Kiva: loans, points, and miles

Making Kiva loans is one of my favorite ways to increase credit card spend.  Kiva loans help me reach minimum spend requirements for new credit cards; they help me reach credit card big spend bonus thresholds; and, most importantly, they help people around the world who need micro-loans, usually for starting or maintaining a small business.

With Kiva, you can make loans with your credit card, and the transactions count as regular purchases for the purpose of earning credit card rewards.  You do not have to worry about being charged cash advance fees.

Overall, Kiva has a very low loan default rate of .95% (just under 1%).  In my loan portfolio, the default rate has been an amazingly low .21%.  That performance is probably due to the fact that I usually filter to “safe” loans as I’ll explain below in the tips and tricks section of this post.

The downsides

It’s not all roses and ponies in Kiva land:

  • Loans take anywhere from 4 months to a few years to pay off in full, so don’t loan more than you can afford.  That money will be inaccessible for quite a while.
  • You will not earn interest on your loans.  Borrowers do pay interest, but those payments go to the micro-lenders who are in place around the world and need that money for the good work that they do.
  • Payments are made through PayPal.  If you log into PayPal and you have a balance in your account, PayPal will try to use that balance before charging your credit card.  You can avoid that by not logging in, or by using a PayPal account with no balance.
  • Once loans are repaid, withdrawals are made manually so they can take a week or two to process.

Tips and Tricks

Make safe loans

Kiva lets you filter loans to those that are most likely to pay back in full.  When browsing for loans, select “advanced options” to bring up the filter options.  Here’s an example of settings I would choose:


Make lots of loans at once

If you want to make many loans at once, you can turn to a web app called  It lets you filter loans in even more ways than shown above, sort them by earliest payoff date, and bulk load them into your Kiva “shopping cart”.  Press the “++” button to add lots of loans at once.  You can specify how much to spend per loan and how much total you want to spend.


Pay with the best credit card

Depending on your goals, you may prefer to pay with a new credit card to help meet minimum spend requirements, or pay with a credit card in which you’re trying to achieve a big spend bonus.  Alternatively, consider using the US Bank FlexPerks or Cash+ cards which offer bonus points for charity spend.  Even though Kiva loans aren’t charitable donations, Kiva is coded as a charity and therefore earns extra points with these cards (With Cash+ you would have to select Charity as one of your 5% bonus categories).

Increase credit card spend from home or abroad

Many of the techniques people use to increase credit card spend involve trips to drug stores, grocery stores, and Walmart to buy or unload gift cards and reload cards.  If you prefer to stay home, or you travel often abroad, those techniques probably aren’t much use to you.  Kiva loans can be a good alternative.  Note that if you are abroad, it’s a good idea to use a VPN, or remote control software to make your Kiva payments appear to come from the US.  Otherwise, PayPal may stop the payments because they’ll appear to be suspicious.

Getting started

  1. If you haven’t already signed up with Kiva, you can do so through my link:  I won’t earn any referral credit or anything, but I will get an email saying that my friend has joined Kiva.
  2. Find a loan and finance it here:

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 »


  1. […] U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards American Express® card:  You’ll only earn 1 point per dollar when using this card to load Serve, but points are worth up to 2 cents each when used to purchase flights (see: Maximizing value from the U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Card).  Plus, cardholders get 3,500 bonus points when they spend $24,000 in a year on the card.  Serve can be used to get you half way there.  For reference, this card also earns 2 points per dollar for gas, groceries, or airline purchases (whichever is most each billing cycle); 2 points per dollar at restaurants; and 3 points per dollar for charities (I especially like to use this card for Kiva loans). […]

  2. […] $1 holds can make the cards difficult to drain completely.   This is usually just an online purchase problem, but it is a hassle.  One example is with Kiva loans which can be paid for with Amex gift cards.  If you try to make exactly $2000 worth of loans, for example, and pay with a $2000 Amex gift card, the transaction will be declined.  The reason is that PayPal will first verify the card by placing a $1 hold.  This reduces the available balance on the card to $1999 for quite a while (its been a while since I’ve done this, but my admittedly shaky memory tells me that I’ve had to wait up to a week for the hold to clear).  Read more about Kiva here: Kiva: loans, points, and miles. […]


  1. For meeting min spend req I agree Kiva can be a great tool. But for normal manuspend – even when using a usbank card, this is in direct violation of your “buying miles” conundrum. Other p2p loan sites like Lending Club offer well over 10% annual return. This will always buy more miles than using your capital to “buy” them through Kiva.

    • Prince of Points: My assumption (maybe it is wrong?) is that sites that offer returns on your loans are much less of a sure thing than Kiva’s < 1% default rate. And, yes, I do value doing good.
      Steve: Maybe I should worry about geographic loan concentration but I don't.
      Nun: I disagree. With charities you don't know for sure you're helping anyone, but hopefully you are. Same with Kiva loans.

  2. @Prince, Although it is in direct violation, There is a risk that they will default on the loan. Furthermore you to make a decent amount of miles you are putting out money with no return for usually six months.
    Finally I believe that since you are in effect making a difference that this could be considered a “rule bender”.

  3. Thanks to your past posts I follow this strategy and my results have been very similar to yours. Lately I find vast majority of loans that fit are in Phillipines. Do you worry about geographic loan concentration? I do not want to have more than 25% of loans in any country so have had to dramatically slow my Kiva lending down, as I do not want to lower the quality standards to get more diversity.

  4. Whether you’re “helping” someone should be irrelevant. You have no idea if you’re really helping someone or if this person will the use the money as stated. For all you know microloans are being funneled somewhere else in the world.

    • Gagne: I don’t really see a difference between using it for sign-up bonus spend or manufactured spending. The key is to make sure you can afford to float the amount loaned until it is paid back. If you can’t, then don’t do it.
      HeavenlyJane: I’ve never tried on an iPad, but it doesn’t surprise me if kivalens doesn’t work on one.

  5. I went to the us bank site and there is nothing about 5x points to charity. Also went to aarp site and nothing about 7% rebate. Have these bonuses been removed?

    • cindi, the US Bank Cash+ card lets you choose two 5% cash back categories every 3 months. While it might not always be there in the future, so far Charity has been a category every time.
      I’m not sure what you mean by 7% from AARP?

  6. I have always wanted do try Kiva, and started today with my newly arrived Flexperks visa signature card, hoping to earn the 3X points. However, I am seeing the pending charge on US bank website as “paypal*Kiva”, does that mean I made some mistake somewhere? Will USBank categorize transactions labeled “paypal*Kiva” as charitable donation? Thanks.

  7. Thanks! Did you notice today that Kiva has changed its interface slightly when it comes to payment: the “pay with credit card/debit card” option is gone, and it asks you to fill in your address and phone before letting you input your credit card info. When you finish payment, say of $25 or $50, the amount does not automatically becomes a new loan, it becomes a credit on your account, and you have to click “lend” button again to lend the credit on your account to the borrower. I wonder if this change affects the Flexperks points earning or not. Maybe you can talk about it?

    • Yes, go to your browser’s settings and find the Silverlight extension and enable it. For some reason most browsers seem to automatically disable it even if it is installed.

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