Banking

These eco-friendly debit and credit cards let you help the environment, one swipe at a time

When it comes to choosing the right credit card for your lifestyle, it’s important to consider your spending habits as well as your personal values.

Fintech companies have recently started to think the same way, aligning themselves with consumers’ current standards and morals — working to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, for instance, or supporting societal causes such as gender equality — through new financial products. 

John Tobin-de la Puente, professor of practice of corporate sustainability at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University, notes that in recent years, there has been a significant shift in how people think about investing and spending their money.

“One hundred years ago, you would invest your money in a way that maximized returns in the market. You didn’t mix your personal values with your finances,” says Tobin-de la Puente. “If tobacco had the best returns, you would invest in tobacco stocks and then at the end of the year, you would donate to public health organizations, but this might cause cognitive dissonance.”

Another interesting trend: As these new, more socially and environmentally conscious financial products have gained popularity, so has the overall scrutiny of them.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission recently announced the creation of a task force that would investigate misconduct related to environmental, social and governance funds, many of which claim to avoid investing in tobacco, oil, coal and firearm companies.

With so many companies saying their financial products are helping the environment, it can be difficult to figure out which ones are actually making a difference. Below, Select takes a closer look at three credit and debit cards that claim to help the environment by making eco-friendly promises.

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The Aspiration Zero Credit Card

Aspiration Zero Credit Card

On Aspiration’s secure site

  • Rewards

    0.5% cash back on all eligible purchases (this can be increased to 1.0% cash back; see terms for details*)

  • Welcome bonus

    $300 welcome bonus when you spend $3,000 on qualifying transactions within the first three months

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    11.65% to 21.45% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fees

  • Credit needed

Aspiration offers several financial products, including a bank account, an investment account and a credit card. With a $60 annual fee, the Aspiration Zero Credit Card offers an unlimited 0.5% cash back and up to 1% cash back on all eligible purchases, as well as a welcome bonus of $300 if you spend $3,000 with the card within the first three months of opening your account.

According to the card issuer, every time you swipe the card, one tree is planted, with the idea being that consumers can effectively reduce their carbon footprint by making purchases with the card.

While 0.5% is the default cash-back rate, if you reach carbon-neutral status — which you can do by spending enough for 60 trees to be planted or by using your card 60 times in a month — you’ll get 1% cash back on every purchase made that month. And thanks to the card’s Plant Your Change function, Aspiration automatically rounds up your purchase to the nearest dollar and plants an additional tree. 

Keep in mind that the card may not actually be as eco-friendly as Aspiration’s executives have claimed. A ProPublica article determined that, in 2021, CEO and co-founder Andrei Cherny claimed far more trees, 35 million, had been planted through the ‘Plant Your Change initiative’ than actually had been, 12 million at the time of publication. Cherny responded to those claims by asserting that it can take up to 18 months to plant a tree after the time of transaction.

“As mentioned, to make sure that tree planting is a high quality process that maximizes the potential for tree survival, it can take up to 18 months to plant trees after funding,” says Sehrish Sayani, Director of Communications at Aspiration. “This includes planting during appropriate planting and growing seasons, planning all logistics, starting up nurseries, and accounting for any climate, political or health challenges that might arise.”

That said, if you choose to open an account with the company’s banking service, Aspiration’s website states “deposits won’t be used to finance fossil fuel exploration or production projects.” Banks can choose how to use their customers’ deposited funds, and Aspiration promises not to use that money to fund oil and coal efforts that would have a negative impact on the environment.

FutureCard Visa Debit Card

The FutureCard Visa Debit Card is a free digital debit card that provides cash-back rewards when you use it to pay for goods and services that have a lower carbon footprint than other alternatives — it’s meant to encourage people to reduce their carbon footprint by using public transportation instead of driving or by buying thrifted clothing rather than fast fashion.

FutureCard Visa Debit Card

  • Rewards

    6% back on select Future partners, brands, 5% back on public transportation, thrift stores, electric vehicle charging, bike shops, electric scooters, plant-based food alternatives, recognized sustainable brands and 1% back on all other eligible purchases (up to the first $25,000 worth of purchases)

  • Welcome bonus

  • Annual fee

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Since this is a debit card, cardholders can connect it to a bank account, cash app or Venmo. Cardholders won’t need to undergo a credit check to get the card and your payment history won’t be reported to the credit bureaus. While there’s no welcome bonus, there are also no annual fees or foreign transaction fees.

Cardholders can receive 6% cash back by using the card with certain Future partners, 5% cash back by using public transportation, shopping at thrift stores, charging electric vehicles, as well as for purchases made at bike shops, and for plant-based meat alternatives and electric scooters. You’ll also get 1% cash back for all other purchases. Note that these cash-back rates only apply to up to the first $25,000 worth of purchases per calendar year.

In order to receive cash-back rewards for purchases involving plant-based meat alternatives, cardholders will need to send photos of their receipts to Future via email, which may be cumbersome process for some. When it comes to redeeming your rewards, cardholders automatically earn a statement credit at the end of each billing cycle.

Ando Visa™ Debit Card

The Ando Visa™ Debit Card is a mobile banking service that offers a checking account, a high-yield savings account and a debit card. All bank accounts are FDIC-insured. While traditional banks exercise discretion when it comes to how they choose to invest your deposits, potentially using them to fund fossil fuel-related projects, Ando promises to only fund clean initiatives with the money you’re depositing. 

Ando Visa™ Debit Card

Information about the Ando Visa™ Debit Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication. Community Federal Savings Bank is a Member FDIC.

  • Monthly maintenance fee

  • Minimum balance

  • Rewards

    1.5% cash back on all eligible rounded-up transactions

  • Free ATM network

     Fee-free withdrawals from more than 34,000 MoneyPass® ATMs

  • ATM fee reimbursement

While the Ando Visa Debit Card has one of the best cash-back rates for debit cards on the market, cardholders will need to enroll in the Change That Counts feature, which rounds up your debit card transactions to the nearest dollar to let you earn the full 1.5% cash back.

Like Aspiration, Ando also promises to use the rounded up money from your transactions to plant a tree through a tree-planting partner selected by the company. Cardholders can also connect their Ando bank account or an external bank account to fund their debit card.

Use a traditional card and donate your rewards to charity

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

On Wells Fargo’s secure site

  • Rewards

    Unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

    0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate

  • Regular APR

    17.99%, 22.99%, or 27.99% variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Introductory fee of 3% ($5 minimum) for 120 days from account opening, then up to 5% ($5 minimum)

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Citi® Double Cash Card

  • Rewards

    2% cash back: 1% on all eligible purchases and an additional 1% after you pay your credit card bill

  • Welcome bonus

    For a limited time, earn $200 cash back after spending $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 18 months on balance transfers; N/A for purchases

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    For balance transfers completed within 4 months of account opening, an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies; after that, a balance transfer fee of 5% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

  • Rewards

    Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 1.5% on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) – worth up to $300 cash back. That’s 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 4.5% on dining and drugstores, and 3% on all other purchases.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    Intro fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater, on transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After that, either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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