Be charitable but not a sucka
Americans are generous. We contribute about $300 billion to charitable causes every year. (About half of that is typically donated between Thanksgiving and the end of the year.)
We also give deep in the wake of disasters like the recent earthquake in Haiti.
We are generous but we don’t want to be stupid, either. We know that there are some bad people who seek to profit from human suffering. I have personally seen scammers spring out of the woodwork like cockroaches shortly after major events like earthquakes, rebate checks, H1N1 and even 9/11. These people strike under the guise of some cause at a time when people are feeling emotional and particularly giving. That can make them easier prey. The sad thing is that none of the money that is purloined by fraudsters goes to help anyone. It’s simply outright theft. For the evil among us there are no decency limits of any kind.
Haiti: Generosity reduced by three percent
On January 14th The Huffington Post reported that donations made by generous Americans using credit cards to charitable organizations assisting with relief efforts in Haiti were being “skimmed” by credit card companies by three percent.
The Huffington Post said that for every dollar donated about three percent was kept by banks and credit card companies in the form of transaction fees. It was additionally reported that these companies traditionally keep about $250 million from charitable donations annually.
Who knew that profiting from the generosity of others could be so bloody lucrative?
Then, on January 16th, I heard about the issue from MoveOn.org in an email:
But when Americans donate to charity with their credit cards, the credit card companies get rich. In some cases they keep 3% of the donation as a “transaction fee,” even though that’s far more than it costs them to process the donation.
Now the New York Times is reporting that “some” fees are being waived:
After being criticized for siphoning off up to 3 percent of charitable donations for transaction fees, the nation’s largest payment networks — Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover — announced that they would waive fees for some contributions aimed at aiding Haiti in the wake of a devastating earthquake.
The New York Times reported that these transaction fees typically range from 1 to 3 percent.
The Huffington Post also reported that only one time before did the credit card companies waive these transaction fees and that was for the tsunami disaster of 2004.
The rest of the time it is apparently business as usual which means profiting from charitable donations.
So the credit card companies said they’ll waive some fees. Who will do what? Let’s find out (per the New York Times):
- Visa – “would not apply interchange fees, through February, to donations made to a select group of major charities — the names of which were still being compiled — that are providing support to Haitian relief efforts. The company said it would also donate any revenue that was generated by charitable donations related to the Haiti crisis through next month.”
- Mastercard – “would wave interchange fees on relief donations made using United States-issued MasterCards to the American Red Cross, AmeriCares, Unicef, Save the Children and CARE U.S.A.” The article did not indicate a time frame for this.
- American Express – “through the end of February, it would rebate the transaction fees for charitable contributions made on its card directly to the nonprofit organizations listed on the Agency for International Development’s Web site in support of Haiti relief.”
- Discover – “said it was also waiving some fees but did not immediately offer details.”
Wow. What commitment. If that doesn’t warm the cockles of your heart I don’t know what will. Apparently if you contribute to charity outside the bounds of these very narrowly defined exceptions they will still happily gobble up those transaction fee profits. Additionally they appear to be building in time limits on how long they are willing to do this, like a whopping month or two. I guess they figure they’ll do what looks good now in the moment when the public’s eye is focused on them and then go back to normal once this all blows over. It’s true the memory of the American people can be short.
Meanwhile, I’ve lost all “interest” in credit card companies. I already boycott them for financial reasons. Now I have extra incentive. Thanks, evil scum.
Haiti earthquake topography
At 4:53 p.m. local time on January 12, 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Hispaniola Island, just 15 kilometers (10 miles) southwest of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. Besides its strong magnitude, the earthquake’s shallow depth of roughly 8.3 kilometers (5.2 miles) ensured that the densely populated capital suffered violent shaking.
This map shows the topography and tectonic influences in the region of the earthquake. Lighter colors indicate higher elevation. Black circles mark earthquake locations determined by the U.S. Geological Survey, and circle sizes correspond with quake magnitudes. Dozens of aftershocks followed the main quake. Red lines indicate fault lines.
The epicenter of the quake appears just south of the Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden Fault, the southernmost of two major east-west-trending faults that bear the stress of the convergence of the Caribbean and North America tectonic plates in this location. Though faults are weak spots or fractures in the Earth’s crust below the surface, very often there are topographical clues to their presence. In this case, the presence of the fault is indicated by long, straight valley cutting through southern Haiti, just south of Port-Au-Prince. The Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden Fault is a strike-slip type fault, with the Caribbean plate moving eastward with respect to the North America plate.
Image and text courtesy of the NASA Earth Observatory.