You no longer have to stroll past a Salvation Army donation kettle this holiday season with your head down because you’re out of cash.
A nascent program in El Paso County, Colo. will be the first Salvation Army chapter in the United States to allow donors to use their debit and credit cards at five contribution locations. (Update: A similar program was unveiled in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and in Plano, Texas on Nov. 14).
Mike Smith, who oversees kettle-based donations for the El Paso chapter, says one reason for the experiment is due to an increasing number of people carrying plastic instead of cash. Smith also cites slowing donations, which have decreased by 10 percent, and a 25 percent increase in demand for charitable services this year because of economic troubles.
“We’re seeing people from middle-class neighborhoods who didn’t used to need help now needing food, rent and utility assistance to get back on their feet,” he told the Colorado Springs Gazette.
The locations where debit and credit card transactions are accepted will change during the campaign, which run until Dec. 24. U.S. Bank will oversee the transactions to monitor their security.
Some Salvation Army red kettle locations also accept used gift cards with balances for donations. The charity collects the cards, which can be from any retail store, and sends them to a Californian company that converts the balance into cash. If a location isn’t handy, gift cards can be donated online too.
In 1891, Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee created the kettle donation tradition when he placed an iron kettle in San Francisco’s Oakland Ferry Landing that read, “Keep the pot boiling.” He used the money people placed in it to fund a Christmas dinner for the poor in the area. The act soon spread across the United States and is now also a common site in Korea, Japan, Chile and many European countries.
Note: This post is featured in the 179th Carnival of Personal Finance hosted by Money Ning. The edition is all about smiles and how they can make everything better, even personal finance.
See related: Credit cards can fund charities, nonprofits, Take steps to protect credit card information when donating to charities, How ‘cashless’ trend affects those who rely on cash