Giving to Charity

It's the season of giving, and while many Americans reach for their wallet without hesitation to show their love for their friends and families, it doesn't always occur to them to donate to charity. But maybe you want to contribute to your favorite cause, but simply don't have the time. Luckily, with charity gift cards, you can show your love for family and friends, and do good at the same time.

There are two types of charity gift cards to choose from: one that operates like a regular gift card to a store, but a percentage of the money you spend is given to charity, and one where the gift card allows the receiver to give the full amount of the gift card to the charity of their choice.

The first type of card, the percentage of money given to charity kind, is the easiest option, because all you have to do is buy a gift card you were already going to buy, and some of your money goes to a good cause. Some examples of this kind of card are, Gap, Nordstrom, and Williams Sonoma.

The type of card that allows the receiver to give the card amount to the charity of their choice is a bit more complicated. To make it easier, we've compiled a list to help you weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each card:

The top charity gift cards are: TisBest, CharityChoice, the JustGive GiveNow Card, the DonorsChoose.org, the GlobalGiving Gift Card and the Gift of Giving Gift Card.

TisBest

  • Giftcards don't expire
  • Tax deductible for the purchaser of the gift card
  • 1.5 million+ charities to choose from
  • $1.49 for plastic cards to cover cost of card; $0 transaction fee and $0 credit card processing fee. Shipping: free

CharityChoice

  • Giftcards don't expire
  • Tax deductible for the purchaser of the gift card
  • 1,000+ charities to choose from
  • $0.50 per card plus 5% administrative fee and 3% credit card processing fee. Shipping: $4.95 per order

JustGive GiveNow Card

  • Expires after one year
  • 2 million charities to choose from
  • $5 for every company-printed and mailed 4x5-inch card; $2 fee for each Email Charity Gift Card, Print-At-Home Charity Gift Card or Charity Gift Card Claim Code. 4.5% processing fee plus a $0.35 flat fee per donation

DonorsChoose.org

  • Gift cards expire after six months. If the gift card is not spent, the funds will be applied to urgent classroom projects through the Community Fund.
  • All projects supported by donors choose are related to education. The person who spends the giftcard will also receive photos and thank you notes from the students helped.

GlobalGiving Card

  • Gift cards expire after one year
  • 100% tax-deductible to the purchaser of the gift card if the project selected is pre-qualified for 501(c)3 equivalency status.
  • More than 5,000 projects to choose from
  • $0 for card plus 15% administrative fee

Gift of Giving Card

  • Expires one year after purchase
  • 100+ charities to choose from
  • Each card costs $4.95, which goes to support the operation of The Gift of Giving.

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The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

Getty Images/Maria Stavreva

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