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How to Maximize Your Online Donation to Charity

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Online and mobile payments have made donating to charity easier. But this convenience often comes at a price.

A transaction or processing fee may be applied if you use a credit card or a third-party service for nonprofits to make a gift. If you make a $100 donation, the charity may get less than that.

If you want to ensure that as much of your digital donation gets to your charity as possible, here’s what you need to know.

» MORE: Giving to charity with a credit card? Learn about the fees that a charity pays

How to deliver 100% of your gift

Some payment companies have programs to pass along an online or mobile donation in full.

FACEBOOK

Facebook covers all processing fees so 100% of a donation will go to the charity you choose, according to Facebook’s charitable giving page.

PAYPAL GIVING FUND

PayPal’s donation platform gives the full amount of a donation to a charity and has no fees or deductions. This is separate from PayPal donate buttons, which have fees mentioned below.

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CHECK

Although it’s less convenient, you can also send money the old-fashioned way by sending a check directly to a charity. Transaction fees won’t kick in, and you have the canceled check as your receipt.

Third-party payment methods

Here’s a look at several processing companies’ transaction costs, which typically are taken out of the gift:

Payment processorTransaction fee
Popmoney1.1% + 15 cents per transaction
PayPal*2.2% of the value + 30 cents per online transaction, for 501(c)(3) charities for most products
Square
  • 2.75% per swiped,
    dipped or tapped payment
  • 3.5% + 15 cents per manually entered transaction
Stripe2.9% + 30 cents per successful card charge

*If a donor gives to a charity listed on the PayPal Giving Fund, PayPal doesn’t charge the charity or the donor any fee.

Fundraising sites, which can feature hundreds or thousands of charities, may have their own fees. Here are some of the sites and their costs. Some sites give donors the option to cover transaction fees.

Fundraising siteTransaction fee
JustGive4.5% (plus 35 cents if donated on JustGive’s site)
Network for Good3%
BrightFunds7.5% for administrative and credit card fees
GoFundMe5% by GoFundMe platform + 2.9% + 30 cents for payment processing, for a total of 7.9% + 30 cents per donation for charity campaigns
CrowdRise2.9% + 30 cents for processing, plus a fee from 5.9% to 6.8%

Visa and Mastercard fees

Outside of third-party payment options, your main choice may be using a credit card. But not all cards have the same transaction costs. The typical 2% to 3% processing fee includes an interchange fee (a fee for processing online transactions) plus a flat fee per transaction. The major card networks Visa and Mastercard set most of these fee rates for credit cards. Their charity-related rates are as follows:

Transaction typeInterchange feeCharge on $100 donationCharge on $12 donation
Mastercard credit card (charity rate)2% + 10 cents$2.1034 cents
Visa credit card (charity rate)*1.35% + 5 cents$1.4021 cents

*For Visa Signature Preferred / Visa Infinite, Visa Signature / Visa Infinite, traditional rewards and all other products.

Data from Mastercard and Visa

Other ways to donate

Some nonprofits offer ways to donate other than plastic or a single online processor. GiveDirectly, for example, lets you use the bitcoin cryptocurrency, the social money transfer app Venmo or a direct bank account transfer using the Automated Clearing House system or wire transfers (wire fees may apply). As the company explains on its site, only donating by check, PayPal Giving Fund or ACH transfer lets you avoid credit card processing fees.

Still another way to donate to a nonprofit is by gift card, but credit card transaction fees can still apply.

Before you donate, be mindful of transaction fees to ensure that as much of your gift as possible goes to the nonprofit. Always check to see whether your employer matches employee charitable donations, increasing the impact of your contribution. And finally, check out sites like CharityNavigator to see how efficiently each charity uses the money it receives.

Spencer Tierney and Courtney Jespersen are staff writers at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected] or [email protected]. Twitter: @SpencerNerd or @CourtneyNerd.