The Checkout

Buy Your Way to Enlightenment

Now you can be One with your credit card.

New age publisher and yoga video distributor Conscious Enlightenment LLC and Visa have teamed up to bring you the Enlightenment Card. Its motto: Changing the World with Every Point You Earn.

The card is imprinted with different soothing images, including the face of Buddha, a.k.a the man who gave up his wordly possessions in pursuit of spiritual salvation.

Priceless.

"We figured people are going to have the credit cards no matter what. This is a solution that allows people to earn yoga classes or yoga retreats, make a difference in them and make a difference in the world," Conscious Enlightenment LLC chief executive Christopher Miglino said.

The question with the Enlightenment Card is who else benefits?

While the card reads Visa, it's being offered by First Hawaiian Bank. Conscious Enlightenment gets revenue based on the amount of money spent using the cards, Miglino said.

The APR for the first six months is about 7 percent and then goes up to 16 percent. Aspiring yoga instructors get a special deal: If you use the card to pay for yoga teacher training courses, you will be charged an APR of 2.9 percent for the first six months.

Of course, it's still a credit card. If you're late or miss a payment, the APR rises to 18 percent. You can also trigger "universal default" on your other cards and possibly damage your credit rating. The late fee is $25.

Any typical credit-card perils are supposed to be mitigated by the social benefit. Similar to an "affinity credit card" -- the bank issuing the card makes a contribution to a designated charity every time you use the card -- the Enlightenment Card allows you rack up points that can be used to redeem rewards and make contributions to a set of pre-approved charities.

The rewards consist of yoga gear, yoga and meditation classes and other soothing accoutrements such as a sheepskin rug.

The charities raise a few more questions. First, according to the consumer banking site bankrate.com, contributions made through affinity credit cards are usually not tax-deductible because the donations are part of a contractual arrangement between the issuer and the charity. In this case, Conscious Enlightenment technically makes the donation, so it's not likely individuals can claim a deduction.

Second, so far the Enlightenment Card's list of pre-approved groups is small and important information about them, such as how much of every dollar the charities spend on programs versus administrative overhead, is missing from the card's site. The Better Business Bureau offers some tips on evaluating a charity before you donate.

Some of the charities are better known. Cherish Our Children, which works with Romanian orphans and children in similarly dire situations in other parts of the world. The Heal Breast Cancer Foundation raises public awareness and funds to research holistic approaches to treating cancer. More obscure is the India Heritage Research Foundation, which is supported three ways: You can sponsor a page in the Encyclopedia of Hinduism, adopt a school, or buy meals for kids attending the Parmarth Shiksha Mandir School in India. The India Heritage Research Foundation is headed by Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati, whom Miglino refers to as "a spiritual teacher" and "a beautiful person" who runs a large ashram in the Indian Himalayas.

"We're very close friends with these people," Miglino said. "I've seen some of the schools they've built in India know firsthand they do great work."

Before you sign up for this or any other affinity credit card, there is a Buddhist saying that I think applies: "After examination, believe what you yourself have tested and found to be reasonable, and conform your conduct thereto."

By Annys Shin |  September 14, 2006; 7:00 AM ET Credit Issues
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Comments

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uh, ok. i think i'll stick to my amazon.com card.

Posted by: belgie | September 14, 2006 12:07 PM

From my experience, usually the charity cards donate 0.5% to the charity. I can get 1% for a rewards card, so I'd rather get more money AND the tax deduction by using the rewards card. Charity cards that are chintzier than reward cards annoy me.

Posted by: Ms L | September 14, 2006 12:16 PM

Make your own charitable contributions where you will and pick the credit card with the lowest interest rate. These "deals" between credit card companies and charities make me suspicious--corporate America doesn't give away a thing.

Posted by: eb | September 14, 2006 1:56 PM

I'm enlightened alright and I didn't need a credit card to get there.
Educate yourself about these predators who use this dirty trick called universal default and steer clear of them!

Posted by: Elightened One | September 14, 2006 8:11 PM

once you have become truly enlightened, you will have transcended capitalism.

http://www.geocities.com/kenloch46/

Posted by: kenneth loch | September 28, 2006 8:35 PM

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