Credit card companies are pushing their own green initiatives: paperless billing and online bill pay are two services that are convenient for their customers and better for the environment. Think about your standard credit card bill. You receive a statement, a return envelope, and some advertising. Unless you still pay your bills with paper checks this is all wasteful. However, credit card companies are looking beyond paper reduction and offering environmental rewards and more to their eco-minded customers.

The most popular way that credit card issuers are helping give back is through affinity cards. An affinity card is simply a card that is branded with an organization’s name and then marketed both by that organization and the credit card issuer.

One example is The Nature Conservancy Visa card offered by Bank of America. Card owners can choose from four different nature-themed designs, each new card member will receive a free one-year membership to The Nature Conservancy, the organization will receive $65 upon new account activation, and when you purchase goods or services on your card a tree will be planted as part of the Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees Campaign.

Bank of America has also partnered with Brighter Planet to offer a branded credit card that earns EarthSmart points. These EarthSmart points are then used to fund clean energy projects in the United States. In addition to helping fund renewable energy projects, Brighter Planet Visa card users can also learn about reducing their carbon footprint, set reduction goals, and track their progress on the organization’s website.

As is the case with the rest of the go green movement, consumers need to be wary of green washing. Some major banks are trying to cash in on the green credit card trend without really offering any true environmental benefits. One example is a standard rewards card that is being advertised as green because consumers can redeem their reward points for eco-friendly merchandise. In other words, card issuers have added a separate category to their rewards catalog offering BPA free reusable water containers, rechargeable flashlights, and the like.

While there are environmental organizations that benefit from affinity cards like those offered by Bank of America, not everyone is keen on credit. If you’re in the cash is king camp then check out The Nature Conservancy checking account and debit card offered by Bank of America. The organization receives $10 for each new account opened and every time you use your branded debit card, you help raise awareness about the important work conducted by The Nature Conservancy.

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