How to Meet Minimum Spending Requirements With Tax-Deductible Donations Like Zoo Passes & More!

Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full advertising policy: How we make money.

Update:   One or more card offers in this post are no longer available.  Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.  This page includes information about the Discover it® Cash Back that is not currently available on Million Mile Secrets and may be out of date. 

My favorite “double-dip” is the kind that helps others while earning miles, points, and cash back for Big Travel with Small Money!

The end of the year is approaching, so there’s not much time left to make charitable tax-deductible donations for 2015.

I’ll show you how to meet minimum spending requirements and earn bonus points while buying zoos passes & museum memberships for your family, donating food & supplies to folks in need, and more!

In some cases, you may find that in addition to helping great causes, you’ll actually get a good deal too!

How To Meet Minimum Spending Requirements With Tax Deductible Donations Like Zoo Passes More
Many Wildlife Conservation Centers Like the Bronx Zoo Allow You to Buy a Yearly Membership That’s Partially Tax Deductible. In This Case, Your Family Gets Access to 5 Parks Including the New York Aquarium & Central Park Zoo. Certain Cards Earn 2X Points at Zoos & Museums!

I’ll share some of my favorite ideas for making the most of your 2015 charitable contributions to help meet minimum spending requirements.  And earn Big Travel in the process!

What’s the Deal?

Link:   Charity Navigator

Link:   Charity Watch

I know many of y’all are working on unlocking the sign-up bonuses for cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase British Airways Visa Signature Card, and Citi Prestige Card.  With the end of the year approaching, I started thinking about ways to get in all your tax-deductible donations while meeting the necessary credit card spending.

Not only are there ways to donate to important causes, but you can buy things for your family that are also tax deductible!

Emily and I try to contribute whenever we can to causes that are meaningful to us.  For example, we’ve donated and raised money for a women’s shelter and educational organization in the Dominican Republic.

How To Meet Minimum Spending Requirements With Tax Deductible Donations Like Zoo Passes More
We’ve Helped At-Risk Women and Girls in the Dominican Republic. It Feels Great to Help Others! I’ll Show You How to Do It While Earning Miles & Points

And some of you might remember when we donated baked goods to Front Steps, Austin’s largest homeless shelter, as part of a quest to earn the Southwest Companion Pass by ordering items from 1-800-Flowers.

When deciding which organizations to donate to, I often check sites like Charity Navigator and Charity Watch.

I like that I can easily see what percentage of donations actually goes to the cause I’m supporting (as opposed to salaries and administrative costs).  And you can quickly find out if donations to a charity are eligible for tax deduction.

I prefer supporting smaller, more local organizations where I know the bulk of my donation is going to people who need it.  But do what means the most to you!

Remember, I’m NOT a tax advisor, so do the research for your own situation to determine if your donation is tax-deductible!

Which Credit Card to Use?

If you’re meeting a minimum spending requirement on a card, it often makes the most sense to put your charitable spending on it first.

That said, certain cards are more suited to giving to different charities and non-profit organizations.  It’s a terrific feeling to help others and earn bonus miles or points!

1.   US Bank FlexPerks Cards

Link:   US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card

Link:   US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards American Express Card

The US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card and US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards American Express Card are the only travel cards I’m aware of that earn bonus points for qualifying charitable donations.

You’ll earn 3X US Bank FlexPoints for every $1 you spend at:

Any merchant location that classifies itself as a Charitable and Social Service Organization
How To Meet Minimum Spending Requirements With Tax Deductible Donations Like Zoo Passes More
Where Will You Give? You Could Earn 3X US Bank FlexPerks Points for Charitable Donations

This should apply to most major charities.  But for smaller organizations, you might want to check the merchant category 1st if earning bonus points is important to you.

Read my review of the US Bank FlexPerks card to see how you can use the points you earn for Big Travel!

2.   Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier

Link:   Citi Prestige Card

Link:   Citi ThankYou Premier Card

The Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier might not immediately come to mind to use for charitable donations, because their bonus categories are travel, dining, and entertainment.

But Citi’s definition of entertainment is very broad, and includes:

  • Amusement parks (including zoos, circuses and aquariums)
  • Tourist attractions and museums (including art galleries)

With both the Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier, you’ll earn 2X Citi ThankYou points per $1 you spend on entertainment.

If you’re an animal lover, you may already support your local zoo or aquarium by purchasing an annual membership.  Sometimes all (or part) of the membership price is tax deductible!

How To Meet Minimum Spending Requirements With Tax Deductible Donations Like Zoo Passes More
Purchasing Annual Passes to Your Local Zoo Could Help Your Feathered Friends and Earn Bonus Points Towards Your Next Flight!

For example, a yearly family membership to the Wildlife Conservation Society (which includes the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, and Central Park Zoo) costs $155.  And $142 of that is tax-deductible!

This is a terrific deal on its own, because your family gets access to 5 popular New York tourist attractions.

My buddy purchased a membership as a holiday gift for his nephew.  He and his family really enjoyed visiting the parks throughout the year.  Plus, it’s a great way for kids to learn about respecting animals, nature, and the environment.

Others, like the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, include an annual pass for donations over a certain amount.

If you love the arts, your favorite symphony orchestra or museum might be the perfect choice for a donation.

For instance, the Metropolitan Museum of Art sells family memberships for $210 (includes 2 adults and children 18 and under).  And $180 of this is tax-deductible.

3.   Cards That Earn Bonus Points at Supermarkets, Office Supply Stores, Department Stores, and More

Link:   American Express EveryDay Preferred

Link:   SimplyCash Business Card From American Express

Link:   Discover it® Cash Back

Link:   Chase Sapphire Preferred

Link:   Chase Freedom

Local charities, especially those that help families in need or at-risk individuals, often ask for donations in the way of goods.

For example, women’s shelters may need help providing food, toiletries, clothes, and toys for women and children who’ve left a bad situation and may have very little.

And local Ronald McDonald Houses, which provide accommodation for families who’ve traveled long distances so their critically ill or injured children can get medical care, are always in need of donations.

How To Meet Minimum Spending Requirements With Tax Deductible Donations Like Zoo Passes More
Organizations Like Ronald McDonald House, Which Provides a Place to Stay for Families Coping With a Child’s Critical Illness, Can Always Use Household Goods and Other Items

For example, they often require:

  • Canned goods and non-perishable food items
  • Toys, games, activities for kids
  • Paper products (facial tissue, toilet paper, paper towels)
  • Trash bags
  • Aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and sandwich bags
  • Laundry detergent and fabric softener
  • Cleaning products (sponges, dishwashing liquid, dishwasher detergent)
  • Bath and bedroom items (towels, shower curtains, sheets, and pillow cases)
  • Personal care products (deodorant, dental floss, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, conditioner)
  • Entertainment products (games, movies, books, art supplies)
  • Long-distance phone cards
  • Gift cards for local grocery stores and gas stations
  • Greeting cards and postage stamps
  • Transportation vouchers (buses, taxis, trains)
  • Passes to museums, cultural and sporting events

Contact your closest location to see what they need the most of!

How To Meet Minimum Spending Requirements With Tax Deductible Donations Like Zoo Passes More
Donating Cleaning Supplies and Household Goods to Homeless and Women’s Shelters Is a Great Way to Help!

For example, you could use your AMEX EveryDay Preferred card to purchase food and toiletries at US supermarkets and earn bonus AMEX Membership Rewards points.

Or buy stamps, cleaning products, and more at US office supply stores to earn 5% cash back with the SimplyCash Business Card From American Express.

Remember to keep your receipts!

Use your imagination!  There are plenty of ways to earn bonus miles, points, and cash back on goods you can donate to causes that are close to your heart!

4.   A Charity for Travel Enthusiasts

They don’t have charitable status yet (so you can’t get a tax deduction), but Flyte is a fantastic organization!

They’re a charity started by my blogging friend Nomadic Matt.  Their aim is to help fund study-abroad trips for students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it.

How To Meet Minimum Spending Requirements With Tax Deductible Donations Like Zoo Passes More
Not Everyone Can Afford to Travel! Help a Young Student Study Overseas With Flyte

I think bringing the world to disadvantaged kids is an outstanding idea!  Donating to Flyte is a perfect way to share your love of travel.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for ways to meet credit card minimum spending requirements this season, it’s a great time to donate to charity.  That includes yearly passes to certain museums, zoos, aquariums, and more.

Donations made to eligible charities before the end of the year could be deductible on your 2015 taxes.  I’m not a tax advisor, so do the research for your own situation!

Consider donating goods (purchased with a credit card at stores included in bonus categories) to your favorite local charity.  Places like homeless shelters are always in need of household items!

I’ve shared some ideas, but the most important thing is that you give to causes that you are passionate about.

What are your favorite ways to give this season while earning miles & points?

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

Join the Discussion!

Comments are closed.