Philanthropy and giving to charitable causes is not only an old US tradition and a founding block of American communities, it's also been the driving force behind cutting-edge research, education and social projects.

Many top US universities and colleges wouldn't exist if it weren't for philanthropy. Today US charitable giving reaches far beyond our own borders, funding environmental and humanitarian projects the world over.

According to the National Philanthropic Trust, 95.4% of US households give to charity (the average annual household contribution is $2,974). Total American philanthropy in 2014 reached $358.38 billion, or 7.1% more than in 2013. (See more statistics).

Among the estimated 7.9 billion hours of service volunteered by around 64.5 million US adults (worth an estimated $175 billion), the top voluntary activities include selling items or fundraising for charitable causes at 25.7%, collecting and distributing food at 23.8%, general labor or transportation at 19.8%, and tutoring or teaching, which made up 17.9% of voluntary activity.

Most of us have some cause that we are passionate about, but not all of us have extra money to support these. But there are easy ways to make a difference without making a dent in your budget.

Many credit cards give you rewards when you use them to make purchases. These usually don't amount to a whole lot, and can often only be redeemed for bits and bobs that you might not need or even want.

But some credit cards give you the option to donate your rewards to charitable causes as a financial donation. That way instead of collecting another gadget just for the heck of it, you can put those rewards to good use.

  1. American Express Members Give

    If you have an American Express card that earns Membership Rewards® points, like The Platinum Card® from American Express, a GET.com advertiser, you can use the Members GiveSM program to redeem your points to make a donation to your choice of over 1 million charities. You will need to redeem a minimum of 1,000 points at a time, and each 1,000 Membership Rewards® points you redeem equals a $10 donation. If you redeem more than 500,000 points through Members Give in one calendar year, any points you redeem for donations in that calendar year above 500,000 will get a lower rate of $5 donation per 1,000 points.
  2. Capital One No Hassle Giving

    This program from Capital One partners with Network For Good to forward your donation to registered charitable organizations as listed on GuideStar (more than 1.2 million IRS-registered charities). Capital One covers the processing fees, so the entire amount you donate goes to the designated charity. Donations made by redeeming your No Hassle Rewards® are 100% tax deductible (to the full extent allowed by law). Donations cannot be returned or canceled once they have been processed. You can earn No Hassle Rewards® using Capital One rewards credit cards like Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card.
  3. Citi Donate with Points

    The ThankYou® Points you earn with many Citi rewards credit cards can be donated through PointWorthy.com with no processing fee. That means the full amount you donate goes to the charitable organization. You have to redeem a minimum of 1,000 points for a $10 donation. In order to donate your ThankYou Points through PointWorthy, you will have to link your ThankYou account to a PointWorthy account. You can choose to cancel a donation within 15 days of making it, and if a donation you make is returned, PointWorthy will credit the ThankYou Points back to your ThankYou member account. You can also combine your points with a payment from your Citi credit card, but I wouldn't recommend it because although ThankYou points can be donated with no fee, you will pay a 10% processing fee on credit card donations. You do earn ThankYou Points for cash donations you make with your eligible Citi card through the program, but if you can pay with ThankYou Points only, more of your donation will go to the cause you want to support.

Another benefit that makes a credit card useful for charitable giving is if a card rewards you by letting you earn points, miles or cash back for your donations. Some cards may not have many options for redeeming rewards towards donations, but do let you earn high cash back or points for your giving.

Here's our pick of highly-rated credit cards that let you redeem your rewards as donations or earn rewards for charitable donations:

Credit CardFeaturesIntro APRRegular APRAnnual FeeWhy we like itWe least likeCredit RequiredRelated links
Discover it<sup>®</sup> Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back

APPLY NOWAt Discover's secure website
  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive Free Social Security number alerts—Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
APPLY NOWAt Discover's secure website

0% on purchases and balance transfers for 14 months

13.99% - 24.99% Variable

$0

Excellent/Good
Discover it<sup>®</sup> Balance Transfer

Discover it® Balance Transfer

APPLY NOWAt Discover's secure website
  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Receive Free Social Security number alerts— Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
APPLY NOWAt Discover's secure website

0% on purchases for 6 months and 0% on balance transfers for 18 months

13.99% - 24.99% Variable

$0

Excellent/Good
Capital One<sup>®</sup> Venture<sup>®</sup> Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that

N/A

14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)

$0 intro for first year; $95 after that

Why we like it
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture.
We least like
  • No low introductory APR period.
Excellent, Good
Discover it<sup>®</sup> chrome

Discover it® chrome

APPLY NOWAt Discover's secure website
  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Receive Free Social Security number alerts— Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
APPLY NOWAt Discover's secure website

0% on purchases and balance transfers for 14 months

13.99% - 24.99% Variable

$0

Excellent/Good
The Platinum Card<sup>®</sup> from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

APPLY NOWAt American Express' secure website
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
APPLY NOWAt American Express' secure website

N/A

N/A

$550

Why we like it
  • Rewards program.
  • Platinum benefits.
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
We least like
  • Annual fee.
Excellent/Good
Capital One<sup>®</sup> QuicksilverOne<sup>®</sup> Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app

N/A

26.46% (Variable)

$39

Why we like it
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day.
We least like
  • $39 Annual fee.
Average, Fair, Limited