American Express isn’t the bank to make anything easier to do. They have a once-per-lifetime rule for sign-up bonuses and their Rewards Abuse Team finds any reason possible to claw back miles, even if their system initially allows it.
Imagine my surprise when AMEX sent an email saying they have a program that makes it easy to donate to charity with your purchases. Don’t be misled. AMEX isn’t paying a cent of the money to charity. However, they’re activating a program that has successfully raised money at retail POS for some time.
The Round-Up. Amex has partnered with Philanthropi to make it easy to donate to charity when using your AMEX cards.
The partnership started in September 2022 and is still by invitation only. We received an invitation so I decided to check out the sign-up process. I had to use the link from the email but once there, I could enroll both of our AMEX accounts.
AMEX describes the process like this.
When I enrolled, it looks that only personal cards are eligible, but you can use an AMEX branded or a co-brand card.
You can select which spending categories you’d want to round up or you can select all eligible expenses.
Next, you pick how much you want to round up. You can pick the nearest dollar, $5 or $10. You can pick different amounts for each category.
You’re done setting up how much to donate. The last step is to set up a Philanthropi account.
Once complete, you will have access to your Impact Account. This is where all your round-up money goes. Once you have $25 in your account, you can choose a non-profit (on Philanthropi’s list) to give your money to.
If you’re concerned about taxes, the money is a tax-deductible contribution and Philanthropi provides a tax form for your donations.
If you change your mind, a link is provided to the AMEX website to manage your donations or to disconnect your AMEX from Philanthropi.
I set up a card for donations to see how the process works. One downside is that you are limited to the non-profits that work with Philanthropi. I looked for several local charities I support, but none were listed. I looked at Philanthropi’s website and can’t find information on how a non-profit can join.
Sure, it’s great to donate without having to think about it. I’ll round up my purchase at the drugstore to fund cancer research or homelessness. But if I’m going to make a larger donation, I’d rather support my local homeless shelter, animal rescue or arts organization instead of picking from whatever charities are affiliated with a website.
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Their website clearly has a place where 501(c)3 orgs can sign-up but it seems subject to a vetting process unless other programs like the Amazon Smile project that is ending. It is also difficult to see what orgs they do support. I think this is a hard pass unless they improve the transparency with this company.