Affinity Credit Cards - Using a Credit Card to Help Others

Using your heart and your mind in the choice of an affinity credit card will lead to a strong partnership that benefits everyone.

A strong bond is created when individuals and non-profit organizations partner together to reach a common goal. Individuals get the opportunity to be a part of something larger than themselves, and non-profits receive the donated time and money needed to make the operation work. Yet, at times it can be difficult for individuals to find extra money in the budget to donate to a worthy cause. So, when your budget stretches you to the limit and still the heartstrings pull, consider using an affinity credit card.

An affinity credit card expands the partnership of individual and non-profit by adding a third party - a financial lender. With each credit card purchase, the non-profit receives a small donation. The consumer still participates in the work of the organization, but at no additional cost. A weekly run to the grocery store using an affinity card now turns into a charitable donation benefiting any number of organizations!

One such organization benefiting from affinity credit cards is The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Steve Putnam, Vice President of Business Development and Corporate Relations says their affinity card program offered through MBNA started over 10 years ago, has 35,000 open accounts, and "has consistently contributed well into the six figures each year." According to Putnam, the donations are used to support every program including efforts to strengthen animal cruelty laws, resolve conflict with wildlife, protect wildlife habitat, offer humane education programs in schools, spay and neuter dogs and cats, promote shelter adoptions, and provide disaster relief for animals. The HSUS depend on programs like the affinity card to meet these goals.

The variety of affinity cards offered is as broad as the variety of people. Anyone can find an affinity card that suits their passion. Do you desire to support your child's education? Check out the Target affinity card that donates to a local school of your choice. Want to help less fortunate and homeless people? With the Visa Elvis Presley card offered through MBNA, a portion of every purchase is donated to the Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation. Alumni organizations, the American Cancer Society, and children's causes are just a few more of the many to choose from. Although the choice to use a particular affinity credit card is impacted greatly by passion for a specific cause, as with all financial matters it is also important to consider the facts.

  • Some affinity cards come with a high APR or annual fees, so make sure you know exactly what you are getting into. If you don't plan to pay the credit card off each month, you may end up paying more in interest than the organization receives. In this case it might be more beneficial and less costly to give a small donation directly to the organization. One consumer, Chris, a member of CreditBoards, was first attracted to the Smithsonian Institution WorldPoints Platinum Plus card offered through MBNA because it offered a low APR that was fixed. The contribution to the Smithsonian Institution was an added benefit.
  • Find out exactly how much of each purchase, cash advance, or balance transferis being donated. Dan, another member of CreditBoards, used a card that benefited his Alumni association, but the percentage of each purchase was only .25%. By switching to a card that offered a 1% cash rebate he was actually able to contribute more.
  • Understand what it takes to make a donation. Some organizations only receive donations on actual purchases and not cash advances or balance transfers.
  • Personal perks may be limited with affinity cards. You cannot deduct the contribution on your tax return. In addition, some don't offer benefits such as airline miles and other credit card rewards.
  • Finally, guard your spending habits. Chris says, "Since you identify yourself with the card, it tends to be the primary card in one's wallet...and unless you are a person who watches spending carefully, it's real easy to charge high amounts on the card and get trapped in a financial quicksand."

The bottom line is to always read the fine print to know exactly what you are getting into. The desire to partner with an organization for a deserving cause combined with a well-thought out decision based on facts leads to a lasting partnership benefiting all parties.

Consumer Tip! Visit the Card Cards section of our website to compare affinity credit card offers.