Upromise takes the concept of earning cash back on everyday purchases and aligns this benefit with saving for college or paying off student loan debt. You buy groceries anyway; Upromise helps you earn cash back on what you buy and use that money for your education expenses, the education of a relative, or for any other purpose. You don’t even need a credit card.
I first starting using Upromise several years ago. BY registering my grocery story loyalty cards in the program, Upromise automatically adds cash back to my account regardless of how I paid for the items. With a cash back credit card, I earn the cash back offered by the credit card in addition to the Upromise bonus. Since I joined, the program has added many features to help save money, including the ability to link the Upromise account to a savings account, help you receive the cash back faster and earn more interest.
Earning cash back using Upromise
- You can earn cash back using Upromise by using the website’s shopping portal. Before you make any purchase, check Upromise to see if you can find what you’re looking for at a good price at one of the 600 online retailers that are partners with Upromise. This can provide you with a cash back rate of from 1% to 25% of your purchase price. The most popular stores are eBay, Target, Walmart, and JC Penney, but there are hundreds of categories of stores and many familiar faces, like The Home Depot, The Apple Store, Dell, Verizon Wireless, and Macy’s.
- Another method of earning cash back with Upromise is to register your credit cards and debit cards — particularly any cards you use when you dine out at restaurants. When eating in a restaurant that participates in the Upromise program, you can earn up to 8% of your meal’s cost in the form of cash back rewards. After Upromise was introduced, a friend of mine who had signed up made a habit of paying for dinner at any large group outing, after collecting cash from the group of friends. Collecting cash back on a large meal can give your savings or 529 account a significant boost.
- Unique to the Upromise program, you can enroll your grocery store, supermarket, and drug store loyalty cards to the program. Certain products, like Bounty paper towels, Fisher walnuts, and Bic shavers qualify for extra savings. In preparing for this review, I’m a little disappointed to see the list of items is much smaller than it used to be. Nevertheless, if you buy the products on the list, you can save money on deals beyond any coupons you have — a help to anyone aspiring to be an extreme couponer. You get cash back even if you buy your groceries with cash rather than a credit card.
- Lastly, you can invite your friends to be included in your account. Any shopping they do through any of the above methods will result in the cash back being attributed to your account.
Upromise credit cards
Upromise teamed up with Bank of America to offer two credit cards designed to provide more cash back beyond what’s available above. One card focuses on gas and grocery card rewards and the other focuses on dining and grocery card rewards. With both cards, the cash back you earn, up to 10% extra cash back above the Upromise program, is applied to your Upromise account.
Redeeming cash back from Upromise
It used to be a hassle to get cash back from Upromise. You needed to have a 529 education investment account or a student loan managed by a particular loan servicer. There was a method of receiving a check for the cash back you had earned, but the instructions for requesting the check were hidden deep within the Upromise website.
Now Upromise is a part of the SLM Corporation, the company that also owns Sallie Mae Bank. When you transfer your cash back to Sallie Mae Bank’s high-yield savings account, your rewards earns interest and you can withdraw the money for any purpose you like. This way, those who aren’t saving for college for themselves or for a relative and those who aren’t paying down their student loan debt can take advantage of what Upromise offers.
These are the options:
- Deposit your cash back into a 529 education investment account for you or a family member.
- Transfer your cash back to your student loan to help pay off your debt.
- Move your rewards to a Sallie Mae high-yield savings account.
- Request your rewards to be sent to you in the form of a check.
Are the prices higher for Upromise shoppers?
One of the most frequently asked questions about shopping with Upromise and other cash back rewards portals is whether retailers artificially inflate the price of an item when they know you’re shopping through a cash back portal. The prices when you shop through the portal are the same prices you’d see when you don’t shop through the portal. Keep in mind that the stores that partner with Upromise may not have the lowest prices among their competitors. For example, Barnes & Noble is available through Upromise’s portal, but even when taking the cash back into consideration, you might be able to find the book you’re looking to buy for a better price on Amazon.com.
One could argue that as a whole, prices of products increase for all customers as a result of cash back programs; this, and other increased costs for merchants like credit card processing fees, means stores need to charge higher prices to maintain a certain level of profit. There’s no specific study I’m aware of that identifies this effect specifically for cash back programs. Regardless of the impact of rewards programs on the overall economy, shopping on Walmart.com with Upromise is better for a consumer than shopping on Walmart.com without Upromise.
Enrolling in Upromise
It’s free to join Upromise, so if you’re interested, sign up today.
Updated September 23, 2015 and originally published June 7, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.