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Should I Use a Credit Card to Donate to a Political Campaign?

Oct. 31, 2014
Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards
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Nov. 4 is Election Day. If there’s a candidate you support, you might wonder if you can use a credit card to donate to his or her campaign.

It turns out that using credit cards for campaign contributions is possible and becoming more common. But there are benefits and drawbacks to this approach – take a look at the information below for more details.

Using credit cards for political campaign donations is doable

First, let’s be clear: Making a political campaign donation with your credit card is certainly possible. If there’s a candidate you’d like to support financially, visiting his or her website is probably the easiest way to make a credit card donation. Most have their sites set up to accept funds online using the credit or debit card of your choice.

But there’s also the possibility that you could donate to the candidate or party of your choice at a campaign event. According to an article in the New York Times, both President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney used Square, the mobile credit card reader, to accept in-person donations from backers as they canvassed the nation during the 2012 presidential campaign. Although it doesn’t appear that this is a widespread phenomenon, don’t be surprised if your local politicians start adopting the same strategy.

Benefits to using a credit card to donate to a political campaign

So now that we know that it’s possible to donate to a political campaign with a credit card, one question remains – should you? There are certainly benefits to choosing credit over debit, cash or a check. For example:

Rewards – In many cases, using your card to make a donation will help you earn points, miles or cash back. If you’re using a good rewards credit card, you might be able to get as much as 2% back every time you contribute.

Convenience – You can’t beat the convenience of a credit card, especially compared with cash or checks. Quickly entering your account number into a website or handing it over to a campaign volunteer to swipe is much easier than carrying around a checkbook or worrying that currency might fall into the wrong hands.

Tracking – If you’re a very big supporter of a particular candidate, you’ll have to keep tabs on how much you’ve donated to his or her campaign. As of 2014, the law limits an individual’s campaign contributions to $2,600 per federal candidate, and it’s up to you to be sure you don’t go beyond that mark. This is much easier to track if you’re using a credit card.

» MORE: Why nearly every purchase should be on a credit card

A few words of caution

While there are a lot of good reasons to use your credit card to make a political campaign donation, there are also a few drawbacks and words of caution we should point out:

Cost – Remember, every time you use your credit card, the network assesses a transaction fee on the merchant, which in this case is the campaign. According to a report in the Washington Times, Obama’s campaign paid out over $480,000 in credit card fees in June 2012. This obviously cuts into the campaign’s bottom line, so your donated dollars might go further if you fork them over in cash.

Security/scams – Whenever you’re using your credit card online, it’s important to verify that you’re working with a secure, legitimate website. If anything about the site causes you to become suspicious or you don’t see “https” in the beginning of the URL when it comes time to put in your credit card number, don’t share your information.

Accessibility – The great thing about using a credit card to make a donation is that it’s convenient and accessible, but the bad thing about using a credit card to make a donation is that it’s convenient and accessible. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you and cause you to donate more to a campaign than you can afford.

The bottom line: It’s possible to donate to a political campaign with your credit card, but whether you should or not depends on a variety of factors. Use the Nerds’ guidance above to help you decide if swiping your card for the candidate of your choice is the right move!

Donation image via Shutterstock