Many credit cards around the world today offer benefits to gain an edge over their competitors, with extras like reward points, air miles or “cash back.” But there is one kind of credit card that’s a little different. The Affinity Credit Card offers extras too, but its main selling point is altruism: with every purchase, you help to support a charity or non-profit organization financially.

The card issuer benefits by attracting a particular kind of ‘high-quality customer,’ the type of person who can afford to be high-minded, and, depending on the kind of partnership they form, also gains by getting access to the third-party’s membership database. Charities and other non-profits, who always struggle to keep themselves afloat, benefit by receiving incremental revenue over a contractually-set period of time. Sometimes these organizations are even paid a set amount for every new affinity card registered. In theory, it’s a win-win arrangement for everyone.

Lebanese banks have also jumped on this trend. For example, Byblos Bank offers three cards that support educational organizations. Yet, it is Credit Libanais’ two affinity programs that really got our attention:

The ISF Mastercard Titanium

The LAF Mastercard Titanium

So who do you support more? The army or the cops? Shu? Speak up! Choose wisely, because everything here is a metaphor for something else.

Both cards advertise themselves as “helping...martyrs’ families...while enjoying many privileges,” but the ISF card has an added benefit: “contributing to ISF anti-drug efforts.” You’d think that our taxes would have this kind of stuff covered, right? But have a heart -- every little bit helps!

We wondered if there were any other examples of an affinity card promoting a state apparatus anywhere else in the world, and all we could find were cards issued to members of the armed forces, or which supported police unions and related organizations.

The weirdest affinity card though isn’t from Credit Libanais, who are too easy to pick -- I mean, a pink card called "Ladies First"? Seriously? No. That honor goes to Bank Audi’s Loubnani card.

(Photo via intawards.vo)

Yes, you read that correctly. It's a "cedar-scented card to evoke Lebanese national pride." A card in support of the whole nation. Yes, it’s supposed to boost the Lebanese Lira -- can’t all banks do this? -- but that really takes “affinity” to its most abstract, Stephen Colbert-ian extreme, doesn’t it?

Here’s more from the design brief and the thinking behind the card:

“It is a combination between the ancient past in terms of design and the modern present in terms of content. The cards were designed to combine notions of Lebanese heritage mixed with its modern-day culture. Images of famous touristic sites in Lebanon such as Beirut, Baalbeck, and Jeita are used as main graphical elements. A new technology using a cedar-scented material was used to produce the cards, reminding the user of the scent of the country’s national Cedar Tree during every transaction.”

But before you crack a rib from laughing too hard, apparently many people thought this was a winning concept:

“In the first two months of their release, 6,000 Loubnani cards were sold by Bank Audi, contributing to the company achieving a 34% market share of all credit cards sold in Lebanon.”

Who’s laughing now?

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