With back to school underway, I've received a question about Upromise.
Every now and then, I receive a question from a reader. This time, the reader was interested in learning more about the college education savings program known as Upromise:
I've seen a lot about Upromise recently. Can it really help my child pay for college? Is it worth the bother?
As with many rewards programs, it's all in how you use it. I've had my son signed up for Upromise since back when we lived in Syracuse, New York. It's been a long time. So far, we've managed to save almost $400 for him. With about 10 years to go before he goes to college, I figure we can probably get in another $400 or $500. So it might pay for a year of books or something.
But every little bit helps.
Rewards Program with Upromise
Upromise is a rewards program that you can sign up for, and that you can get your friends and family to sign up for as well. You receive a percentage of your purchases in cash back for your account. We actually signed up for the Upromise credit card, since it has a fairly low interest rate, and when I remember, I book travel through the Upromise web site. There are also a number of partner stores and restaurants that will allow you to get Upromise cash back when you make purchases. There were more of them in New York; they are few and far between now that we live in Utah. Additionally, certain brands also participate, so if you use a different credit card or debit card, but buy particular brands with the card you've registered on the site, you can still get some rewards.
We only use the credit card for certain online purchases, though, and I don't always remember to shop through the Upromise web site for the cash back savings. Plus, I don't often buy the brands associated with Upromise. This is a big part of why we build up cash so slow with our program.
My parents are signed up, and some of their rewards go to my son. However, since they have several grandchildren, and another on the way, they split everything up, so my son isn't the only one receiving the rewards.
Investing Upromise Rewards
You don't have to let your Upromise rewards just sit there, though. There are options to grow your rewards. You can invest in a 529 Plan or you can put the money in a Sallie Mae savings account for your child.
In the years since I've been a part of Upromise, the 529 offerings have expanded from one plan to several. There are several low-cost options with your Upromise account, and it's possible for you to earn a little extra with the savings account. You are going to have a better chance of higher returns with the 529, but the savings account, which is FDIC insured, is going to be a safer bet if you don't want to risk your capital.
My husband and I set up a 529 plan for our son a few years ago, but not through Upromise. So, I use the connected Sallie Mae account for his Upromise savings. It's not a whole ton, but it's better than just letting the money sit there. (My son also has two different savings accounts, one at the local credit union, and one with CapitalOne360.)
In the end, Upromise is probably worth doing. Just don't buy a bunch of stuff that you can't pay off, since credit card interest will offset your earnings. I doubt you'll actually end up paying for an entire four years of college with just Upromise, but you can probably save up enough, just by doing what you usually do, to pay for some of the expenses associated with college. To get really serious, contribute extra to a 529, and have your child prepare to apply for scholarships.