Shop Like You Normally Would and Help Pay for College With Upromise

Family in a supermarket.
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It’s no secret that paying for college is expensive and many people, myself included, turned to student loans to get the funding necessary to graduate. But what if there was another way? What if you could get cash toward your college education just for buying the things you normally would? That’s where Upromise comes in.

Upromise is a Sallie Mae-owned program created to help people save for college, pay off student loans, fund their kids’ 529 college savings accounts or simply get cash back to use however they like. It’s a popular way for parents to add to their kids’ college savings plans without too much effort.

Wait, Upromise Pays Me to Shop?

Upromise is quite simple. You sign up, link your credit, debit and even loyalty cards, and shop as you normally would in-store or through the Upromise shopping portal.

Stores partner with Upromise to offer customers cash back on purchases. Upromise members can then use that cash back for whatever they like. Keep in mind that there used to be a Upromise app but it’s no longer available.

How Do I Sign Up for Upromise?

Signing up for Upromise is straightforward and simple. First go to the Upromise enrollment page and enter your basic information. You’ll create a password, enter your address and explain what you’re saving for, like your own education or your child’s education. You can even add another beneficiary in this section if you need to. I went through the process and easily added my daughter and son to my Upromise account.

The next section will ask you to link your credit and debit cards. You can choose to skip this if you like, but I entered the information for the payment card I use the most. Upromise will automatically credit me cash back for qualifying purchases I make.

Where to Shop to Get Upromise Rewards

The Upromise shopping portal is pretty impressive, as there are hundreds of retailers that partner with Upromise. Some stores you might be familiar with include Kohls, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

When you want to purchase something from one of these retailers, log in to your Upromise dashboard and click the link to that store before shopping. That’s it. After you complete your order, Upromise will deposit the cash back from your order into your Upromise account.

If you look on Upromise’s homepage, it even has a deal of the day where you’ll get a higher percentage back than normal. For example, you might get 7% cash back instead of 5%.

There’s a Upromise Credit Card Too

The Upromise Rewards Mastercard not only works on your everyday expenses, you can also get an extra 5% cash back when you use it to shop through the Upromise shopping portal or at participating restaurants.

What’s more, you don’t have to shop at Upromise partners to get cash back. You get 2% cash back when using your Upromise Rewards Mastercard at department stores and movie theaters, and 1% back for every other purchase. While it might not seem like much initially, small amounts can certainly add up over time.

You can view the most common questions about the Upromise credit card here as well as get more information about the benefits of using it.

Rally Friends and Family to Save Big Money

The great thing about Upromise is that your family and friends can sign up for free, and list you or your children as the beneficiaries. So, if your dad sets up an account and links his cards, any cash back rewards he earns will go to the beneficiaries he lists.

One common complaint about the Upromise program is that members don’t earn enough cash back. However, with family and friends, you can maximize your Upromise rewards potential.

Sure, a few dollars here and there in your account won’t pay for much more than a textbook. Yet, imagine if you rallied your family and close friends, and asked them to create accounts? It takes only five minutes to sign up, and it’s an easy set-it-and-forget-it type of benefit.

Spending Those Upromise Dollars

Once you link your cards or get the Upromise credit card and start earning cash back, there are several ways to use your Upromise dollars. You can take the simple approach, which is to get a check for the cash you earned and send your dollars directly to a participating college savings account. Or you can enroll in a Upromise savings account called GoalSaver.

GoalSaver, much like other Upromise products, offers incentives and bonuses for using it. It’s a high-yield savings account, which means it earns more interest than your average savings account. There are no monthly fees and you can earn up to a 10% match on your money. Plus, you stay motivated by sharing your goals with your friends and family on social media.

Upromise offers other incentives, like cash in your account for having a GoalSaver account for a few years. Keep in mind that you need to read the terms and conditions closely, especially when it comes to the 10% match. There are some pretty specific requirements to qualify, so read carefully.

Additionally, Upromise offers rewards for meeting your goals. For example, account holders with automatic deposits can receive a $10 bonus each year. Also, GoalSavers who deposit $5,000 and retain at least that balance for three years are eligible to receive a $100 bonus.

What Experts Think About Upromise

Of course, many cash-back programs like this seem great on paper, but do they really work? I reached out to two financial experts who use Upromise to get an accurate review of it. Here’s what they had to say:

Kathryn Hanna, a CPA and financial blogger, uses Upromise as an alternative to other cash-back websites. She said, “I’ve been focusing recently on increasing my contributions to 529 plans for each of my three children, and this was a great solution to add that little bit of extra with nearly no additional work on my part.” Kathryn also uses Upromise cash back offers when she buys items online and links her credit cards to it to get cash back at restaurants and other retail stores.

Emily Guy Birken, an accomplished money expert and author of several personal finance books, signed up with Upromise in 2005. While she originally thought she’d use the funds for her own education, she decided to add her rewards to her children’s 529 accounts. Emily also has a Upromise credit card, which is her primary means of earning benefits.

She told me, “Having a credit card that gives me cash back toward Upromise is actually very helpful. I generally have about $50 quarterly to put into my boys’ 529 accounts. It’s not a huge amount of money, but I prefer this to other cash-back credit cards… I just use the card as I normally would and consider whatever I get to be a nice bonus to the money I’m already putting aside in the 529 accounts.”

What these Upromise reviews show is that many people can benefit from the perks Upromise offers — even financial experts! After all, if you’re going to get cash back from something you planned to buy anyway, why not have that money go toward your children’s future or your own education?

In sum, Upromise is a program that lets you pay back your student loans or add to your children’s college savings accounts in a number of ways. Membership is free, and you can even get cash back for things like eating at a restaurant or booking a flight.

Who doesn’t like free money, especially when it can help fund an education?

Catherine Alford is an award-winning family finance expert and financial writer who lives in Detroit, Michigan, and blogs at When she is not working, she enjoys yoga, spending time with her 3-year-old boy/girl twins, and doing DIY projects around the house.