How to give to charity for free with loyalty points, cashback and rewards
If you want to help a worthy cause but are strapped for cash, there are still ways you can donate. A few loyalty schemes allow you to donate your rewards points to selected charities, which is a great way to give without feeling the pinch.
Ways to give for free include donating Nectar points, American Express rewards points, cashback and RedSpottedHanky loyalty points to charities - which receive your points as cash. Plus we've other ways to give without spending a penny, including volunteering and giving blood.
Important: Loyalty points and cashback should never be a reason to spend at certain sites or retailers. The best way to approach this is to consider it a bonus if you get them, but not to let them drive your purchasing decisions.
You can exchange between £2.50 and £26 of Nectar points for Oxfam donations, by buying Oxfam Unwrapped gifts from the Nectar site.
Although these are marketed as gifts, you can simply buy them to make a donation to Oxfam. Your donation will be spent on a related Oxfam project, for example, cash from water-themed gifts goes to one of its water and sanitation projects.
Here are a few examples from the full list:
- Source of safe water. This gives 25 water treatment sachets to make approximately 500 litres safe to drink, which is enough for a family of four for a month. 500 points (£2.50)
- Pile of Poo. Eco-friendly composting to help provide a source of energy for cooking. 2,000 points (£10)
- Care for mums and babies. To help give parents access to doctors and midwives. 3,400 points (£17)
- Super goat. Provides goats for breeding and training for farmers. 5,200 points (£26)
In the past, Nectar has also offered ways to donate your points to support Oxfam's appeals, such as the Indonesia Earthquake and Tsunami Appeal.
If you have an American Express card which earns membership rewards points (including the American Express card, Platinum card, Preferred Rewards Gold card and American Express Rewards cards), you can donate your points to five charities:
The amount of points you need varies by charity - when we checked it ranged from 500 to 10,000. We asked Amex how much each charity receives in return for your points, but it wasn't able to provide the monetary value.
As a rough guide to how much points are worth, 10,000 points gets you a £50 gift card for retailers such as Amazon or M&S.
Cashback websites pay you when you click through them to retailers or product providers and spend money. You can make £100s a year using them correctly.
You can withdraw your cashback via BACS, PayPal or as gift vouchers for specific retailers such as Amazon or Tesco. If you wanted to donate to charity, the simplest and most effective way would be to withdraw your cashback as cash, and donate directly to your chosen charity.
For more help and tips on earning cashback, see our Top Cashback Sites guide.
If you use RedSpottedHanky to buy train tickets, you should be automatically signed up to collect points via its loyalty scheme. It gives you one point for every £1 you spend via the site on train tickets and two points for every £1 spent on hotels or car hire.
You can redeem your points on future purchases via the site, or donate them to Railway Children, a charity which helps children living on the streets in the UK, India and Africa.
But don't assume RedSpottedHanky is cheapest - use our Cheap Trains guide to make sure you get the best deal.
If you don't have any spare loyalty points or cashback lying around, there are other ways you can help charities out without spending a penny.
Donate unwanted clothes & other items to charity shops
If you have clothes, books, toys etc you'll never use again (but are still in decent condition), take them to your local charity shop. Providing they sell, you're effectively donating the cash they get for flogging them.
Donate your time by volunteering
If you're cash-poor but time-rich, why not volunteer? There are plenty of opportunities out there, no matter your experience or skills, from working in a charity shop to helping prepare meals at a homeless shelter.
Here are a few of the biggest charities in the UK and the volunteer roles they recruit for (though there may be a smaller charity near you with opportunities):
- British Red Cross. Helping lonely people, delivering wheelchairs or assisting in emergencies.
- Oxfam. Working in its charity shops and sorting donations in warehouses.
- RNLI. Joining a lifeboat crew or fundraising.
- Samaritans. Being a listening volunteer, helping with administration, fundraising, or providing IT support.
- Shelter. Working in its charity shops or mentoring offenders released from custody.
Give blood and save lives
While not a charity, the NHS is always in need of blood donations.
NHS England, for example, says it needs 6,000 blood donations every day to treat patients across the country. It currently has a particular need for O negative, O positive, B positive or B negative blood types.
Most people can give blood if they're fit and healthy. For full info on who can give blood and where you need to go, visit the relevant country's page: England & N Wales, the rest of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Have you found any other ways to give to charity for free? Let us know in the comments below.