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Most cashback credit cards allow cardholders to redeem their rewards via check or electronic checking account deposit or as a statement credit. The Upromise® Mastercard®, however, offers a unique redemption option by allowing cashback earnings (plus a 15% bonus) to also be deposited into an eligible linked 529 College Savings Plan account.
A 529 College Savings Plan is a specialized, tax-advantaged savings account. Funds are meant to be withdrawn only to go toward qualified higher education expenses, such as tuition and room and board. If you’re a 529 account to save for future education expenses, perhaps for a child or grandchild, the Upromise® Mastercard® could be a way to contribute a little extra.
As its name suggests, the card is branded by Upromise, a company owned by Sallie Mae that offers members rewards on dining and online shopping. While some consumers may find this card and the Upromise program worthwhile, others may benefit from a simpler card with a better cashback rate. We’ll break down what this card offers and look at a couple alternatives.
- Upromise® Mastercard® pros
- Upromise® Mastercard® cons
- Alternative cashback credit cards
- Is the Upromise® Mastercard® worth it?
Upromise® Mastercard® pros
Rewards. Earn 1.25% cash back on all purchases. You can also opt into Upromise Round Up, which allows you to round up your purchases to the nearest dollar based on a threshold of your choosing. If you choose to do this, the extra amount will be converted into cash back — and it will also be considered a purchase and will earn cash back at the regular 1.25% rate.
Dining at participating restaurants and paying with the Upromise® Mastercard® can earn a boosted rate of 5% cash back. And shopping through the Upromise online shopping mall also offers rewards of up to 5%, along with offers and coupons.
Once you’ve earned enough to be eligible for a transfer, you’ll be able to redeem cash back into a linked checking or savings account or 529 College Savings Plan account. Typically, the minimum redemption amount will be $10 for a checking or savings account or $50 if you have a 529 College Savings Plan account linked, according to the Upromise website.
There’s a 15% cashback bonus when your Upromise program account is directly linked to an eligible 529 College Savings Plan, and this includes Upromise Round Up amounts.
Sign-up bonus. Earn $100 cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. There are cards with higher sign-up bonuses, but this one has a fairly low spend requirement.
Intro APR. There’s a 0% Introductory APR for 15 months on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 14.99%, 19.99% or 24.99%.
This is a decent amount of time to pay off high-interest debt from another credit card.
The balance transfer fee is either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
No annual fee. You don’t have to worry about an annual fee because there is none.
No foreign transaction fee. This card’s foreign transaction fee is none, so when traveling outside the United States, you can use it without being charged an extra fee on each transaction.
Free access to your FICO Score. The scoring model most commonly used by lenders is the FICO Score. This card allows you to access your score and get notifications when it changes.
ShopRunner membership. This card offers a complimentary ShopRunner membership, which comes with free two-day shipping and free return shipping on eligible purchases.
Upromise® Mastercard® cons
Sub-par earning rate. This card’s base rate of 1.25% cash back is lower than what many other rewards cards offer. It’s not hard to find competing cards offering 1.5% or 2% cash back on every purchase. And while it’s true that you can earn a boosted rate on some purchases with the Upromise® Mastercard® — such as 5% back at participating restaurants — you’d probably be better off using a card that specifically rewards dining, or one with rotating 5% categories.
Complicated rewards and redemption structure. To get the most out of this card, you should shop at the Upromise online shopping mall, dine at participating restaurants, and redeem all the cash back you earn to an eligible 529 College Savings Plan account.
However, this requires a lot of optimizing and planning to coax decent rewards out of the Upromise® Mastercard®. And let’s not forget that you’ll likely have to accrue $50 worth of cash back before you can transfer your earnings into your 529 plan.
For most consumers, it would likely be easier to use a flat-rate credit card that offers higher cashback rewards on purchases, or a card that specifically focuses cashback rewards on select categories, such as online shopping or dining. Some cards may have $25 minimum redemption amounts, and some may allow cash back to be redeemed at any time with no minimum required.
Alternative cashback credit cards
For consumers who may prefer a cashback card that earns a flat rate on every purchase, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer sets the standard. Cardholders earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
And for those who find joy in eating out and earning cash back while doing so, the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a great choice for dining. It earns 3% cash back on dining; 3% cash back on entertainment; 2% cash back at grocery stores; 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Here’s how these two cards compare to the Upromise® Mastercard®:
Upromise® Mastercard® vs. Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer vs. Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
|Upromise® Mastercard®||Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer||Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card|
|Sign-up bonus||Earn $100 cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.||None||Earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.|
|Rewards||Earn 1.25% cash back on all purchases.||Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.||Earn 3% cash back on dining; 3% cash back on entertainment; 2% cash back at grocery stores; 1% cash back on all other purchases|
|Regular purchase APR||14.99%, 19.99% or 24.99% variable||13.99% – 23.99% (variable)||15.49% - 25.49% (variable)|
With the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, you can redeem your earnings as a check, statement credit, direct deposit, or convert your cash back into Citi ThankYou points. ThankYou points can be used for redemptions such as gift cards, travel and paying with points when shopping online with participating merchants. There’s a $25 minimum for redeeming cash back, and if you want to convert cash back to points, you must convert at least $1 (which will equal 100 points).
With the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card, you can redeem cash back in any amount. Redemption options include statement credits, checks, credits for previous purchases, gift cards and more.
Neither of these cards offers a bonus for redeeming cash back into a 529 College Savings Plan — so if you like the idea of a card that encourages you to save for college, you might prefer the Upromise® Mastercard®. However, if you’re looking to earn as much cash back as possible on your purchases, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer and Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card are better choices.
Is the Upromise® Mastercard® worth it?
Some consumers may see value in the Upromise® Mastercard® as a card that encourages contributing to a 529 College Savings Plan, and there are extra perks for doing so. However, there are cards available that offer more generous cashback programs and simpler redemption options. For recommendations, take a look at our list of best credit cards for cash back, travel and more.
The information related to the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has been independently collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.