As Wallets Open For Haiti, Credit Card Companies Take A Big Cut

Laura Bassett
The Huffington Post
January 15, 2010

Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover have now all announced that they will waive fees for some donations related to the crisis in Haiti.

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As a massive human tragedy unfolds in Haiti, relief organizations are soliciting credit-card donations through their hotlines and websites. About 97 percent of these donations will actually make it to the designated organizations — but the other 3 percent will be skimmed off by banks and credit card companies to cover their “transaction costs.”

Thanks to this hidden fee, American banks and credit card companies are making huge profits — somewhere in the neighborhood of $250 million a year — off of people’s charitable donations, according to a Huffington Post analysis.

Those profits rise sharply after major disasters, when humanitarian relief organizations such as Oxfam and Operation USA take in more than 85 percent of their donations via credit card — and the credit card providers, with only a few exceptions, refuse to waive their fees.

Credit card companies have only been willing to waive their processing fee for charity once, Richard Walden, the CEO of Operation USA, tells the Huffington Post, and that was for the tsunami disaster of 2004.

“After the tsunami, we had thousands of donations, and American Express and I think one other company temporarily waived their fees. So if this thing ramps up, we’ll try to get in touch with these banks and see if they’ll waive the fee again for us.”

The article, with video, continues at YahooNews. Photo AFP/Juan Barreto

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