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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. Which is a good thing because their program was a total disgrace; it only gave 1% on purchases, with the exception of “participating restaurants” which gave 10% extra points (so 1.10%). Those rebates were deposited into a 529 savings account, so essentially it was like a 1% cash back credit card.
The new version from Barclays was launched in the fall of 2012 and it came with a new rewards program:
- 1% cash back on regular purchases.
- 2% cash back at movie theaters.
- up to 3% cash back 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%. If you don’t, then you only get 1%.
- 4% at “participating” Upromise restaurants. Their directory of restaurants can be found at http://rn.upromise.com/
- up to 10% at participating websites thru the Upromise MasterCard online mall
Sounds good, but dig deeper…
When you first see the above, it sounds pretty good, right? Not so fast. The devil is in the details here…
5% thru online credit card mall = 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% and above at nearly 200 online retailers? (they have much better payouts on their mall).
4% at participating restaurants = creative marketing
Did you know you can enroll ANY credit or debit card to participate in the Upromise dining program? 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 their defense, their card will earn you extra, but it’s just not as enticing as it seems.
up to 3% 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% 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% 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% cash back everywhere, suddenly only getting at movie theaters sounds pretty boring.
1% elsewhere = neutral
Getting 1% would be good… if their 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 new Barclays Upromise credit card can be summarized in these 4 bullet points
- You only earn 4-5% thru Upromise participating websites and restaurants
- You only earn 3% at ExxonMobil when you buy 20+ gallons per month
- You earn 2% at movie theaters
- You earn 1% 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 higher cash back credit card and then deposit that money yourself into your 529 savings plan.
The fact that their credit card was run by Citi ’til 2009, then Bank of America ’til 2012, and now Barclays. That’s 3 different owners in 4 years! Obviously Upromise is having a tough time coming up with a program people actually want and after reviewing the latest credit card rewards program, I completely understand why. However Barclays is a good bank so if someones going to manage it, glad to hear it’s them.