Effective effective altruism: Get $400 off your next charity donation

For those of you un­fa­mil­iar with Churn­ing, it’s the prac­tice of sign­ing up for a re­wards credit card, spend­ing enough with your ev­ery­day pur­chases to get the (usu­ally sig­nifi­cant) re­ward and then can­cel­ling it. Many of these cards are cards with an­nual fees (which is com­monly waived and/​or the one-time re­ward will pay for). For a nom­i­nal amount of work, you can churn cards for sig­nifi­cant bonuses.

Or­di­nar­ily I wouldn’t come close to spend­ing enough money to qual­ify for many of these re­wards, but I re­cently made the Giv­ing What You Can pledge. I now have a steady stream of pre­dictable ex­penses, and con­ve­niently, GiveWell al­lows dona­tions via most any credit card. I’ve started us­ing new re­wards cards to pay for these ex­penses each time, re­sult­ing in free flights (this is how I’m pay­ing to fly to NYC this sum­mer), Ama­zon gift cards, or some­times just straight cash.

Since the first of the year (to­tal ex­penses $4000, in­clud­ing some per­sonal ex­penses) I’ve churned $700 worth of bonuses (from a Delta Ama­zon Ex­press Gold and a Cap­i­tal One Ven­ture Card). This money can be re­donated, saved, spent, or what­ever.

Dis­claimers:

1. I hope it goes with­out say­ing that you should pay off your bal­ance in full each month, just like you should with any other card.

2. This has some nega­tive im­pact on your credit, in the short term.

3. It should be noted that credit card com­pa­nies make at least some money (I think 3%) off of your trans­ac­tions, so if you’re try­ing to hit a tar­get of X% to char­ity, you would need to donate X/​0.97, or 10.31% for 10% to ac­count for that 3%. The re­ward should more than cover it.

4. Read more about this, in­clud­ing the pros and cons, from mul­ti­ple sources be­fore you try it. It’s not some­thing that should be done lightly, but does syn­er­gize very nicely with char­ity dona­tions.