Charity credit cards

Getting a charity credit card might sound like a great way to 'give a little' while spending, but in fact it's one of the worst ways to give to charity. We show you how you can give up to five times more – simply by using another type of credit card.

I want to get a charity credit card. Hold on, hold on. Have you thought this through? Do you pay off all your credit cards IN FULL? Every month? Well, if you don't, you're not looking for a charity card. You're looking for a 0% interest card. Because any interest you'll pay will be far more than any donations made by the card on your behalf. Still want to give to charity? How about donating the money you saved by not paying interest instead?

OK, but I always pay off in full. So which charity card should I get? I like dogs – is there one that helps dogs? Well, everybody likes dogs (apart from those who prefer cats). But I never said you should get a charity credit card to help them – no matter how cute the puppies on the card are.

In fact, you shouldn't get a charity card at all – most of them are rubbish. They'll give £20 to the charity when you first sign up, which isn't bad, but after that they'll give a paltry 25p for every £100 you spend on the card. You'll have to spend a fair amount of dosh before it'll amount to something worth shouting about.

OK, OK. Got it... So what's the best way to help? Are you prepared to do a little bit of work for this one? It's like delayed gratification, but it'll mean you can give charities way more than you would if you used charity credit cards. Maybe even five times more.

Your first move is to get a top cashback card. With one of these, you can get as much as £5 back for every £100 you spend. Beats 25p, doesn't it (even if you include the £20 intro donation)? We suggest the Amex Platinum Everyday. It has 5% introductory cashback (max £100) for the first three months, then pays up to 1% depending on how much you spend.

But – a word of warning before you start – there's no point getting one of these cards if you EVER pay interest as it'll wipe out any cashback you earn. The Amex card, for example, will charge 22.9% rep APR.

OK, so I have my cashback card. Can I boost what I get? The way to max the amount of cashback you'll get is to do ALL your spending on your credit card (keeping cash in your current/savings account to pay it off IN FULL every month).

We've heard of people getting up to £1,500 a year cashback from doing this – but even if you're not a real big spender, you should still be able to earn £100s.

Let's put some numbers on this to find out how much you can give to help Fluffy Fido and Barking Bella find new homes. If you spend £16,000 a year on a credit card (sounds a lot, but if you use it instead of cash/debit cards it becomes more sensible), you'd earn £275 cashback with the top card. But you'd only have gotten £60 year from a charity credit card with the same spending.

I want to give those puppies loads of cash... think of all of the ones with no homes. Is there any way I can up the cashback even more? Yes, that's the other great thing about cashback cards versus charity credit cards. When you're giving the money directly, if you pay UK tax, you can make the Government pay 25% on top of your donation (more info in Charity Giving) simply by ticking the Gift Aid box when sending the money.

So if you spend £16,000 on a cashback card, and give the £275 cashback to the charity and Gift Aid it too, you end up giving almost £350 in total (if you pay basic-rate tax, higher-rate taxpayers could Gift Aid more).

You win, the charity wins. Fido and Bella win. Everyone's a winner.