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Oct 12, 2021
Climate Action

What Are Eco-Friendly Debit Cards and Credit Cards?

As green businesses are becoming more and more common, banks are increasingly looking for ways to be more environmentally friendly, too. 

There are a few different ways banks can do this. They might try to reduce their carbon footprint, avoid environmentally harmful industries such as the fossil fuel industry, or offer eco-friendly credit cards and debit cards.

But, what exactly are eco-friendly cards? Do they really exist?

What Makes a Debit or Credit Card Eco-Friendly?

There are a few different ways that banks can make an eco-friendly credit and debit card. Let's take a look at the following:

● Manufacturing materials and processes

● Debit and credit card perks

● Bank investment policies

Manufacturing eco-friendly credit cards and debit cards

One of the most common and easy ways financial institutions can make more eco-friendly debit cards and credit cards is by reducing the amount of plastic waste from the manufacturing materials and processes used to make the cards.

For example, banks can make an eco-friendly card out of recycled plastic. That way, there is no new plastic going into the card, which will eventually expire and become waste itself. This is a common practice by many banking entities as recycled product is more and more common and the cost differential to offer a recycle product is shrinking. 

While a more expensive option, some banks are even making their cards from organic, plant-based materials, completely avoiding the use of any plastic in the manufacturing process.

Making cards in an eco-friendly manner also means using processes and manufacturing facilities with a lower carbon footprint than the traditional debit and credit card manufacturers that many big banks use.

Offering eco-friendly debit and credit card perks

Another way banks can make their cards more eco-friendly is by offering perks that are good for the environment. 

They can do this by offering cash back or other perks when you purchase goods and services from certain sustainable businesses or climate-positive brands. For example, a bank's payment cards might offer travel rewards when you book a stay at an eco-lodge.

Additionally, a bank can commit to donating a certain amount to environmental causes and organizations, such as renewable energy research or a non-profit organization fighting climate change. 

For instance, they might donate a percentage of everything customers pay to an organization like the Rainforest Action Network.

It’s important to stay wary of products like this because banks and other companies shouldn’t just commit to supporting external organizations with a percentage of profits. Pre-profit commitments are far more meaningful.

Investing in environmentally friendly initiatives

When you deposit funds into your bank, it doesn’t sit in a vault. Your bank is using that money to fund loan and investment opportunities into the economy and is looking to make a profit. The difference between what your banks pay you and what they earn by investing your money is their profit, and is called the net interest margin. 

Many big banks support fossil fuel projects and back other initiatives that actively hurt the environment but make them a healthy profit. All of this is kept hidden from you. 

So, even if you have a card made from reclaimed ocean plastics, if the bank is actively supporting fossil fuels with your money, that card is not very eco-friendly.

If a financial institution is committed to offering eco-friendly credit cards and debit cards, it should also be investing in and backing environmental development projects, such as clean energy, fossil fuel free transportation, and other carbon neutral initiatives.

The way banks use your money – the loans they make - is the most important method they can assert a positive influence on society or the environment. 

Issues with Eco-Friendly Cards

Reducing the carbon footprint of debit and credit card manufacturing processes, using recycled materials to make cards, offering green card perks, and not backing fossil fuels all go a long way to reducing the negative environmental impact of payment cards.

However, there are still some issues to consider when thinking about whether your debit or credit card is truly "good" for the environment.

There’s no such thing as zero waste

Even with cards made from recycled materials, there is still going to be some amount of plastic waste when the cards expire and get disposed of. 

If you have a few credit cards, think about how many times they expire and get replaced throughout the years. Now, multiply that by how many other people are in the same boat and imagine all those cards. The waste really adds up.

Can you recycle credit cards?

Technically, the plastic the cards are made of is recyclable. However, because of the magnetic strips and chips, they are more difficult to recycle and often end up in the landfill.

Some manufacturers are starting to make fully recyclable credit cards, but they are more expensive to produce than traditional cards and are uncommon to see in the market.

How can banks make card payments even more eco-friendly?

To offer truly green credit card services, banks can try to phase out physical cards altogether. These days, there are all kinds of options for mobile payments that don't require you to even swipe, tap, or insert a card. 

By offering contactless payment options through a mobile app, banks can even further reduce the carbon footprint of their cards and help combat climate change.

Of course, this requires some commitment on the part of customers as well. And, these types of payments aren't as easy to use everywhere in the world. However, it's something to consider the next time you think about ordering a new physical credit card. Start to use phone-driven payment mechanisms and over time it’ll become easier to imagine a work beyond card plastic 

How You Can Make the Switch To Using Eco-Friendly Cards

If you care about the environment enough to recycle and do what you can to reduce your own carbon footprint, maybe it’s time to take a look at how you can change your personal banking habits, too.

If you bank with Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, or one of the other banks that invests in fossil fuels, your bank cards are definitely not eco-friendly. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to change that by switching your bank!

Questions to ask when choosing a new eco-friendly bank:

● Do they support pro-climate initiatives?

● Are their payment cards made from recycled or alternative materials?

● Do they offer green credit and debit card perks?

Pro-climate banks

The first thing to look at when you’re searching for a green bank to switch to is what their investment policies are and what types of projects they support. 

For starters, make sure they make 100% fossil fuel free investments. At the very least, if they don’t support fossil fuel projects, that’s better than most other banks.

Then, see if they actively invest in, donate to, and otherwise support organizations and projects that are doing things to fight climate change and rebuild the environment. It is one thing to not support fossil fuel extraction, but it is quite another thing to only support climate-positive projects.

If you find a bank that checks off those boxes, then any bank cards from them can be considered greener than your current payment cards.

Recycled and alternative payment cards

Banks that offer cards made from recycled ocean plastic, plant-based materials, and other non-plastics get bonus points. 

But, keep in mind that not every bank has the means to offer recycled or alternative cards, so don’t rule them out if they don’t — there are still plenty of ways to be more eco-friendly than other banks!

Green card payment perks

Finally, look for a bank that offers green card perks, such as cashback or discounts on purchases from eco-friendly brands.

Once you’ve found a green bank that meets these criteria, it’s just a matter of opening an account with them, transferring your funds, and closing your old bank account. These days, you can do most of this online from the comfort of your home, or from your local bank branch.

You can still receive all the same benefits of your old cards, but with the knowledge that you’re doing your part to help improve the environment.

Consider Atmos for Climate-Positive Spending

Atmos is a green banking option with a deep commitment to addressing climate change by offering eco-friendly banking services. This includes offering eco-friendly checking and savings accounts.

Atmos’ green debit card

When you sign up for a checking account with Atmos, you can immediately start to earn up to 5% cash back when you purchase products and services from climate-friendly brands, including:

● Net-zero restaurants

● Organic farms

● Eco-friendly household goods

● Sustainable apparel

● Electric transportation

● Sustainable cosmetics and personal care products

● Sustainable grocery stores

● Climate-focused subscriptions and media

Atmos offers cash back at hundreds of different sustainable brands and businesses. Additionally, Atmos is committed to donating to a wide variety of nonprofits that are making the world a better place every day.

The eco-friendly debit card from Atmos has no annual fee or minimum account balance and it provides you with access to your funds at more than 55,000 ATM locations nationwide.


Human industry has had a huge impact on the environment, but we have the power to change our habits in ways that have a positive effect on the climate.

Recycling and using renewable energy are great, but we can do much more. 

That’s why it’s so important to look at the companies we’re supporting when we buy their products and use their services to see where we can make changes to do even better in our day-to-day lives.

One area that’s easier than ever to go green in is banking. Modern technology means that you’re no longer limited to the community banks nearby, and you don’t have to support the big banks that are backing big oil.

What are you waiting for? Contact companies like Atmos and you may realize that they offer better banking services, products and features while also delivering on impact. It’s time to take action. 

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