Upromise Credit Card Review

Posted by CreditCardGuru

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college savings piggy bankAs you probably know, Upromise is a savings program that helps parents save for their kids’ college.  It’s a great concept, but can the same be said about their credit card?

There was recently a BIG change…

The Bank of America Upromise credit card was discontinued in 2012. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing because their program wasn’t the greatest; it only gave 1 percent on purchases, with the exception of “participating restaurants” which gave 10 percent extra points (so 1.10%). Those rebates were deposited into a 529 savings account, so essentially it was like a 1 percent cash back credit card.

The new version from Barclaycard was launched in the fall of 2012 and it came with a new rewards program:

  • 1 percent cash back on regular purchases.
  • 2 percent cash back at eligible movie theaters.
  • up to 3 percent cash back on gas at Exxon Mobil stations. This comes with a big catch because you have to buy 20+ gallons of gas from their stations in a calender month to get the 3 percent. If you don’t, then you only get 1 percent.
  • 4 percent at “participating” Upromise restaurants. Their directory of restaurants can be found here.
  • 5 percent on eligible online purchases through Upromise.com. Go here for a list of retailers that participate in the program.

Sounds good, but dig deeper…

When you first see the above, it sounds pretty good, right? But pay close attention to the details …

Getting 5 percent through online credit card mall is a benefit commonly found elsewhere
Almost every card issuer on the market these days as a credit card “mall” for online shopping for you to earn extra rewards. So this in and of itself is nothing special. Did you know that Discover gives you 5 percent and above at nearly 200 online retailers?

4 percent at participating restaurants = creative marketing
Did you know you can enroll ANY credit or debit card to participate in the Upromise dining program and get up to 8 percent back (assuming you reach the program’s upper levels by spending more than $500 at participating restaurants in a calendar year)? So yes, you can use the Upromise credit card for this, or you could use the card you already have in your wallet! Now in its defense, the card will earn you an extra 4 percent, but it’s just not as enticing as it seems.

Up to 3 percent at Exxon Mobil stations = ball and chain
Do you want to be forced to always buy your gas at their stations? Because you might have to, since you won’t get the 3 percent unless you buy at least 20 gallons per month from Exxon Mobil. If they’re always the cheapest in your area, that’s a good deal. But what I prefer to do is have a gas card that gives the rebate at ALL stations, so I have the freedom to choose the cheapest one.

2 percent at movie theaters = yawn
Having this is better than not having it, but honestly, how much do you spend in a given month at movie theaters anyway? I’m going to go out on a limb here and bet it’s only a tiny part of your spending. Furthermore, when there are other cards that give 2 percent cash back everywhere, suddenly only getting at movie theaters sounds pretty boring.

1 percent elsewhere = neutral
Getting 1 percent would be good… if the card’s other categories were better. As the program currently is structured, there probably won’t be much of your spending in those higher categories.

Is it really worth it?

The Upromise credit card can be summarized in these 4 bullet points

  • You only earn 4 to 5 percent through participating websites and restaurants.
  • You only earn 3 percent at ExxonMobil when you buy 20+ gallons per month
  • You earn 2 percent at movie theaters
  • You earn 1 percent on everything else

I have bolded the last 3 bullets, as those are the ones I think will be most applicable for your everyday spending. That brings us to the question… is it worth filling out the application and getting another credit card if that’s all you’re going to earn?

A better option would probably be to get a cash-back credit card that earns more rewards and then deposit that money yourself into your 529 savings plan.

Compare cash back credit cards to find the best one for you

Updated August 12, 2014


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Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

42 comments... read them below or add your own

  1. Shirley June 4, 2014 at 4:57PM

    I can’t figure out the program. I keep asking but if I call I get someone who doesn’t speak English well and just reads from a script. If I email, I get a response that doesn’t answer my questions. It looks like if I order from one of their online companies that I should get 5% rebate plus another 5% for using the Upromise MasterCard. I this right?

    Then if I eat at one of their listed restaurants, do I get the same rebate if I use the Upromise card versus another card that I have registered with them? Anybody know?

    • Chris June 22, 2014 at 5:12PM

      The first statement is correct (provided that you’re buying from a retailer that they have listed at 5% cash back.

      As for the restaurants, if you enroll in their Upromise dining program, you get 4% back automatically, and then another 2% (up to 8% depending on what level you’re at within their program) on top of that. In total, if you’re at the highest level of their dining program (which I believe equates to $500+ spent at their listed restaurants), and you have the Upromise card, then you can earn up to 12% back buying from their listed restaurants.

  2. Collin April 13, 2014 at 11:24AM

    They are all banks, and as you know, banks are in it for money. Every single one will do what they can to make more money from you and everyone else. These cash back and rewards cards are just marketing techniques to get you to apply and then they have you to feed off of. If you really was a credit card, look for low interest rates. But then again it is hard to find one that won’t fluctuate. If your in this for rewards, your being ripped off. But if you can’t see that, then I guess you deserve it. Work hard, save your money, and pay in full. That is the only way to buy without being ripped off.

  3. Cary Wood March 7, 2014 at 8:24AM

    Upromise is VERY unreliable for automatic crediting of accounts.

    If you make an online purchase through Upromise, save the receipts wait 45 days and verify it’s been credited. Most likely it will not have. Contact them after 45 days (website contact form…) and request the review the purchase.

    I purchase online all the time through upromise, 8 out 10 purchase do not show up automatically. They WILL ‘investigate’ and it will get credited ‘eventually’. Then of course you have to wait for the funds to be deposited…might be 2-3 months later. After than you have to wait for the quarterly deposit into your 529. So it can take 6 months or more to get money out of Upromise, but if you’re persistent…you will get it.

  4. AD March 6, 2014 at 8:26AM

    Card is ending again. I made about $500 over 12 years with the various cards, and I am not one to ‘charge everything’ or anything like that, just big purchases like vacations, etc. I made an extra $40 a year? Its free money so cant complain. Never had any type of customer complaints with the card.

  5. LS Barr-Tiemann February 14, 2014 at 4:32PM

    You have to fight for every 4% bonus rebate. Barclays upromise website displayed a 5% contribution for a Meijer Home Depot gift card and will NOT honor it. I spent $500 in gift cards expecting this 5% + 4% bonus rebates and got neither. I told them to pull up their archived webpage for proof – they won’t do it. So they expect you to take a screen shot of every displayed % contribution before purchase for proof !!!! Barclays needs to stick with just dicking around with stealing billions manipulating the LIBOR rate.

  6. Michael January 5, 2014 at 5:17AM

    The best card I am aware of is the Fidelity FIA Card Services Bank of America American Express Card. The catch is you have to set up a Fidelity 529(any state they offer) and then 2% of all monthly purchases are credited to 529 automatically. There is no monthly or annual limit to your rewards and the system is fully automated so all “rewards” are transferred to the 529 monthly. You can add a Upromise cash back rewards program to any card do it seems slightly disingenuous that Upromise contacted with Barclays at 1%. Go to he Fidelity.com website click on Cash Management and find the link to the Fidelity Rewards Credit Card.

  7. pinkSugar September 24, 2013 at 12:55PM

    Still waiting for cash to be credited from Sephora purchases I made back in JUNE 2013. They have a list of the merchants that they say take longer than the normal time, and Sephora is not on that list.. so whats the holdup? I’m done using Upromise. I have to wait for another $14 to finally credit – then I will xfer all the cash out and close it. So not worth the waiting game.

  8. Jordan M August 5, 2013 at 6:32AM

    I’ve had success with the Upromise card, but you have to pay attention to the participating restaurants and online stores. As mentioned by other reviewers, you actually get 10% back for online purchases through their portal: 5% from the Upromise program + 5% from the Upromise card. Similarly, with participating restaurants, you can actually max out (when you get to the highest tier) your restaurant rewards at 12%: 8% from the Upromise program + 4% from the Upromise card.

    This is all I use this card for, and I have the rewards swept into a Sallie Mae Savings account every month (which nets you an additional 10% for the year). Not all rewards show up at the same time, and tracking the rewards can be hit or miss. I check my account about twice a month to make sure my purchases are showing up, and if not, I make a note to check the next time. The rewards from the Upromise card to take longer than the rewards for the program, in the fine print, the card says it can take up to 12 weeks. So, stay organized and keep track of your purchases. Since I only use this for online purchases and dining out, I don’t have that many transactions to track.

  9. Susan S. July 21, 2013 at 8:49PM

    I’ve been really disappointed with UPromise and their earnings on online purchases. If you shop from their site they say “get 5% back and an EXTRA 5% if using the UPromise Credit Card”. Yeah. Often the benefits don’t show up in my account at all. Bought a computer from MacMAll four months ago. After about 10 emails, UPromise finally credited my account with 5% of the purchase price. But the EXTRA 5%? Um, they’ll get back to me on that…someday. Incredibly poor customer service.

  10. Dean June 1, 2013 at 1:34PM

    I am writing my 2 cents for someone who is confused at the mixed reviews. I really can’t confirm any of the so called problems listed in other reviews. Comparing the rewards “Mall” to others is not accurate. It is not a mall like say my Well Fargo Card that forces me to redeem my points on their crappy merchandise. This is just a portal to existing online retailers. You go through Upromise and get redirected to say Bass Pro Shops. Bamn…5% for the redirect and 5% for using the card…10%. Two big retailers I commonly use that aren’t there are Cabelas and Amazon…which blows. However, a vast majority of the big retailers participate. Nobody can complain with 10% cash back. When you cant shop online at least you get 1% with no cap. Pay it off every month with the Barclaycard app and no hassles. Personally, I have the money transferred to my Sallie Mae student loans. It is free money. I love the concept and card…I love free money.

    • Michael August 9, 2013 at 9:22PM

      The type of mall that you described (a portal to other retailers) is exactly what the author meant when he stated that many other credit issuers have the same thing. Redeeming points for merchandise is not what was meant. Virtually all of my CC’s have a mall to link me to other pages in order to earn points in addition to their rewards shopping portals. They’re two separate things.

  11. K May 19, 2013 at 2:16PM

    Since the switch to Barclays we’ve had lots of problems. My husband travels to Europe for work, and they continually stop the card for fraud, even after being notified. One would think that customers who pay the balance each month would get decent customer service. Barclays acts as if every customer is committing fraud. In their efforts to prevent fraud, they will lose their customers. We will be ending our 10 year relationship with Upromise. It is not worth having to beg and argue for things that were never a problem when Citibank and BOA managed the card.

  12. Erin April 27, 2013 at 6:49AM

    We have also had nothing but problems since the switch. We always had it set up to do an auto-payment of a certain amount each month and apparently when it switched that information didn’t. So we missed a payment and my husband had to call and complain that we were notified of the switch but not that our autopay would be cancelled. Then the next month we got more harassing calls again that we were late on our payments. Even after he had re-set it up when he called them the previous month! This is just not worth the hassle. We have stopped using this card altogether. We get much better benefits and service with our Chase Freedom card.

    • Karen May 16, 2013 at 5:57AM

      W have had the EXACT same problem. Over and over again. In fact, I am on the web right now because I am trying to get the number to call them again. Oh yeah, and when you answer the automated calls, it asks for your social security number to verify you. HELLO!?!? I am NOT giving that info over the phone to a robot – who called ME. It could be anybody…..feels like such a scam.

    • stephanie October 29, 2013 at 4:48PM

      This happened to me as well…..guess who ended uo paying for it …..me

  13. Kimberly April 25, 2013 at 6:53PM

    We have had nothing but problems with our long standing (25+ years) Upromise account since Barclays Bank of Delaware took over the Upromise program. Customer service is non-existent. All we ever hear is we are sorry we can’t help you with that issue. Don’t try to make a purchase over $100 without first calling to ask permission. We just lost on-line airline reservations because Barclays failed to inform us that we would need to request their approval before making a purchase over $1000. We are shopping for new credit cards.

  14. TexasT April 1, 2013 at 9:22PM

    We have had nothing but success with this program. As of today we have $10,660 in two 529 accounts all funded by Upromise. This includes earnings. We started early in the program… I’m guessing 10 years ago. We used our credit card almost exclusively for all our monthly shopping, plus we did do some on-line shopping for stores we shop at anyway. I do pay my credit card bill off every month so I don’t worry about any interest rates etc and have never had to call customer service. Recently I completed a rollover of the funds from the SSgA 529 to a different 529 that I think gets better returns. But no problems so far. I think you get out of it what you put into it… if you don’t use the card enough it may only add up to hundreds of dollars. But we felt anything towards college wouldn’t hurt!

  15. Deb February 2, 2013 at 6:41PM

    I’ve been a loyal upromise customer for years and have used their credit card throughout all of the changes, etc. Since the Barclays move — I’ve had nothing but issues. I keep getting tagged with fraud — when there isn’t any. This last time — I was at my local grocery store where I shop alot.. and got denied. Thank goodness I have another card (my husband doesn’t). I called and talked with someone and then the manager – but I don’t have a good feeling anything will change. Stay away… from the Upromise Barclays card. The Barclays experience is a bad one!!

  16. Kate January 28, 2013 at 5:20PM

    I just received an amendment statement in the mail from Barclays. The amendment is an eye opener because now if you forget a payment, the interest accrues from the transaction of each purchase!

    I put everything on my card. I always pay my card in full, never have missed a payment in over 10 years. I hope other credit cards do not begin doing the same.

    I tried to call Barclays, but received an unfriendly recorded message that their system was down and to call again later.

  17. Seth January 7, 2013 at 6:03AM

    I have had a upromise credit card since 2003 (nearly the very beginning). I actually like the Barclay offering better than BofA’s. I have saved nearly $8,000 for my daughters college, and the account just keeps rising. I did this by getting my mom and grandparents on board. Everyone uses the cc and it all dumps automatically into my daughters 529 account. Find another card that allows you to compound money like this so effortlessly.

  18. Megan December 17, 2012 at 10:04AM

    My husband and I have a dividend card and easily max out the $300 it allows for each year as we put everything on the cc and pay it off monthly. I think you forgot to highlight that there is no earnings cap on this cc and no annual fee. Also, the 5% at online stores is correct, but the store also gives you 5+% back, so it’s actually 10% back when you use the upromise card at online partners. Finally, 1 fill-up = 18+ gallons in my minivan, so for a family, 20 gallons per month is not really that difficult. I could always wish programs to be better, but I certainly do like this one.

  19. MrSinatra December 2, 2012 at 3:04PM

    my wife had school loans, and so she, i, her parents, and my mom, all got upromise cards, and collectively upromise put thousands towards her loans. in the same way, families can collectively contribute to a young kids 529. that’s when i think it makes sense, when you can combine resources hassle free automatically.

    but i have to say, the program is not as good as it was in the early days, and now that her loans are paid off, we’ll probably get a 2% everywhere card.

  20. PennyWise November 24, 2012 at 12:24PM

    Do the math. This is still one of the best cash back cards out there. There is no annual fee. I have never had my cash back go into a 529 plan, I always opt for the cash and they send me a check in the mail. If you shop online you get 5% or more + 3% for using your card (that is 8% or more every time). I have not found another card out there that will give you this kind of cash back. You could likely buy 2 airline tickets using the cash back on this card if you used it wisely compared to the 1 ticket you will get using airmiles cards (plus figure in their annual fee).
    As for the gas, I can’t find another card that will give me 3% back on gas and 20 gallons is easy to use in a month. One fill is 20 gallons for me. (Shell used to be the best and gave 5% back, not any more they changed their program too) It might not be the best one out there, but most others will only give you 1 or 2 percent back on gas.
    Re-think how you use this card and you may be surprised how much you can save.

    I had to get in the habit of checking their website every time I shop online but I am used to it now and most sites I shop are part of the upromise program and I have saved hundreds of dollars with Upromise. Again, do the math, if you find a better card let me know.

  21. Jeanne October 4, 2012 at 7:24PM

    You cannot save if you cannot pay the credit card in full each month. Thats a no brainer… Susan

  22. Jeanne October 4, 2012 at 7:21PM

    I think what you are missing is the college savings over many years. It is not meant for short term investments. Most people would not put the cash savings away into a 529, the card does it for you. My sons upromise 529 are in very aggressive savings over 10 years and now they have “found” money for education. NYSaves Vanguard 529′s are doing very well. Exceptionally well. I think it is a great idea. I charge everything and use their web sight when I order on line. The gas is expensive but it wasn’t too bad when the program first started.

  23. unhappy September 28, 2012 at 8:14PM

    Had Upromise with Citibank,BofA & now Barclays. No problems until now–account frozen because I charged $226 !! Limit is over $9000. Good thing I wasn’t traveling –I’d be stranded & starving!

  24. New Yorker August 31, 2012 at 6:37AM

    This may be a mute point as Barclays are taking over the Upromise credit card in approximately a month but from the comments I read you are missing the main benefits.

    If you shop online via upromise you get a minimum of 5% cashback (in most cases) from the website and 3% back for using the credit card. Show me a credit card that rewards higher than 8% cashback? And you still get whatever other rewards from the shop/organization concerned too.

    The dining rewards program is better still if you can find your favourite restaurants (eat in or take out). Yes they could add more restaurants but when you are getting close to 19% cashback…… Then factor in a $25 bonus if you spent more than $100 over the summer….

    Don’t do it for the fuel or the groceries, but for everything else.

    I guess it all depends on your spending habits but if you shop online and use some of the restaurants, it is a no brainer to have it as one of your credit cards. I am probably averaging 8% cashback on what I have used it for.

    • New Yorker August 31, 2012 at 6:40AM

      Oh…and it’s free to have.

      You might say other cards have comparable if not slightly better opening offers. Granted. But they all typically revert back to a 1% rewards level and why load up on airmiles from X which you can only use when you fly X, when you can get cash and do with it what you will.

      Just my humble opinion…..

    • TM September 23, 2012 at 7:42AM
  25. JackA July 21, 2012 at 12:42PM

    Please do your calculations. Compare your spending just to get that percentage back. I just gave up on upromise.

    • MiriFish September 5, 2013 at 12:59PM

      I hadn’t used my UPromise account in years. Without thinking, I changed the email account i used with UPro, and could not remember any of my info. I asked if they could look me up with my social, and they flat out said, “No”. They still have my money and refuse to work with me to give it back. It wasn’t a lot, but it is my money. Not impressed with the customer service. I am still looking for legal options to get them to cooperate.

  26. College Saver June 12, 2012 at 10:33AM

    Barclays has now purchased the Upromise card portfolio from BofA and has even further watered down the rewards. Now it is 5% on eligible purchases through Upromise, 4% on eligible restaurants, 3% (with a cap) at Exxon/Mobil, 2% at eligible theaters and 1% everywhere else. Getting more and more useless….

  27. Elixir71 March 16, 2012 at 7:44AM

    One thing I want to add that for users like myself who use the upromise card to pay off existing student loans, the money goes directly to my student loans and decreases the principle that is accruing interest.. I believe this should also be factored into the savings.

  28. jojo November 5, 2011 at 9:55AM

    I have the Upromise card, and when you couple it with their promotions, it can add up nicely – such as when we needed a new A/C unit – we bought thru Upromise, which was offering 11% cash back at Sears at the time when using the card, so we got about $30 cash back on it, Sears has a rewards program too, so we received points on the purchase for Sears as well. I don’t use Upromise exclusively and pay it off in full each month, but you can also withdraw whats in your account and have them cut you a check, which they do quarterly. I would do this each year before Christmas and usually got about $100 each time.

    I recently opened the Sallie Mae savings account, and they give you a bonus each year (which is a percentage of your Upromise earnings). This past year, I got about $11 bonus to my Sallie Mae account, and that’s not horrible considering they have a competitive rate, and it really was no extra work on my part. The $11 was the equivalent of about 2 mths. of interest since interest rates are so low, but every little bit helps.

  29. mizzou fan September 22, 2011 at 12:00PM

    Been a member for 10 years. Always pay off the credit card. However, it is not our main card. Have saved over 3300 on Upromise.

    My wife spends a lot of $$ at HSN, QVC, and Shop NBC–always go thru the Upromise website when she buys, those 3% or 4% add up. When I am shopping on line, renting a car, or planning a vacation; I always go thru Upromise.

  30. Arlene September 17, 2011 at 7:26AM

    I’ve been enrolled since May 2011 (now Sept 2011). I’m using the program to help pay off my existing student loan quicker rather than saving up for a child’s education. I simply can’t see a way to complain about free money. I am earning money three ways: 1) the credit card, which gives me 1% back on all (all!) purchases. I used to have a reward card that paid me 1% toward a certain large online retailer, and that was fun, but I much prefer paying down my loan than buying something new that I probably don’t even need. 2) credits via grocery store (etc) loyalty cards. I don’t get much here, just 30 cents here or there, but I’ll take it. and 3) using the online portal (with the TurboSaver application that makes it convenient) which basically seems like an affiliate scheme that lets you in on some of the deal. I am careful not to buy anything I wouldn’t buy anyway, and of course never carry a balance on the card. I’ve never come across a single fee. Every 3 months I get a transfer directly into my Sallie Mae account. While I was shy about getting family and friends involved, I recently told my mother about it and she has registered her loyalty cards and signed up for the credit card, because she really wants to help. I imagine that’s going to double my rewards right there. I know a lot of people feel entitled but I simply cannot complain about the $70 just transferred to my account last week, or the future quarterly payments that might be even bigger.

  31. Christopher August 23, 2011 at 3:17PM

    If you link a 529 plan to Upromise than the money is transferred quarterly to said 529 plan.

  32. Dana August 19, 2011 at 9:25AM

    We have the upromise credit card, and have saved 358.00 since jan 2011, we too pay off our credit card every month so the interest has no bearing on us. but i will say that the bonus for opening a credit card was 50.00 on the first time use of the card was a night mail I have had to write and call at least 10 times and finally received the fifty dollars aug 13 2011 and this was a total fight. the call center is in India and the understanding barrier is a nightmare. i have received lies saying that it was deposited by one person then told it would be deposited and wasn’t. I have kept an updated account on the money that is owed and i continue to have to fight for small amounts like .55 but this is my money and not theirs. so i will continue to be diligent on this. Since the grocery coupon data base changed it is always after 90 days when it disappears from account then it never hits the deposit. so be careful they tend to slipping on every penny that is owed.

  33. Smart Shopper July 30, 2011 at 1:41PM

    frakes74 is right. The money does not go into a 529 plan. You can take the money out and use it for anything you want. Anything at all. Of course the smart thing to do is invest it in some way for your children, I have had the account since 2006 and have received just over $3,000 from Upromise. We pay it off every month, so the interest rate does not mean anything to us either. Upromise works for us!

  34. frakes74 June 29, 2011 at 12:33PM

    The money DOESN’T go into a 529 plan…try again and research a bit more. I have been a memeber for 8 years and this is in no way shape or form a 529 plan. Upromise is not a savings account.

    Really…it is just a better way to shop. It all adds up in time. I will be able to pay for both of my childrens textbooks during their first two years of college.

    Take the upromise money and invest it into a high interest savings account, CD or 529 plan. This is what I do and it is simple.

    Also if you pay for everything that you would normally pay with cash and pay your credit balance off at the end of every month then you won’t have to worry about paying any interest. I have done this for years and it has worked out to my advantage. It is about will power…

  35. Susan Gallagher July 23, 2010 at 12:53PM

    Check out the interest rates on the Upromise credit card:
    0% Introductory APR for the first 7 or 10 statement Closing Dates following the opening of your account, based on your creditworthiness. See footnote 1 for explanation.

    After that, your Standard APR will be 12.99% to 20.99%, based on your creditworthiness when you open your account. This APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate as set out in the Variable-Rate Information section of your Agreement.

    Let’s see…1% back with 20% interest. Think that’s a way to save for college?

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