A Billion Reasons To Donate Your Credit Card Reward Points

You are planning to make a balance transfer for a better credit card deal. But you have unused rewards points on that credit card. You don't have enough rewards points to redeem them for something you want, but you'd hate to see them go to waste. Here's a charitable idea: Donate your unused credit card points to a good cause.

A number of credit cards, including those issued by American Express, Citibank, Chase, Capital One and Discover, make it easy for you to donate your reward points.

All you have to do is log onto your account on the credit card's website and click on the redeem rewards points tab. You can donate your unused reward points just as you would redeem them for gifts or cash. You also can call the customer service number on the back of your credit card to donate by phone.

An advantage of donating rewards is that some credit cards absorb the transaction costs. "That ensures 100 percent of the donation gets to the charity," says Sukhi Sahni, senior communications manager for Capital One.

Some simple caveats apply

However, there are some caveats:
  • Some credit card companies require you have a minimum of rewards points to donate. For example, American Express requires at least 1,000 points. "For every 1,000 points, $10 will be donated to your charity of choice," says American Express spokeswoman Desiree C. Fish. "There is no limit to the number of reward points you can redeem as donations, provided you have the available point balance in your rewards account," she notes.

Some credit card issuers require a minimum of 2,500 rewards points or $25 donations.
  • Not every charity accepts credit card rewards points. Your charity of choice may not be on the list that does accept rewards. However, Fish says, it shouldn't be hard to find an acceptable charity. American Express gives cardholders the flexibility to donate their rewards points to more than 1 million U.S.-based charities. Capital One allows cardholders to donate rewards to more than 1.2 million United States charities.

Charities appreciate donations

Melisa Pratt, senior manager for corporate alliances at Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, says it accepts credit card reward miles from one of three airlines that it has relationships with: United/Continental, Delta and U.S. Airways. It also accepts rewards points for hotel stays from co-branded credit cards for Hilton and Hyatt.

Pratt, who has donated her credit card reward miles to Make-A-Wish, says the organization depends heavily on such donations as it grants 14,000 wishes a year and 70 percent of them involve travel. It needs about 2.5 billion miles a year. "If we can get someone to donate miles or credit card points toward miles, it makes it that much more affordable for us and the kids," she says.