Upromise Review [2022]: Save for College with Money-Back Rewards

Upromise makes it easy to save more for college by providing money back for grocery spending, dining out, or using a Upromise credit card.
Last updated Aug. 12, 2022 | By Christy Rakoczy | Edited By Michael Kurko
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Upromise offers one of the most effortless ways to save money for college. Whether you earn rewards for shopping through its online portal or you opt for a Upromise credit card, you can turn your everyday spending into a chance to invest more for your future.

Upromise has no upfront costs to pay and there's little downside to giving it a try. In this Upromise review, we’ll cover how the rewards program works and how to use it to save for college.

Quick Summary

Start saving for college by getting cash back for everyday purchases.

  • Earn cash back on your everyday shopping
  • Transfer the cashback rewards you earn into a 529 savings plan
  • Receive a $5.29 bonus when you sign up for a free account
In this Upromise review

What is Upromise?

Upromise was founded in 2000 by Michael Bronner, David Fialkow, and Jeff Bussgang to help users manage the high cost of a college education. The company was acquired by Sallie Mae in 2006 and had an estimated 7 million members at the time.

Upromise lets you earn cash rewards by making specific types of purchases with linked accounts, using the Upromise credit card, or buying from participating merchants. Your earned rewards are then transferred into your savings or 529 savings account. Since its founding, Upromise has provided close to $1 million in cashback rewards to its members.

What does Upromise offer?

Upromise markets itself as a way to help you save for college by letting you transfer rewards to a 529 account. However, you can actually invest the rewards you earn through the program anywhere you'd like by choosing to transfer them to an eligible checking or savings account.

You can transfer your points monthly as long as you've met minimum earning requirements, which vary by account type. Upromise does not maintain your 529 plan or operate a checking or savings account. Instead, it simply gives you money back for shopping with participating merchants or buying qualifying items.

Earning rewards with Upromise

One way to earn rewards is by shopping with partner merchants through Upromise's online portal. For example, you can get 2% cash back if you shop through Walmart, Best Buy, or Staples and 4% back from QVC as long as you connect to the merchants through the Upromise website or app.

Buying certain items at participating grocery stores — including Walmart, Target, Kroger, or Costco — will also earn you rewards. All you need to do is upload your receipts to Upromise.com or through the mobile app.

Upromise also allows you to get rewards by taking advantage of special merchant offers. For example, requesting a quote from Savvy earns you $10, whereas signing up for HBO Max earns you up to $15. You must click on an offer on Upromise's website or app to earn the reward. If you participate in certain online surveys through Upromise, you can earn a few dollars as well.

Linking your credit cards and using them at participating restaurants is another way to earn rewards. More than 10,000 different restaurants participate across the U.S., and you can find local restaurants using the Upromise website or mobile app. You can link up to 12 credit cards.

Upromise also offers the Upromise Mastercard, which has a $0 annual fee. By using the card, you can earn 1.529% cash back on all purchases when Upromise Program account is linked to an eligible 529 plan, and 1.25% cash back otherwise. You can also earn extra rewards by rounding up each purchase to the nearest dollar.

The Upromise 529 Scholarship

Each month, Upromise randomly selects five members to receive $529. Winners are chosen at random, and members can earn entries by simply joining Upromise and linking their 529 account. Upromise members get one additional contest entry for each reward dollar they earn over the course of the month.

Pros and cons of Upromise

Pros

  • Free to join and earn rewards: You don't have to pay any membership fees or even apply for a new credit card to start earning.
  • Multiple ways to earn money for college: Whether you're rewarded for groceries purchased in person, through online shopping, or taking advantage of offers.
  • You can become eligible for scholarships: The opportunity to win a $529 scholarship could mean you get lots of extra free cash for school.

Cons

  • You have to spend money to get rewards. Unless you buy participating items and/or shop with partner merchants or restaurants, you won't earn cashback rewards.
  • The credit card rewards aren't as generous as some competitors. For example, the Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer provides up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay for those purchases, which is more than what the Upromise card offers.
  • You'll need a separate 529, savings, or checking account. Upromise doesn't help you when it comes to how to invest money. It just gives you money to put into other accounts.

Who can open an account with Upromise?

Anyone who is at least 13 years old and who is a resident of the U.S. or a U.S. territory can become a member of Upromise.

Although the service markets itself as a tool to help you save for college, you don’t have to use it to invest in your education. You can also link your Upromise account to a checking and savings account and transfer your rewards there. Whether you invest in a 529 vs. Roth IRA or any other type of account, Upromise could help you grow your balance.

How much can you earn with Upromise?

The amount you can earn varies depending on how much time you're willing to spend on the service, how many accounts you link, and how much money you spend. Some rewards are worth mere pennies, and you must be willing to upload receipts or take surveys to earn them.

FAQs about Upromise

Is Upromise worth it?

Upromise could be worth it if you have the time to spend uploading receipts and linking accounts and if you remember to shop through the app or online portal. Because the service is free, it doesn't cost you anything to try and see whether it works for you.

How do you use Upromise rewards?

When you sign up for Upromise, you'll need to link a 529 College Savings plan or another type of checking or savings account.

Earned rewards are automatically transferred to linked accounts during the first week of each month, as long as you have met minimum transfer requirements. The minimum amount of rewards you must earn to meet this requirement varies based on the number and type of accounts.

What stores participate in Upromise?

Upromise can be used at many different stores to earn rewards, including both in-person and online retailers, such as local grocery stores, Walmart, Target, Costco, CVS, RiteAid, and Frys. Once you've made an in-store purchase, take a picture of your receipt and submit it to Upromise. You'll become eligible for rewards on everyday purchases like milk, eggs, or bread.

You can also download the Upromise Chrome extension and earn rewards when shopping with online partners. Alternately, you can shop through the Upromise online portal and earn cash back with participating merchants and take advantage of Offers when you make eligible purchases with online partners. Offers exist across many different categories, including food and drink, education, entertainment, and children's and family purchases.

Which restaurants participate in Upromise?

You can earn Upromise rewards at nearly 10,000 different restaurants across the U.S. Some examples include Santoro's Pizza in Tampa, Florida, and Tacos Times Square in New York City. You can use the Upromise portal and app to search by location, restaurant name, or cuisine type to find a full list of participating restaurants.

How to get started with Upromise

If you want to join Upromise, you must visit the website and create a free account. You'll start by providing your email address, creating a password, and clicking "Join Now" on the main Upromise page.

The next step is to provide your first and last name and then specify who you are saving for, such as your child, grandchild, yourself, or other relatives. If you're saving for someone other than yourself, you'll be asked to explain your relationship to the recipient and provide details about them including their first and last name as well as their birth month and year.

During the signup process, you'll be asked whether you want to apply for the Upromise Mastercard to get the chance to earn extra rewards. Applying for the card is optional.

Finally, you'll need to verify your account to officially be signed up. To earn rewards, you'll need to link your 529 or bank account, link other accounts so you get credit for eligible purchases, or shop through Upromise's online portal.

Upromise also offers new member bonuses up to a $30 new member bonus by completing certain tasks, installing the Upromise Chrome extension, inviting friends or family, and adding deals to your account.

Other college saving options to consider

Upromise helps you to add money to your college savings account, but you need to already have that account established to invest for your future. It’s important you understand how 529 plans work and choose the right 529 plan for you.

If you want to invest your money in stocks, bonds, or other assets, you'll also need to find a brokerage firm. One of the best robo-advisors suc as Wealthfront will also let you open a 529 plan account and automatically invest your money for you.

Learn more in our Wealthfront review.

Bottom line

Saving for college is important, and you need a comprehensive plan to pay for school. This means exploring different types of student loans as well as college savings accounts. Upromise could help you to grow your accounts more quickly so you can borrow less and have less to pay back after graduation.

Upromise Benefits

  • Earn cash back on your everyday shopping
  • Transfer the cashback rewards you earn into a 529 savings plan
  • Receive a $5.29 bonus when you sign up for a free account

Author Details

Christy Rakoczy Christy Rakoczy has a Juris Doctorate from UCLA Law School with a focus in Business Law, and a Certificate in Business Marketing with an English Degree from The University of Rochester. As a full-time personal finance writer, she writes about all things money-related but her special areas of focus are credit cards, personal loans, student loans, mortgages, smart debt payoff strategies, and retirement and Social Security. Her work has been featured by USA Today, MSN Money, CNN Money and more, and you can learn more at her LinkedIn profile.