Credit Cards for EA Giving

by HStencil3 min read11th Nov 20198 comments

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Personal finance
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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.

Chase Freedom

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 $100, 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.

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I noticed that someone used my referral link to open a Capital One card and wanted to confirm for them that I've given $80 of the referral bonus to Malaria Consortium's SMC program, on the understanding that it is currently GiveWell's top recommendation.

Thanks for coming back to follow up on this! (I wasn't the person who opened the card, but as a Forum moderator, I appreciate when people confirm that they've followed through on things like this.)

Chase Freedom seems like a good option for Giving Tuesday. I am not finding your referral link for it though (I don't see BofA one either for that matter).

Actually I just re-read it and saw the $1500 limit which, unfortunately, takes it out of the running for me. Been meaning to sign up for the Double Dash for a while. Does anyone know if that 2% cash back applies to Facebook Fundraisers or if any of the others do or are a better option in that respect? I will likely try to do $10-15k this year, so limits are a deal-breaker, unless they are pretty high.

For people spending larger amounts, Citi Double Cash or Alliant Cashback Visa Signature are probably the best options. The Double Cash card has no annual fee and gives 2% back (assuming you pay off your credit-card bill in full). The Alliant card gives 3% cash back and waives the annual fee the first year, and gives 2.5% cash back and charges $99 in subsequent years. So you'd need to spend at least $20k per year for the Alliant card to be a better option in the long run.

Even with 2.5% cash back, it would be a better deal to send a check to the charity if the amount is large (say $10k+), the fees aren't waived, and there's no donation match that requires paying online.

Here's a good summary of the best cash-back credit cards, including most of the ones mentioned in the post.

Thanks for this. I have been meaning to get the Double Dash, but did not know about the Alliant. I'll have to review my spending patterns but that may be the better option.

FaceBook's Giving Tuesday (tomorrow!) is an example of a donation match that requires paying online.

Oops, sorry - not sure what happened to the Chase referral link, but I edited the post to add it. BofA isn't running a referral program right now, so there isn't a link for that card.

All of those flat-rate cards at the bottom should return 2% (or 1.8% in the case of Citizens, 1.5% in the case of Capital One, etc.) on payments through Facebook Fundraisers, given that their fixed cash back rates apply to all transactions. I can't personally confirm that, not owning any of the 2% cards myself, but assuming they follow their policies, you should be just fine.