Why don't green credit cards exist?
No options with a focus on renewable energy really exist. Learn about our ideas for credit cards that reward clean energy.
By GreenPortfolio Team
January 18, 2021
In 2020, there were more credit card accounts (373 million) than people (330 million) in the United States. Yet, among all of these cards, there are basically none that support renewable energy. Every gas station brand has a rewards credit card. There are numerous credit cards with annual cash back options or rewards for shopping at a particular business. Many grocery stores even allow you to earn points towards gas discounts – and of course there are dozens of cards which provide rewards for air travel.
GreenPortfolio did a thorough review of the consumer credit card market and really couldn’t find any products that met our standards by directly investing in renewable energy. (Though cards for business accounts did not seem to have many options with environmental benefits either). Despite consumers being interested in accessing sustainable financial products, the major credit card companies – Visa, Mastercard, American Express and others – have not put out innovative cards for this space. Similarly, Chase Bank, Citibank, Bank of America and Capital One have no green credit card offerings either.
"Green" cards should be about what they support, not what they're made out of.
In recent months, a few supposedly “green” cards have entered the market based on the fact that the card itself is physically compostable. While this is potentially a way to reduce landfill waste, it does very little to address climate change or support renewable energy. It is instead a way to signal to the user and those around them that the environment matters without actually doing anything to support or protect it.
What could a green credit card offering look like?
It seems to us that there are ample opportunities and customers for such products. Credit cards that support renewable energy production could be introduced in a number of ways. Here are a few ideas that GreenPortfolio thinks are viable options:
- Automatic purchase of carbon offsets for air travel
- Automatic purchase of carbon offsets for gasoline purchases
- Rewards card associated with solar installation company – earn points towards your own panels
- Rewards card associated with community solar installation – earn points to support a shared solar installation
- Rewards card with extra point from brands or companies which are run on renewable energy
- Allow users to donate points towards installation of renewable energy in lower income areas
- Annual cash back awards for reducing your carbon footprint – such as for choosing lower impact travel options
- Other environmental rewards such as planting trees or supporting energy efficiency programs in local communities
Of course, there are other solutions which could be developed to support renewable energy installations through credit card purchases. New apps are being developed that make it feasible to measure an individual’s carbon footprint and accurately offset their carbon footprint through renewable energy installations. Credit card issuers could leverage these technological advances to attract eco-conscious consumers.
We were encouraged to see that there is a new credit card coming out in Europe based on this model. The DO credit card tracks the kilos of CO2 emissions from the items you purchase using the credit card. It then suggests the amount of carbon offsets you should buy. While there is no rewards program associated with the card to provide for offsets or at least subsidize the pricing, it is one step closer to providing consumers with the information to do so. The card is currently only available in Sweden but aims to roll out in more countries in the future.
Be an advocate for better options - contact your credit card issuer today.
If you have a minute, visit our credit cards page where we have listed ways you can get in touch with the largest credit card issuers (such as Bank of America, American Express, Mastercard, Visa etc) and encourage them to create financial products with environmental benefits like those mentioned above. Your advocacy is important if we are going to create more green financial solutions for everyone to access. Climate change is a big problem, but if we can get easy solutions into the marketplace – like providing ways to support clean energy – every time you use one of your credit cards we can start to get closer to the climate action we need.
Credit cards are an important financial product for most Americans. They are one of the most common forms of payment and one of the main ways consumers access loans and lines of credit from their bank. Shouldn't we all have a green option that supports renewable energy development every time you pay for your groceries or pick up the bill at lunch?
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