Class of 2016 graduates left school with 6 percent more student debt than those who finished the year before. And with interest rates on the rise, it’s getting harder and harder for college graduates to pay off their loans.
To help make up for the difference, Upromise allows you to earn cash back from your regular purchases to save for college and pay off student loans. In this Upromise review, you’ll learn how to join the free loyalty program and make the most of your everyday purchases.
Upromise was founded in 2000 to help people save for college with its Upromise 529 plan. A year later, it launched its rewards program, offering cash back to parents saving up for their children’s college education. In 2006, Upromise was acquired by Sallie Mae, a company that offers private student loans.
Upromise has more than 17 million members and reports having helped them earn more than $1 billion in cash back to help cover college costs.
Who it’s for
If you or a loved one has or will have college expenses to pay off, Upromise is worth a look. People paying off student loans can use Upromise’s cash back as a supplement to other repayment strategies.
How it works
Upromise partners with more than 850 online retailers and more than 10,000 restaurants to make it easy to earn cash back on everyday purchases. You also can earn cash back on travel, grocery, and drugstore purchases.
The program is free to join and requires the following information:
- Date of birth
- Mailing address
- Email address
- Who you’re saving for
Once you enroll, you can register your debit and credit cards. That way, you earn cash back regardless of which card you use. You can add up to 10 cards, and you can add or remove cards from your account page later.
When you spend money with Upromise’s partners, Upromise receives a commission. Then, the company shares a portion of that commission with you in the form of cash back.
Upromise review: how to earn cash back
There are several ways to earn cash back with the Upromise program.
Online shopping: Start by searching for an online retailer in your Upromise account. Click on the retailer. Then, you’ll be redirected to its website so you can shop. Upromise tracks your purchase and usually posts your cash-back reward within 30 days.
Usually, you’ll get 5 percent cash back through the online portal, but retailers sometimes offer promotions for even more cash back, so keep an eye on your account. And be sure to go through the Upromise portal instead of to the retailer directly.
Restaurants: With the Upromise dining program, you’ll earn 2.5 percent cash back on your entire bill at participating restaurants. Just be sure to use a linked credit or debit card to pay.
Travel: You can earn up to 5 percent back on travel booked through Upromise’s travel portal. Powered by Orbitz, it allows you to book flights and hotels directly through your account.
For potentially more cash back, though, check out Upromise’s travel partners. You’ll find hotel chains, rental car companies, and other travel websites.
eCoupons: Upromise partners with several grocery and drugstore chains — including CVS, Kmart, Rite Aid, and local grocery chains — to give you cash back on your everyday purchases.
To earn cash back, link your store loyalty card to your Upromise account. Then, you can search for coupons through Upromise. When you purchase the item, the store loyalty card will register the purchase and notify Upromise to post the cash back.
Upromise review: how to redeem cash back
Once you start earning cash back, you have three options to redeem it:
- Contribute your earnings to a Upromise college fund — GoalSaver or 529 plan — or to a linked 529 plan outside the Upromise program.
- Pay down student loans that are linked to your Upromise account. The minimum redemption amount is $10.
- Request a paper check. The minimum redemption amount is $10 here, too.
Upromise GoalSaver account
If you’re saving for a child’s education and you’re not sure you want to deal with the limitations of a 529 plan, the GoalSaver account may be a solid alternative.
The account offers the following perks:
- A 0.85% annual percentage yield (APY)
- A 10 percent bonus on funds you transfer from your Upromise account
- A $10 annual bonus for making deposits 10 months out of the year of at least $10
- A $100 bonus if you keep the account active and have a balance of at least $5,000 after three years
Because the GoalSaver account is offered through Sallie Mae Bank, it’s FDIC insured. So, if the bank goes under, you’re insured up to $250,000.
Should you join Upromise?
All things considered, the Upromise college fund is a great option if you are currently in school or you have a child who is starting school soon. With a short-term need like that, keeping your money safe is more important than getting the best return.
If college is a long way off, however, you might be better off investing your savings to get a better return.
Upromise isn’t the only cash-back portal out there, though. Others — such as Ebates, TopCashback, and Swagbucks — might have more partners for online shopping. They might offer better cash-back rates too.
That said, Upromise’s strength lies in its goal: to help you pay down your student debt or save for future college expenses. Because of this focus, you’re more likely to use your cash rewards for that reason rather than for something else.
Of course, you can get your Upromise cash back as a check instead of using it to pay off student loans or save for college. But the psychological benefit of using the funds to pay for college costs is the real selling point.
What’s more, maximizing your Upromise rewards requires that you use the site often, which can keep paying down your student loans or saving for college top of mind.
In other words, we all know paying down student debt and saving for college are priorities. Upromise can help ensure they stay that way.
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