Eco-Friendly Credit Cards: Good for the Environment or Corporate Scheme?

In one survey, almost 50% of individuals said that choosing eco-friendly or sustainable brands is very important to them. Many businesses have taken the hint, offering greener products and promising support for environmental causes. One of the latest trends is eco-friendly credit cards. Is it time to swap your old credit card for a greener option?

What Perks Do Eco-Friendly Credit Cards Offer?

Defining precisely what eco-friendly credit cards are isn’t easy because no two are exactly alike. They all promise to help you protect the environment, but they go about it in different ways:

  • Recycled materials: Many eco-friendly credit cards are made with recycled plastic. According to Statista, there are over two billion credit cards in circulation worldwide, so trying to put a dent in that number isn’t a bad goal.
  • Carbon offsets: Offsetting your carbon footprint means balancing the carbon created from contamination with an equal amount of green alternatives. If the TV you bought generates X amount of carbon, you can offset it by planting X amount of trees to purify the air. These causes often involve reforestation or rainforest conservation.
  • Alternative energy sources: Some card brands contribute to a greener Earth by financing wind turbines, solar energy and other alternatives to fossil fuels.
  • Green causes: There are countless causes to get involved in if you love nature. You may be able to find an eco-friendly credit card that supports your favorite conservation effort, whether it’s protecting endangered species or helping to prevent oil drilling in wildlife areas.
  • Environmentally friendly living: Lastly, some eco-friendly cards give you back a percentage of what you spend related to greener living. For example, you would get cash back for purchasing a bike, upgrading your air conditioner, buying used clothing, taking public transportation or shopping for plant-based foods.

Some eco-friendly cards aren’t even worth talking about, honestly. Their only claim to fame is that they support the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, which sounds suspiciously like corporate-speak for empty environmental promises.

How Much Do Eco-Friendly Credit Cards Help the Environment?

Many brands seem to want to draw attention to their “green” status without actually doing much for the environment. Here are a few factors to consider:

  • Recycled plastic: No plastic items are really sustainable, even credit cards. They still release microplastics into the environment. A better option, at least where the Earth is concerned, is going cardless with mobile payment apps on your phone.
  • Carbon offsets: Planting more trees is always a good thing, but stopping fossil fuels has a much bigger impact. The irony is that some eco-friendly credit card brands partner with banks that fund fossil fuel expansion.
  • Conservation causes: Again, supporting conservation and sustainability is great, but not all eco-friendly cards give you details about how much they actually give, just the vague “a portion of sales.” You may be better off just finding an eco-friendly charity you care about and giving to it directly.

The bottom line is that some eco-friendly credit cards are better than nothing, but many don’t deliver any significant benefits for the environment. Cash-back cards can be good if they give you rewards for buying the green products you normally do, but for really investing in conservation causes, find something you’re passionate about and support it directly.