Thursday, January 21, 2010

Credit Card Companies Benefiting From Haiti Donations

Soon after the earthquake in Haiti, Huffington Post raised some concerns that credit card companies were charging transaction fees on relief donations and earning up to 3% of each contribution. After this was brought to light, most of the credit card companies changed their policies and said they would no longer deduct fees from donations being made for relief in Haiti. After hearing this news, I simply assumed that all donations made to Haiti with a credit card would be exempt from transaction fees and that 100% of my donation would go to those who need it most.

What I didn't realize is that there are stipulations on which type of donations will not be charged transaction fees. Only the larger relief organizations such as the American Red Cross, AmeriCares, Save the Children etc...will be exempt from having transaction fees deducted. Other smaller, lessor known organizations will still be charged the transaction fees in most cases. Each credit card company has a different policy on how they will handle your donation. For example, I sent money online to the United Nations Central Emergency Relief Fund (UN CERF Fund) using my VISA card. According to VISA, only 97% will go to the UN CERF Fund (because CERF is not on the list of VISA's transaction fee exempt relief organizations) and the other 3% will go to the American Red Cross because VISA is donating all of their transaction fees to the Red Cross. While I have nothing against the Red Cross, I really wanted all of my money to go to the UN and don't like knowing someone else decided where part of my money would go. On the other hand, Master Card will only waive fees to the larger relief organizations so if you donate to a smaller one, that organization will only receive 97% of your total donation, Master Card will get the rest. For information on how your credit card is handling Haiti donations, refer to this article written by Leslie McFadden at or check with your credit card company.

My younger son has decided he wants to make a donation to the canine program through Virginia Task Force 1, a search and rescue group from Fairfax Virginia currently in Haiti using dogs to search for survivors. So that 100% of our donation goes to the Virginia Task Force, we will send our money the old fashioned way- by check.

The realization that big American credit card companies can be profiting in some financial way to the crisis in Haiti frustrates me. Shows me how crass some big businesses really can be.

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