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Upromise, Inc.
Upromise Logo.jpg
Type Subsidiary of Sallie Mae
Founded 2000 (2000)
Headquarters Newton, MA, United States
Key people David Coppins (President), Michael Bronner (Founder),
Parent SLM Corporation
Website www.upromise.com
Launched April 2001

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 is owned by SLM Corporation, commonly known as 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.

Critics of the Upromise program point out that as of 2008, the average member has earned only $47 toward future college expenses, and that to accrue this amount, the participant opts into a highly detailed purchase-tracking system, with information sold by Upromise to subscribing marketers.[1] However others have expressed the program’s benefits as useful for those who put in the effort and spending. 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.[2]

Upromise was founded in 2000 and their Upromise Rewards program was launched in 2001.


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.[3] The Upromise Rewards program was introduced in 2001.[4] In 2002, Upromise created Upromise Investments as a brokerage firm to manage the 529 college savings and investment plans.[5] Upromise Investments was acquired by Ascensus, the largest independent retirement and college savings provider in the United States [6] in 2013, but continues to support investment accounts for the participants in the Upromise rewards program.[7]

Upromise, Inc. was acquired by Sallie Mae, the leading U.S. education finance company with over 10 million borrowing customers, in 2006.[8] 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.[9]

In 2012, Upromise settled privacy complaint charges with the FTC regarding Upromise’s TurboSaver Toolbar. [10] 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. [11] [12]

Products and Services[edit]

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.[13] Upromise also offers a credit card to earn cash back for college expenses or to help pay down eligible Sallie Mae student loans.[14][15]

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. 

Notable Partnerships[edit]

Below is a list of some of the notable retailers partnered with Upromise Rewards:[16]

Another notable partnership is the Upromise MasterCard for earning rewards both online and offline.[16] The MasterCard does generate the same APR as any other credit card, so members can create more debt if they aren’t financially aware.[17] The Upromise MasterCard generates a 1% rebate on all purchases and up to an additional 5% on eligible purchases online.[18][19] 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.[20] 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.[20]


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. [21]

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. [22] [23] 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. [24] [25]


  1. ^ Kadet, Anne (April 2, 2008). "Can Upromise Ease Parental Anxiety Over Tuition Bills?". SmartMoney Magazine, The Wall Street Journal. 
  2. ^ "Grandparents Race to the Rescue of College Fund". Your Money. May 21, 2014. 
  3. ^ “Upromise 2002, 2013
  4. ^ “Upromise Loyalty Program Offers College Savings Plan.”, 2014.
  5. ^ “A Killer Idea Upromise’s Concept is Brilliant”, May 22, 2014.
  6. ^ “Ascensus”, May 22, 2014
  7. ^ “Ascensus, owner of ExpertPlan, rolls out new branding”, May 19, 2014
  8. ^ “Sallie Mae Completes Purchase of UPromise”, May 22, 2014
  9. ^ “BofA Dropped by Sallie Mae as Barclays Wins Upromise Card”, May 22, 2014
  10. ^ “Upromise Settles FTC Privacy Charges”, May 22, 2014
  11. ^ “Upromise Agrees to Settle FTC Deceptive Trade Practice Charges”, May 20, 2014
  12. ^ “Upromise Settles FTC Privacy Charges”, May 22, 2014
  13. ^ “Upromise Adds Mall Networks to Shopping Services”, August 11, 2014.
  14. ^ “The Upromise Mastercard”, May 21, 2014.
  15. ^ “The Promise of Upromise”, May 21, 2014.
  16. ^ a b “Upromise Partnerships”, May 19, 2014.
  17. ^ “Upromise Can Help You Save for your Kids College”, May 22, 2014.
  18. ^ “The College Search: What is Upromise”, May 21, 2014.
  19. ^ “Upromise Mastercard Review – Earning Cash for College’, May 21, 2014.
  20. ^ a b “Is Upromise a Sacm?”, May 21, 2014.
  21. ^ “A Killer Idea Upromise’s Concept is Brilliant”, May 22, 2014
  22. ^ “The College Search: What is Upromise”, May 21, 2014
  23. ^ “Upromise Can Help You Save For Your Kids’ College”, May 22, 2014
  24. ^ “529 Savings Plans: 9 Mistakes People Often Make”, June 9 2014
  25. ^ “Do Kids Cost Too Much? Four Ways to Save Big”, June 9 2014

External links[edit]