Not all charity cards reward our generosity

Love it or hate it, the Comic Relief red nose is at least a vivid reminder to give to charity.

Love it or hate it, the Comic Relief red nose is at least a vivid reminder to give to charity.

So it's a shame that its own affiliated credit card (with Nationwide building society), which lets you give while you spend, is rather less charitable than others. An annual percentage rate (APR) of 16.9 makes it one of the more expensive deals on the market.

The Comic Relief card's one-off £11.30 donation when you sign up compares poorly with £20 on the Halifax's Mencap card and £15 on cards for many other charities. But it does at least offer the best rate on donations with each purchase. This is set at 0.5 per cent, so a £50 purchase will generate 25p.

According to the information provider Moneyfacts, nearly all the other charity cards pay just half this rate.

Most people who choose to use a charity card do so because they want to support a particular cause and not for financial reasons. However, it is always worth checking the rates on any such card you take out. If you're in the near third of Britons who fail to clear their debts each month, your gesture of goodwill could end up costing you dear.

Many charity cards now carry 0 per cent introductory rates like mainstream offers but, also like their high-street brethren, they switch to a higher rate later.

Standard APRs to watch out for at the end of six-month 0 per cent deals include 17.9 at both the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Help the Aged.

Of course, those who religiously pay off their credit-card debt every month don't have to worry about such rates.

There are obviously far more effective ways to give to charity, such as direct donations via Gift Aid. Every £1 you donate secures another 28p from the Inland Revenue. Remember, though, that you can only do this if you are a UK taxpayer.

You could also consider taking out a regular credit card that gives you cashback. At the end of the year, simply donate the equivalent amount to your preferred charity.

Cashback deals range from 0.5 per cent to 2 per cent. A price comparison website such as Moneysupermarket.com will help you find the best ones. Watch out for sliding scales, though. Morgan Stanley's Platinum Mastercard, for example, currently pays 2 per cent cashback on the first £2,000 spent, but the rate drops to 1 per cent thereafter. It also carries an APR of 17.9 per cent.

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