It’s official, at least for Earth Day: Green is the new black.
Sure you can turn heads if you are able to flash a rare American Express Black Card (AMX), but wouldn't you rather your charges help turn the earth into a more eco-friendly place? As the goal of sustainable living morphs from a fringe cause to a desirable and even stylish way of living, the latest manifestation is the green credit card, with numerous major banks issuing cards marketed towards environmentally conscious consumers.
‘Green is the rage today and credit cards are no different,’ says Colette Chandler, founder of The Marketing Insider, a firm specializing in green issues. Sounds nice, but are these cards just clever marketing ploys geared towards an affluent niche market? It depends. ‘Consumers should ask what the environmental outcomes are,’ advises Matt Arnold of Sustainable Finance, a corporate strategy company. So before you sign up for a so-called green credit card, make sure to investigate exactly what the benefits of the service are, so that you’re not just falling for some branding claptrap. ‘Find out exactly how your cards result in environmental improvements,’ says Arnold. ‘Some of the cards offset greenhouse gas emissions or go towards buying solar panels.’
Arnold warns that consumers should ‘watch out for cards that are more affinity cards,’ meaning that are more about branding than they are about real environmental impact, and usually donate only a nominal amount to charity. And, don’t forget, no matter how adorably green and chic your new card might seem, if you really want to make an impact, you’ll need to research the card company—and not just benefits of the card itself. ‘Find out what the issuers' environmental policies are. Sometimes the marketing strategies have gotten ahead of what the corporate polices are,’ says Arnold.
If you decide to go green, keep in mind that sustainable finance is really a nascent market and that no matter what card you choose, ‘all the cards in the market place are kind of first drafts,’ says Arnold.
Here are five green cards that we feel make the grade:
1. GE Earth Rewards MasterCard
GE (GE) has partnered with power firm AES (AES) to create this new card, through which borrowers can put up to 1% of net purchases towards purchases of carbon offsets, redeemed annually on Earth Day.
2. Brighter Planet Visa
A group of Middlebury College grads partnered with banking giant Bank of America (BOA) on both a credit and a check card. Every $1,000 you spend will fund an estimated 1 ton of carbon offsets.
3. Working Assets Visa
This Visa (V),the greenest of the so-called affinity cards, allows borrowers to donate 10 cents on every purchase they make to the participating charity (or charities) of their choice.
4. GreenPay MasterCard (MA)
For every dollar of net purchases on this card, you buy 5 lbs of carbon offsets. This figure automatically doubles for environmentally less friendly purchases such as gasoline or utilities. So, while you’re still fueling your car, you’ll be purchasing more offsets at the same time.
5. Defenders of Wildlife Card
Issued by Bank of America (BOA), this card donates two cents for every $10 in purchases towards protection of endangered species and their precious habitat. So far the card has contributed more than $4.3 million dollars to the Defenders’ campaign.
Have a happy and environmentally healthy shopping spree!