Using Upromise on Everyday Purchases to Save for College

Upromise has been helping families for 20 years of save for college. It’s noble and it’s another steam of potential money for your child’s college.

When my first child was born in 2009. I started hearing more and more about Upromise. Maybe I’ve heard about it in the past and didn’t pay attention to it or perhaps it was actually more in front of my face because the birth of a new child seems to be synonymous with the concept of saving for college.

What is Upromise?

What exactly is Upromise?

Upromise is a loyalty program where members accrue credits via purchases that are then directed to a college savings plan or to pay down the loans. 

The company was founded in 2000 after 529 college savings plans were legislated by Congress. The Upromise rewards program was created in 2001 and a year later they creates Upromise investments as a brokerage firm which managed the 529 plans.

In 2006 they were acquired by Sallie Mae and in 203 the investment side was acquired by Ascenus.

How does Upromise work?

How does the Upromise loyalty program work exactly? The rewards program is free and after singing up, members can start earning cash back for eligible purchases made at the featured retailers.

In addition to the points/rewards you accrue from online shopping you can also get rewards from dinning at restaurants or using the Upromise Mastercard.

Upromise Reward Amounts

So as members of Upromise accrue account credits on eligible purchases from a variety of stores ranking from grocery, online retailers, travel and restaurants as started above. The reward amounts may vary depending on the place you are shopping. Most sites will offer anywhere between 3%-7% cash back for college.

There are also monthly bonus offers which is includes limited time offers. Other exclusive offers may include free shipping on purchases and dollar off coupons.  

Upromise 529 College Savings Plan

Members can then direct their earnings into a high-yield savings account or a 529 plan. Of course the intent is to pay down the student loans or you can even request a check.

When deposited into the 529 plans what is great is they will compound tax-free over time and won’t be taxed when the funds are withdrawn from the account (Keep in mind these are intended for higher education expenses).

Also note that the 529 plan contributions made from the Upromise accounts are not eligible for state tax deductions or credits.

Upromise Shopping

Upromise shopping gives the member a great opportunity to shop at their favorite stores online and reap the benefits for your college savings.

It’s the perfect marriage of shopping online and contributing to your child’s college fund.

Some featured stores you can get back from on Upromise are:

  • Macy’s
  • Kohl’s
  • Adidas
  • Under Armour
  • Wal-Mart
  • Office Depot/Office Max
  • LEGO
  • Oakley

To select a particular store, you just go to that store in Upromise, click on the “shop now” link and you are ready to go.

**Pro tip***

If you are an avid online shopping and use Rakuten Ebates then you can potentially double dip on some online stores rewards. So you would go to the link from your Upromise account and then active cash bash on Rakuten using the chrome extension.

Upromise Dining and Travel

Aside from Shopping there is awards from Dining and Travel:

For Dining you can get 2.5% cashback on your total bill at select restaurants. There are also more than $10,000 participating restaurant locations.

To obtain the rewards here is what you’d have to do:

  1. Register your CC at Uprmise
  2. Go out to eat, or takeout
  3. Make sure you use the card when you pay
  4. Then you earn 2.5%

You can then see which local restaurants are eligible by entering in your area, zip code, or state.

For travel, you will get cashback when you book hotels through programs travel partners. Again you login, click on the travel partner, book your trip, and earn 5% cashback.

Some of the travel partners featured on Upromise are:

  • Bose
  • Alamo Rent-A-Car
  • Days Inn
  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car
  • Holiday Inn Express
  • LivingSocial
  • Orbitz
  • TripAdvisor

Upromise Credit Card

Upromise also offers a Mastercard. The benefits to the Upromise credit card are as follows:

  • Earn 1.25% cash back on every purchase everywhere you shop.
  • Round up our purchases to the nearest dollar to earn even more cash back.
  • 15% bonus when your Upromise account is directly linked to an eligible 529 College Savings Plan. The Upromise Mastercard will earn you a 15% bonus on your total cash back which will include Upromise round up amounts.
  • 0% introductory APR for 15 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of the account opening.

How to register for Upromise?

To register is very simple. You set up an account by visiting Upromise then you enter your first, last name and e-mail. That’s it!!!

To then start accruing money, you can then start shopping from one of their more than 850 stores that offer cashback.

To do so you will

  1. Log in and visit the shopping page
  2. You can then enter in the retailer or product into their search bar
  3. Once you find the retailer then click on it and it takes you to the website
  4. Then you just make a purchase

Redeem Upromise Earnings

There are a few ways to redeem your cash back via Upromise. You can redeem in the amount of $10 increments or more!

Paper Checks

The good old-fashioned way. Some individuals still like to do this so the option is there for them.

529 College Savings Plan

U.S. based Upromise members will need to transfer their earned dollars into a 529 College Savings Plan. They can do this my linking accounts. Once that link has been done then Upromise will automatically transfer earned dollars if the transfer requirement has been met. Typically the 1st of the month is when the transfers will be initiated.

Upromise GoalSaver Account

The Upromise GoalSaver Account is free. There are no fees and no minimum balance. It’s a high yield savings account. What I like about this is that you can set saving goals and track them.

The GoalSaver Account it gives you additional cash rewards as you save so you can get a 10% match on Upromise earnings and has fewer restrictions than a 529 plan.

Loan Payments

Upromise has a loan link feature which allows you to link your Upromise account with participating student loans. You can use your accrued cash rewards to pay down balance on eligible loans. This includes Sallie Mae Parent Loans and Smart Option Student Loans.

Is Upromise Worth it?

Like anything there are pros and cons. However, you cannot go wrong with free money right? I mean most of us shop online a lot to begin with so might as well take advantage of the reward system that Upromise has put in place.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of Upromise.


  • 5% on qualifying purchases
  • Grow your rewards in a 529 plan
  • Huge variety of online vendors to choose from
  • Easy to use program and easy set up
  • You can track your goals
  • No credit card requirement to earn rewards


  • Restrictions on earnings
  • Challenge to link savings accounts to Upromise
  • Slow accrual (however, it’s free money)

This won’t be your one ticket to paying for college but based on how simple the process it and how it’s set up….why not use it and take advantage of it.

It’s free money and awards out there for the taking and with the amount of time we shop online…well that just makes it easier.

Much of this how you will benefit from Upromise will depend on your shopping and spending habits. I personally buy online a lot so it works for me. However, you have to remember to use it as well as I have made purchases online and then forgot to go via Upromise.

They seem to be evolving and really thinking of ways to help families and for that I find admirable.

Tuition Drop Podcast

You can check out our episode of the Tuition Drop Podcast below on the Upromise Program.

Tuition Drop Podcast – Upromise
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