General Electric Co. on Wednesday launched the nation's first credit card with rewards dedicated to reducing cardholders' carbon emissions.
The new credit card is part of GE's "ecomagination" initiative, which includes growing research in cleaner technologies to $1.5 billion in 2010 and reducing the company's greenhouse gas emissions.
GE executives said the card provides one tool for consumers interested in reducing their impact on the environment. But they stressed that the card should be seen as a "first step."
"We don't want anyone to think this a 'get out of jail free' card," said Lorraine Bolsinger, vice president, GE ecomagination, at the card's launch event at The New York Academy of Sciences.
Users of the MasterCard credit card, known as GE Money Earth Rewards, will be able to automatically contribute up to 1 percent of their purchases to buy greenhouse gas emissions offsets.
Credit card "rewards" will accrue over the course of the year and can be redeemed for emissions credit each Earth Day, April 22. Customers will have the choice to donate all of their rewards or receive a portion in cash.
GE AES Greenhouse Gas Services, a joint venture between GE's consumer financing unit and power company The AES Corp, said the offsets will be scientifically verified by a third party.
"It sets a very high bar of quality we hope people will embrace," said Kevin Walsh, managing director, renewable energy, GE Energy Financial Services.
Bank of America Corp., the nation's largest retail bank, is planning to introduce an "eco-friendly" credit card of its own. That card will let customers contribute to greenhouse gas reduction projects based on how much money they spend.