May 11, 2017
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Billions of dollars in credit card rewards go unused, so why not donate them?

Charity Charge makes it easy for consumers to lift up communities by allowing them to send their rewards to nonprofits

Charity Charge founder and CEO Stephen Garten is committed to serving his community. He's seen here at a local Austin outreach event. Photo by Aaron Chavez of Charity Charge

It’s been a few years now since I succumbed to the relentless marketing bombardment that insisted on my acquisition of a rewards credit card. Everyone else seemed to have one. Or four. After a few purchases I noticed quite a few rewards points piling up so I went online to see what treasures I could receive. While perusing the shop, I heard my dad’s voice telling me to “do the right thing son.” I knew I needed to take those reward points I thought I deserved and put them to work for someone deserving. Someone in need. That’s when I realized his message to me was about to become my message to the world. “Do the right thing.”

I was motivated to start Charity Charge by my father who lived to help others and gave to many charities and nearly every outreached hand. He told me throughout my life to “always do the right thing” before he passed away from cancer at 53.

I was also inspired to launch this social venture after learning that 31 percent of consumers have never redeemed their credit card rewards. I sought to develop a way to direct the $16 billion a year in unused reward points to someplace that would do the most good with them.

Our launch in June 2016 required a tremendous team effort and was the culmination of our partnerships with MasterCard, Commerce Bank, Network for Good, and Guidestar. Today, the Charity Charge World MasterCard enables cardholders to earn 1 percent cash back on their everyday purchases in the form of an automatic, tax-deductible donation to up to three nonprofits of their choice.

One of the big credit card companies asks: “What’s in your wallet?” We prefer the question “What’s in your heart?"

With the one-year anniversary of Charity Charge on the horizon, I have come to enjoy the process of building a company. We have forged numerous relationships with nonprofits who are thrilled to share our product with their donors in an effort to establish ongoing donor stewardship. My favorite stories that dot our journey are conversations with nonprofit organizations who benefit from from our card, and from cardholders who are eager to share about the causes they support through Charity Charge.

I have noticed that in a world that’s divided by so many labels, people find common ground in the causes they feel most strongly about. When it’s for the “greater good,” people who disagree can, and have, so easily set aside their differences and joined forces to combat issues like pet abuse, hunger, and gender equality. While Charity Charge enables giving to any nonprofit in the country, we also feature Cause Communities which benefit different nonprofits each quarter. These Cause Communities work to bring together like-minded donors so that people with similar passions can support the causes they love and track the collective donations that impact their cause of choice. Then it’s not about what you raised, what he donated, or who cares about which cause. It’s about a group of charitable community members who want to see positive change and use the Charity Charge card to be the change with everyday giving.

Furthermore, we underwrite the donation processing fees on every Charity Charge swipe so that 100 percent of each donation reaches the designated nonprofit organization. With this model, organizations have equal opportunities to generate recurring revenue from their cardholders. Every registered 501(c)(3) and K-12 school stands to benefit from the cash donations that Charity Charge cardholders give, and we think that’s pretty unique and powerful. We recently featured Whole Planet Foundation, Whole Food’s nonprofit organization, in a case study that highlights our partnership. We were ecstatic to announce that upon one point of contact with their supporters, Whole Planet Foundation gained 20 lifelong donors and $1,500 in donations and sign-up bonuses.

Charity Charge was born not only as my way to give back but to make it incredibly easy for others to do the same each and every time they use their credit card. I know we not only live in a friendly universe but a giving, grateful and thankful one as well.

One of the big credit card companies asks: “What’s in your wallet?” We prefer the question “What’s in your heart?”

Stephen Garten

Founder and CEO of Charity Charge

Stephen Garten is the founder and CEO of Charity Charge.