Earn Triple Points for “Charity Donations” at a 98.93% Repayment Rate

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Just as many of you did, I got the U.S. Bank Flex Perks card during the Olympics themed sign-up bonus in August.  During that time the sign-up bonus was much higher than normal, and with some strategic spending, it doesn’t take much to go from the minimum required to get the sign-up bonus to having enough points for two $400 airline tickets.  In case you got in on this deal, here are the details on how to do that as quickly and painlessly as possible.

The Olympics sign-up bonus awards 33,150 points after spending $2,500 on the card in the first five months.  If you spent that amount in non-bonus categories, you would end up with 35,650 points from the spending and the sign-up bonus.  That is just shy of the 40,000 you likely want to achieve in order to obtain two airline tickets worth up to $400, instead of just one ticket worth up to $600 with a few points left as a remainder that you would not be able to redeem at as good of a rate.  If you spent all $2,500 in a bonus category like groceries, then you would end up with 38,150 points.  Clearly it wouldn’t take much additional spending to get to the magical 40K mark.  This was the strategy I was initially interested in, and have been putting all of my grocery purchases on this card as a result.

However, there is another method that is now even more interesting to me than using the card for groceries, and it involves getting triple points from charity and social service organization donations.  Here is what the U.S. Bank website says (bolding mine):

FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature and FlexPerks Business Travel Rewards Visa cardmembers will earn FlexPoints at a rate of three (3) FlexPoints per every $1 in Net Purchases and FlexPerks Select Rewards Visa cardmembers will earn FlexPoints at a rate of 1.5 FlexPoints per every $1 in Net Purchases during the current month’s billing cycle for any merchant location that classifies itself as a Charitable and Social Service Organization. U.S Bank does not have the ability to control how a merchant chooses to classify their business and therefore reserves the right to determine which purchases qualify for additional FlexPoints. Bonus FlexPoints will be awarded within 60 days of donation.

If you spent all $2,500 required to get the sign-up bonus on a charity or social service organization donation, then you would end up with just over the 40,000 points required to get two $400 tickets.  That got my brain working immediately for two reasons.  First, I have some relatively large donations already in mind that I plan to make before the end of the year.  It would absolutely make sense for me to use this card for those expenses as it would easily get me to the 40K goal.  Secondly, I started to wonder whether a certain micro-lending organization that I am fond of would qualify for 3x points.  I did a test donation of $10 to the Ronald McDonald House (the charity this site is very proudly supporting for 2012) as well as a test $25 loan via my micro-lending organization of choice.  That loan was processed by PayPal, and I didn’t honestly have much hope that it would count as a 3x expense due to some of the (perhaps false?) comments I had seen online.  I made sure to keep the amounts different for each purchase so I would be able to tell the difference when the points posted.

A few days ago fellow blogger Points to Point B let me know that his test $25 micro-lending loan posted at 3x, and sure enough when my statement closed, mine did the exact same thing.  I spent a total of $35 on “charitable expenses”, and received the regular 1x for those purchases plus an additional 70 points on the entire $35 amount.

In theory, if the stated 98.93% repayment rate for all micro loans from that organization held true for the $2,500 you loaned to hit the spending requirement on this card, then you would have enough points for $800 in airfare by actually spending about $27.  However, we all know that the individual loans you make to get to $2,500 may vary from the overall repayment rate for the organization as a whole.  It may cost you nothing if you end up with 100% repayment rate, or it may cost you much more.  Additionally, you would be without that cash for at least several months.  That said, if you planned to loan that amount anyway, then you might as well do it with this card.  I know this is the card I will be using for those expenses.  I’m by no means a “huge lender”, but I can say that I just got my first loan 100% repaid, and the others are making steady progress with repayments.  This is not a perfect organization by any stretch, but it is still one I am happy to be a part of, and one that could be quite useful for this purpose.

If you want to get started for no risk in the world of micro lending, you can use my link to sign-up and get a free $25 to lend (I also get a $25 credit to lend – neither of us keep the repayments on those loans).  I also encourage you to join the team of folks on Milepoint who do the same.  Even if you have no interest in micro lending, this is still a good card to use for your other charitable donations!  It’s great to get rewarded for helping others.  Everyone wins!

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. I too plan to make some sizable donations during the lifetime of the spend timeframe on this card. I believe microlending is a good thing too, and will likely go that route in a small way.

    Here are my questions on that one: A concept in microlending is that the loan will likely eventually come back to you.

    1) If it comes back to you before the four-month spend period ends, doesn’t that negate the spend? In other words, wouldn’t you still need $2,500 in other spending to meet the requirement?

    2) If it comes back to you after the four-month spend period ends, but it was essential to your meeting the $2,500 within the allotted period, does this negate your 33,150 point bonus?

    3) Would it be safer to use microlending to advance the *posting* of the 33,150 points for a flight you want to take soon, but still go ahead and meet the $2,500 within the four months in other ways?

    What are the risks here?

  2. One thing I notice is that the bonus does not just apply to contributions that are reportable to the IRS as such, but to any purchase made from an organization classified as a charitable or social services organization. For example charities often have auctions or are engaged in other activities where your transaction has economic value to you and thus is only partially deductible to the IRS, or not at all. For example, if you participate in a $100 a plate dinner charity fundraiser, perhaps $20 is not tax deductible because it’s the value of the meal. For the IRS only the $80 would count, but for Flexperks the full $100 would earn triple points. If you buy several cakes at a bake sale at church, and the cakes are priced at a normal rate for cakes, none of it is tax deductible. Yet if they take credit cards, the entire purchase would earn triple Flexperks points. I’m sure people can think of many other examples.

  3. Thanks for the post, I have a 100 test kiva funding out, I guess I’ll just close out the funding now based on your information.

  4. @BobChi – That’s a great point. If what you say is true, then this should be my default card for all Museum and Park entrances, as well as for gift shop and cafe spending at cultural institutions. It won’t add a huge amount, but it’ll help.

  5. Nice post. I just got my flex perks card this week. I have another 12k of spending by year end, so this helps me out quite a bit! Kiva here I come!

  6. If you’re feeling wealthy or generous, there are some great opportunities to get 10 points per mile from American, Delta and Hawaiian Airlines in addition to the FlexPoints!

    American: http://www.aa.com/i18n/AAdvantage/earnMiles/beyondTravel/charities/main.

    Delta: http://www.nfcr.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1156&Itemid=283

    Hawaiian: http://hano-hawaii.org/newsletter-archive/april-07-newsletter/announcements/donate-to-public-radio-get-hawaiian-miles/

  7. @BobChi, you are correct in terms of your second comment. In terms of the first comment, the micro loans do (hopefully) come back to you, but the money does not get put back on your card. It goes back to your Kiva account and then you can choose to re-lend or cash out via PayPal.
    @Iolaire, it should work just fine. 😉
    @Kay, worth a shot!
    @Steve, woohoo!
    @PointsObsession, great reminder about all the ways to get points by helping others. You can go through those links and use this card to possibly get a charity double dip!

  8. This is plain wrong: when you give money to microlenders you expect get it back. When you donate money, you kiss it goodbye for a (what you consider) good cause. The abuse of paypals goodwill no fee cc use on Kiva is already borline, this takes the cake. Thumbs down.

    • @oliver2002, how in the world is using a card that gives 3x for lending a thumbs down move? More loans potentially get made, and you earn more points in the process. If, as you state, you expect to get the money back from microlending then I am not at all following on why you wouldn’t want to earn more points in the process. Maybe I am missing something though…

  9. This is already a tactic that many people use to meet spend. The FF community is highly involved in Kiva and I can’t imagine that being able to use CC for donations isn’t one large reason for that. If you are saying that getting 3x for charity is against the traditional spirit of giving, then what about using it for 30K SPG points? 60K Ultimate Rewards points? 75K AA miles?

    • I agree that using cc is a reason many (tho not all) in the ff community are involved with Kiva. I think giving without getting anything in return is fantastic. I also think giving and getting something in return is fantastic. The ones on the receiving end benefit just the same.

      • One other point is that with Kiva there is no guarantee of getting your money back. You are shouldering the risk for these loans and there is very much an element of “giving” in that. At best you get your money back with no interest. At worst you don’t get it back at all. Personally I don’t feel guilty at all earning 3x in the process. 😉

  10. “One other point is that with Kiva there is no guarantee of getting your money back” No just a 98.93% I can’t wait to hear your thought’s on Xmas

  11. @BobChi – That’s a great point. If what you say is true, then this should be my default card for all Museum and Park entrances, as well as for gift shop and cafe spending at cultural institutions. It won’t add a huge amount, but it’ll help.

    Yes – got triple the points for my admission to the US Intrepid Museum last month. Saw the bonus and had to skim the statement a few times before I realized why I got them! However, the reverse is true too. You can make a tax deductible donation to a group which might be classified in another category and would not get the bonus.

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