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New Bank of America Visa Card to Help the Planet, Takes New Twist On Rewards

It looks like credit card issuing banks are starting to take a leadership position when it comes to the whole "green" craze in which we now find ourselves. Sure, we've heard news about banks building green data centers and others that are constructing new offices that are Earth friendly. Now, we're seeing credit cards getting creative with their rewards programs by promoting green initiatives rather than the typical airline miles.

It looks like credit card issuing banks are starting to take a leadership position when it comes to the whole "green" craze in which we now find ourselves. Sure, we've heard news about banks building green data centers and others that are constructing new offices that are Earth friendly. Now, we're seeing credit cards getting creative with their rewards programs by promoting green initiatives rather than the typical airline miles.Bank of America, for example, just announced it will launch what it's calling the Brighter Planet Visa card. The FI teamed with Brighter Planet, which dubs itself "an independent company that provides innovative products and services to help build a clean energy future," to create the card which helps users monitor their carbon footprint. This is the term that has been thrown around lately by the likes of Al Gore. It's defined as a measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of green house gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide. The idea behind this concept is to help individuals and organizations gain a better understanding of their personal impact on the environment.

That said, the new Bank of America Visa card enables customers to earn one EarthSmart point for every $1 spent in purchases. The points earned are used to help build community-based renewable energy projects across the United States. Points earned with the Brighter Planet Visa credit card are automatically redeemed each month to support renewable energy projects. Each 1,000 points earned is projected to offset one ton of carbon dioxide. According to Bank of America, eliminating one ton of carbon dioxide has the same global warming impact as taking an average car off the road for two months.

Other rewards features of the Brighter Planet Visa include: • Spend $1 in retail purchases and earn one EarthSmart point (1,000 points equal one estimated ton of carbon offsets). • For every two base points earned through December 2008, Bank of America will make a matching contribution of one additional point. • Earn 1,000 bonus points after the first card use, which should more than offset the impact of the creation and delivery of the new card. • Earn an additional 1,000 bonus points after signing up for paperless credit card statements. • Through Brighter Planet's website www.brighterplanet.com, cardholders can calculate their carbon footprint, learn ways to reduce their own environmental impact, participate in an online community to get more involved in the green movement, monitor clean energy projects funded from their card use and track their footprint reduction progress from the use of the card.

BofA is also planning to extend this program to its current WorldPoints card holders so that users can redeem points to offset greenhouse gas emissions. The bank will take the initiative even further, with plans to launch new deposit products in early 2008 that will help Brighter Planet further support the construction of renewable-energy projects.

Now that BofA has put its hat in the "green ring" in this manner, it will be interesting to see if its competitors follow suit, beyond just boasting about their green building construction programs. If nothing else, this is certainly a different take on the sometimes tired rewards programs that are peddled by every other card issuer.

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