BofA waives fees on Haiti credit-card donations

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bank of America Corp., the country's No. 2 credit card issuer, announced Friday it will waive fees on credit-card donations for Haiti relief efforts.

Other big credit card companies, including Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express, made similar announcements on Thursday and Friday. The moves came after a Huffington Post story on Thursday estimated that credit card companies make "somewhere in the neighborhood of $250 million a year" from fees on charitable donations. That comes from fees, usually around 3 percent, the companies take for "transaction costs."

The Discover credit card company also announced that it will allow cardholders to donate their Cashback Bonus dollars to the Red Cross. Discover will match those contributions.

Charlotte-based Bank of America said it decided to waive the card fees "at a customer's request." It will waive the "foreign transaction" fees on both debit and credit cards to charities support relief efforts in Haiti, which was devastated this week by an earthquake.

Credit card companies have waived their processing fees for charity only once, after the South Asian tsunami in December 2004, according to the Huffington Post.

Bank of America also said it will match employees' contributions to all qualified nonprofits working in Haiti, with no cap on the total amount. It reduced the minimum matching gift amount from $25 to $1, "in recognition that every donation is important," said spokeswoman Nicole Nastacie.

Earlier in the week, the bank announced it would donate $1 million for Haiti relief efforts.

"As news continues to pour in from Haiti, our customers and associates continue to ask how they can help the survivors of this tragedy," Anne Finucane, the bank's strategy and marketing officer, said in a statement. "Bank of America is privileged to help by making it as easy as possible for customers who want to provide financial support."

At First Trust, a three-branch community bank based in Charlotte, chief executive Jim Bolt called his senior management team together Friday morning and told them, "We've got to do something."

The bank decided to donate $10,000 for Haiti relief, divided between the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. First Trust will also match employee donations for Haiti relief, up to $100 per employee.

"I know in the scheme of things this is small potatoes," Bolt said. But, he added, "I want people to know we're not sitting on our hands."

Wells Fargo & Co., which bought Charlotte-based Wachovia Corp. in 2008, announced Wednesday that it would donate $100,000 to the Red Cross. It is not matching employee donations. Fifth Third Bancorp, which bought Charlotte-based First Charter Corp. in 2008, announced Friday that it will also donate $100,000 to the Red Cross.

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