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Donate Smart: Giving Points or Miles to Sandy Relief

by on November 2, 2012

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Hurricane Sandy has devastated cities and towns along the East Coast, causing a reported $20 billion in damage, cutting millions of citizens’ electricity and, worst of all, claiming dozens of lives. In its wake, credit card, airline and hotel rewards programs are allowing you to use your points or miles in Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Here are ways to earn and spend your rewards to help the millions affected by Sandy.

Capital One No Hassle Giving

It’s a little-known fact that nonprofits don’t get 100% of most credit or debit card donations – card networks, banks and payment processors skim off 2-3%. And that’s the low end – Network for Good takes 3%-4.75%. But Capital One waives the transaction fees when you use their No Hassle Giving website (a Capital One credit card is required.)

American Express Membership Rewards

American Express also just announced that it would waive its transaction fees on Sandy donations made through the Members Give portal. This means that the charity will get the full 100% of your donation, instead of forking over 2.25% of it to Amex. You can use Membership Rewards Points or an Amex credit card.

Credit card and airline companies giving bonus miles for donations

  • United Airlines MileagePlus members will earn 250 bonus miles with a donation of $50-$99, and 500 miles with a donation of $100 or more.
  • American Airlines AAdvantage members will earn 250 miles with a donation of $50-$99, and 500 miles with a donation of $100 or more, through November 30, 2012.
  • The US Bank FlexPerks Visa Signature rewards triple FlexPoints for charitable donations.

Matching programs

  • United Airlines will also match up to $50,000 in donations to AmeriCares, Feeding America and the Red Cross.
  • Starwood will match points donations through November 30, 2012.
  • Capital One will match up to $200,000 donated to the Red Cross or National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) through the No Hassle Giving site.
  • Discover allows donations to the Red Cross, Junior Achievement, Operation Home Front, the Children’s Miracle Network, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Make-a-Wish. Discover will make an additional contribution to the charity that receives the most donations this year.

Most rewards programs also allow you to donate your rewards directly. Be careful, though, as some donations will have steeply diminished value. Unfortunately, you still have to read the fine print.

Donate miles

  1. Delta Air Lines (Red Cross, Salvation Army and others)
  2. United MileagePlus
  3. U.S. Airways

Hotel rewards (worth your time)

  • Starwood Preferred Guest Hotels (better-than-usual value of 1.25 cents per point – 2,000 points = $25 donation. SPG will also match donations through November 30, 2012.)
  • Choice Hotels (regular 1:1 redemption – 1,000 points = $10 donation)

Hotel rewards (don’t bother)

  • Hilton Hotels (either email or call) – this is a pretty terrible deal, as a donation of 10,000 HHonors Points yields a contribution of only $25. You’re also only allowed to donate in 10,000-point increments.
  • Drury Hotels – also a bad deal, as 15,000 points nets a $50 donation
  • Marriott Hotels – 12,000 points = $50 donation. The best value you can get is trading 214,000 points for a $1,000 donation, a value of 0.47 cents per point.

Credit card rewards

  • Discover Cash Back
  • Citi ThankYou Points (full value – 2,500 points = $25. Can donate to many charities: although only the Red Cross and Jobs for USA are listed, the Giftback card can be used for more than 1 million nonprofits.)

You can also donate directly to the charity in question. Here are a few:

  • The Red Cross – Donations will provide food, shelter and all-around support. Or, learn how to donate blood.
  • The Salvation Army – Donations will provide mobile feeding units and shelters.
  • World Vision – Donations will provide food, flood cleaning kits and personal hygiene items.

’Tis the season of giving, and the Hurricane Sandy victims need our support most. Make a difference today by donating. Every dollar counts.

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