The credit cards & banks that help you live more sustainably
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Updated July 29:
A wave of companies providing “greener” products and services have sprung up in response to a greater concern for the environment. Consumers can now find everything from sneakers made of recycled plastic to car dashboards built with eucalyptus trees.
But the impact of your green shopping choices may not matter if the bank issuing your credit card or managing your account is using its profits to promote fossil fuels.
Financing for “extreme fossil fuel”, which includes oil from the Arctic, natural gas export, coal mining and deep underwater drilling, increased from 2016 to 2017, according to a report analyzing 36 of the biggest banks in the world. Outside of China, financing for coal mining has also increased by more than double from 2016 to 2017.
So how can you help promote companies that share your values? One way is through your credit card or bank.
Some credit card providers will allow you to donate cash rewards to the charity of your choice. American Express, Chase and Discover are examples of card providers that let you donate directly through their online website. All you need is a regular cash rewards credit card.
If you want a credit card that specifically supports environmental organizations, here are a few options to consider.
Bank of America affinity cards
Affinity cards partner organizations and charities with banks. When people spend money with an affinity card, a percentage of the purchase goes to the charity.
Bank of America has one of the biggest selections of affinity cards. These sustainably-focused cards, available as both credit and debit cards, include rewards for Defenders of Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund.
Exact donations and rewards for cardholders differ by card and over time. Typically the partner organization will receive donations of 0.08% of the purchase. They also receive a few dollars each time someone opens a new card account or renews their current account.
Most cardholders will get 3% cash back in one shopping category of their choice (like gas, dining or travel), 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1% back on all other purchases.
Charity Charge World Mastercard
Want to donate to a specific organization or nonprofit? This card allows you to do just that. All of your purchases with the Charity Charge card earn 1% cash back that’s then donated to a charity, nonprofit, K-12 school, college or religious organization of your choice. Donations are also tax-deductible.
There aren’t many individual credit cards supporting environmental sustainability (or other social causes for that matter). Your best bet is to look for a bank or financial institution that shares your values, and check the services they offer. Here are some specific banks and financial companies to consider.
This online bank offers cash back with its “Aspiration impact measurement score,” a measure of how sustainable the business is. You can get up to 10% cash back at a small group of businesses that includes Warby Parker and Toms.
Aspiration also tries to operate sustainably. According to their website, “your deposits will never go towards funding fossil fuel projects, firearms, or political campaigns.” The company also pledges to donate 10% of its profits to charities.
One financial startup to watch is Doconomy. The company offers a free app (slated for a summer 2019 release) that helps you measure and track the carbon dioxide emissions from your transactions. You can then make a payment to help offset the carbon footprint from your purchases. Your offset payments go to projects certified by the United Nations or they are invested in sustainable funds.
Doconomy is also partnering with Mastercard to release a credit card, the DoBlack Mastercard, in fall 2019. The DoBlack card sets a monthly carbon limit and won’t allow users to spend any more money on the card once they’ve hit that limit. This works similarly to a regular credit limit.
One way to lessen your environmental impact is to shop locally. The same is true for banking. By working with a local bank or credit union, you can help protect and improve your neighborhood. Or get a credit or debit card from a member of the Community Development Bankers Association. Institutions that are part of the CBDA work to promote community development, particularly in low-income areas. You can find local members of the CBDA here.
Online banks manage accounts and transactions entirely online, which limits the fossil fuel usage resulting from operating physical branches. There are many online banks and the number is also growing steadily. In addition to a lower environmental impact, online banks also offer some great high-yield interest accounts, with interest rates as high as 2.25% or more for savings accounts. Some hybrid banks, like Capital One, offer online-only services but do have branches in some states.
Want to decrease your environmental impact even more? Consider sustainable investing — you can learn more about it here.
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