As Wallets Open For Haiti, Credit Card Companies Take A Big Cut
As a massive human tragedy unfolds in Haiti, relief organizations are soliciting credit-card donations through their hotlines and websites. About 97 percent of these donations will actually make it to the designated organizations -- but the other 3 percent will be skimmed off by banks and credit card companies to cover their "transaction costs."
Thanks to this hidden fee, American banks and credit card companies are making huge profits -- somewhere in the neighborhood of $250 million a year -- off of people's charitable donations, according to a Huffington Post analysis.
Those profits rise sharply after major disasters, when humanitarian relief organizations such as Oxfam and Operation USA take in more than 85 percent of their donations via credit card -- and the credit card providers, with only a few exceptions, refuse to waive their fees.
Credit card companies have only been willing to waive their processing fee for charity once, Richard Walden, the CEO of Operation USA, tells the Huffington Post, and that was for the tsunami disaster of 2004.
"After the tsunami, we had thousands of donations, and American Express and I think one other company temporarily waived their fees. So if this thing ramps up, we'll try to get in touch with these banks and see if they'll waive the fee again for us."
Bowing to enormous public pressure in the United Kingdom after the tsunami, British credit card companies have pledged to "waiv[e] interchange fees for all cross-charity and disaster or emergency appeals," according to the UK Card Association website.
One notable exception to the rule in this country is Capital One bank. Through its "No Hassle Giving Site", the bank waives transaction costs for holders of its Visa or MasterCard cards, so that 100 percent of people's donations goes to their chosen charity.
"We are pleased to be able to donate these costs, and we believe this will generate customer loyalty and an enduring customer franchise," said Pam Girardo, a spokesperson for Capital One.