"Green" Credit Cards Are Silly

Bankrate has an article about co-called “green” credit cards that donate a portion of your purchase to environmentally friendly causes. Why are we saying they’re silly?

From Bankrate:

If you want to save the whales, offset CO2 emissions or contribute to another “green” cause, it is now as simple as swipe and sign.

Environmentally friendly credit cards are affinity cards issued by a credit card company. The card issuer donates a portion of your purchases (typically 1 percent through a rewards program) to a green cause. Sometimes the consumer gets to choose the specific cause, but most often the funds go to a general fund from which contributions are made to a variety of causes of the affiliate company’s choosing.

We tend to disagree. Saving the whales isn’t as easy as “swipe and sign.” If you want to give money to environmental causes, sign up for a cash back card and cut the charity a check from the proceeds. It’s tax deductible, and you get to decide where your money goes.

The greening of credit cards [Bankrate]
(Photo:janapochop)

Comments

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  1. rmz says:

    If you want to donate, donate directly. Don’t rely on sheisty corporations to send your money to the right recipients.

  2. TexasScout says:

    Even more Hippie crap…

  3. Christovir says:

    Yeah, because caring about the world we live in is for dirty hippies. Real men don’t care about anything or anyone, right?

  4. Crazytree says:

    @TexasScout: I think you got lost. This is a consumer website, not an Insane Clown Posse message board.

  5. FrankTheTank says:

    Come on, it’s no different than most things we as consumers do to “show our environmentalism”. It’s just like driving a Prius.

    Yeah, there are better things you can do for the environment (like NOT drive), but then people don’t SEE that you’ve spent an extra $3000 to help save the earth. (there’s a reason those civic and escape hybrids aren’t selling as well, while the hybrid that looks different is…)

    Yeah, you can take cash back and donate, but then people don’t see you whipping out your GREEN card.

  6. BobbyMike says:

    It is silly. It’s like choosing Ben & Jerry’s (mmm Cherry Garcia) over other brands because of the owners commitment to a particular cause.

    It confuses the issue (like FrankTheTank says) by making people feel good about their choice, but not necessarily being the best choice in the long run.

  7. Nelsormensch says:

    Vancity, Vancouver’s uber credit union, only offers “enviroVisa” cards. They donate a flat 5% of all Visa profits to a number of local environmental charities. Every year, Vancity’s Visa cardholders vote on a number of issues areas. Vancity then puts out a call for proposals for local charities that have projects that address these issues. The issues this year are:

    * Air Quality & Alternative Transportation
    * Watershed, Wetland and Marine Ecosystem Restoration
    * Renewable Energy
    * Wildlife Preservation & Habitat Restoration

    Last year, about 275,000 CAD was donated to these charities.

    While the scenario described above perhaps is lacking, I think Vancity’s use of an “enviroVisa” is commendable. For both ease and necessity (online shopping, etc.), I use my Vancity Visa quite a bit. While my purchasing habits aren’t measurably influenced by the fact that 5% of the Visa proceeds are going to charity, it certainly doesn’t make me want to use the card less either. I’d rather that 5% go to a charity than into someone’s pocket, that’s for sure.

  8. pestie says:

    Hey, nice job on that whole “expire logins” trick you’re doin’ here, guys! Now you’ll all have to live without the benefit of my scathing wit and sarcasm, since I was not only forcibly logged out, but wasn’t even given a chance to cut-and-paste my post before it evaporated!

  9. thepounder says:

    @Christovir: @Crazytree: Sweet, Insane Clowns and Dirty Hippies.

    Anyway, this is one of those “we’ll guilt you into saving the environment” thingies. I’d prefer to simply cut a check for a reputable eco-charity… not Greenpeace.

    If you want to feel good about yourself, drive a Prius… but if you want to actually do something, then go do something like recycle or volunteer to plant trees.

  10. Craig says:

    The real question is, will the negative impact to the environment of whatever it is you’re charging (excessive packaging materials included) outweigh the positive impact of what little amount the credit card company is donating.

    Better yet, each time you go to use your credit card, stop and think about whether it’s something you really need. If not, consider donating a percentage of the amount to a charity instead (Save the Whales, Save the Males, or whatever).

  11. Craig says:

    Oh, and I happen to like Brussels Sprouts!

  12. Topcat says:

    @Nelsormensch: Second that. I love Vancity and their company-wide commitment to the environment.

    But remember Vancity is a credit union in a coastal, ideology-rich town. There are a lot of banks out there that aren’t as scrupulous. It’s definitely a better idea to commit yourself to a particular organization and give them help/money directly.

  13. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    @TexasScout:
    Even more Hippie crap…

    OK, TexasScout — this is at least the 2nd thread where talking about “hippie crap” was the best you could come up with.

    Do you have anything to CONTRIBUTE to the discussion?

  14. FLConsumer says:

    I’ll have to get ahold of one of these cards so that I can fill up my land yacht and feel good about it…. NOT.

    Wanna do something good for the Earth? Conserve.

  15. Mr. Gunn says:

    You’re missing the main reason it’s silly. 1% is a pretty crappy level of rewards.

  16. Chicago7 says:

    You have to forgive TexasScout – he’s from TEXAS, probably drives a Hummer (or wishes he could afford one).

  17. Parting says:

    I prefer ENRICH card I have, it gives me 1% in cash. Every year, I change charity, when I receive my check from my credit card.

  18. Parting says:

    (Well I don’t spend a lot, so it’s not a enormous amount, but it’s still better than Airmiles)

  19. FLConsumer says:

    @chouchou: Still, there’s cards which pay 1.5% cash back (unlimited on all purchases). If you’re not spending all that much, there’s a few other card cos which pay back higher percentages, but usually cap cash back at $200-$500 max per year.

  20. dandd says:

    The “Green” market is just one more thing for smart companies to capitalize on. Our company has been studying/implementing new Green products and services. Not that we really give a shit about the environment, but because people will pay a premium for those services. Don’t look at green as a bad thing, it is a new market ready to be exploited.

  21. ThinkerToys says:

    So much of this sort of ‘Green marketing’ BS is aimed at people who want to feel better about themselves, without actually doing anything real to help solve problems. It’s pretty stupid, much like the carbon indulgences, uh, I mean carbon OFFSETS people can buy so they don’t feel bad about jetting around the country, buying the latest gadgets, etc….

    So, yeah, pretty much a bunch of hippie crap.

    (I take ‘hippie crap’ to mean a lot of hand-wringing, whining, and making noise about problems without taking any meaningful action. Like hippies.)

  22. gafpromise says:

    Also 1% is a miniscule amount. Granted, I don’t use my Discover a whole lot but my annual 1% cash back bonus comes to somewhere around 20 bucks. That’s not a lot of money people!

  23. ViperBorg says:

    Stupid banks trying to be ‘hip’ with the environmentally friendly. They never learn.

  24. wesrubix says:

    @ViperBorg: except that people are signing up for these cards. It doesn’t take much to print vegetables or some other hippie-appealing material on a piece of plastic with 16 digits. The real beauty here is how they came up with the idea in the first place… financial transaction data mining, or for most people, it’s known as market research.

  25. rdm24 says:

    I have a Salmon Nation visa card issued by Shorebank Pacific. It supports efforts to restore rivers in the Pacific Northwest. (My main motivation for getting the card, h owever, was to break away from the GOP-funding MBNA and Bank of America credit cards).

    I have had many people ask me about that card. It’s an opportunity to talk about the problems facing the Columbia and other rivers.

    And what, exactly, can a standard BoA Visa card do? Not much.

    Green credit cards aren’t a substitute for more substantive action. But it sounds like most posters here are using them as an excuse for further inaction! Shame.

  26. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    You can get an AmEx card and vote on their American Express cardmembers’s project or whatever it’s called. They let you vote on whom AmEx will donate to.

  27. dsb51 says:

    I’m with the person who was talking about Vancity’s credit card. I have an account at Vancity but I don’t have their credit card. I have too many credit cards already and have cancelled a few (especially AmEx) just to stop identity thieves from getting a hold of of my credit.