Better ways to give than charity credit cards

The idea of effortlessly donating to charity simply by spending on your credit card is an attractive one. But the amount charities receive is pitiful. There are much better ways of donating via credit cards.

If you want to give away money while you shop, you might think a charity credit card would be a good way to go. You'd be wrong. The idea is nice you take out the card and the provider then makes a donation when you open your account, and again every time you use the card. The problem? The donations are pitifully small.

Take the Greenpeace Platinum credit card. It is one of the worst examples of just how paltry these donations can be. When you open the account, £15 is donated to Greenpeace, a further £2.50 is handed over if the account is used within six months, and 25p is then given for every £100 spent. So, if you spent £1,000 a month on the card in the year you take it out, Greenpeace will get £47.50. That's not much for £12,000 worth of spending. But in the second year, when all the charity is getting is the 25p per £100, if you spend £1,000, Greenpeace will get a mere £2.50. So £12,000 worth of spending adds up to £30.

The Greenpeace card isn't the only poor performer. Based on the same spending pattern as above, the Cancer Research UK card offered by Halifax would donate £50 in the first year, the National Trust card from MBNA £72, the Virgin Charity Credit Card £96, and the American Express Red credit card £120. That's the bad news. The good news is that there is a better way: according to you can make more money from cashback credit cards and you can then give that away.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

Spend the same amount again with the Platinum Cashback card from American Express, and you would get £203.75 back over the year, for example. If you do make the switch and you probably should just be aware that cashback credit cards are only worthwhile if you clear your balance in full each month. The American Express Platinum Cashback card is interest free for purchases for the first six months, but then the rate leaps up to 19.9% APR. So if you don't clear your balance, your debt will quickly start to build up.

Ruth Jackson-Kirby

Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance. 

Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.

Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.