How to Grow Your College Savings While You Shop

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Kristen Kuchar

By Kristen Kuchar

October 29, 2020

Whether you’re buying gifts for family and friends, items to spruce up your home, or everyday essentials, why not turn that shopping experience into cash back for college? Upromise and CollegeBacker are two programs that offer the chance to easily shop through their reward programs, earning cash back to help you pay for college. 

Here’s how they work:


Upromise is an online platform that allows you to grow your college savings in simple ways. You can register for an account for free and earn cash back, which is either directly deposited into a 529 college savings plan or cashed out to your bank account. 

Here’s how you can earn cash back:

Login and click on a vendor’s offer on the shopping portal. Purchases will earn cash back rewards to your Upromise account. 

The prices on purchases made through the links are the same as purchases made directly through the store’s web site. Rebates are typically 1% to 5%, but can be as high as 40% for specific vendors, especially during the holiday shopping season.

Categories include:

  • Computers & Electronics
  • Office & School Supplies
  • Department Stores & Outlets
  • Shoes
  • Beauty & Health
  • Food & Dining
  • Home, Kitchen & Bath
  • Furniture & Décor
  • Women’s Clothing
  • Men’s Clothing
  • Magazines & Newspapers
  • Sports & Outdoors
  • Tools, Auto, & Pets
  • Flowers & Gifts
  • Babies, Kids & Toys
  • Wireless & Services
  • Hotels & Accomodations
  • Travel & Luggage
  • Jewelry & Accessories
Rewards example

Dine out for rewards. 

Earn rewards by dining at participating restaurants. Purchases made at participating restaurants using a linked debit or credit card will earn 2.5% cash back. If you use the Upromise credit card, the Upromise dining rewards double to 5% cash back.  

Earn cash back with the Upromise credit card. 

Upromise cardholders earn 1.25% cash back on purchases made with the credit card.  If you link your Upromise account to a participating 529 plan, you will earn a 15% bonus on your credit card cash back rewards. The 1.25% cash back with a 15% bonus is the equivalent of a 1.44% cash back rewards card.

The Upromise credit card includes the option of a spare change investing program, where purchases are rounded up to the nearest whole dollar. Round ups are capped at $500 per month. There is no fee for the round up program.

Members are also automatically entered into a monthly scholarship for $529. 

Read our full review of Upromise. Ready to sign up? Create an account for free.


CollegeBacker is an online platform that allows you to open or grow your 529 college savings. You can open a 529 account or link an existing plan from 20 states.

CollegeBacker will select a 529 plan with low-fees and a good track record after you answer a few simple questions, such as your risk preference and state. Plans selected are age-based, and the risk is adjusted as your child gets older and closer to heading off to college.

CollegeBacker’s Backer Bucks program allows you to shop online or on the mobile app and earn a portion of your purchase towards your college savings. Visit the Backer Bucks portal to check out offers at over 100 retailers from every category – home, apparel, food and drink, entertainment and financial services.

For example, you can earn up to 4% of your purchase back while shopping at Office Depot or 3% on your back to school purchase from Crayola. Other popular brands include Ace Hardware, Turbotax, Party City and Walmart. New partners will be added every month.

CollegeBacker also has a gifting feature, which allows family and friends to easily make a contribution to your child’s college savings. 

CollegeBacker cashback rewards

CollegeBacker families who use the gifting feature save 43% more on average. CollegeBacker makes the process simple for family and friends to send a gift that goes directly to your child’s college savings account. For starters, each child gets a customizable gifting page with an easy to remember URL link. You can easily share the link via text, email, or social media for a simple way for family to contribute.

Read our full review of CollegeBacker. Ready to sign up for CollegeBacker? Learn more here.

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At, our goal is to help you make smart decisions about saving and paying for education. Some of the products featured in this article are from our partners, but this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

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