The past five or six years have seen an explosion of credit cards that offer rewards. An entire genre of rewards-focused bloggers has sprung up, new credit card offers get covered by dozens of websites, and, in general, consumers are far more savvy about free travel and cash rewards than they were a decade ago.
This is great news for families on a budget, who can use rewards points to buy groceries, gas, and other necessities. It’s also an opportunity to have a bit of fun with your rewards — whether for a rare night out at a nice restaurant, a wardrobe update for the kids, or even a family vacation. The central message is to treat yourself.
What we don’t often see is the use of credit card rewards for causes bigger than the average consumer’s needs and wants. However, you can find dozens of these types of programs if you know where to look. If you feel called to share the wealth with those less fortunate, this is a simple way to do just that. It’s a straightforward way to go about giving, and a great lesson to share with your kids, too.
Here’s how you can use two popular credit card rewards programs to send your points and cash to the people who need it most.
Use Your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points for IHG’s Shelter in a Storm Program
One of the best things about earning points in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program is that you can transfer those points to any number of hotel and airline loyalty programs.
IHG is one of those travel partners; any points you rack up on your Chase card can be sent to the IHG loyalty program. From there, you have the opportunity to donate those IHG points to the hotel chain’s Shelter in a Storm program. With the help of well-known relief organization Cooperative Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE), IHG uses the cash value of your points ($10 per 1,000 points) to house and feed victims of disasters.
The best current offer for getting Ultimate Rewards points is Chase’s Sapphire Preferred card. You get 50,000 Ultimate rewards points, which is equal to $500, if you spend $4,000 in the first three months. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year.
Use Discover’s Giving Program to Donate to Your Favorite Charity
The Discover Giving program is by far the most extensive rewards-points donation program, with 1.5 million charities from which you can choose. Their search tool helps you sort through their extensive database and allows you to make one-time or recurring donations.
Discover’s giving program lets you sign up to give to charities via your credit card account. You aren’t donating points or miles like you do in the Ultimate Rewards program, but you are using your card to donate to worthy causes.
If you’re looking for a rewards angle, consider signing up for the Discover it card. You get 1 percent cash back on all purchases, and Discover will match the rewards you accrue the first year. The average family can earn around $500 this way, which would be a great one-time gift for the charity of your choice.
While most consumers are worried about how their credit cards can work for them, take some time to think about how you can make your card work for others. Chase and Discover offer great programs for donations, and both companies’ current credit card offers give you the chance to use rewards for good.
J.R. Duren, a reporter for HighYa.com, uncovers the hard truths about personal finance through in-depth research and interviews with experts. He has written extensively on topics including credit scores, debt, financial advisors and other personal finance issues. Click here to learn more about the variety of credit cards available to help you give back.