How to maximize points and virtue through Kiva loans

ABOUT KIVA

Kiva is a nonprofit organization that provides micro-loans to enterprising individuals around the world so that they may earn their own way out of poverty.  By making loans through the Kiva website, you can be part of the solution to poverty AND earn points and miles.  This post will show you how to do the most good and earn the most points and miles along the way.

The trick is simply to use a rewards credit card to “purchase” loans.  When you receive payments back from your loans, cash them out and make new loans of the same amount, but again with your credit card.  The following steps give more detail:

STEP 1: SIGN UP AT KIVA.ORG

Kiva loans are not tax deductible, but almost all loans pay back 100% of what you put in.

STEP 2: (OPTIONAL) JOIN THE KIVA MILEPOINT TEAM

This is a group of like-minded frequent travelers who are eager to pay it forward via Kiva.  By joining, you will help this group meet its ambitious donation goals, and you may even be rewarded with a team shirt!  For help with joining the team, check out this MilePoint link.

STEP 3: DECIDE HOW MUCH TO “BANK”

You can think of Kiva as a savings account where, instead of interest, you earn credit card rewards, and you help make the world a better place.  How many banks can offer that?  Note that, if you choose to, you will have the option to withdraw the money once the loans are repaid, but it can take as long as a year for all of the repayments to complete.

STEP 4: FIND THE “BEST” LOANS

Really, the best loans are the ones you feel best about giving!  However, it is a good idea to find loans that are safest (e.g. most likely to pay back) and pay back soonest.  The reason for preferring earlier payback is that the more often you are paid back, the more often you can use that same money to fund new loans.  This will both help more people and give you more chances to earn credit card rewards.  For many great tips on how to find the best loans, checkout this MilePoint forum.  If you’d prefer to figure it out on your own, this site will help: http://www.kivalens.org/.

STEP 5: FUND YOUR LOANS VIA REWARDS CREDIT CARD

After adding loans to your Kiva “shopping cart”, it is time to check out.  You might notice that Kiva will, by default, add a suggested donation amount to your tab to cover operational expenses.  Unlike the loans, this amount is truly a tax deductible donation (at least in the US), but it is up to you whether or not to donate this or any other amount.  If you have a US Bank Flexperks card, I’d suggest you decline giving a donation as part of this transaction and separately donate to Kiva (if you’re inclined to) via Flexperk’s charity link which will give you 3 Flexperks points per dollar.  See my related post Give to Charity, Fly Free.

In order to use your credit card to pay Kiva, click the link under “Don’t have a PayPal account?” (even if you do).  See below:

Then, if PayPal finds your account anyway, select “Continue to pay as guest and do not use my PayPal account”.  See below:

STEP 6: WITHDRAW AND RE-LOAN

As loans get paid back, you can keep the cash in your Kiva account and re-loan the money at any time.  This is the easiest way to do it, but it won’t earn you any more credit card rewards.  To maximize your credit card rewards, withdraw your funds each month and purchase new loans with your credit card.  Loans are paid back on the 15th of each month, so consider making this a monthly ritual and you will continually earn points for yourself and loans for those who need them.

FEEDBACK

Do you have other suggestions for maximizing rewards and virtue from Kiva loans?  If so, please comment below.  I would love to enhance this post over time with your best suggestions.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Pingbacks

  1. […] Kiva.org is a micro loaning organization that allows loans to be funded by credit card.  You do not get paid interest on your loans, but you do help real people when loaning money.  Note that it can take many months to get your money back, but about 99% of all loans do get fully repaid.  For more information see “How to maximize points and virtue through Kiva loans”. […]

Comments

  1. I’ve been very curious about this for a while. Presumably you are taking unsecured credit risk to your borrowers right? How is the default rate? I mean in theory it should be through the roof. Hey I can even think of a business paying people in say Belize to post phony loan requests and then just banking the money and saying “oops my cotton picking business just didn’t work out”. Am I being too cynical?

  2. Certainly no expert here and I am sure others will follow.

    But the default rates are very low in many cases. Each loan goes through a partner agency. These agencies are on site in whichever country and they are running the loans. They do a very good job of vetting for each one. Each partner has the default rate and loans at risk rate posted in each loan the offer. So when you go to the lend page, you can see it right there. Many are 0.0%. Some are not.

    I won’t tell you there is no risk here, but we have many on the Milepoint team loans thousands of dollars with little to no defaults.

    YMMV of course.

  3. I’ve loaned to over 30 people with KIVA over the last few and have had all the money paid back.
    There is always a risk, but as it is only $25 per person, something I can live with.

  4. Overall Kiva has default rates of 1.14%. I have been lending for years and have a total of $0.02 in defaults. That is 2 cents, and I have nearly 1900 loans outstanding. The defaults of conventional small loans are indeed very high. Kiva is different, and the Field partners, local lenders, do a very good job of helping people learn how to borrow.

    To know more this page can inundate you with detail:
    http://www.kiva.org/about

    On the milepoint Kiva team there are literally hundredd of members who will be happy to help you understand exactly the pros and cons. We also have some people who have helped make the loans themselves (Kiva Fellows) who can help you understand how the local proces works.

    Please join us! You’ll be happy you did. We are a helpful and enthusiastic group, as you’ll discover when you join us.

  5. Also, Kiva has extensive information on each field partner. If you are risk averse, you can easily search only for loans from field partners that have Kiva’s highest rating and have had no or very, very few defaults or delinquencies.

  6. I just received a few deposits back into my Kiva account and according to their site you can only request payments back in the form of Paypal payments. I have both a personal and business account with Paypal and will test out how long it takes to receive the funds.

  7. Hey Grant or anyone else, do you get charged a fee when withdrawing from Kiva through Paypal then transferring from paypal to your bank account?

  8. Is there a reason for not using your Paypal in step 5? I have my credit cards all registered in PayPal as well as my bank account. Do Paypal purchases not count toward minimum spends or something?

    Thanks for clarifying.

    Nice initiative!

  9. Graham, yes you can sign in to Paypal, but make sure your Paypal balance is zero first. I think they’ll insist on using your PayPal balance before letting you select a credit card

  10. I’m not planning to churn with this, but do you know if there is any way to withdraw my funds from Kiva once my loans have been repaid (still several months away)? PayPal closed my account and said I’m not welcome to use their service. Their reason (I have read their TOS and was not in violation of ANY terms) was “it’s nothing you did…I can’t tell you why because it’s proprietary information.” My suspicion is that it is because I opened a dispute with my credit card company after a PayPal CSR told me to do it!

  11. R: Yes, simply contact Kiva and ask them to send you checks from now on for your withdrawals. That shouldn’t be a problem for them. You can even tell them that your PayPal account was closed if you want to.

  12. FrequentMiler: I just now went to the withdrawal page on Kiva to check out the withdrawal options (I received my first repayments recently) and it says the following:

    “PayPal processes all of Kiva’s financial transactions, so it is necessary to withdraw funds into a PayPal account. Kiva cannot send you a personal check or deposit the funds into a bank account.

    Your funds will be deposited into your PayPal account in 1-3 weeks.

    If you do not have a PayPal account, please create a PayPal account at http://www.paypal.com. If you have any issues in creating or updating your PayPal account, you can contact PayPal at 888-445-5032 (Toll Free US) or 402-952-8811 (International), Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST. These phone numbers are staffed by PayPal employees who are specially trained to help Kiva lenders.” :s

  13. My concern was more about getting a deposit out via check instead of PayPal. Has anyone had experience actually getting their money out via check?

  14. Hi, FM, can I confirm that we can load our account as many times as we like with a credit card (see step 6)? I remember reading somewhere that we can only load our account once with a credit card. Thanks.

  15. Admiring the hard work you put into your site and in depth information you offer.
    It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed material.
    Fantastic read! I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds
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