Fossil Fuel Free Credit Card Guide
How to find a credit card in North America from banks with little or no fossil fuel investment
Many of the banks that hold our savings and issue our credit cards help make the destruction of our climate possible by financing the exploration, drilling, refining, pipeline, and terminal projects that keep expanding the amount of fossil fuels we extract and burn. How can you ensure that you are not contributing to financing fossil fuel infrastructure with your banking and credit card dollars? A number of organizations are working to pressure the industry by encouraging all of us to move our dollars out of the big fossil fuel banks - ideally into banks that are actively supporting the clean energy transition. Third Act is currently gathering Banking on our Future Pledges to close accounts and cut up credit cards with the big financiers.
This page documents our research to find credit cards that are issued by institutions that have little or no investment in the fossil fuel industry. This research is ongoing and there may be more updates in the future.
A side by side comparison of 29 institutions and their credit card offerings is in the Compare Credit Cards table.
The recommendations here are informed by research from several groups including, Third Act SF Working Group, 350 Mass, Fossil Free California and Rainforest Action Network. Links are direct and we get no commission. We welcome your comments, corrections, and suggestions.
Which banks are supporting the fossil fuel industry?
The top four fossil fuel financers in the world are all major credit card providers based in the US:
JP Morgan Chase
Bank of America
They collectively provided $180 billion in fossil fuel financing in 2021. Their leading roles in fossil fuel investing makes these four banks the most commonly targeted by the climate movement, including the March 2023 Banking on our Future Pledges.
But fossil fuel investing is widespread in the financial world. The Banking on Climate Chaos report reveals that the 60 largest commercial and investment banks poured a total of $4.6 trillion into fossil fuels since the adoption of the Paris Agreements on climate in 2015, $742 billion in 2021 alone.
Many of the other major credit card providers are in the top 60 fossil fuel finance list, including:
Barclays (#7 globally and #1in Europe)
BNP Paribas (#10 and the biggest banker of offshore oil and gas)
Morgan Stanley (#12)
Goldman Sachs (#14)
Canadian banks with credit cards are no better, following close behind the US banks overall and going big on tar sands funding, including :
RBC (#5 overall)
TD Bank (#11)
Bank of Montreal (which now owns Bank of the West) (#15)
How do you keep your dollars from contributing to fossil fuel financing?
Keep your savings & checking local
The best thing to do for most of your banking needs is to keep your savings and checking accounts in a local or regional credit union or community bank. Keep the money local, focused on local people and businesses and in a banking institution with a nonprofit governance structure.
Fossil Free California’s Move Your Money page provides a number of tools for finding banks and credit unions that match your values.
For those in California, good community focused options include the Community Bank of the Bay, Self Help Federal Credit Union (with regional branch clusters elsewhere in CA, as well as IL, WA and WI) and Patelco.
Throughout the country, there are many other local and regional credit unions worth checking out, plus some which offer membership nationally, like Alliant Credit Union.
But you may want to look elsewhere for credit cards
Smaller local banks and credit unions - the ones that by definition tend to really keep your dollars invested locally - often do not offer a credit card. Many great credit unions and community banks only offer ATM/Debit cards and not credit cards. If your credit union or community bank does offer a credit card, check it out carefully. Many who do offer a credit card are only providing a channel to someone else's credit card - often hosted by a fossil-fuel invested institution.
One of the major credit card providers to the credit unions and small banks is Elan Financial Services, which we unfortunately consider to be problematic on fossil fuel funding (see Elan description below for more description). Look instead for credit union cards issued by Co-Op Financial Services which appears to be clean.
Larger regional or national credit unions are more likely to offer a credit card. If they do, you still need to check carefully in the rate disclosures document to see if it is their own card, or is issued or underwritten by a different financial institution that may be a fossil fuel bank. If you already have a credit card, the issuing bank will often be listed in small print on the back of the card.
The previously mentioned Patelco and Alliant are two credit unions that do issue their own credit cards - good fossil free options). Read below (Which card should I get?) on how to find out if the financial institution behind a credit card finances fossil fuel expansion.
Finally, check the features. Some of the credit card offerings from credit unions and community banks are relatively limited in their features.
Some features to consider:
Annual fee: Most are dropping their fees unless they offer lots of fancy services, but be sure to check.
Rewards: Most of the credit union and smaller bank cards we’ve researched either have no rewards or use a point system with limited options for spending those points. Look for cashback options. But think carefully before you get lured by rewards. If you are not able to pay off your balance every month, then the interest rates may be more important to you.
APR: This is the interest rate you pay on any outstanding balance that you carry over to the next month's billing cycle. This is one place where the smaller local bank and credit union credit card offerings are frequently better than the big bank credit cards. Many credit unions offer lower rates than big banks. If you must carry a balance, check this out and weigh it against the rewards options.
Foreign transaction fees: This could be an issue not only if you travel out of the country, but also when you buy something from an overseas vendor. Of course you should be buying entirely local :-) but that is getting increasingly tough to do consistently.
Alerts: All institutions have some kind of fraud service to protect you (at least they should!), but some credit cards offer much more sophisticated customizable alerts to help you learn when your card is used.
Financial software integration: If you use Quicken or another such budgeting and tracking program, make sure your card can talk to it or you will end up doing a lot of data entry. This is often hard to tell from the credit card website and may require a call to determine.
Which card should I get? Which should I drop?
We have evaluated 29 institutions offering credit cards for their fossil fuel investing practices and their credit card features.
We divided them into three groups:
The Best - These are positively confirmed to have no loans or investments in fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Either Bank Green has confirmed that the institution is fossil free or volunteers with Third Act SF or another group have. This includes both the institution offering the credit card and the institution that issues or underwrites the credit card. These are often not the same.
These credit cards are fossil guilt free. So far, only four credit card issuers make it into our Best category:
Self Help Federal Credit Union
Patelco (California only)
Alliant Credit Union
Second Tier - These are a set of credit cards issued by institutions that are not certified fossil fuel free, but we have not yet found any indication that they are holding any fossil fuel infrastructure loans or investments. Some of these have another red flag about fossil fuel issues or other environmental issues (note we did demote Amalgamated to the second tier despite being "certified" free of fossil fuel lending, because it issues credit cards for major fossil fuel companies). Any of these could be useful alternatives if you don’t qualify for one of the Best - or if you need features that the Best don’t offer. Look carefully at the notes in the chart prefaced with “--” and highlighted in red that indicate the red flags that kept these out of the Best category. We explain some of these findings below to help you decide if they are good enough for you.
Seven institutions make this Second Tier list:
- CoreFirst Bank & Trust
Third Tier - These institutions definitely do fossil fuel lending, but are relatively small fossil lenders, not in the league of the Worst global top fossil fuel lenders. Nonetheless, if you have a card from one of these and decide to keep it, communicate with the bank and ask them to drop their fossil fuel lending.
U.S. Bank / US Bancorp
Elan Financial (subsidiary of Bancorp)
The Worst - These are institutions issuing or underwriting credit cards which are among the top 15 financiers in the world of fossil fuel infrastructure per the Banking on Climate Chaos report. Look beyond the green hype. Some institutions that market themselves as green are in this Worst category (like Bank of the West). Many other major institution credit cards are actually issued by these firms. For example, the Amazon/Whole Foods Credit card is issued not by Amazon, but by Chase. Check the fine print on the back of the card.
Avoid all of these institutions' credit cards:
JP Morgan Chase
Bank of America
Bank of Montreal (including Bank of the West)
Why aren’t more bank with good social or environmental reputations in the Best group?
Alas, some of them are not entirely living up to their promotions.
Bank of the West - Dirty investments despite the advertising hype - WORST/AVOID
BotW aggressively markets itself as the “bank with the strongest environmental policies of any major US bank” and rates well on many lists. Unfortunately, BNP Paribas - the BotW parent company until recently - despite their highly touted policies supposedly restricting financing fracking and liquefied natural gas, increased their fossil fuel financing in 2020 to over $42 billion to become the fourth worst fossil bank in 2020. In 2021 they cut back to “only” $15 billion but stayed in the top ten. (Banking on Climate Chaos & BNP Paribas Bucked 2020 Bank Trend in Fossil-Fuel Financing)
In 2023, BotW was bought by BMO Harris - a subsidiary of the Bank of Montreal. BMO is also a master of good progressive sounding marketing - and also a major dirty financier. The Bank of Montreal is #15 on the Banking on Climate Chaos top 60 list and substantially increased fossil fuel financing between 2020 and 2021 to over $18 billion, putting them ahead of BNP.
Amalgamated Bank - Confirmed fossil fuel lending free, but issues credit cards for fossil companies - 2nd Tier
Amalgamated is a generally good mission oriented bank with strong progressive values. It does not issue its own credit card but instead offers an Amalgamated branded credit card issued by First National Bank of Omaha (FNBO). We have not yet found any indication of significant fossil fuel lending by FNBO and Bank.Green gives Amalgamated a green light. However Third Act SF discovered that FNBO provides fossil fuel customer credit card services for BP & possibly others, hence it got knocked down into the Second Tier.
Green America - Good institution, but their credit card issuer won’t go fossil fuel free - 2nd Tier
Green America’s credit card is issued by TCM. While TCM does not show up on the Banking on Climate Chaos report, they refused Green America’s request to sign a fossil free pledge. So while TCM is not among the top dirtiest fossil fuel financiers, they are not totally clean either. Green American hopes to have a new credit card issued by Beneficial (a Best rated bank) late in 2023.
REI Coop - switched their card provider from bad to relatively better - 3rd Tier
REI Coop has good environmental policies. REI’s Mastercard credit card, however, was previously on our Worst list because it was issued by US Bank. US Bank (US Bancorp), while not in the top 10 yet on most measures, has weak policies and is increasing its fossil fuel investments in most areas per the Banking on Climate Chaos 2021 report.
REI, however, switched providers in 2022 to Third Tier Capital One.
Capital One - Not entirely clean or progressive, but a relatively small player in global fossil finance - 3rd Tier
Capital One is a big financial institution. It is not a particularly proactively progressive institution with no policies explicitly excluding any type of fossil fuel projects. It does, however, seem to be focused on the individual and small business market. Importantly, for purposes of defunding fossil fuel finance, Capital One does not make the cut for the top 60 financial institutions in the Banking on Climate Chaos report.
Capital One is not entirely clean on fossil fuels. Research by Stop the Money Pipeline indicated that 1.4% of their portfolio was in energy loans in 2017. We have not found an up-to-date filing listing for Capital One, but their website has a “Capital One Energy Solutions” page indicating $3.5 billion in energy-banking loan commitments and is clearly focused on oil and gas. That sounds like a lot of money, but it is small compared to Chase's $62 billion. If all of that $3.5 billion of lending is for fossil fuel projects it would place them at #50 in the Banking on Climate Chaos list. They are apparently not listed in the Climate Chaos report because it focuses on the top 60 banks globally by asset and they are number 75.
In conclusion, Capital One is not a fossil fuel free bank, however, their oil and gas investments are relatively small in the fossil finance world. If you do decide to use one of their credit cards - or a card from any of the Third Tier institutions - write to their customer service department and CEO to encourage them to get out of fossil fuels entirely.
Elan Financial Services - Issuing for many credit unions and small banks, but still in fossil fuels - 3rd Tier
Elan manages credit card services for many credit unions and small banks all over North America. It is, however, owned by U.S. Bank / US Bancorp. Bancorp has gotten publicity for significant wind and solar investments. It also, however, was a major financier of the Enbridge oil pipeline. Under pressure, it dropped that project, but continues to finance other fossil fuel infrastructure. US Bancorp is the 13th largest bank in the US, was listed in the 2021 Banking on Climate report, and was increasing fossil fuel financing in some sectors in 2020 per that report. It was edged out by bigger players in the 2022 report.
Interest rates, rewards, & other features
If you are not able to pay off your credit card each month, the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) interest rate that you will pay is important.
As you can see in our Compare Credit Cards table, the interest rates for these cards vary widely with Self Help offering as low as 9.75% and CoreFirst with a blanket 10.75% at one end and Amalgamated at the other end starting at 22.24% as of this writing. Some have high rates but start off with a 0% teaser rate for between 6 and 15 months.
If you must carry monthly balances, explore all of these options carefully. Check each institution's website for additional credit card offerings that may have lower interest rates than those we list. We have focused primarily on researching cards with points programs and cashback. Some cards without these features have much lower APR rates. Check your local credit union. Low interest rates is where some of the credit unions and some green banks are among the best. But remember to check if they are issuing their own card or just offering one issued by a fossil financier.
With all lower rate cards, however, there are generally other feature tradeoffs that you should carefully evaluate. If you usually pay off your balance and don’t need the low APR, then a points rewards program with cashback may be more valuable to you, such as those offered by like Patelco or Alliant. Beware of the rewards program that only allow you to buy select items from their catalog, such as ScoreCardRewards. These programs tend to be kludgy to use and of very limited value. Check the catalog carefully before you sign up to evaluate how much you would actually be interested in.
Give us your feedback / share what you learn
Let us know if you have other leads on good credit cards we do not list here - or know of dirt on any of the listings here that we should know about. Use the contact form below
Evaluating your bank
Banking on Chaos - This is an invaluable resource for researching banks that operate credit card services to determine if they are major fossil financiers. It lists the top 60 fossil fuel financiers in the world and updates the findings annually. It is produced by a collaboration of Rainforest Action Network (RAN), BankTrack, Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), Oil Change International, Reclaim Finance, Sierra Club and Urgewald.
References to it in this document are from the March 2022 release. If you are looking at this more than a year later, check the Banking on Chaos website to see if a more recent version is available yet.
Bank Green - Provides a quick look up for any bank to see what these researchers know about the bank’s climate funding. It is powered by a small but mighty group of volunteers working to give you tools to change the banking industry through moving your dollars.
More resources & options
This! Is What We Did is supporting the actions to move money out of fossil fuel banks with cohorts of people who share information and their experiences in researching and changing their banks.
Third Act SF Bay Area (a working group of the national Third Act movement) provided some of the research that has informed this document and has a listing of Climate Friendly Banks, Credit Unions and Credit Cards which also includes an excellent step by step guide on how to switch to a new bank or credit union.
We are watching Atmos Financial. Atmos has online bank investing in climate positive projects. They appear not to have a credit card currently, but do have a debit card.