Eco-Friendly Cards Bunq, Aspiration, Currensea and TreeCard Can Offset (Some of) Your Carbon Emissions
Eco-friendly cards can be a good way of mitigating some of your carbon emissions. Bunq, Aspitation, Currensea, and TreeCard offer interesting digital cards that plant trees based on the amount you spend. However, carbon offsetting does not reduce your carbon footprint.
Fintech and digital banking are interesting new trends. By streamlining the banking process, new and smaller banks are entering the market to compete with old fashion traditional banks. The online-only digital banks avoid excessive costs with physical agencies and operate fully online, via mobile apps. Digital cards are offered at almost no cost for customers and bring several advantages, such as low to no fees and innovative features.
Some of those banks and financial services are venturing into eco-friendly products, mainly offering ways for customers to offset some of their carbon emissions or by supporting sustainable non-profit organizations around the world.
In this post, we will look into a few examples of eco-friendly cards, including a fully digital and semi-green bank card (Bunq), a low/no-fee sustainable travel card (Currensea), and a daily use card highly focused on reforestation (TreeCard).
How to select your eco-friendly card?
We will compare the eco-friendly cards based on the main features that their offer, digital advantages, fees, and, more importantly, their impact per amount spent.
We use the following criteria when comparing eco-friendly cards: monthly fees, mobile wallets, supported currencies, fee-free ATM withdrawals limit, exchange rate fee, environmental impact
Bunq – The bank of the free
Bunq is an independent, 100% digital bank that was founded in 2012 in the Netherlands and is now available in most countries in Europe. Bunq presents itself as a “money’s Swiss army knife”, giving its users high flexibility to spend, save and invest their money.
Bunq has a long list of features and is probably one the most complete cards among digital banks. It offers up to 5 online cards for safe online transactions and up to 25 sub-accounts, allowing users to manage their money as they wish.
Cards and main features
All cards from Bunq are paid, either with a one-time payment or with a monthly recurrent fee. Below a table with the costs of Bunq eco-friendly cards: Easy Green, Easy Money, and Easy Travel, for both personal and business accounts.
|Bunq card types||Easy Green||Easy Money||Easy Travel (or Easy Bank)|
|Personal||16.99 EUR per month||7.99 EUR per month||2.99 EUR per month|
|Business||19.99 EUR per month||9.99 EUR per month||4.99 EUR per month|
Bunq has changed the name of its Easy Travel card to Easy Bank and changed the price to 2.99 EUR/month for the personal card
Easy Travel (or Easy Bank) is the cheapest option; however, it does offer quite decent features, including ‘Tree for Minors’, which plants a tree for every 100 EUR spent by customers under 18.
Easy Money is the best cost-benefit among Bunq card options. It has almost all the digital features as Easy Green, including ‘iDIN’ security, ‘Siri Shortcuts’, ‘Dual PIN’ (pay from two bank accounts with one card), and ‘Zapier’ connection. Savings features such as ‘Automatic Budgeting’ and ‘Savings Goals’, and most of the eco-friendly features, including:
- ‘Trees for Minors’, which plats a tree for every 100 EUR spent by customers under 18
- ‘Freedom of Choice’, where you can choose to invest in green companies, among other investment options
- ‘Metal Card’, which offers a stainless-steel Metal Card as a more sustainable alternative to plastic ones
Easy Green offers the most complete digital services. It has all the features from the Easy Money card, plus:
- ‘Purchase Protection and Extended Warranty, offers carefree shopping for purchases made with the metal card
- ‘Gift Tree Planting to your Bestie’, where you can choose a friend and for every 100 EUR spent by them, a tree will be planted on their behalf
- ‘Easy Green Widget’, a widget that allows you to share your green progress (CO2 reduction) with friends and family
Bunq cards offers very innovative digital solutions for online banking. Both Easy Money and Easy Green cards offer eco-friendly solutions which focus on offsetting CO2 emissions by planting trees in accordance to the amount spent.
Bunq Easy Green card will plant a tree for every 100 EUR spent. Bunq Easy Money and Easy Bank (old Easy Travel) cards have more limited options when it comes to environmental impact and carbon offsetting.
Aspiration – Spend & save account with impact
Aspiration is a US-based cash management account that allows retail customers to spend and save money while having a positive impact on the planet. The company was founded in 2013 under the legal name of Aspiration Partners, Inc.
Aspiration is not a bank, however, deposits are FDIC-insured. Aspiration is also a member FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) and SIPC (Securities Investor Protection Corporation).
Cards and main features
Aspiration has two debit cards, Aspiration card (free) and Aspiration Plus card. The main impact features (larger cash backs and gas offsets) are only available in the Aspiration Plus card. The annual percentage yield (APY) of 1.0%, is also only available for customers with the Aspiration Plus. card
|Aspiration (standard adn free)||Aspiration Plus (USD 7.99/month)|
|Deposits won’t fund fossil fuel exploration or production||Deposits won’t fund fossil fuel exploration or production|
|55,000 free in-network ATMs||55,000 free in-network ATMs|
|3-5% cashback on Conscience Coalition purchases1||10% cash back on Conscience Coalition purchases1|
|Personal impact score (AIM)||Personal impact score (AIM)|
|Option to plant a tree with every roundup||Option to plant a tree with every roundup|
|Up to 1.00% APY on savings|
|One out-of-network ATM reimbursement monthly|
|Carbon offsets for all gas purchases with Planet Protection2|
1 As part of the Conscience Coalition, Aspiration has partnered with responsible companies, including companies like TOMS, Warby Parker, and Blue Apron.
2 In the Planet Protection program, emissions from gas purchases are automatically offset.
Aspiration will soon release a credit card called Zero. The card will include the following features:
- They will plant a tree for every purchase, and let consumers plant one too
- Enable monthly tracking of carbon footprint progress
- Reward consumers that reach carbon zero monthly, with a cashback of up to 1% on all purchases
The most interesting impact features from Aspiration cards are:
Plant Your Change: customers that choose to round up their daily transactions, will be charged the Plant Your Change Service fee, which can vary from $0.01 to $0.99 (the round up). The fee includes the cost of planting a tree plus Aspiration’s administration costs related to the Plant Your Change Service.
It is surprising to see that Aspiration can plant a tree using the round up amount from any transaction. We found out that Aspiration’s tree-planting partners are The Arbor Day Foundation, The Eden Reforestation Projects, and One Tree Planted.
While the One Tree Planted says it takes “one dollar to plant one tree”, The Eden Reforestation Projects focus on planting trees on developing countries, which brings the costs to as low as $0.10. Below an extract from their FAQ:
How much does it cost to plant a tree with?
The general tree planting price is $0.10 per tree provided that your donation is not designated to a specific project nation. Should you choose to designate your donation to a particular country, the price varies according to each nation’s planting and labor costs. Please see below the tree cost per nation:
- Haiti: $0.15 per tree
- Honduras: $0.10 per tree
- Indonesia: $0.15 per tree
- Kenya: $0.10 per tree
- Madagascar: $0.10 per tree
- Mozambique: $0.10 per tree
- Nepal: $0.20 per tree
- Nicaragua: $0.10 per tree
This cost covers all expenses, including nursery costs, transportation of seedlings to the reforestation sites, planting, guarding, and weeding to allow a head start on vegetation.
Aspiration customers using the Plant Your Change options can start or stop it at any time. It is also possible to limit the number of transactions that they would like to round up per week.
The program also offers cash rewards based on milestones achieved. The rewards start at $5 for 30 trees planted and can go all the way to $200 (or $390 cumulative) for a total of 5,000 trees planted per customer.
Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM): a feature from the Aspiration spend account that generates a personalized user Sustainability Score, based on how and where consumers are spending their money.
AIM also gives People and Planet scores to the business where consumers make their purchases. The scores are based on thousands of ESG data points. However, Aspiration does not disclose on its website who is their ESG data provider.
Carbon Offset from Gas Consumption: owners of the Aspiration Plus card can have their gas consumption offset through the Planet Protection Program.
Aspiration will track your expenses on gas stations, and based on your car model, it will automatically purchase carbon offsets on your behalf to compensate for those emissions.
Other benefits – Welcome bonus
Aspirations offer a welcome bonus for new customers. When opening a new account and spending USD 1,000 within the first 60 days, users of the regular Aspiration account will receive a USD 150 bonus, while those with an Aspiration Plus account will receive a USD 200 bonus.
Currensea – Innovative travel card
Currensea was founded in 2018 and is an innovative travel card that allows UK customers to connect their card to their original “high street” bank accounts and save up to 85% of the fees from exchange rates and transactions. Currensea is authorized by FCA.
Cards and main features
Currensea offers three cards, free personal and premium personal options, and a business card option. Below we list the main benefits of each card:
|Personal – Free||Personal – Premium||Business (self-employed, contractors, freelancers, and businesses)|
|0 GBP per month||25 GBP per year||0 GBP per month|
|Saved up to 85% on bank charges||Saves up to 100% on bank charges||0% in fees|
|Exchange rate 0.5% above wholesale||Exchange rate 0% above wholesale||–|
|Zero ATM withdrawal fee up to £500/month (1.5% after that)||Zero ATM withdrawal fee up to £500/month (1% after that)||Zero ATM withdrawal fee up to £500/month (1% after that)|
|No fee on foreign currency transactions or purchase||No fee on foreign currency transactions or purchase||Free FX card|
|No extra charges on weekends||No extra charges on weekends||–|
|No monthly spend limits||No monthly spend limits||No monthly spend limits|
Supported banks: Currensea is supported by the main “high street” banks in the UK: Bank of Scotland, Barclays, First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds, Nationwide, NatWest, RBS, Santander, TSB, Ulster.
Currensea has partnerships with OneTreePlanted.org and plasticbank.com, institutions that focus on environmental impact. OneTreePlanted is a leading reforestation, non-profit organization, that plants trees in Indonesia, Guatemala, and Rwanda. Plasticbank is an institution that works with plastic collectors in 422 collection points around the world.
Customers that have a Currensea personal account card (free or premium) can choose to contribute a portion of their transaction fee savings to plant trees or clean the ocean:
- Plant trees: for every 0.75 GBP contributed a tree will be planted
- Clean the ocean: for every 1 GBP contributed 100 plastic bottles will be removed from the ocean
TreeCard – The wooden payment card
TreeCard is the most recent of the these cards. Their eco-friendly card launched in 2020, strongly focuses on reforestation, allocating 80% of their profits into that cause. It is 100% free and has no hidden fees.
- Allow for monitoring and categorizing of spending, and bill splitting with friends
- Can be used at any merchant where Mastercard is accepted
- Can connect with Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay
- The card can be frozen at any time and has insurance cover for deposits
- Has full banking security with encrypted data
- Focus on responsible reforestation
TreeCard has a partnership with Ecosia.org, which will be receiving 80% of the profits. Ecosia is a search engine that plants trees proportionally to the number of searches made on Ecosia’s website. When using a TreeCard, for every 60 USD spent a tree will be planted by Ecosia.
Ecosia also allocates 80% of its profit to plant trees around the world. It claims that it takes roughly 45 searches for Ecosia to plant a tree.
Comparison of eco-friendly cards
Here we compare eco-friendly cards based on their offerings:
|Monthly fees||9.99 EUR one-time for Easy Bank (old Easy Travel),|
7.99 EUR/month for Easy Money,
16.99 EUR/month for Easy Green
|0 USD for Aspiration card,|
7.99 USD/month for Aspiration Pus
|0 GBP for Free card, |
25 GBP/month for Premium card
|Mobile wallets||Apple Pay, Google Pay, FitBit Pay||Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay||none||Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay|
|Supported currencies||EUR||USD||GBP||GBP, EUR, USD|
|Fee-free ATM withdrawals limit||10 withdraws||free for in-network ATMs||500 GBP/month||unlimited|
|Exchange rate fee||0%||not applicable||0.50%||not applicable|
|Environmental impact||1 tree planted every 100 EUR spent||1 tree planted for less than 1 USD donated||1 tree planted or 100 plastic bottles collected every 0.75-1.0 GBP contributed (equivalent to 100 GBP spent)||1 tree every 60 USD spent|
Beware of offsets
All the cards above offer eco-friendly cards that focus on planting trees as a form of reducing the carbon emissions of their customers. The correct term for that CO2 mitigation method is carbon offsetting. The new trees planted are not directly reducing the carbon footprint of a person but compensating for it in another part of the planet.
Net emissions can be zero, but gross emissions are unchanged.
During their lifetime, trees will absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. That process is slow and can take up to 30 to 50 years. To guarantee that sufficient CO2 is removed from the atmosphere those trees will need to be kept safe from droughts, wildfires, and deforestation throughout their lifetime. Unfortunately, not all tree planting initiatives can guarantee that.
Moreover, pushing emissions away from where it is generated, only contributes to distancing people from the climate change problem. Rich nations and individuals can “buy their way out” of climate change by sending money to projects in poor and developing countries while continuing with their normal lives and behavior in the west.
Carbon offsetting should not be your priority when tackling climate change. There are more effective ways of spending your money and cleaning your portfolio of investments.
However, carbon offsetting, when done right, can result in good outcomes for people and the planet. Make sure to investigate the companies behind offset programs and check their guarantees and certifications.
Which eco-friendly card should you get?
We listed four options of eco-friendly cards: Bunq, Aspiration, Currensea, and TreeCard. Their offer innovative fintech solutions that have interesting features, and attractive low to no-fees.
From an environmental impact perspective, Aspiration, Currensea and TreeCard are more attractive options. The first offers interesting incentives for users to round up expenses, offset poersonal emissions and track their people & planet impact. The second has interesting partnerships with NGOs focused on reforestation and ocean protection. The last one, TreeCard, offers an interesting way of boosting Ecosia growth and overall impact.
Those companies are upfront to describe their partnerships and disclose details of their offsetting programs.
Bunq’s higher costs only pay off if consumers use their ‘green’ card as their main account, benefiting from all their digital and eco-friendly features. However, Bunq is not clear about their tree planting program and related partnerships.
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