As we approach the end-of-year giving season, I thought it might be helpful to flag some opportunities to earn significant cash back on donations to EA charities using (U.S.) credit cards that don’t charge annual fees.
The Chase Freedom card offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases quarterly in a set of “bonus categories” that rotate each quarter (along with 1% cash back on all other purchases and, presently, a $200 sign-up bonus, contingent on $500 of purchases in the first 90 days).
Importantly, this quarter, one of the bonus categories covers all purchases made via PayPal, including donations made through the PayPal Giving Fund. Many EA charities accept donations through the PayPal Giving Fund, including the Against Malaria Foundation, Evidence Action, GiveDirectly, The Humane League, and The Good Food Institute. Moreover, PayPal covers the credit card interchange fees for donations made through its giving fund, meaning that all of the money you donate ends up in the recipient charity’s pocket.
I recently opened a Chase Freedom card largely for this reason, and as a result, I can now refer others to the card. For each person who applies at this link, I’ll get $50, of which I will donate 80% to one of GiveWell’s top charities (probably the AMF) through the PayPal Giving Fund.
Bank of America Cash Rewards
The Bank of America Cash Rewards card offers 3% cash back on purchases in one of six categories: gas, dining, drug stores, home improvement/furnishings, online shopping, and travel, 2% cash back on purchases at grocery stores or wholesale clubs, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. In conjunction, rewards in the 2% and 3% categories only accrue at those rates on the first $2,500 of purchases in those categories each quarter, after which point the rewards rate for such purchases drops down to 1%. It also currently offers a $200 sign-up bonus (contingent on $1,000 of purchases in the first 90 days).
The online shopping category is the key. By selecting it, you can earn 3% cash back on, as far as I can tell, pretty much any online charitable giving. At the very least, I’ve personally confirmed that the 3% rewards apply to donations made through EA Funds and Facebook Fundraisers. Two caveats here: 1) if you give to charities based outside of the U.S., you may be charged a 3% foreign transaction fee; 2) it is possible that the 3% rate wouldn’t apply to donations made to educational institutions on account of the fact that educational expenses (as well as utilities expenses) are exempted from Bank of America’s online shopping classification.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Bank of America offers special editions of this card in partnership with the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund. In each case, the partnership charity receives $3 per year that the card is active, along with 0.08% of the value of all purchases made using the card, from Bank of America. This isn’t a ton of money, and these organizations obviously aren’t generally thought of as EA charities, but there’s a reasonable case to be made that each of them is having a non-negligible positive impact on the world. Accordingly, I view these cards as particularly interesting options for aligned EAs.
Some Other Cards with Big Referral Bonuses
These cards aren’t, I don’t think, particularly appealing options for giving. I believe that they are, however, good credit cards for other reasons. I’m including them here because they both offer $100 referral bonuses (meaning that I’ll get $100 for each successful applicant I refer), and I would give 80% of the proceeds of any such referral bonuses to one of GiveWell’s top charities (once again, probably the AMF).
Capital One SavorOne
The Capital One SavorOne card offers (unlimited) 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% cash back on groceries, and 1% cash back on everything else. It also offers a $150 sign-up bonus, contingent on $500 of purchases in the first 90 days, and it doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. You can find my referral link here.
Capital One Quicksilver
The Capital One Quicksilver card offers a flat 1.5% rate of unlimited cash back on all purchases made using the card. It also offers a $150 sign-up bonus, contingent on $500 of purchases in the first 90 days, and it doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. You can find my referral link here.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t the most generous no-fee, flat-rate card on the market; the Citi Double Cash (2%), PayPal Cashback (2%), Fidelity Rewards (2%), and Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus (1.8%) all beat it. However, there are a variety of reasons why one might prefer the Capital One card to those options, including its sign-up bonus, better customer service, better ease-of-redemption, and the absence of a foreign transaction fee.