Is it OK to Tithe With a Credit Card?

by Tim on March 6, 2013

One of the latest waves in churches is to have online tithing. It makes sense when you think about how the online payment processing industry has grown in the last few years. People are more comfortable putting their credit and debit card information on payment sites and it becomes a normal part of every day life. Why wouldn’t a church want to get into this arena? If it makes it easier for church members to give tithes online, it seems like it would be a real service to everyone. I was happy when our church set up their online tithing system, but I was surprised with the feedback I got from people I knew.

Those Against Using a Credit Card

It Feels Impersonal

A friend of mine (in his 30’s) said that he doesn’t like tithing with a credit card. He says that it feels impersonal and that he would rather bring a check or cash to the church when he gives. I can see his point because it might feel awfully similar to an eBay or Amazon transaction. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, you probably shouldn’t tithe with a credit card.

The Church Gets Charged

This is a major reason why many people don’t like the idea of tithing online. Depending on the online payment service that you use, the church can be charged anywhere from 0.5% to 2.5% per transaction. That can really add up and cost the church significantly. With many churches already facing lower tithes, adding one more cost for receiving online tithes can hurt an already low church budget.

Those For Using a Credit Card to Tithe

It’s Convenient and Easy

I’ll be honest; I don’t carry around a checkbook. Most people I know just don’t carry one. The same is true for cash – I rarely have more than twenty dollars on me at any given time. Most of the things I buy are online or with a credit or debit card. Knowing that I can tithe with my credit card is just easier for me.

Giving is More Regular

Tithing with a credit card online helps me to stay accountable with my giving. I find that I give more regularly when I tithe with my credit card online. But why don’t I use a debit card instead? I have used a debit card in the past, but since my wife and I pay off our credit card regularly, we just default to using a credit card.

The Points are Nice

Whoa. Did you actually say that? Yes, yes I did. I know many people who tithe with credit cards and choose one card over another because it gives nice reward points. A word of caution – this should not be your motive for giving. If you give because you like to see your points add up, you’re tithing for the wrong reason. My wife and I are responsible with our credit cards and never carry a balance. I don’t see any difference if I tithe with a reward credit card or tithe with a debit card. It all comes out of our bank at the end of the month.

Before You Tithe with a Credit Card . . .

Consider your motives.

Are you giving because of the points? That’s not why we are called to give.

Consider the costs.

Remember the church is paying upwards of 2.5% or more for a transaction. If you like the convenience of tithing with a credit card, you might increase your amount by a little bit in order to offset the cost incurred by the church.

Remember why you give.

The ultimate reason why we give is to further God’s Kingdom. If online giving helps to do that, I think it can be a great tool for churches.

What are your thoughts? Have you tithed online before? Do you think it’s OK to tithe online?

Tim is a personal finance writer at Faith and Finance a Christian financial help blog that provides financial insights for individuals, businesses, and churches. Outside of finance, Tim enjoys spending time with his wife, playing the saxophone, reading economics books, and a good game of RISK or Catan.

This article was originally published on Personal Finance by the Book on October 21, 2011.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

BiblicalFinances October 21, 2011 at 6:59 am

I know that my church just started accepting tithes and offerings with a kiosk that allows you to use debit and credit. Yes there is a transaction fee but would that end of being tax deductible for them?

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YFS @ YourfinancesSimplified October 21, 2011 at 9:41 pm

The transaction fee would not be tax deductible

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dojo October 22, 2011 at 6:40 am

We don’t tithe anymore. There are huge issues with our Orthodox Church that’s being exposed for corruption and anything else .. you name it, they are doing it ‘in the name of god’. So we’re removing ourselves from all this mess. in my country the church is more interested in tax evasion and all the jazz, then helping people, so in our case it’s no tithe 😀

Still, if we had something like you guys have with your churches, then I think it would depend on the situation. Paying online would be easier for me but, if I would go to the church for the sermons, I don’t see any reason not to pay the tithe then.

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Carol@inthetrenches October 23, 2011 at 12:07 am

The church is not supposed to be a business. It is the house of God. Personally I take literally the command that we are not to let the right hand know what the left hand is doing in regards to our giving. How did we go from that to the current method where we, the accountants of our church, and the IRS know how much we are giving? And, now get bonus points? I tithe in cash. I much prefer a “well done” in heaven than a tax deduction here on earth. Sorry if I sound offended, I guess I am.

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laurie December 15, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Wow, I never thought of that…good point….although the church at least has some sort of record whether I AM tithing or not… Shouldn’t be an issue, though. So I guess I’ve never been looking at it as a tax deduction even though it’s been handed to me at the end of the year. There are many times, however, when I offer cash without filling out any form.

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UltimateSmartMoney October 23, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I have never heard of giving tithing to church via credit card before reading your post. I kind of like the idea. It kind of makes sense but like the other commenter said, churches are not businesses. However, I like the idea…

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Dr. Jason Cabler (@DrCabler) October 24, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Oh my gosh, there are so many things wrong with tithing with credit. Don’t be fooled by the convenience factor.

1. You are tithing with money you don’t have; it’s credit. You are tithing with borrowed money.
2. It costs the church a transaction fee, so your full tithe is not being brought into the store house (but obviously the church is willing to take the small hit as part of the convenience deal, just like business)
3. It can be very easy to get yourself in trouble with credit card giving because the money is not “real”. Churches are constantly asking for money (as they should) but some people who give with credit use this easy payment method as an excuse to give more than they have.

I have counseled people in my Celebrating Financial Freedom course that a large part of their debt problem was giving more than they could pay back to the credit card company. Thus they are in bondage due to their giving. God does not want us in bondage.

The Bible says “the borrower is slave to the lender” and “the blessings of the Lord make one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it”.

When you give with credit you are not giving with money you have earned, but money you have borrowed. When you do that you are in bondage to the credit card company and not making yourself truly available to receive the blessing that God wants for you when you tithe. Sometimes you can be right (by tithing) and still be wrong (by giving with borrowed money).

As for the comment by dojo above, don’t stop tithing because your money is being misused. Find another more honest church to give it to. Tithing is something that is good for your spirit, and the promise is you will be blessed for it no matter what the church or its leaders are doing with it. But of course you should use good common sense and not give it to a church that will misuse it. If they are misusing it, they will ultimately be held accountable.

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Tim @ Faith and Finance October 24, 2011 at 8:35 pm

@ Biblical Finances and YFS – Churches fall under the non profit status, so fees aren’t tax deductible because there aren’t taxes if the church meets the IRS standards.

@ dojo – you bring up a whole new topic! 🙂 to tithe or not to tithe… I wrote about that on Faith and Finance –check out the ‘Popular Posts’ on the sidebar.

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Samantha March 26, 2012 at 5:38 am

You can get what they call a secured card, which is lmoast like a debit card and bank account as you have to put money in the credit account before you can use the card. You do this for a while then the credit company may (usually does) give you a small line of credit, something like $250, pay that on time for a while they will increase it and so on. Honesty I’d get a bank account then try to get a card through them. Are you a student? If so, many banks offer students cards which are a bit easier to get. Good luck.

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Tim @ Faith and Finance October 24, 2011 at 8:44 pm

@ Carol and UltimateSmartMoney – I hear what you’re saying. There are, however, business items that churches need to handle, so I cannot completely agree that a church should ignore all business aspects.

To defend churches who allow online tithing, some only allow debit cards or ACH (direct payment). But, like DrCabler said, encouraging people to give with a credit card can be irresponsible if done inappropriately. I believe that churches should not encourage people to give beyond the money they actually have all in the name of a tithe or building project or whatever.

There are two types of credit card users: those who should use it and those who shouldn’t. That is, if you are responsible, you pay it down and each purchase is no different than using cash. If you are irresponsible, don’t use a CC – I don’t care what it’s for.

GREAT DISCUSSION EVERYONE! – Tim

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@acatholicprayer October 25, 2011 at 7:17 am

I think it would have to be an individual decision. Some people have difficulty with credit cards, others don’t. For some, tithing by credit card will allow them to make greater contributions to the church than they would otherwise.

In our “plastic world,” I think it makes sense for churches to offer tithing by credit card as an option.

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Dr. Jason Cabler (@DrCabler) October 25, 2011 at 8:34 am

I think acatholicprayer may have missed the point when they said

“For some, tithing by credit card will allow them to make greater contributions to the church than they would otherwise.”

If they make a larger donation than they would if they had set aside cash, then they are in debt, and thus in bondage. The Bible specifically says we should avoid debt bondage. Not sure where they are coming from on that comment.

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Tim October 25, 2011 at 9:33 am

I agree with you Dr. Cabler – if using a CC means that you are now enabled to spend more than you otherwise would have, that’s not responsible use of a CC.

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Jason Cabler (@DrCabler) March 28, 2012 at 10:49 am

It’s not responsible giving either. God never asked anyone to give more than they have.

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Carol@inthetrenches October 27, 2011 at 8:42 am

Good article as it keeps running through my head…the only recorded time when Jesus got physically angry was when He threw over the tables of the money changers. And, what were they doing? Buying and selling sacrifices. If we are going to live “by the Book” we need to identify and shun practices that make the church a business rather than a house of prayer. Sometimes they are hard to spot but this one is easy. Also, the tithe by definition was a percent of money already earned. This leaves no place for credit. There is a major church, well regarded, in our city that is going bankrupt. It is a SHAME. We are to be IN the world but not OF the world. God is in the business of building lives, not buildings and programs.

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Jeff November 29, 2011 at 4:38 pm

I’m the director of operations for a large Methodist church. We do not do online tithing as the response was poor. The problem with that was that it took an proactive online action by the giver every week.

But we do accept electronic direct deposit for giver’s bank accounts. It’s basically the same as direct deposit for your payroll only in reverse. About 15 percent of our tithing is through this method, and we started only about a year ago.

The benefits for the church are that we see an even cash flow through the summer months, and the cost per transaction is simliar to the cost of cashing a check. I know people get hung up on the transaction fee in electronic giving, but the cost of printing envelopes, distributing them (ie shipping fees), and the bank’s transaction fee for cashing a paper check exceed our direct deposit fees by 8 cents to 2.5 cents for each transaction!

I see where many are concerned with credit cards in that it increases debt, and i can understand that. But that is not new, as we have often seen checks bounce, which leads to embrassment for the giver.

As far as the church not being a business. Unfortunately it is. We conduct out finances like any other nonprofit business. We pay payroll taxes. We pay sales taxes on items that the state requires us to pay. We pay utilities. We pay for paper for bulletins. We tithe in our giving to missions and ministry (actually, we far exceed our 10 percent). We pay the pastor and staff. We write a budget, and we do our darnest to spend within that budget. We are subject to an annual independent audit. In short, if we did not conduct our finances by using our business skills, we’d be shutting doors real fast.

I would like to find out what the participation percentage is at other churches, if anyone is willing to share that information.

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Mike Brown November 30, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I’m glad that I stumbled across this article. I’ve asked this question before, but the answers were always mixed. As the responses here have been also. My church has offered online tithing for about 2 years. http://www.destinymetro.org –I personally love the online tithing option. My church live streams the services so when we can’t make it to church, we’ll watch the service. It makes it easy for us to tithe when we’re not actually in the building. We use the online option even we do go. I pay all my bills with a debit card or credit card (i’m not calling tithing a bill–just making a statement). It’s rare that I write a check for anything so online tithing is perfect for my wife and I. We have always paid using our debit card, but it crossed my mind to start paying with a credit card and get the points. We put almost all of our purchases on a credit card and pay them off the next day if not the same day. I haven’t concerted over to paying with my credit card just yet, but I think I will after getting some insight on the subject. I’m not going into debt by using a credit card and i’m not tithing just to get points. I see it as just substituting one card for another.

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Mike Brown November 30, 2011 at 2:23 pm

On another site I found a similiar discussion and some good points were brought up. Hopefully, these help in the discussion:

What is the good of churches allowing nontraditional giving methods?
1. Fewer people carry cash or check books with them at all times.

2. Regular on-line transfers help even out giving over the year. We know that if you don’t plop it in the pew you won’t put it in the plate, so giving traditionally dips in the summer time, during bad weather and on holiday weekends.

3. Electronic transfer allows greater privacy in giving. If I write a check and put it in the plate, volunteer counters and others may see what I give. But a concise electronic statement would only be seen by the Financial Secretary who would actually record my pledge.

4. Cash and checks have to be handled. They have to be counted, counted again, prepared for deposit and driven to the bank. In an era where volunteer time is harder to come by, let’s let our volunteers focus on doing the work of the kingdom and not tie them up counting money.

5. Cash is also a safety liability. Although this is quite rare, a pile of cash can be misapproriated, and with no cash register receipt to balance against, such a theft would go unnoticed.

–another guy said this:

Contrary to what you have written, I’ve been told by some charitable organizations that it is cheaper for them to process credit card transactions, rather than a check.

Not only do they get a discounted credit card rate, but they pay extra fees for checks.

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paul poy March 6, 2013 at 5:58 pm

As an alternative to a credit card, would the church consider an automated payment from a checking account? The church may receive a physical check or an automated deposit into the church checking account. This is convenient and does not support people going into greater debt.

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Emily @ evolvingPF March 17, 2013 at 3:57 pm

We tithe online, but it’s a direct draft from our checking account, not through credit or debit. I think that straddles the best of both worlds.

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Craig Kingston March 18, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I see no problem with giving to a church by credit card. Yes, the church must pay a transaction fee, but it is still getting a donation, and I think that’s what’s most important to the church. Convenience is really important to all of us these days as we are so incredibly busy all of the time. If paying online can save time and allow better tracking of our payments I’m all for it.

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Pam@Pennysaverblog March 19, 2013 at 4:34 pm

A friend of mine who is a pastor said he didn’t like the idea of receiving tithes via credit card because 3% of that money would be paid to the credit card company. He didn’t want any of the people tithes to be given to a rich credit card company instead of to the church and missions. I thought it was an interesting point that he made.

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Laurie March 23, 2013 at 10:37 am

I would think using a credit card, in addition to the 10% or more tithed, a little extra should be tacked on for the transaction. Not fair the church should pay it. Better yet, the church should not even consider credit card…

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