November 22, 2010; Source: CNN | One of the surest sights and sounds that Christmas is approaching is when Salvation Army volunteers across the country start ringing bells on Thanksgiving Day to encourage passersby on city streets everywhere to drop a few coins in the iconic red kettle. But this year, along with the sounds of jingling change, will be the much quieter noise of credit cards being swiped.

Thanks to a successful test over the past couple of years, the Salvation Army has begun rolling out to more states what it calls “cashless kettles” that allow donors to make contributions via a credit card. Volunteers are armed with both bells and mobile credit card readers that let people charge their contributions on the spot. But wait, there’s more.

If you’d rather not go to all the hassle of dropping change in a kettle or handing over a credit card, use the Salvation Army’s iPhone app. Introduced last year to simply put you in the Christmas mood, the app, which plays the familiar ding-a-ling sounds in your choice of 12 different tones, now has a feature that lets you donate from your phone.

Officially the Salvation Army’s bell ringing campaign runs through Christmas Eve. This year, they’re out to top 2009’s record $139 million in donations. According to a statement from the Salvation Army, money raised in these drives—in the form of loose change or credit card donations—allow the agency to serve 4 million people in need during the Christmas season and nearly 30 million throughout the year.—Bruce Trachtenberg