Most parents who've looked into college savings have come across a company called Upromise. Upromise manages a number of 529 plans, but they also offer a cashback college savings plan
that anyone can use. Essentially, you get money back on purchases that can be used to pay for college.
But is it worth it?
That's what I set out to find. I went through the process of signing up and calculating the total
returns the program would provide for my daughter's education. At the end of the day, I found that not
taking the 5 minutes to sign up today will cost me about $7,795.00 in lost money!
The sign-up process is fairly easy. Just enter a few details, then optionally link your credit cards and
grocery store loyalty cards to your account (to get cashback on your purchases). Of course, you'll want to
create this link in order to get the maximum return.
Online Shopping Rebates
When you buy from online stores such as Dell, eBay, Barnes &
Noble, Target.com, and Lands' End, and start your purchase by logging into Upromise, you'll get a cashback
credit on your purchase, usually between 2%-6%.
My family shops online frequently. I estimate we spend $3,000 a year online at the stores Upromise
supports. Assuming a 3% average rebate, that's $90 per year. If we roll that into our 529 plan and earn
an average 8% a year, that's $3,526 by the time she goes to college.
Offline Shopping Rebates
Upromise's offline rebates include one store, grocery stores, and
Exxon gas stations.
For groceries, you need to shop at one of 21,000 participated grocery stores and use your shopping
loyalty card. Then you earn 1% to 5% cashback on participating items. (You've probably see the Upromise
logo on items you buy). If we spend about $150 a week on groceries and 10% of that amount is on
covered items which earn an average of 4% cashback, then by the time our daughter goes to school we can ean
another $1,121 from groceries.
Gas rebates are on purchases at ExxonMobile stations. If we fill up two cars at 15 gallons a
piece twice a month, that will give us $253 toward college.
There's also an in-store rebate for Bed Bath & Beyond. If we spend $300 a year there, we'll have an
extra $109 for college.
You can also eat at participating restaurants in the Upromise program, including many locally-owned
restaurants, and earn up to 8% cashback. If we eat at one of these restaurants twice a month, and have an
average tab of $40, we'll have $2,786 for college.
The Credit Card Option
To make a lot more toward college, the Citi Upromise credit card holds the
key. With it you earn 1%-10% on all purchases you make. We put most of our expenses on a credit
card, and that adds up to about $60,000 a year. If the average purchase we make returns 2%, we'll get a
whopping $43,411 for college!
Sallie Mae Bonus
Plus, you can earn an extra 10% on your Upromise earnings by linking it to a Sallie Mae High Yield Savings Account or CD.
Add It Up
Non-credit card savings equal $7,795 and credit card savings bring the total to over $50,000!
Should you do it?
In my mind it's a no brainer, partly because it costs absolutely nothing to get started. You're getting
cashback for doing things you already do. Even without the credit card, if you don't sign up you're basically
throwing away $7,795.
So, I think it's worth signing up for Upromise if you make purchases online or
belong to a supermarket loyalty program. You won't get rich, but every penny you save adds up for