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This credit card rewards you for shopping at women-owned businesses

The pandemic's toll on working women
The pandemic's toll on working women 11:57

Patronizing women-owned businesses can be good for the U.S. economy — and can benefit your own wallet, too. 

A new credit card designed to uplift women financially rewards cardholders with a monthly 3%
refund on purchases made at more than 1 million women-owned or women-led businesses. The Mastercard credit card, called the "Card by Seneca Women," a media and events company dedicated to advancing women and girls economically, launches this Spring. Applications for the card opened earlier this month.

The idea behind the card, created in partnership with credit company Deserve, is to harness some of the benefits of spending to helping women economically. Female entrepreneurs in particular face myriad hurdles: They have historically had a harder time accessing markets and placing their products on consumers' radars than men.

"Getting their products in front of consumers during the pandemic is not easy, and we've all been paralyzed over last year. So we created a marketplace, and this card incentivizes consumers to go to it," said Kim Azzarelli, CEO and co-founder of Seneca Women, named after Seneca Falls, New York, where the first women's rights convention took place in the U.S. "A lot of these companies are small and it's hard to compete in a digital marketplace."

The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded these challenges. With little-to-no foot traffic, small business owners must now rely more heavily on online sales, which comes with the added expense of ramping up digital marketing efforts to drive e-sales.

"The dream is that people in San Francisco can be shopping from your shop in Massachusetts and we will hopefully make that possible," Azzarelli said.

While business owners win consumers' discretionary and core spending dollars, cardholders earn 3% cash back when they shop at any of the more than 1 million women-owned businesses included in the Seneca Women Marketplace. They run the gamut from dessert company Jars By Dani to hair styling salon DryBar to sportswear company Kari Traa.

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The Card by Seneca Women in partnership with Mastercard gives consumers 3% cash back on purchases made from over 1 million women-owned businesses.  Seneca Women

Seneca marketplace member Jane Morris, founder and CEO of To the Market, a technology company that helps retailers ensure social and environmental responsibility in their sourcing and manufacturing of products, said the novel credit card gives individuals the greater ability to "vote with their wallets." 

"Women might not have influence yet that they want in sectors like business, government and on the policy stage, but we make the majority of purchasing decisions, so we have the opportunity to make change by voting with our wallet and supporting companies we believe are advancing our values," she told CBS MoneyWatch. 

Azzarelli acknowledges the importance of the card's launch one year into a pandemic that has taken an outsize toll on women, who've been driven from the labor force at far higher rates than men. Indeed three million women have left the labor force since the pandemic struck, for reasons including pay inequity and inadequate child care. 

"We were working on it before the pandemic, and once the pandemic hit it was like this has got to happen and it's got to happen fast. It couldn't have come a better time," she said. 

Financial advice for women who leave a job 05:04

Lorrie King, co-founder of Caire, a line of beauty products directed at women over age 40, saw her work as an independent consultant dry up almost immediately when the pandemic struck.

"When this occurred, my co-founder and I found our entire consulting businesses collapse in front of us," King said. She relied heavily on in-person networking events to generate new business leads but suddenly her calendar was empty.

"Literally every meeting I had on my schedule to look at new business went away," King said.

She threw her energy behind Caire, and launched the new brand in January. The digital network she's now a part of through the Seneca Women marketplace is invaluable, she said.

Anyone, not just women, can apply for the card. But it also eases the process for those women who have historically struggled to access credit. As opposed to evaluating applicants' credit report-based FICO scores, the card will evaluate applicants' cash flow, with the expectation that this model will deem more women to be creditworthy.

"It's bringing women to invest in women-owned businesses and encouraging us to purchase from one other. It will only help build us up, and through this credit card we will be able to support each other and create a circle of true financial strength," King said. 

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