|Type||Subsidiary of Sallie Mae|
|Headquarters||Newton, MA, United States|
|Key people||David Coppins(President), Michael Bronner (Founder),|
Upromise is an United States loyalty program where members accrue credits on eligible purchases that are directed to a college savings plans or to pay down student loans. The company has been owned by Sallie Mae since 2006 and is headquartered in Newton, Massachusetts.
Upromise members accrue account credit on eligible purchases from grocery stores, online retailers, travel, restaurants and gas stations. Members can direct their earnings into a high-yield savings account or tax-deferred 529 plan, use it to pay down eligible student loans or request a check as the money is not required to be spent on college-related expenses.
As of 2014, the company’s rewards program has helped users earn more than a total of $850 million towards college education costs so far by sweeping the rebates accumulated into savings and 529 plans. Some users have expressed the program’s benefits as useful for those who put in the effort and spending, but not necessarily as beneficial for those who did not put in effort to use the program to its full potential. About.com Family Vacations noted that the program was a "win-win" for parents using Upromise to purchase family vacations.
Upromise, Inc. was co-founded in 2000 by Michael Bronner, David Fialkow and Jeff Bussgang after congress passed the 529 plan, which allowed consumers to save money for college in tax-free investment accounts. The Upromise Rewards program was introduced in 2001. In 2002, Upromise created Upromise Investments as a brokerage firm to manage the 529 college savings and investment plans.
Upromise, Inc. was acquired by Sallie Mae, the leading U.S. education finance company with over 10 million borrowing customers, in 2006. A co-branded Upromise and MasterCard credit card was introduced in 2001 and began with Citigroup as the cardholder. Citigroup sold the Upromise card to Bank of America in 2008, and in 2012, Sallie Mae dropped Bank of America and sold the credit card to Barclay’s.
In 2012, Upromise settled privacy complaint charges with the FTC regarding Upromise’s TurboSaver Toolbar. Upromise officials said the problem was the vendor of their toolbar and was unintentional, with only a small percentage of users affected. The company halted data collection by the toolbar in January 2010, and has since created a new toolbar application called RewardU with compliant FTC measures and safeguards in place, including consent and privacy disclosures for shared information.
Products and Services
Upromise Inc. operates a loyalty program called Upromise Rewards. Members can earn rebates at registered grocery stores, retail locations, restaurants, and online shopping sites through the Upromise online shopping database and by registering their credit cards with their rewards membership. Upromise also offers a credit card to earn cash back for college expenses or to help pay down eligible Sallie Mae student loans.
Members are then able to direct all of their rebates into savings accounts or tax-free 529 savings plans, or simply request a check for their earnings, though the program does encourage users to earn and save for college Grose, Thomas K. (2006). "Spend Your Way to College". U.S. News & World Report 141.24.
A member can shop directly through the Upromise site at any time and earn up to 5% cash back. The rebates, of which vary depending on the purchase and partnership, automatically post to the member’s Upromise account. If the member wants to dine at a participating restaurant, an online search tool keeps updated lists of participating restaurants, and details exactly how much they will earn. Another online feature is RewardU, Upromise’s way to help users remember to track their earnings when they shop. RewardU is a toolbar members can download to their web browser to remind them of cash back opportunities. The toolbar helps ensure members are earning as much as possible with every eligible purchase, and helps them track what they earn as they go. Other services include a way for Upromise members’ family and friends to register and have their earnings transferred to the member’s accounts.
Offline, members can also earn cash back rebates at various participating locations. How much a member spends at partnership locations each year, determines how much they earn and save. For restaurants, users can earn up to 8% of the amount spent on meals. The program has over 10,000 restaurants and 20,000 grocery and drugstores nationwide.[ Additionally, members can earn cash back through the Upromise Gas Rewards program and earn a percentage back on their gallons purchased at Exxon and Mobil gas stations.
Below is a list of some of the notable retailers partnered with Upromise Rewards:
- Best Buy
- Staples Inc.
- Apple Inc.
- Budget Truck Rental
- CVS Pharmacy
Another notable partnership is the Upromsie MasterCard for earning rewards both online and offline. The MasterCard does generate the same APR as any other credit card, so members can create more debt if they aren’t financially aware. The Upromise MasterCard generates a 1% rebate on all purchases and up to an additional 5% on eligible purchases online. In order to earn substantial rebates as a Upromise member, he or she must keep close track of how much is spent. Members in online communities report earning very small amounts over many years for lack of active participation or lack of affiliated purchases. Others boast earning tens of thousands towards college funds. Because Upromise is a for-profit company that helps people earn rebates much like other credit rebate programs, members get out of it the effort they put in.
Many of Upromise's earliest receptions were positive and honest, boasting the program’s benefits as useful for those who put in the effort and spending. Both The Wall Street Journal and The Harvard Business Review gave positive reviews based on the ability to earn extra money. They supported Upromise usefulness for students and parents needing extra ways to earn and save for college. Additionally, Fortune Magazine said Upromise was “simple and smart,” and attributed its positive reception by the media to the program’s ability to attract notable corporate partners.
Many reporters, online reviewers, and personal consumer bloggers and writers reveal that the money earned tax-free is worth it, regardless of the amount, because that is money they didn’t have before. Because Upromise is focused on helping more Americans save money for college, the option to put rewards into a 529 savings plan is often seen as the best option. Forbes.com supports savers using tax-free 529 savings plans like Upromise, but also places positive emphasis on their cash back credit card options. Most reviewers advise consumers to do their research, compare plans, and become aware of their own financial abilities and the efforts required to earn.
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