As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!
     

Upromise Review

This article was written by in Saving. 20 comments.


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

Turn Your Everyday Spending into College Savings!There are several ways to earn cash back with Upromise once you become a member.

  • 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.

Turn Your Everyday Spending into College Savings!

Published or updated 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.

Email Email Print Print
avatar
Points: ♦127,365
Rank: Platinum
About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Amy Saves

I’m a member of Upromise and it’s pretty good in terms of getting cash back. however, requesting a check from them is kind of a pain since you have to send in a form through the mail. it should be done online, IMO.

Reply to this comment

avatar shellye ♦107 (Cent)

I had no idea Upromise had gotten this big. I was a member back in the early 90s, when it first started and the stores were very limited and the benefits very minimal. I cancelled my membership because at the time we were moving around the country quite a bit and I couldn’t see any benefits to the program. But after reading this, I think I’ll revisit. Thanks for the info.

Reply to this comment

avatar Paula @ AffordAnything.org

This is really interesting — I’ve seen the UPromise logo but I had no idea what it was for. I’m not going to shop through their web portal, because on the rare occasions that I do online shopping, I go through frequent flier miles portals. But if I can just register my credit cards and grocery loyalty cards with them, and have an “I-don’t-have-to-think-about-it” experience that requires no time or energy, then why not do it? I don’t have children yet, but one day I (probably?) will. Let’s assume they’re born 10 years from now, which means they start college 28 years from now … and I earn $100 a year through UPromise … that’s one semester of in-state tuition paid for! (Of course, by then, it’ll be one week of tuition, but that’s a different story …. )

Reply to this comment

avatar Broke

Hmmm…..I’ve only made back $57.18 in 8 years. My biggest return, $6.14, was from buying a $200+ microwave from Lowe’s last month. Less than $0.10 from every gas fill up every week is the rest. It took me over 5 years to build up the $50 minimum to transfer to my school loan account. Almost not worth it.

Reply to this comment

avatar skylog ♦368 (Nickel)

i hear you. i signed up for and used this service for years. after several years, i just gave up. i am all for “every little bit counts,” but this was just not worth it. that said, it has been some time since i looked at the service. at the very least, this post will push me towards taking another look.

Reply to this comment

avatar Kevin

I registered my credit card and I’ve made $160 in the last eight months on Upromise just by going out to eat at restaurants I would have eaten at anyway. It’s also go me trying new restaurants. Not enough to pay for college, but if I make enough to pay for some of the books and it’s no effort at all, what’s not to like?

Reply to this comment

avatar Paul

I have to say the best way to get cash back is through your grocery shopping and the ecoupons. What I do is set a reminder on my calendar to activate all the ecouposn inside my Upromise account. That way if I happen to purchase any of the items I will get credit for it without having to think about the rewards.

If you are looking for another cash back option you can sign up at savingstar.com (the company that manages the Upromise ecoupons). They have their own cash back that deposits into your paypal account.

Reply to this comment

avatar tigernicole86 ♦55 (Newbie)

My favorite way to get money back is through the dining out option. Some of the places that I go to are my favorites and it helps out knowing that I’m going to get 8% back from Upromise for the pizza I love so much!

Reply to this comment

avatar Cejay ♦1,521 (Half-Dollar)

I have been a member for the last three years and I found that , for me, it is not worth it. I don’t know if it is because I shop around or what. My account is pitiful.

Reply to this comment

avatar lynn ♦155 (Cent)

I signed up for UPromise for my daughter. Every little bit helps.

Reply to this comment

avatar DonnaFreedman ♦2,442 (Dollar)

I signed up for this years ago, when my great-nephew was born, and quickly forgot about it. Too, some of the cards I registered with it have changed. The supermarket cards certainly have.
Reading this made me check the account. To my surprise, it holds more than $35. Of course, it’s been nearly eight years so this is not much money — and to complicate matters further, I have another great-nephew now. Hmmm….Time to reconfigure. Thanks for the reminder.

Reply to this comment

avatar Kay R

UPROMISE IS NOT EVEN WORTH THE EFFORT! I joined, made sure I shopped through their portal, ended up with $120. My child is in college so I decided to claim the money. Found out Upromise transferred it to a 529 account that lost so much money all I have is $50 in it. So my “account” says $120 on Upromise – the 529 account says differently. There is no reason to even bother with Upromise. There are too many better online shopping offers, such as the comment above about getting frequent flyer miles. I use those miles all the time and at least they don’t lose their value by the time you use them.

Reply to this comment

avatar Michael

In about 2 years, we’ve raised close to $400 through the program. Most of it has come either from Travel (we book cruises through the UPromise travel agent) or shopping online. We tend to shop Lands’ End, because their specials allow you in many cases to take the savings off sale items. We also tend to shop when they have a UPromise special. For example, right now, on purchases they are offering 6% contribution instead of the normal 3. Earlier this year, they had a week when the contribution was 10%. Accumulations can be made quicker if the percentage is higher. It is really important, however, to a)not make purchases for the sake of getting the savings if you don’t really need the product and b)put the money into your state’s 529 plan ASAP so you can take advantage of the tax savings. I live in a state with a high income tax, that it is not something to be overlooked.

Reply to this comment

avatar Luke Landes ♦127,365 (Platinum)

Thanks for sharing about your success with the program!

Reply to this comment

avatar Margo

I’ve done a side-by-side, and generally Ebates has the same or higher savings % than UPromise.

I’ve earned a whopping $50 in 6 years. UPromise also harasses me to “install TurboSaver” every single time I log in to the website.

I’m closing my UPromise for good.

Reply to this comment

avatar robert zuiderveld

It is a good concept and I have been able to save a significant amount of money. It is unfortunate that you have to chase rewards that are worthwhile. I was rejected $96 after I signed up for a Verizon plan locking myself in for two years. I was told I used a fathers day coupon which disqualified me for my promise contribution. Keep track of all purchases and bookings. Every time a purchase is worth anything with upromise, expect that you have to ask for it/chase it. I am still waiting for 5% on a $425 purchase from Lowe’s. Nothing is really free in life, and promise makes this clear. This program takes a lot more afford than simply placing orders online through upromise! Kudos to Avis, who let’s you save even if you don’t book through the promise site (just mention it when upon check in at the rental counter.

Reply to this comment

avatar A. Clement

I decided to get a Upromise credit card for the purpose they advertised it for. Let me tell you, it’s not worth it (as so many people have already said). I joined them when they were still with Bank of America. Ever since they moved to Barclays Bank (Delaware) it’s gotten worse! I closed my account (after over 2 years). It’s just not worth the rudeness, lack of good customer service, no respect for account holders and increased interest (and I have excellent credit and no late payments). I became a full time college student after taking a year off to work and they would not reduce my interest rate. Just be sure that you’re able to do everything they ask (and prepare for annoying phone calls at all hours of the morning, day and night if you aren’t).

Reply to this comment

avatar dixielady

I have had my Upromise account through Publix since 2004 and contacted them 12/26/12 to get the funds I had saved toward a scholarship. They sent me and email saying to call them. When I did I was connected to someone in India (no really). Then told they had started a new program called E coupon in 2011 and anything before that they could not help me with, so those funds where gone. Over 8 years of saving gone. I spent thousands of dollars at Publix buying for my family for 8 years with there ads says “swipe for college” and now nothing. So no I am not a FAN of this Upromise. You can’t even talk to someone in the USA. This looks likes a scam.

Reply to this comment

avatar TexasT

We have had nothing but success with this program. As of today we have $10,660 in two 529 accounts all funded by Upromise. This includes earnings. We started early in the program… I’m guessing 10 years ago. We used our credit card almost exclusively for all our monthly shopping, plus we did do some on-line shopping for stores we shop at anyway. I do pay my credit card bill off every month so I don’t worry about any interest rates etc and have never had to call customer service. Recently I completed a rollover of the funds from the SSgA 529 to a different 529 that I think gets better returns. But no problems so far. I think you get out of it what you put into it… if you don’t use the card enough it may only add up to hundreds of dollars. But we felt anything towards college wouldn’t hurt!

Reply to this comment

avatar LS Barr-Tiemann

You have to fight for every 4% bonus rebate. Barclays upromise website displayed a 5% contribution for a Meijer Home Depot gift card and will NOT honor it. I spent $500 in gift cards expecting this 5% + 4% bonus rebates and got neither. I told them to pull up their archived webpage for proof – they won’t do it. So they expect you to take a screen shot of every displayed % contribution before purchase for proof !!!! Barclays needs to stick with just dicking around with stealing billions manipulating the LIBOR rate.

Reply to this comment

Leave a Comment

Connect with Facebook

Note: Use your name or a unique handle, not the name of a website or business. No deep links or business URLs are allowed. Spam, including promotional linking to a company website, will be deleted. By submitting your comment you are agreeing to these terms and conditions.

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

Previous post:

Next post: