Updated on 04.28.16

Using Upromise to Pay for College

Everyday spending can help defray tuition and loan costs.

Since you're shopping Photo: Wilamoyo

You’re going to buy stuff anyway, and Upromise can help you put a percentage of those purchases toward college. Photo: Wilamoyo

Whether you’re looking for a way to save for your child’s college or deal with your own student loan debt, Upromise might be a way to give your efforts a boost. According to its website, users have earned more than $850 million toward college through everyday spending.

What Is Upromise?

Upromise, a partnership with Sallie Mae, allows users to earn money toward their education by buying everyday items, from groceries to gas. You just need to register for a free account.

Here’s how you can earn money for your college fund or to pay down existing student loans:

  • In-store shopping: Once you create your Upromise account, you can add your credit cards, dining cards, grocery reward cards, gift cards, and gas cards. You’ll earn rewards on your qualified in-store purchases and at participating grocery stores and pharmacies, including Publix, Wegman’s, and CVS.
  • Online shopping: By shopping online through Upromise, you can earn a percentage of your purchase in cash back for college. Just sign into your account, click on a retailer, and you’re directed to the retailer’s website. You’ll find major stores like Kohl’s, Macy’s, and Wal-Mart, as well as specialty retailers like Ace Hardware, Pea in the Pod, and Avon. There are also such sites as 1-800-Baskets.com, Shutterfly, and tax prep sites like H&R Block. More than 800 of these retailers offer Upromise users 5% or more cash back rewards towards college.
  • Dining: Get up to 8% cash back when you sign up for the Upromise dining network and grab a bite to eat at one of more than 10,000 participating restaurants across the country. Carry-out and delivery qualify for rewards as well — just pay with one of your registered cards.
  • Gas rewards: Earn one cent per gallon at Exxon and Mobil stations when you buy 20 or more gallons in a calendar month.
  • Travel: Some of the partners include Travelocity, Expedia, Hotels.com, and car rental companies. Generally, you’ll earn 5% cash back for college on these purchases.

How Do You Get Your Money?

  • Through existing Sallie Mae student loans: If you already have a Sallie Mae student loan, link your eligible loan to the Upromise account, and you can use your rewards to pay down your loan. It’s a simple way to deal with the student loan debt that’s been weighing you down.
  • Through a new Sallie Mae student loan: If you need a loan for school and go through Sallie Mae, you’ll earn 2% back in your Upromise account when you make scheduled payments on time while you’re still in school and paying interest.
  • A high-yield savings account by Sallie Mae: You’ll get an extra 10% annual match on your earnings.
  • A 529 college savings plan. Starting such an account is one of the best things you can do to save for your child’s education. Link your Upromise account to boost your savings over the years.
  • Check: If you just want the cash for college, you can opt for a check request. Just make sure you’re using that check to pay down a student loan or pay tuition instead of a new pair of shoes or to froth up your latte fund.

How Can I Maximize My Earnings?

  • Apply for the Upromise MasterCard: If you’re in the market for a new credit card, consider the Upromise MasterCard to earn a higher percentage of cash back on all online purchases through the site along with 1% on everything else.
  • Ask friends and family: Consider asking family and friends to register. Family members can sign up and transfer their rewards to you or your child, which Upromise says can dramatically increase your earnings.
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