Treecard Review: A Wooden Debit Card That Plants Trees

Treecard is launching a wooden debit card that will plant trees as you spend. However, the bank issuing the card may still be funding fossil fuels. Learn if Treecard is the best sustainable debit card option.

SustainFi November 5, 2021

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Treecard

Rating: Good (3.0 / 5)

Annual feeNone
Cash backNot disclosed
Sign up bonusNone
Foreign transaction feeNone
  • Treecard will plant trees when you buy something with your Treecard debit card, though they don’t disclose how many trees are planted per $1 spent
  • The card is issued by Sutton Bank, an Ohio-based bank that has not committed to not funding fossil fuels
  • Note: the card currently has a waiting list; features and disclosure may change once the card officially ships

Pros

  • Plants trees as you spend
  • No monthly service fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • Your bank deposits may still be funding fossil fuels
  • No fee-free ATM network
  • It’s unclear how many trees are planted for each $1 spent
  • No rewards
  • No welcome bonus

What is Treecard?

Treecard is a wooden debit Mastercard that will plant trees as you spend. Their mission is to plant one billion trees using money from merchant transaction fees. When you get a Treecard, you also get an FDIC-insured checking account that accepts direct deposits, supports interbank transfers, and links to your Venmo account or mobile wallet. Treecard supports Apple Pay and Android Pay.

Treecard was founded in August 2020 by Jamie Cox, Gary Wu, and James Dugan. The company, which aims to become a leading green finance brand, has raised over $5 million in its seed round.

Treecard is a UK-based fintech startup, not a bank. The card is issued by Treecard’s partner, Sutton Bank, Member FDIC, which will also hold your deposits. However, we have not seen anything to suggest that the Ohio-based Sutton Bank is fossil free. Mighty Deposits has some data on how the bank is using your deposits: Sutton Bank invests less than average in its local community, and your money could still be funding fossil fuels.

In contrast, if you deposit money with green neobanks like Aspiration, Ando Money, and Atmos Financial, you can be sure that your deposits are not funding oil and gas exploration. Atmos actually promises to invest your money in green projects like renewables.

And we would argue that not producing emissions in the first place is better than trying to offset them by planting trees later. Although trees are great carbon absorbers, it takes decades for a tree you plant to mature and absorb much carbon.

How Treecard works

Treecard will plant trees every time you spend. Whenever you buy something, Mastercard collects an interchange fee from the merchant in return for processing the payment. Treecard gets some of that fee, and they use this revenue to plant trees. However, the debit card interchange fee in the U.S. for most transactions is only $0.22-$0.24. And Treecard doesn’t disclose how many trees are planted for an average transaction or any dollar amount spent.

According to Ecosia’s blog, every $60 you spend plants a tree, though Treecard hasn’t confirmed that. In contrast, if you get the Aspiration Zero credit card, Aspiration’s partners will plant one tree every time you use the card, even if you buy a $2.99 coffee.

With Treecard, trees are planted by Ecosia, which supports over 20 tree-planting projects in 15 countries, including Peru and Brazil. Ecosia is a nonprofit search engine that makes money from ads and uses that money to plant trees around the world. Since 2009, Ecosia has planted over 120,000 million trees.

According to Treecard, 80% of profits will go to reforestation and climate investments. However, Treecard is a startup, and it is unlikely that it will be profitable any time soon. It appears that they only make money from a part of interchange fees, some of which must go to plant trees, but debit card interchange fees are low.

Treecard fees

Treecard doesn’t charge any monthly fees or foreign transaction fees. There is a $9.99 fee for a replacement card.

Although Treecard doesn’t charge any ATM fees, the ATM provider might, and Treecard doesn’t say if there are any fee-free ATMs in their network. So if you need to withdraw cash, be prepared to pay. Treecard doesn’t reimburse any ATM fees.

What is Treecard made of?

Each card is made from cherry wood and recycled plastic bottles. According to Treecard, they can produce over 300,000 cards from a single cherry tree and a pile of recycled plastic bottles.

It may seem strange that the card that plants trees is made from trees, which requires cutting them first. However, Treecard argues that wood is an excellent material if sourced sustainably, and they don’t need many trees to make the cards. Using wood is a good way to cut down on plastic, most of which never gets recycled.

However, wood is less robust than plastic, so you should take more care with your wooden card. (There is a $9.99 replacement fee.) Treecard recommends avoiding soaking, bending, or rubbing your Treecard.

We would argue that, in the end, credit cards don’t need much material of any sort. So it doesn’t matter what your card is made of compared to what your bank deposits are funding.

How can I get a Treecard?

You need to be a full-time U.S. resident over the age of 18 with a Social Security Number. Because Treecard is a debit card, not a credit card, they don’t check your credit history when you apply, and your credit score won’t suffer.

To get the card, you need to download the Treecard app, sign up and add funds. Right now, there is a waiting list, but once the card officially launches, the physical card should arrive 5-10 business days after you sign up.

Is Treecard safe?

Treecard is not a bank, and it’s not regulated by any regulatory body. However, it has partnered with Sutton Bank, Member FDIC, which is the issuer of the card. Sutton Bunk will hold your deposits, and because of that, your money is FDIC-insured for up to $250,000.

💰 Takeaway

Treecard calls itself a “planet-friendly” card, planting trees as you spend. But you may still be funding fossil fuels with your deposits. Now that there are so many fossil free banking options, we question if Treecard is the most sustainable choice. Learn about green banking options from Aspiration, Atmos, Ando Money, and Climate First Bank.

Treecard vs. Aspiration

If you’ve concluded that Treecard is not the best option, check out credit and debit cards from Aspiration. Aspiration will also plant trees when you use the card (in fact, one tree every time you use the credit card). But more importantly, Aspiration has committed to not funding fossil fuels; Sutton Bank, the issuer of Treecard, has not.

See how Treecard and Aspiration compare:

Fee

None

Fee

$60 / year

Fee

Pay what you want

APY

None

APY

Not applicable

APY

Up to 5.00%

Cash back

None

Cash back

Up to 1%

Cash back

Up to 10%

Free ATMs

None

Free ATMs

Not applicable

Free ATMs

55,000+

Deposits

May fund fossil fuels

Deposits

Never fund fossil fuels

Deposits

Never fund fossil fuels

Trees planted

Unclear

Trees planted

1 every time you spend

Trees planted

"Plant Your Change"

Card material

Cherry wood and recycled plastic

Card material

Corn-based plastic substitute

Card material

Recycled ocean plastic


🔔 Interested in more options? Check out our guide to sustainable bank accounts.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Treecard a debit card?

Yes, it is a debit Mastercard issued by Sutton Bank.

Is Treecard a bank?

No. Treecard is a U.K.-based fintech startup. The card is issued by Sutton Bank, an Ohio-based Member FDIC.