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8 Tips for Making Credit Card Donations

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Many charities make it easier for you to donate money by accepting credit cards. When you're making a credit card donation, many of the same credit card purchase rules apply. For example, don't max out your credit card by making a donation. There are some other rules to follow, too, especially if you're looking for a tax write-off.

Don’t make impulse donations. Instead, decide upfront the amount of your credit card donation. If you make a donation without thinking about it first, you could end up charging more than you can afford to repay. You need to check your budget and your credit limit before making credit card donations.

Research the organization before donating. Not all people who claim to do charity actually do charity. You could make a donation to an “organization” that just pockets your money. Before donating, look up the organization’s website to confirm its 501(c)(3) status. You might also check with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to see whether the donation will be tax-deductible.

Only donate what you can afford. Most people are inclined to donate more money when they donate with a credit card. Treat your credit card donation as if you were donating cash from your wallet or writing a check. That way, you’re less likely to make a credit card donation that will land you in debt. You're not a bad person if you say no to a donation you can't afford.

Keep your credit card donation under your credit limit. If you max out your credit card just to make a donation, that donation will end up costing you much more. Going over your credit limit can result in an over-the-limit fee and an increase in your interest rate. Not only that, if your credit utilization rises above 30%, the credit card donation will effect your credit score until you pay your balance down.

Make sure you’re giving to a qualified charitable organization - a 501(c)(3) organization with a tax-exempt status or a church or other religious organization - if you plan on deducting the donation on your income taxes. You must itemize your deductions (vs. taking the standard deduction) to deduct a credit card donation on your taxes.

Get a receipt for your donation. Credit card donations are still tax deductible for qualified charitable organizations in the year the donation is charged to your credit card, even if you don’t pay off the balance that year. If your donation is less than $250, a credit card statement showing the date and amount of the transaction is typically accepted by the IRS as proof of the credit card donation. If your credit card donation is more than $250, you need to have a receipt from the organization you donated to.

Avoid making credit card donations on the street or over the phone, even if the charity uses a name you trust. You’re more likely to be scammed this way. Avoid clicking on an email link to make a credit card donation since this is how many phishing scams happen. Instead, go directly to the organization’s website to make a donation.

Watch your credit card billing statement closely for a few months after making a credit card donation to make sure the correct amount was charged to your credit card. If the amount doesn’t match your records, contact the organization to find out what meant wrong. If the organization isn’t able to solve the charge discrepancy, raise the issue with your credit card issuer. You have the right to dispute fraudulent credit card charges.

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