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Sustain:Green Mastercard Review: The Greenest Credit Card

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The Sustain:Green MasterCard issued by Commerce Bank is a new credit card whose rewards aim to benefit not just the cardholder, but the environment and planet Earth as a whole. This card is the first of its kind; users have the ability to reduce their carbon footprint for each dollar they spend everyday instead of the typical monetary rewards other cards deliver. For those who are environmentally conscious, the Sustain:Green credit card's intangible benefits have the potential to exceed the reward values we calculate and discuss below. For anyone not interested in environmentally-oriented rewards, this card can be ignored.

Sustain:Green Credit Card Pros

  • Rewards translate into carbon offsets that benefit the planet Earth and its inhabitants
  • No annual fee
  • Decent bonuses of 5,000 pounds offset with the first swipe

Sustain:Green Mastercard Cons

  • Many better low introductory APR deals exist
  • Impact of Sustain:Green rewards will not be immediately seen within cardholder’s lifetime

Review: Is the Sustain:Green Credit Card Good For You?

As a credit card, there is nothing outstanding about the Sustain:Green beyond its efforts to help the environment through earning carbon footprint offsets instead of rewards. The card also offers a low introductory APR, and Sustain:Green and Commerce Bank do not charge an annual fee for its use.

The Sustain:Green credit card is the best card on the market for anyone concerned with helping the environment and the only one of its kind. Commerce Bank’s partnership with non-profit environmental protection organizations allows cardholders to have a direct impact on reducing carbon footprints and promoting reforestation efforts in Brazil, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate change. The Sustain:Green credit card also gives additional bonus reward boosts that can help users give back to the environment beyond their usual day-to-day spending. Though the Sustain:Green is unique and atypical, its rewards are modeled and structured just like those of other rewards cards. Cardholders can reduce their carbon footprint even more when they make a purchase with the card within the first 90 days of receiving it – a bonus reward structured just like the first use bonus of many other reward cards on the market. Those whose spending habits allow it will also receive additional bonus carbon offsets as well. Even though the rewards are unconventional, they can be quite rewarding for a specific set of credit cardholders.

Its low intro APR is a nice benefit, but this should not be the sole reason to apply for the Sustain:Green credit card. Credit card users in the market for a low introductory APR card alone will find a superior offering in a card like the Citi Simplicity. With the Simplicity, you receive a lower introductory APR, 0%, and its period lasts three times longer than that of the Sustain:Green card. 

Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that the Sustain:Green card comes with no annual fee. This means that there are no real commitments to the card. If you find yourself wanting to help a cause, this card can be of service. You have the ability to hold onto it as a secondary card, until you have a big purchase to make and wish for it to contribute to a greater cause. By having no annual fee, the Sustain:Green gives users the ability to control their level of involvement with it, at no yearly cost.

Earning Rewards and Carbon Offsets on the Sustain:Green Credit Card

So how do you earn rewards on the Sustain:Green credit card? The card advertises that it will reduce your carbon footprint by 2 pounds for every $1 in net purchases. Commerce Bank purchases carbon offsets through the American Carbon Registry each time you make a purchase with your card. The offsets are then retired, with the promise that your credit card spending has permanently reduced the net amount of allowable global carbon emissions. 

On top of general everyday spending, there are ways of collecting additional bonus carbon offsets with this card. Firstly, if you use your Sustain:Green credit card within the first 90 days of receiving it, an extra 5,000 pounds of carbon offsets will be retired. You can also receive an additional 5,000 lbs. if you get a friend, co-worker, or even social media follower to sign up and apply for the Sustain:Green card. The value of a 5,000 lbs. bonus offset is approximately $30.

Additionally, whenever you charge at least $1,250 of purchases to the Sustain:Green card in a quarter, you will be rewarded with a bonus 2,500 pounds of carbon offsets being retired. Since a quarter consists of 3 months, this minimum spending for the bonus should be easy to get for most consumers.

Rewards: Carbon Offsets & Reforestation

Sustain:Green is an environmentally-conscious card company that has partnered with a carbon offset provider, the American Carbon Registry, for the credit card's rewards. Sustain:Green takes credit card users' carbon offset rewards and buys high-quality carbon offsets through the American Carbon Registry. Anytime the offsets are purchased from Nike, the money from the transaction is actually put to further good use. Nike uses the money to fund its Meta No Peito project, which finances reforestation efforts in Brazil. Through this, Sustain:Green cardholders are not only reducing greenhouse gas emissions with their purchase, but also aiding forest conservation and protection in South America. This, in effect, helps each dollar spent be stretched an extra green mile. On top of this all, the card itself is contructred from biodegradable materials.

How Much are Sustain:Green Carbon Offset Rewards Worth?

So what's the value of rewards earned on the Sustain:Green credit card? Getting a precise dollar amount figure is tricky. The price of carbon offsets varies from company to company, and also between the quality of the offsets being retired. We can, however, arrive at an estimate by using a benchmark price. We estimated the price of a carbon offset pound by looking at the average cost across 13 major providers, as seen below.

Carbon Offset Provider Price ($ per pound of CO2)
Carbonfund.org 0.0022
e-BlueHorizons 0.0023
Terrapass 0.0042
DriveNatural.org 0.0034
DrivingGreen 0.0036
Solar Electric Light Fund 0.0045
Native Energy 0.0060
Carbon Neutral Company 0.0073
Climate Friendly 0.0080
Carbon Clear 0.0077
Sustainable travel International 0.0082
Bonneville Enviromental Foundation 0.0132
Myclimate 0.0136
Average Cost per Pound of CO2 0.0065

Depending on the registry and conservancy, the cost to offset a pound of carbon dioxide can range from $0.0022 to $0.0136. For our calculations below, we've used a benchmark figure that represents the average of the thirteen providers, which is $0.006 per pound.

With this credit card, the rewards you earn are 2 pounds of carbon offset for each dollar you spend. So how does the rewards rate of the Sustain:Green credit card look? Let's use an example of a $100 in purchases on the card:

  • $100 in purchases = 200 lbs. of carbon offsets
  • To get the dollar value of this reward we take 200 lbs. x $0.006 per lb. = $1.20. Every $100 spent on this card will earn $1.20 in rewards, generally speaking 
  • This equates to a base rewards rate of $1.20 / $100 = 1.2%

This is just the base rewards, however, since the quarterly spending bonuses and referrals can increase the value. We etimate that these carbon offset rewards can range from 1.2% to approximately 1.7%  when factoring in some level of hitting the quarterly bonus threshholds.

If you wish to see exactly how much of an impact your spending habits can have on the environment through the Sustain:Green credit card, take a look at our model at the top of the page. You can input your estimated monthly spending to see how much in rewards or carbon offsets you'll be effectively purchasing to reduce gas emissions each year.

Bottom Line: Is the Sustain:Green Card Worth It?

The value to be found in the Susistain:Green will vary depending on the person. If you do not care much for reducing your carbon footprint, there are better credit cards out there which can provide greater monetary rewards or cash back on your purchases (such as our best rewards credit cards here). If, however, you are the type of person to donate to environmental protection organizations and care about doing your part in reducing carbon emissions, this card is a way for you to make a difference without much daily adjustment. There is no annual fee, and the card itself is biodegradable. Therefore, at the end of the day, signing up for the Sustain:Green will not hurt your wallet or the environment.

Resources for Sustain:Green Cardholders

What is my current carbon footprint?

Commerce Bank and Sustain:Green can actually help you figure out your current carbon footprint through the use of their online calculator! The calculator is located here: https://sustaingreen.com/carbon-calculator

How do I apply for the Sustain:Green?

To apply online, follow this link: https://sustaingreen.com/user/register

Who are Sustain:Green's partner organizations?

American Carbon Registry: http://americancarbonregistry.org
Mata No Peito: http://matanopeito.org/

Comments and Questions

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How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.