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As 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% 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 the effort to complete the application to receive 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.
Updated May 20, 2015