Why The 2013 Working Assets Visa Credit Card Is Misleading

By the looks of their website and marketing, you might assume that Working Assets is a charity. Truth be told, CREDO is a for-profit corporation who uses a philanthropic guise.

Now there’s nothing wrong with businesses donating money to charities – in fact it’s a good thing if the charities are honorable. But in the case of Working Assets, they give you the impression they’re doing a lot of good, however you can easily make the argument they’re not.

Case in point is the Working Assets credit card (also known as the CREDO credit card). But don’t take my word for it, review the math for yourself and you will get an idea of just how little (percentagewise) they’re actually giving away.

How does the program really work?

Rather than give you rewards, they donate 10 cents per purchase to various progressive groups.

Now that may sound noble, but 10 cents is a drop in the bucket compared to the credit card processing fees they’re raking in. Working Assets keep their numbers confidential, but just consider these typical industry figures to get a better understanding…

When you use a credit card to buy something, the processing fees paid by the merchant are on average 2% to 3% of the purchase price.

For example, if you made a $100 purchase, there was probably $2 to $3 in fees collected. That’s why most credit cards can afford to give you 1% rewards even if you never carry a balance.

The vast majority of those fees go back to the issuer of the credit card. Only a tiny amount goes to the payment network (Visa and MasterCard). According to CardFellow, Visa and MasterCard take as little as 0.11% of the purchase price (so almost 1/10 of 1%). The cut of the fees that go to the third-party processing company is also very small.

And small purchases? Those bring in even more fees percentagewise. That’s because in addition to the fee that’s based on the total purchase price, there’s also a flat fee of around 10-20 cents. That means even on a $3 coffee, there may be almost 30 cents in processing fees paid by the merchant.

In a nutshell, credit card issuers make an absolute killing on processing fees. That’s why, even if you don’t carry a balance and never pay interest, card issuers still love you.

10 cents per transaction = what?

Working Assets Visa is issued by Bank of America (technically their wholly-owned subsidiary, FIA Card Services). To the best of my knowledge, the profit splitting arrangement between them is not public information – they keep it confidential. Therefore I don’t know what their arrangement is, but here is a hypothetical example to give you an idea of what it might be along the lines of…

  • You make a purchase of $100.00
  • The merchant pays $3.00 in processing fees
  • Of that, 2/3 ($2.00) goes to the card issuer
  • The card issuer and Working Assets split it 50/50

The end result? $1.00 to Working Assets, while only 1/10th of that (10 cents) goes to donations.

Let me reiterate that is a completely hypothetical scenario, it’s just my educated guess. As mentioned, I nor the rest of the general public is privy to the revenue splitting arrangement they have with the card issuer. I just give you the aforementioned example to show what the numbers might look like. You of course can draw your own conclusions by researching how the revenue splits work with affinity/co-branded cards.

But wait, it gets worse

Thus far I’ve only discussed processing fees. How about all the other money being made off of the Working Asset credit card accounts?

Not everyone carries a balance, but for those that do, there are some hefty interest rates. As of the time of this review (June 2013) here’s what was listed on the application:

APR range

And then of course there are the usual late fees, foreign transaction fees, etc:

fee table

All that, yet they give a measly 10 cents per purchase in donations?

What’s in it for you? Not much!

If the progressive non-profits aren’t getting much (relative to total fee revenue collected), then it would at least be nice to see someone – YOU – getting back something for using their card, right?

Unfortunately the only reward I’m seeing listed is for new applicants. When you apply for the Working Assets Visa card you get a 2-for-1 airfare certificate. That might sound nice, but I encourage you to investigate.

The company behind the 2-for-1 offer is not mentioned in the fine print, but if it’s anything like most buy-one-get-one free flight offers, then you are hardly getting anything worthwhile.

In fact, one California company which is one of the largest providers of BOGO plane tickets sells them for a “certificate license fee” of $99 which “allows you the rights to print, personalize, design and distribute an unlimited number of certificates” (that’s a copy/paste verbatim from their website). I wonder if the BOGO offers that come with this card are similar to this? From my experience, most BOGO flight certificates given out with things like big furniture purchases and new cell phone contracts are comparable to those being sold in the aforementioned link.

Also take note that in the fine print on the credit card’s application and you will see this:

language about 1099 for rewards

It says right there you may be issued a 1099 that reflects the value of the reward. That said, in all fairness and defense of Working Assets, I cannot confirm whether or not they are actually doing this yet.

Conclusion?

If you want to donate money to certain organizations, your best bet is to just get a good cash back card and simply use your rewards to pay for a donation you make directly.

Another advantage of donating on your own is that it allows you to choose the organizations which are most important to you. The Working Assets credit card gives to 40. While they do solicit customers feedback on who to give to, you personally don’t get to choose where your donations go. Wouldn’t you rather select the causes most important to you, rather than giving to a spectrum that includes some you like as well as others you do not?

This review was written or last updated June 17, 2013

 
Comments
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I really don’t see how this card is too different from ne by a big bank. If they make donations (if any), its meager. You also probably get 1-2% back. Fees, are probably still applicable and comparable. And your rewards can be taxed.
Credo just happens to be a card that makes donations, unlike the standard Chase or Discover card.

I was interested in this and just checking around. I thought the article was interesting, and agree that the author did say he was speculating, and also agree that he could have made other speculations. But the point that left me wondering was if they are a progressive company, why don’t they open their books with respect to how this works. It would make all the speculation unnecessary, and I would trust them. It sounds like the article was writen in 2013 while Credo was with BofA and then switched to Comenity Bank, so can’t really fault him on that (if it happened after he wrote it). I also agree with the other commenter – I already divested myself of any dealings with Bank of America (and the other big banks as well). Now I use Malaga Bank, a small local bank, that did not participate in the financial orgy the large banks did, that caused us to lose billions in tax dollars.

1) they give points now, 1% cask back plus triple on groceries and charitable contributions. So that seems about on par with any other card.

2) the account they donate depends on how you use it

So, in my case, I do make a lot of small transactions. Look at what I’ve spent today: get to work, buy a cup of tea: $0.84. Come down an hour later, buy a muffin: $1. Little later, more tea. Then lunch, for $5. On an average day I spend <$10 in 4+ transactions. So that's 4% or more donated. Plus the points. So if you're gonna say I'd be better off with a different card, you've gotta show me a card that'll give a minimum 5% cash back. I'm pretty sure there are no such cards.

Might not make sense to use it on a laptop, but if you're the kind of person that puts EVERYTHING on a card, the Credo card gives EXCELLENT perks!

There appear to be two different credit cards in existence as of May 2014. I’ve had a Working Assets Visa for several years; it is sponsored by bank of america. There is also now a Credo Visa, sponsored by Comenity Bank. If you search for working Assets Visa, you’ll get the Credo site. So if you sign up for one today, you’ll presumably get the Credo/Comenity card. Not sure what the future of WA/BofA, but Credo’s customer service confirmed they’re different and no current plans to switch WA -> Credo. Go figure.

Yeah, this article has a key assertion that’s false: Working Assets credit cards are issued by Comenity Bank, not BoA. Comenity is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alliance Data Systems. You can google Working Asset Credit Card and their page at the bottom will tell you who issues the cards; you can then google or wiki Alliance Data Systems for more info on them. Sorry bro, but you got fact checked and found to be a liar.

I was considering opening an account with Credo, I already have my mobile service through them and am quite happy with that. If it is true that their cards are issued by BofA I want nothing to do with it. I consider BofA the most evil and contemptible of all credit card companies. However, I do plan on investigating more about this card since the author doesn’t seem to have accurately reviewed it. First I want to check if BofA really is the issuer. Second, based on the other commentators it sounds like there is a rewards program that the author denies existing. So I’m not going to take this guys word as gospel and do some investigating on my own.

This article is absolutely false in stating that cardholders don’t earn rewards. I’ve had a WA card for years and have earned hundreds of dollars in rewards. Plus, they donate for every purchase, no matter how small. So what if they make a profit? So do all the other credit card companies, and few donate to anyone. This is my favorite card, hands down, and I own several.

the author was clear about his use of hypothetical numbers. criticizing him for writing about the possibilities seems unreasonable. if CREDO, or their supporters,takes issue with the scenario, then it would behoove CREDO to be upfront and transparent about their financials. which only seems fair if they are marketing and advocating people use them because they are more socially conscious and worthy of social support. I WANT to have a credit card company I can feel confident in. But it seems that if they are not up front about all their financials, why would we trust them any more than any other company?

I didn’t criticize him for writing about a possibility. I criticized him for taking one possible scenario and assuming it was reality and drawing a negative conclusion based on that. He didn’t say – here’s a possible range of hypothetical numbers, draw your own conclusions. He was being quite critical of the company based upon hypothetical numbers. That’s not responsible journalism – that’s borderline “ax to grind.”

Just to follow up. Here’s an alternative scenario.
You make a purchase of $100.
Merchant pays $2.75 in fees.
60% of that goes to credit card issuer – $1.65.
CREDO receives 25% of the fee the issuer receives – $0.41.
CREDO donates $0.10, or almost 25% of their profit. Wow, what a great company.

One’s perspective is completely dependent on the exact split between CREDO and the card issuer bank. Put in your imaginary numbers, CREDO doesn’t look so munificent; put in alternative imaginary numbers they look wonderful. Where does the truth lay? I don’t know and neither do you, so stop speculating and smearing until you can come up with the exact split. Even then they are still making donations to great causes. Baffles me why you think there is something wrong with that.

I think the expression is “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Really, did you just need something to complain about when you wrote this? It’s complete speculation anyway because you have no idea exactly how much CREDO makes per transaction – no idea at all. You surmise a 50/50 split between CREDO and the banks, but have no idea if that is correct. I suspect the banks are making much more per transaction then you surmise. And remember there are two banks that make money off a transaction, the bank that issues the card, and the merchant’s bank or processor that is handling part of the transaction. If you are as ignorant as you appear to be about basic credit card transaction facts you shouldn’t be smearing the company.
Not only that but the company uses the profits it makes to fund an activist network. It’s a great company to support. Better at least some money goes to progressive causes then all of it going to the banks.

Check closer – there are more than just donations involved with Working Assets – there are points that are redeemable and we have over many years done so.

This smears them but is short on all of the facts.

Thanks for this article. I totally almost fell for their antics and signed up myself. I’ll be looking into rewards cards instead.

Thank you for the insight. I’ve been on the fence about this card for a year now and was planning to open an account. It’s taken this long firstly because I’ve had terrible experiences with BoA and it irks me that they’re lender. Any other options that are rarely covered out there for conscious consumers?