I packaged food at Feed My Starving Children with a group of fellow bloggers just days after the Haiti earthquake. Let me tell you, the experience itself was reward enough. But hey, if American Express wants to essentially pay volunteers in reward points for helping out in the community, I'm all for it. It might even get some less-inclined individuals hooked on helping out.
American Express announced that cardholders can receive 500 membership reward points for each hour of volunteer work - up to a maximum of 10,000 points or 20 hours of service.
The rewards can be used for everything from gift cards to travel to merchandise. I just logged onto my account and I could get a $10 gift card to the Gap for as little as 1,000 points. I've always found gift cards to be a better value than the merchandise or travel rewards, and try to redeem for offers that translate to a penny per point.
Cardmembers can also donate points to charity and non-Cardmembers can contribute the points they earn from volunteering through American Express.com/give.
So how do you get started?
First, visit www.VolunteerMatch.com to find an approved opportunity. You receive credit for your work by logging your hours on the Members Project Volunteer page. I plugged in my zip code and the search returned more than 1,600 volunteer jobs - from grant writing to tutoring to collecting donated food from the families off to see Yo Gabba Gabba at the Target Center.
Only opportunities listed on this site qualify and I haven't heard from American Express yet about whether there is a process to get a charity signed up on the site. Will update then.