Earn Miles and Points, Save the World, and Have an Excellent Chance of Getting Your Money Back!

Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.

Sound too good to be true?  It’s real, and I can’t believe I didn’t get involved in this sooner.  Well, I guess I can believe it.  You know, full-time job, toddler, husband, bossy dog, running the blog, laundry, blah, blah, etc…. Regardless, now that I have finally gotten involved, I wanted to share the info in the hopes that some of you will want to “empower people around the world $25 at a time” and earn some really easy miles and points in the meantime.

What I am talking about is an organization called Kiva.  Kiva has been around since 2005, has over 689,000 lenders, has given out $284 million dollars in loans in 61 countries, and has a repayment rate of 98.88% on those loans.  Kiva works with microfinance institutions on five continents to provide loans to people without access to traditional banking systems.  One hundred percent of the loans are sent to these microfinance institutions, which Kiva calls “field partners”, who administer the loans in the field.  While tons of stuff goes on behind the scenes to verify that the borrowers, field partners, etc… are all legitimate and are following the Kiva protocols and procedures, the process for those who want to make the loans (us) is super simple.

1.  Join KivaThis is free and took me about a minute.

2.  Join a lending team.  This is not required, but it makes the process so much more fun.  Both Milepoint and Flyertalk have Kiva lending teams.  I am one of the newest members of the Milepoint team.  The members of that team  call themselves “enablers”, but I think they just provide fantastic support and encouragement for one another, and the Kiva mission.  In fact, there is even a Milepoint Kiva DO happening in San Fransisco March 9-11th.  Save the world, earn miles, learn about Kiva directly from Kiva staff, be hosted by Virgin American at SFO, and have fun with your friends.  What could be better?

Being a part of a team simply means that your individual loans also count toward that team’s totals.  You still choose who to lend to, and repayments still come back to you. 

3.  Make a loan (or 50).  This is both the fun part, and the hard part.  You get to look through seemingly countless bios of people from around the world who are seeking loans to grow their grocery store, get better feed for their livestock, buy more fabric for their garment making business, etc… You also get to see a picture of that person and read exactly what they want to use the loan for.  You see their geographic location, repayment schedule, their “field partner risk rating”, and more.  You can choose to lend from $25 – $500 toward an individual loan, in increments of $25.

4.  Get updates on your loan(s).  Throughout the life of the loan you will get progress updates from Kiva in the form of emails.  You can also go back to the website and get updates directly.

5.  Get paid back.  This part is certainly not guaranteed, and Kiva does a good job of outlining some of the reasons why repayment may not happen, but according to their statistics, 98.88% of the money lent since 2005 has been repaid.  So, your chances are pretty good.  This is one of the reasons it is helpful to loan smaller amounts to a larger number of borrowers who are located in different parts of the world – you diversify your “risk”.

6.  Repeat.  Go back to Step 3 and repeat the process with your repaid funds.  If you want to maximize the miles and points you earn on your credit cards, make sure that you “cash out” the money that you get repaid from the loans via PayPal, and then lend that money back to Kiva.  If you leave it in your Kiva account and re-loan the money that way, you are missing out on earning additional points from using your rewards credit cards.  Of course,  you can also choose to “cash out” and leave the funds in your own bank account as well.  There are no penalties or PayPal fees collected for “cashing out”, so to use a term from The Frequent Miler, this could almost be a “Perpetual Points Machine”.    😉

If you want a little more info on how Kiva works, this short video is simple to understand and informative.  meVAPscrGsI

The vast majority of us that collect miles and points are in the enviable position to have “first-world problems” like: my upgrade didn’t clear, a reward seat isn’t available on the flight I want, seat 1A is already taken, they didn’t serve me a pre-departure beverage, I had to gate-check my bag because the overhead bins were full, I sat next to a crying baby, etc…  While those situations can certainly be annoying, most of us in the miles and points game are living pretty comfortable lives.  That means we have the opportunity to help bring others up.  With my own background being in social work, I am a big advocate of the “teach a man/woman to fish” approach toward helping others.

For my first Kiva loan, I lent to a woman in Peru who raises small farm animals to sell at a local market.  She wanted a $375 loan in order to purchase a better feed for her animals so that they would be larger, and thus fetch a higher selling price when they are sold at the market.  Assuming she is successful in her venture, she could potentially bring in more money for her family by selling larger animals at the market.  This wasn’t a handout so that she can have something given to her in the short run, it was an investment in her and her business.  Everyone is a winner in that scenario, and I am happy to be a very small part of that venture.  It also went toward helping me meet the minimum spending requirements on my new credit card. 

I have never had to be in the position of not obtaining high quality food for both my family and my pets (closest thing I have to livestock!).  I have never had to be a single mother who has a job raising animals (which I am sure is very hard work).  I sit at a computer making a middle-class salary that probably results in more income in one year than many around the world will have in their lifetime.  So, my opinion is “who am I to not loan $25 to help make a difference in someone’s life?”  I certainly don’t have tons of cash lying around, but I have $25.  In a week or two, I’ll probably have another $25, and next month, probably another $25.  You get the idea.  Of course, there is the added benefit of racking up miles and points through credit card spending by making these loans.  You have a really good shot at getting most of that money back when the loans are repaid, but the miles earned are yours to keep!

Whatever your reason for lending is, I highly recommend you go check out Kiva and see if you might want to get involved.  You will find me “rooting you on” over with the Milepoint Lending Team.  In their one year of existence, they have already loaned over 1.5 million dollars!  They were the fastest team in Kiva history to loan both $1M and $1.5M, beating the second closest team by months.  Basically, they rock!

To get a couple of you started on your lending journey, I am donating a $25 Kiva gift card, and Randy Peterson (one of the founders of Milepoint, and basically the Godfather of Miles and Points) will also donate a $25 Kiva gift card.  The Kiva gift cards will be given to two people who comment on this post about anything related to Kiva.  Could be a question, a comment, a story, or whatever.  I will select the two gift card winners at random.  Current Kiva members are also welcome to enter!

Update: There is now a third $25 gift card prize thanks to Frequent Flyer Collector!  So, there will now be three winners who get some extra help on their lending journey with Kiva.  You can also enter to win a $25 Kiva gift card from MichaelW Travels or The Frequent Miler.

Entries are accepted until 11:59PM Central on Sunday 2/12/12.  Look for the winners to be announced on Monday!

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. […] Many of you may have seen Kiva mentioned here and there as a great way to meet credit card spends at the same time as helping out those who are less fortunate. If you are like me, you are probably interested but might not understand how it all works. Mommy Points did a great write-up about the Kiva loan process, including a video and descriptions of her personal experience. The contest mentioned in the post has already ended, but there is still some great information. Details HERE. […]


  1. I love Kiva. As a student, it’s difficult to hit spend requirements. But luckily with Kiva (and managing my parents’ finances…), I’ve been able to hit the threshold on the Sapphire Preferred, Freedom, and two Citi AA cards in just three months! 30+ Kiva loans right now and definitely more to come.

  2. I just started doing Kiva due to a another blogger here that allowed me to randomly win his raffle.
    I will loan more after I’m done with this post.. DONE! on to Kiva! 🙂

  3. Love that you wrote a blog post about this! I am part of the Milepoint Kiva team after talking to Randy several months ago and he convinced me to join. Since then, I have made several loans and have never looked back. This program is rewarding to watch businesses thrive in challenging circumstances.

  4. Kiva is a great way to help others especially because it would almost impossible to find a farmer in Peru that could use a few hundre bucks

  5. Signed up for kiva a long time ago when they were running promos…still haven’t made any loan. Perhaps my next round of CC churn will change my mind 🙂

  6. Thanks for the overview on Kiva. I have seen another article on using Kiva to earn miles, but nothing on the average time to get our $ back (and repeat the cycle). Any idea what it is?

  7. Never thought about doing something like this! I have seen stuff about personal loans on other websites, but nothing that looked this legitimate. When you loan out money, does it come back with interest, or is the repayment amount the same as what you loan out?

  8. I think getting involved in helping others in need puts the important things in life in a different perspective, and yes, it amazes me how sometimes we take for granted what we have in this country when we complaint about things like “I hate the traffic” or “my phone’s signal is awful” and we forget that a large percentage of other people in the world (kids especially) don’t even have access to clean water and food. Checking this out and joining soon. Never heard of this before. Sounds like a great program. Thanks for posting.

  9. A friend was just telling me that she had just received repayment on her third loan made through Kiva. Thanks for reminding that I wanted to check this out.

  10. Do you know how much of a loan actually gets to the person asking for the money? Is anything taken out for card fees? If not, I’m looking to do this!

  11. Steve: Each loan is different. Repayment times can range from 3 months to 3 years. There is a detailed repayment schedule available for each loan so you can choose a repayment schedule that meets your needs.

    Jared: Your money is repaid without interest.

  12. Thanks for the blog post about Kiva. I’d heard about them a while ago; the venture was fairly new and I didn’t know the return rate. Your post has given me updated information, and now I’m interested in helping others work toward their goal.

  13. Right on MP! I think the idea of raffles for Kiva cards is a good one… I had won a drawing a few weeks back from Frequent Miler for a free magazine subscription, and asked him if I could donate the cost of it to Kiva in it’s place. He generously agreed and sent a Kiva card… And then decided to have another new drawing (that mike from above won!) for a Kiva card, and it looks like the idea is spreading – kudos to FM, yourself and Randy for not only donating but sharing the gift of sharing!

  14. I’ve heard of Kiva but never knew much about it. Thanks for doing a post about them, and thanks for your bit about keeping things in perspective (first world problems…) I’m definitely going to give it a go!

  15. This is an inspiring post. I will be looking through the opportunities and choosing my loans. Thank you for highlighting Kiva.

  16. Kiva is great. Actually, it’s helped me quit smoking. I put up $25 a week instead of buying cigarettes. Certainly helps with min. spends, as well!

    Not to derail this topic too much, but there’s also another micro-lending site, Vittana.org, that focuses on student loans that’s worth checking out, though it might take a while for a lender to get their money back.

  17. I’m on Kiva but haven’t made a decision yet about which loans to fund. So many…almost overwhelming. There was also, for a time, a Kiva for Detroit….same idea and supported by Kiva but to support small projects here in a city that has been devastated.

  18. I just joined the MilePoint team. The team was founded almost a year ago (Feb. 12, 2011), and currently has 585 members. I wonder how high we can push that number to by the one-year anniversary?!

  19. My daughter gave everyone on her Christmas gift list Kiva gift cards this year. I chose to lend my $50 to two women – one who wanted to purchase additional nets for her fishing business and one who wanted to invest in a larger mixer for her baked goods business. Keep in mind that if your money is paid back and you don’t select new loans, Kiva accepts the money as a donation to support their business.

  20. MP-once again, I am impressed with your blog! I have read about kiva on other sites but have not been prompted to get involved until today! Well

  21. Started using Kiva nearly three years ago when I got married. Instead of those little trinkets that everybody throws away, we took the money and used it on Kiva.

  22. I agree with the above poster – I’ve known about Kiva for quite some time but for whatever reason the way today’s story hit me has really motivated me to try it out. I think I too often take the comfort of my surroundings for granted.

  23. you have to be careful though because not everything is hunky dory in the world of microlending. For example, there have been a lot of suicides in India by customers because of an inability to pay back their loans – the interest rates can actually be quite high.

  24. THANK YOU for explaingin Kiva. I’ve seen the logos on MP, but never really understood what it was — or how I would get miles by participating. I’ll certainly check into it.

  25. Congrats on joining their team. Peer pressure can be a great thing. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to hold out myself!

  26. I joined Kiva several months ago after hearing about it from the Milepoint team and I’m hooked! It’s so rewarding to find a loan you connect with in some way and feel like you’re helping someone in another part of the work.

  27. Fabulous. I first heard about Kiva as there was a book at a local coffee shop with details of all the loans they had contributed towards. They had a staff tip jar as well as a Kiva change jar. Sat for half an hour reading the different stories as it was so fascinating.

    Thanks for reminding me of Kiva. I have just now opened up an account, joined the Milepoints team and made 3 small loans. Not much but it is a start.

  28. Just donated to a lady in Peru as a birthday gift for my sister who has a great love for that country. Thanks mommypoints for inspiring us.

  29. I have read about Kiva for a long time and after reading your post decided to go ahead and make my first set of loans just now. Thanks for making me get off the fence and just do it!

  30. Wow, I’ve heard of microloans, but I’ve never heard of this program before. It’s great that it reaches the masses, and little by little, it makes a huge impact.
    I’m very excited to get involved. Miles aside, it’s great to know where exactly is your money going and it’s rewarding to know you’re making a difference in somebody’s life.

  31. I’ve donated before to microfinance organizations but Kiva seems to do an ideal job of getting loans to lenders. Thanks for the post!

  32. This is interesting, I have heard the name Kiva, but didn’t really know much about it. Also wondering which cards give bonus points for charity that another poster mentioned above?

  33. I’m going to check this out further, seems like a great way to hit minimum spend and help others at the same time! Thanks for posting it!

  34. I’m a newbie here. I’m not sure I understand where the miles earning comes in. By funding a loan with your credit card?

  35. I love micro financing and thus Kiva. I am from India and have seen and heard many great stories of how people are able to make a living and help themselves because of such loans.

  36. Wow, very cool. Do you know what the average term (length) of the loans are on Kiva? In other words, how long after you lend should you expect the repayment?

  37. Just in time! I have been on the edge with microfinancing, and this post has made me decide to want to do this. Milepoint team, here I come.

  38. Sorry for all the posts but another thought – when giving just assume its charity and so if you never recover, you are not disappointed.

  39. You all are amazing! I am so thrilled to know that there are so many more people out there who are interested in starting (or continuing) with an organization like Kiva. I’ll do my best to answer a few questions, but if I don’t answer yours, please head over to the Milepoint Kiva Team thread and there are many folks there far more knowledgeable about Kiva than I am. Also, if you are a Kiva vet and want to correct or add to any of these answers, feel free.

    -Repayment terms vary. The ones I have seen go from about a year to a few years. Some start repaying pretty quickly as they make monthly payments. Each loan description includes a repayment schedule, so you can see what you are agreeing to up front.

    -I agree that while most loans do get repaid, don’t loan money that you can’t afford to lose.

    -The earning miles and points portion comes into play by funding the loans with your credit card via Paypal. There are no fees charged to do this.

    -All of the money that you lend goes directly to the field partners for the loan. Kiva does not keep any of it. You can choose to donate directly to Kiva to cover their operating costs, if you wish.

    -You do not get paid back interest on your loans as Kiva does not charge interest to the field partners.

    -FrequentFlyerCollector, I am more than happy to add a 3rd gift card to the mix and will update the post accordingly. Thanks so much for your generosity!

    -Now I want to go to the Kiva DO to learn more myself. Ha ha. Vicious cycle this is. 😉

  40. Longtime Kiva member here. Early on in the program I gave Kiva holiday gifts to my kids and relatives…it has been fascinating to learn the varieties of global families they’ve selected as recipients over the years, to see loans repaid and then reinvested in others, etc. Truly inspiring on so many levels! Thanks for spotlighting this very worthwhile world-changing charity.

  41. I’ve been loaning on Kiva for a number of years now, ever since hearing about it on “Oprah.” All the loans have been repaid 100% and I then re-loan again. Instead of mailing Christmas gifts to my brother and sister, I loan in their names…they don’t need any more things sitting around their houses and haven’t been interested in loaning on their own. Maybe your loved one would rather support Kiva for Valentine’s Day instead of receiving another box of candy???

  42. Thanks for the post, I’ve been doing this as a last-minute way to get up to minimum spend. It truly is a humbling experience to go through and realize how little the rest of the world has.

  43. Thanks for the comprehensive explanation. I have been thinking about Kiva for a while now. This may be just the incentive I need to go and join up!

  44. I was reading about Kiva a couple weeks ago, and it seems like a great idea. These gift card giveaways are a good way to get someone started and comfortable with the idea, risk free! Either way, I’m in!

  45. I LOVE Kiva and their loaning model. I’ve been involved with them now for over 5 years… All my “investments” are one-way loans. I hopefully will never need to request the money back. It’s just so enjoyable to keep it all circling around to different people.
    Also… love your blog!

  46. I use Kiva as a (travel/splurge) savings account… at least in theory since I’ve never taken anything out. I put in $50 per paycheck, and also reloan any repayments. In practice:
    (1) I loan $100 + any expected repayments around the 13th (after my card cycles, but before repayments)
    (2) The repayments come in around the 15th
    (3) I ‘withdraw’ the kiva account to paypal after the 15th … note that to generate miles you have to withdraw the Kiva balance before making more loans as Kiva will not allow you to pay via paypal while you have an account balance
    (4) It takes a couple weeks for the money to show up on Paypal, but then I dump it into my checking account (still long before I have to pay the bill for that month’s loans)

    Note that with Paypal you have to be careful with payments: in order to withdrawn for free you need to link your bank account. From that time forward paypal will always make the bank account your default payment method.

    I’m essentially pre-loaning the repayments, but doing it such that I never spend that money out of pocket. Even if you can just do $25/month, eventually your repayments will build up so you can make multiple loans each month this way.

    Kudos to Paypal, who eats the credit card transaction fee for Kiva transactions.

    For those of you trying to select a loan, there is a site called kivalens.org which is extremely helpful. You can save default filters to reduce the amount of data, and once you select loans it drops them right in your kiva basket so you just check out from there.

  47. Love this idea! I really like to put a face on a “good deed”. Of course it helps us too- great win-win.

    Kiva sounds great and I’m going to join!

  48. Interesting. Kiva has been one of those items mentioned that I had only a vague understanding of and honestly hadn’t taken the time to research. I appreciate the info. and the ability to lend a helping hand.

  49. Maybe it’s time for my grade-schooler and I to sit down and make a loan…great conversation starter about people in other countries and what constitutes “middle class”.

    • Theresa, I absolutely love the idea of getting your kids involved in the decision and opening their eyes to other parts of the world. I very much plan to do the same thing.

  50. I’ve been looking for a place to put a small amount of money to do some good in the world and keep reading great things about Kiva. Now I can earn points, too!

  51. It’s such a great concept. As an icing on the cake, there are a lot of same focus-minded groups on kiva, so one can pair up with people having same interest/affiliation/focus to lend on kiva.

  52. Worked in Ghana at a micro finance bank which greatly opened my eyes to this marketplace. When I returned back home to the US, one of the first things I researched was Kiva. It allows me the opportunity to continue the work I did in Ghana from home.

  53. I’m definitely going to get started lending with Kiva soon! And good point about minimum spend… this is a lot more rewarding (pun intended) than buying gift cards!

  54. This is so cool. I do the right thing and save a decent portion of my income but it just sits in a bank making 1/2 a percent. This is such a better use and investment.

  55. I just came back from Peru and chile yesterday after 2 weeks of vacation and I can personally vouch that I have never seen s many poor people work so hard. It actually really affected me and I told my wife I wanted to help out And I finally ge home today and look at your blog and here’s the answer! Let me tell you tha the average salary in Peru is $200 per MONTH and the people who live in the mountains or rural areas it’s much less. I would see countless women with their kids strapped to their backs and still working

  56. I love Kiva, it is such a same grass roots approach. The fun comes in each month when it’s Kiva Day, and you see who you can lend to next.

    I’ve only had one default, I guess he has a good reason and I hope his life has changed for the better, that’s worth the 25 bucks.

    From little things big things grow.

  57. I put in $100 after I saw a documentary about micro finance and Kiva’s founder was also in the taped round table forum discussion following the screening. Incredibly, $100 was all paid back in about 8 months or so and I’ve been putting every single dollar back for more loans. I look forward to checking how much I’ve gotten back every month and seeing if I have enough to make a loan again right away.

  58. MP, Daddy Points has said he is *happy* to look after C while you run off to SFO after y’all come visit me in Austin. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *