar spent on every purchase you make, including charitable donations.
There are plenty of redemption options as well. Redeem for travel via the issuer’s travel portal or transfer to airline/hotel partners.
3. Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Continuing with the simplicity of earnings theme, every purchase you make on the Freedom Unlimited card earns a consistent 1.5% cash-back per dollar spent.
What’s unique about the card, however, is that rewards are earned in the form of valuable Ultimate Rewards points that can be transferred to premium Chase credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® and subsequently redeemed for up to 50% more value for travel. You can also transfer points to airline/hotel partners for even greater potential value.
4. Citi® Double Cash Card
The Double Cash card has that name for a reason — you’ll earn 1x ThankYou Point when you make a charge and 1x ThankYou Point when you pay off that charge. This translates to 2x ThankYou Points on every purchase you make, including charitable donations.
You can redeem your ThankYou Points for cash-back, but you’ll also find you can pair the Double Cash card with a premium Citi card like the Citi Premier® Card to transfer the cash-back to Citi ThankYou Points to use with the full gamut of Citi’s transfer partners.
5. Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
If you’re a Hilton fan and frequent traveler, you’ll relish the complimentary top Diamond elite status, statement credits for specific travel purchases, and Priority Pass lounge access that comes with this card. The card is also big on earnings at Hilton, for travel, and on dining.
Since the card earns 3x Hilton Honors points on all other purchases, your charitable donation made with the card will also receive 3x earnings.
Bottom Line: It’s rare to find charitable donations as a bonus-earning category on your favorite credit card. For this reason, you’ll want to find a card, such as the ones mentioned here, that earns well on non-bonus category purchases.
The 3 Best Business Credit Cards for Charitable Donations
Your business credit card could be an excellent choice for making a charitable donation. Here are some of the best business cards to use that earn 1.5% cash-back or 1.5x points or greater.
1. The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
The Amex Business Platinum card earns 1.5x Membership Rewards points on eligible purchases in key business categories, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, including charitable donations. Note that the 1.5x earnings is capped at $2 million in purchases per calendar year.
The card is best for businesses that involve travel as the card rewards flights and prepaid hotels purchased via Amex Travel with 5x points per dollar spent. In addition, when your business redeems points for travel, you’ll receive a 35% rebate. Statement credits for CLEAR membership and on Dell purchases add further value.
2. Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card
The Ink Business Unlimited card earns 1.5% cash-back on every purchase, including any charitable donations you make with the card. Rewards are initially earned as Chase Ultimate Rewards points that can be redeemed for cash-back or for travel at a value of 1 cent apiece.
However, points earned on the card are also transferable to Chase premium cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and Chase Sapphire Reserve card and redeemed for up to 50% more in value or transferred to travel partners for even greater potential value.
3. Capital One Spark Miles for Business
Busy business owners will like earning unlimited 2x miles per dollar spent on the CapOne Spark Miles card, regardless of purchase category. This also means that your charitable donation will receive the same 2x earnings.
Additionally, the card comes with a generous welcome bonus.
Bottom Line: If your business is making charitable donations, using your business credit card for those transactions can earn rewards that can generate value to offset business expenses.
Using Credit Cards To Fund Microloans
While you can certainly make a charitable donation directly using your credit card, you can also use your rewards-earning credit card to fund microlending. Microloans are not donations, meaning you can receive your money back over time.
One of the most popular organizations that facilitates microloans is Kiva. Kiva helps the bank-less population throughout the world secure small loans for education, to start a small business, or receive emergency care. The organization reports a 96.2% repayment rate.
While we in no way endorse Kiva specifically — or have any affiliation — you should know that microloans via an established facilitator are another way to make a difference while at the same time earning rewards on your card.
An ongoing microloan expenditure can also help meet minimum-spending requirements for new cards or reach spending thresholds commonly found on many airline- or hotel-branded cards.
Once again, loans are not guaranteed and the money is paid back over time so your funds can be tied up.
Bottom Line: Using your credit card to make microloans via a provider organization such as Kiva is an alternative to meet minimum spending levels if it fits your situation and comfort level.
Donating Credit Card Points to Charity
It’s possible to donate the rewards points earned on your credit card to charity or even redeem your points as a statement credit after making a charitable deduction with your card. Here’s how to donate or utilize some of the most popular rewards.
American Express Membership Rewards Points
Log in to your Membership Rewards account and select the Rewards option, then Pay with Points at Checkout, then the JustGiving option.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Chase cardholders may redeem their Chase Ultimate Rewards as a statement credit after making a charitable donation to their choice of over a dozen select charities with their card through December 2022. Donations made within the past 90 days will qualify for this Pay Yourself Back benefit.
Eligible cards include Chase Sapphire, Ink, and Freedom cards. Here’s how much your points will be worth when redeemed for a statement credit for qualifying charitable deductions:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve card — 1.5 cents per point
The following Chase credit cards offer statement credits via Pay Yourself back at the rate of 1.25 cents per point.
Eligible charities include:
- American Red Cross
- Equal Justice Initiative
- Feeding America
- Habitat for Humanity
- International Medical Corporation
- Leadership Education Fund
- NAACP Legal Defence and Education Fund
- National Urban League
- Thurgood Marshall College Fund
- United Negro College Fund
- United WayWorld Central Kitchen
Bottom Line: Select Chase cardholders can utilize the Pay Yourself Back benefit to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points as a statement credit towards eligible charitable deductions made within the past 90 days. This benefit is currently valid through December 2022.
Citi ThankYou Points
Donate your Citi ThankYou Points via the points redemption option found when you log in to your online Citi account.
Bottom Line: Donating your points to a charitable organization may not result in the best value for your points. Do the math to determine if making a donation using your credit card makes more sense. Also, watch for promotions such as on Giving Tuesdays when card issuers might match donations.
Donating Airline Miles and Hotel Points to Charity
While donating frequent flyer miles or hotel points is normally not tax-deductible from an individual donor (reference the IRS or contact your tax advisor for more information), it can still achieve the bottom-line goal of helping those in need.
Whether for disaster relief, to transport patients for life-saving surgery, or other nonprofit organizational needs, donating the miles/points you earn can make a difference.
Donating points or miles can also count as activity and keep your loyalty program account active so that points/miles don’t expire.
Let’s look at some of the most popular airline and hotel charitable programs and how to donate your miles/points.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
Mileage Plan members can donate their Alaska Airline miles to several organizations via the LIFT Miles program.
Here’s how to earn Alaska Mileage Plan miles.
American Airlines AAdvantage
Donate your miles via American Airlines’ Let Good Take Flight program.
Some of the best credit cards for earning American Airlines AAdvantage miles can be found here.
Donate miles to participating charities via Delta Air Lines’ SkyWish.
Here are some of the best credit cards for earning Delta SkyMiles.
Donate your Hilton Honors points to projects throughout the world via the Global Giving program.
Here are some of the best credit cards for earning Hilton Honors hotel points.
JetBlue TrueBlue members can donate points to a good cause via this link.
JetBlue points can be earned on JetBlue-branded cards.
Select from several different charities to which you can donate your Marriott Bonvoy points at the Giving Platform.
Learn how to earn lots of Marriott Bonvoy points in our informative article.
Hot Tip: Additional hotel loyalty programs that allow you to donate your points include Choice Hotels and Wyndham.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
Donate points to any of 7 different charities with Southwest’s Points for a Purpose.
Some of the best credit cards for earning Southwest points can be found in our guide.
United Airlines MileagePlus
Make a difference with your miles by donating to United MileagePlus Miles on a Mission.
Learn about how to earn United MileagePlus miles via United-branded cards.
If you want to learn more about donating your points, miles, or credit card rewards to charity, we go into more detail in our article on the topic.
If you’re making charitable donations, it makes sense to use a rewards-earning credit card to do so. You’ll want to keep in mind any fees the organization might be charged, and decide whether you want to increase your donation to offset some of that cost.
If your situation allows, you may also consider funding microloans with your rewards-earning card, but do so with caution knowing you may not receive all of your funds back. Also, make your transaction with a respected organization that facilitates then manages these loans.
Finally, donating your miles or hotel points is a generous option. While chances are you won’t receive a tax deduction or earn rewards on the transaction, you will make a difference with the gesture.
The information regarding the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, Capital One Spark Miles for Business, and Ink Business Plus® Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.