Review: Upromise College Savings Rewards Program

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Mark Kantrowitz

By Mark Kantrowitz

August 19, 2022

Upromise is an easy and rewarding way to save for college. The program provides several ways to earn rewards, but the most advantageous is to join Upromise and then sign up for the Upromise credit card and link a 529 college savings plan of your choice. Once set up, this combination will automatically sweep cash backs rewards based on your everyday purchases into your family’s linked 529 college savings plans.

To get families started, Upromise is offering over $30 in bonus rewards just for signing up.  You get a $5.29 bonus when you verify your email address and an additional $25 when you link your new Upromise account to your first 529 college savings plan account.  Linking your account will allow Upromise rewards to automatically transfer into your 529 plan account as a contribution.

The program provides a smart way to boost your college savings, especially for those who start earning when their children are young, since all the rewards swept into 529 plans can be invested and grow tax free. Over time, this can really add up and reduce or eliminate the need for your kids to take out burdensome student loans.

Upromise combines features of several savings programs, including, cash back rewards from online shopping, grocery shopping, dining, purchasing gift cards, answering surveys and a cash back rewards credit card with a “round up” savings program. In addition, Upromise gives away five $529 scholarships every month.

How Does Upromise Work?

Upromise is free to join and does not charge any fees. It provides numerous ways to help families reach their college savings goals, including:

Credit card. Upromise offers the Upromise Mastercard from Barclays Bank with no annual fee and with cash back rewards on all your spending. There are no rotating reward categories. There is a 23-day grace period for avoiding interest on credit card purchases. The credit card provides free access to your FICO credit score. Monthly payments on the credit card can be automated. Transaction data can be automatically uploaded into Quicken, making it easier to track your spending.

Credit card cash back rewards. Cardholders get 1.529% cash back rewards on all purchases when your Upromise account is linked to an eligible 529 college savings plan or 1.25% cash back rewards when not linked.   There are no caps on how much you can earn in cash back rewards.

529 plan linking bonus for linking a 529 plan. 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.

Round up program. 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.

Along with other earned rewards, any round up amounts are automatically transferred to a linked 529 plan, so it is a painless way of increasing college savings. The round up amounts are eligible for the 1.529% cash back. If you round up $25 per month, this can yield $4.59 in extra rewards a year.

Online Shopping. Upromise lets you earn rewards from online shopping from thousands of your favorite retailers made through the Upromise website. After you login and click on a vendor’s offer on the portal, purchases will earn cash back rewards to your Upromise account. The prices on purchases made through the portal 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.

Upromise Browser Extension.  Upromise makes online shopping even easier by offering a browser extension for Chrome.  When you download the Upromise extension, you will automatically get notified of cash back rewards and exclusive coupon codes that you can apply to your purchases.  Get cash back rewards through thousands of participating retailers with the simple click of a button

Dining rewards. You can also earn rewards by eating out. 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.  

Grocery Shopping.  Get more cash back rewards when you shop for your groceries and everyday items through Upromise.  You can shop at stores like Walmart and Target to Costco, CVS, RiteAid, and Whole Foods, just to name a few. They feature deals from tons of your favorite local grocery stores.

Gift Cards.  There are over a hundred different digital gift cards available, offering cash back rewards as high as 20%. They include gift cards from top brands across retail, dining, entertainment, and travel & hospitality.  You can send the gift cards, via email, to family and friends, or use them to pay for items you already intend to purchase.

Surveys.  Upromise offers yet another way for members to earn and save. Surveys are a fun way to provide your feedback regarding products, services, and so much more all while getting cash back rewards. 

Convenience. A key benefit of the Upromise program is the automatic transfer of rewards to a linked 529 plan. Other cash back credit cards may offer a higher percentage on purchases (e.g., the Citi Double Cash Card offers a total of 2% cash back without the extra features of the Upromise credit card), but you have to manually transfer the cash back to a 529 plan. The Upromise program makes it easier to save for college.

College Scholarships.  As an unique additional benefit, Upromise offers a monthly college scholarship program for its members, and the more active you are in the program the better your chances of receiving a scholarship.  Every member who has a linked 529 account is automatically eligible to win one of five Upromise $529 Scholarships every month, but earns extra entries for every dollar of rewards earned during each monthly scholarship award period.

Restaurant Programs


How Much Can You Earn with Upromise?

The average active member of Upromise using the Upromise credit card with a linked 529 account gets over $500 in rewards per year. 

Your personal experience will vary, depending on how active you are and whether you use the Upromise credit card, which boosts your rewards.

I’ve been a member since 2002 and have averaged earnings of more than $200 a year.

Participants can earn hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year by routing their purchases through the Upromise shopping portal.

Example Rewards


How to Get the Most Out of Upromise

The Upromise credit card is best for people who do not carry a balance on their credit cards. You should always pay off your credit card balance in full each month to avoid paying interest on your credit card charges. If you carry a balance on your credit card, the interest on the credit card will likely exceed the amount of rewards you earn.

There are several steps participants can take to maximize their earnings with Upromise:

  • Link an eligible 529 college savings plan account to your Upromise account. This will qualify you for the higher credit card rate of 1.529%, supersizing your rewards.
  • Have friends and family join Upromise and transfer their rewards to your children’s 529 plan accounts.

Review of Upromise Complaints and Compliments

Complaints about Upromise in various online forums seem to mostly concern the old Upromise program. Some participants complained about not receiving credit for all eligible purchases made. Upromise has been adding new ways to get cash back rewards since 2021. Some complaints are from long-time participants who prefer the old Upromise.

Other complaints concern the amount of rewards earned not matching expectations. To earn hundreds or thousands of dollars in rebates, you must actively use the Upromise shopping portal and the Upromise credit card. You must also link a 529 plan to your Upromise account. A passive approach to Upromise will yield much lower rebates.

Other complaints concern the transfer of rewards to a 529 plan account. In some cases, it can take up to 60 days for rewards to show up in the participant’s Upromise account, and then there is a minimum threshold before rewards are automatically transferred to the linked 529 plan account.

If used properly, the Upromise program is worthwhile. Upromise is an easy, no-cost method of supplementing your college savings.

There are online testimonials from Upromise members who report much higher rebates and savings. These compliments tend to be from participants who use the Upromise Mastercard and have optimized their spending to maximize their rewards.

Learn more about Upromise

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