Like zillions of other college graduates, I have student loans – and, like a good chunk of those debtors, my loans are through Sallie Mae. When I graduated from college I was automatically enrolled in Upromise, which is a rewards program that is affiliated with Sallie Mae. I accumulated rewards in Upromise through various means and transfered those rewards to Sallie Mae to directly reduce my student loan balance. Apparently the program can also be used to save up rewards to pay for college expenses that haven’t happened yet (by transferring the rewards to a 529) or for getting straight up cash, but I haven’t used those methods.
The easiest and most passive way to start earning rewards is to enter your credit card and loyalty card information. Upromise monitors your spending and if you buy a product (like at the grocery store) or from a retailer (mostly restaurants) that has an associated reward you will receive it automatically. I did this right away when I started using my account and got rewards hits without altering my spending pattern at all. If you’re willing to change your spending for these rewards, there are searchable databases on the site (but I wouldn’t!).
You can also use the Upromise site for big rewards. I check what kind of rewards percentage I can get for making a big purchase through the site in comparison with making it through one of our credit card companies’ websites. If Upromise offers the better cash back amount (5%, for instance), I’ll go through Upromise to that retailer to make my purchase. I’ve bought a laptop, two flights, and a wedding registry gift through by clicking through Upromise because they had the best rewards percentage offered at the time.
Upromise offers a rewards credit card, but as better/easier rewards can be had elsewhere, we are unlikely to extend our credit card constellation to include this one. There is also a browser plugin and an app to help alert you to possible rewards – I haven’t tried those out yet but I might to cut down on the necessity of visiting the site.
Randomly, one of the online survey companies I used to work with paid out their “points” in Upromise dollars, so that ended up being my biggest source of Upromise rewards!
I’m sure there is plenty more I could do to make my rewards add up faster, like using their online coupons, but I don’t want to be on their website all the time comparison shopping. Generally, everyday purchases we make aren’t included in these types of rewards programs so it’s only worth it for us to check for expensive purchases. I haven’t earned a whole lot of money from Upromise, but for the miniscule amount of time I’ve put in to generating the rewards I can’t complain!
I have applied my Upromise rewards to my student loan balances on two or three occasions. The process completed accurately but took about six weeks. I kept my own records when I initiated a transfer so I could be sure my loans were reduced by the correct amount. I liked seeing the balance go down without making any payments!
Optimizing Upromise use seems to me a lot like couponing and I don’t do it for the same reason I don’t coupon. But I’m happy to link my credit cards and loyalty cards to passively rack up rewards and occasionally check the reward percentage available from a specific retailer before a big purchase. If anyone knows more low-key ways to increase Upromise rewards, I’d love to hear them!
If you decide to check out Upromise – The Smart Way to Save for College, would you please use this affiliate link? You’ll be helping EPF and yourself out at the same time!
If you have student loans or kids headed to college, do you use Upromise? Have you put more effort into optimizing your usage than I have and if so what do you do? What other rewards programs do you use?