More Satisfying: Spending Money, or Donating It?

Would you rather donate $100 to a charity you believe in, or spend $50 in your favorite shop?

That’s the crux of an offer SunTrust bank is making to people who open new checking accounts with the bank between now and the end of the year: receive a $50 gift card, or have SunTrust donate $100 to the charity of your choice.

The quandary reminds us a little of the “beggar or hot-dog vendor” question Dubner put to five respondents on this blog last summer; except substitute “street canvasser” for “beggar.”

(Hat tip: Jake Pruner)


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  1. Reuben says:

    it’s a bit of a different situation if you didn’t earn the money in the first place…

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  2. MikeM says:

    I think the likelihood people would want the $100 donated to charity is greater than if it was thus:

    Your account has a $50 annual fee. Alternatively, SunTrust can deduct $100 and donate it to the charity of your choice.

    The net to the customer is the same, but I think people are much more willing to sacrifice a $50 gift for charity than to double a $50 expense for charity.

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  3. kenny says:

    In this case, I’ll probably donate 100 bucks.

    But if we’re talking about taking 100 dollars out of my wallet, there’s going to be a civil war in between my imaginary cartoonish angel and devil.

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  4. Jason says:

    I’m poor. Show me the money!

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  5. Ben says:

    I’d donate the $100 since it’s not money I already have.

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  6. Joe Brown says:

    1 and 2 are correct that people treat those situations differently. Of course,the net effect for the customer is the same. The irrational framing effects have been a big deal in psychology for years, and Danny Kahneman and Amos Traversky’s work on those issues (as well as a host of subsequnet psychologists) is worth a read.

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  7. Vincent Clement says:

    MikeM: I think you misunderstood how this promotion works. SunTrust is not deducting $100 from your account. They are donating the money directly to the charity of your choice.

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  8. Grant says:

    Vincent: MikeM was positing an alternate scenario, not misunderstanding the one originally posted.

    Anyway, I’ll take the money.

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