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Upromise, Inc.
Industry Marketing
Founded Newton, Massachusetts, United States (2000 (2000))
Founder Michael Bronner
Headquarters Newton, MA, U.S.
Area served
United States
Key people
Erin Condon (President)
Services Loyalty programs
Parent SLM Corporation
Website upromise.com
Footnotes / references
Key people[1]

Upromise is a company in the United States that provides a loyalty program of the same name, 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, and restaurants. 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.[2] 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.[3] However some critics of the Upromise program pointed out that as of 2008, the average member had earned only $47 toward future college expenses, and that to accrue this amount, the participant opted into a highly detailed purchase-tracking system, with information sold by Upromise to subscribing marketers.[4]


Upromise, Inc. was co-founded in 2000 by Michael Bronner, David Fialkow and Jeff Bussgang after 529 plans were legislated by Congress, which allowed consumers to save money for college in tax-free investment accounts.[5] The Upromise Rewards program was introduced in 2001.[6] In 2002, Upromise created Upromise Investments as a brokerage firm to manage the 529 college savings and investment plans.[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.[10][11]

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

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. 

Online Rewards[edit]

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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17] 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.[17]

Offline Rewards[edit]

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 5% cash back of the amount spent on meals. The program has over 10,000 restaurants and 20,000 grocery and drugstores nationwide.[18]

Notable Partnerships[edit]

Below is a list of some of the notable retailers partnered with Upromise Rewards:[19]

Another notable partnership is the Upromsie MasterCard for earning rewards both online and offline.[19] The MasterCard does generate the same APR as any other credit card, so members can create more debt if they aren’t financially aware.[20] The Upromise MasterCard generates a 1% rebate on all purchases and up to an additional 5% on eligible purchases online.[21][22] 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.[23] 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.[23]


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.[24]

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.[25][26] 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.[27][28]


  1. ^ "The Upromise Leadership Team". Retrieved March 31, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Grandparents Race to the Rescue of College Fund". Your Money. May 21, 2014. 
  3. ^ Suzanne Rowan Kelleher. "How to Save Money For College Every Time You Go on Vacation". About. Retrieved December 20, 2014. 
  4. ^ Anne Kadet (April 2, 2008). "Can Upromise Ease Parental Anxiety Over Tuition Bills?". SmartMoney Magazine. 
  5. ^ “Upromise 2002, 2013
  6. ^ “Upromise Loyalty Program Offers College Savings Plan.”, 2014.
  7. ^ “A Killer Idea Upromise’s Concept is Brilliant”, May 22, 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. ^ a b “Upromise Settles FTC Privacy Charges”, May 22, 2014
  11. ^ “Upromise Agrees to Settle FTC Deceptive Trade Practice Charges”, May 20, 2014
  12. ^ “Upromise Adds Mall Networks to Shopping Services”, August 11, 2014.
  13. ^ “The Upromise Mastercard”, May 21, 2014.
  14. ^ “The Promise of Upromise”, May 21, 2014.
  15. ^ “How it Works.”, May 22, 2014.
  16. ^ “How it Works.”, May 21, 2014.
  17. ^ a b “Get Reward U.”, May 22, 2014.
  18. ^ “Upromise Dining Program.”, June 10, 2014.
  19. ^ a b “Upromise Partnerships”, May 19, 2014.
  20. ^ “Upromise Can Help You Save for your Kids College”, May 22, 2014.
  21. ^ “The College Search: What is Upromise”, May 21, 2014.
  22. ^ “Upromise Mastercard Review – Earning Cash for College’, May 21, 2014.
  23. ^ a b “Is Upromise a Scam?”, May 21, 2014.
  24. ^ “A Killer Idea Upromise’s Concept is Brilliant”, May 22, 2014
  25. ^ “The College Search: What is Upromise”, May 21, 2014
  26. ^ “Upromise Can Help You Save For Your Kids’ College”, May 22, 2014
  27. ^ “529 Savings Plans: 9 Mistakes People Often Make”, June 9, 2014
  28. ^ “Do Kids Cost Too Much? Four Ways to Save Big”, June 9, 2014

External links[edit]