Should You Donate Credit Card Rewards?

Using Cash, Miles, and Points for a Cause

A credit card customer considers his donation options.
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Deagreez / Getty Images

Credit card rewards aren’t just for taking rewards flights or booking hotel nights; you can use rewards for a worthy cause. Many credit card issuers allow you to donate your rewards to charities that are important to you. If you’re inspired to help out during a disaster event, like a hurricane or pandemic, your credit card rewards may be a great option. You don’t have to wait for an event to donate rewards, either; you can give any time throughout the year.

How It Works

The exact process for donating your credit card rewards depends on your credit card issuer. Most allow you to donate through a partner organization or directly through the rewards redemption section in your online account.

For example, CharityChoice deducts the following fee from your donation: 5% administrative fee, 3% credit card processing fee, and a $.50 flat fee.

Which Card Issuers Allow Point, Mile, or Cash-Back Donations?

A few major credit card issuers allow you to donate your rewards either through a partner organization or through your rewards redemption portal.

American Express

Donate your Membership Rewards to more than 1.5 million organizations included in the JustGiving program. To donate, create a JustGiving account. The site will ask you for your Amex credit card number. Once you’re done creating your account, you’ll see your Membership Rewards points and their equivalent cash balance. From there, you can choose the charity of your choice and donate. The donation will show up as a charge on your account with a corresponding statement credit equal to the charge.

JustGiving charges a 5% platform fee and a 2.9% credit card fee before your donation goes to the charity. 

Chase

You can donate your Chase Ultimate Rewards points via Chase’s Pay Yourself Back program. Chase allows you to use your rewards points for certain purchases in the past 90 days, including the following charities:

  • American Red Cross
  • Equal Justice Initiative
  • Feeding America
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • International Medical Corporation
  • Leadership Education Fund
  • NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • National Urban League
  • Thurgood Marshall College Fund
  • United Negro College Fund
  • United Way
  • World Central Kitchen

Chase will boost your points’ value by 25% if you choose to use them via Pay With Points.

Citi

Citi allows you to redeem ThankYou Rewards starting at 2,500 points ($25). Charity options include the American Red Cross (Disaster Relief and International Services), Smile Train, No Kid Hungry, UNICEF (Kid Power and USA), or World Central Kitchen. Donations start at 2,500 points at a rate of 1 cent per point.

Discover

You can donate cash-back rewards by calling 1-800-DISCOVER or through your online account. Participating charities include the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, American Red Cross, Children’s Miracle Network, Junior Achievement, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Make-A-Wish, Operation Homefront, and World Wildlife Fund. Discover contributes an extra $25,000 to the organization that receives the most from its cardmembers each year.

Wells Fargo

Redeem your Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards as a gift card for a charitable contribution by going online or by calling Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards Customer Service at 1-877-517-1358. You can redeem as few as 2,500 in rewards for a $25 CharityChoice gift card. Once you have your gift card, you can donate it through CharityChoice.

CharityChoice deducts the following fee from your donation: 5% administrative fee, 3% credit card processing fee, and a $.50 flat fee.

Other Credit Card Issuers

You may not be able to redeem your rewards directly with other credit card issuers, but there are several simple workarounds. You can redeem your rewards points for a statement credit, then donate; or you can redeem your rewards for cash that goes to your checking account, then donate from your checking account. Typically, these workarounds won’t require fees.

CharityChoice allows you to donate your retail gift-card balance, so you could use your points to buy gift cards that you donate to CharityChoice.

If the organization accepts donations via credit card, use your card to make the donation, then redeem your rewards for a statement credit to offset what you donated. Make sure you pay any minimum payment due while you’re waiting for the statement credit to be applied to your account, as not paying your bill may temporarily suspend your ability to use your rewards.

Donating Airline Miles

Airline frequent flyer programs from major airlines Delta, Southwest, American Airlines, and United allow you to donate your miles to charity. While this option is open to anyone who signs up for a frequent flyer account, you can choose to donate miles you earn on any of the following credit cards:

  • United Gateway, Explorer, and Club Infinite cards
  • Citi / AAdvantage MileUp, Platinum Select, and Executive cards
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus, Premier, and Priority cards
  • DeltaSkyMiles Gold, Platinum, Reserve American Express cards

Hotel loyalty programs from Choice Hotels, Hilton, and Marriott let you donate points to charity but in nearly all cases, the redemption value is far below 1 cent per point you get from other programs.

Pros and Cons of Donating Credit Card Rewards

Pros
  • Ability to give to a cause if you don’t have the cash to do so

  • Make use of rewards nearing expiration

Cons
  • Rewards donations may not be tax-deductible

  • Rewards may have a low redemption value

Pros Explained

  • Ability to give to a cause if you don’t have the cash to do so: If you’re inspired to contribute to a worthy cause but you don’t have the spare cash, donating credit card rewards are a viable alternative.
  • Make use of rewards nearing expiration: Donating rewards allows you to take advantage of your hard-earned rewards when you don’t have anything else to redeem for.

Cons Explained

  • Donated rewards may not be tax-deductible: Unlike cash donations, you won’t be able to claim a tax deduction for the rewards you’ve donated.
  • Rewards may have a low redemption value: Travel cards that give you airline miles or points you can transfer to travel partners tend to have a value that exceeds 1 cent per point, whereas donations to charity tend to give you 1 cent per point before fees.

Key Takeaways

  • Credit card rewards are a great opportunity to donate to a charity, particularly if you can’t use your rewards or they’re nearing expiration.
  • Most major credit card issuers partner with another organization for easier reward donation, but there are workarounds for those that don’t.
  • Rewards donations may not be tax-deductible. Consult your tax advisor for specific tax advice.
  • A monetary donation to the charity of your choice may be a better option if your credit card issuer doesn’t have an easy way to donate rewards to charity.