Saving for a child’s college education can be a real sacrifice. Upromise makes it easier. Check out all of the details in our Upromise review.
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 education expenses. You don’t even need a credit card.
I first starting using Upromise several years ago. I just had to register my grocery store loyalty cards–the ones I already use. Then, Upromise started giving me cash back, regardless of how I paid for the items I bought from the grocery. 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
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 online retailers that partner with Upromise. This can provide you with a cash back rate of 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, including The Home Depot, The Apple Store, Dell, Verizon Wireless, and Macy’s.
- Another way to earn 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. A friend of mine leveraged this idea after signing up for Upromise. She would collect cash from others joining her for a big dinner out. Then, she’d pay for the meal on her registered credit card. This gave her 529 a significant boost with very little effort!
- Unique to the Upromise program, you can enroll your grocery store, supermarket, and drugstore loyalty cards to the program. Certain products, like Bounty paper towels, Fisher walnuts, and Bic razors 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. You get cash back even if you buy your groceries with cash rather than a credit card.
Upromise also boasts of a referral program, but based on their refer-a-friend page, that’s not actually accurate. This page details how you can go about signing up a friend or family member, but makes no indication that rewards are given to you, the referrer.
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 Goal Savers account, your rewards earns interest and you can withdraw the money for any purpose you like. This way, you can take advantage of Upromise even if you aren’t paying for college.
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.
Updated October 3, 2017 and originally published June 7, 2011.