Whenever I hear the words 'college fund' I nervously change the subject. It's one of those things that I've put off until my mortgage is paid off. By that time my son will be ten, and I may not have enough time to tuck away enough savings to pay for ever-increasing tuition fees. Unless he earns a scholarship, his road to community college may already be paved. That is, unless UPromise holds up its end of the bargain.
UPromise is a way to save for college by spending money. Think of it like earning points for using your credit card. Each time you purchase something at a participating company with one of your credit or debit cards you earn credits in your UPromise account. These credits are then accumulated towards future college tuitions or book expenses, at which point the money is tax-free if used towards education. The credits reflect anywhere from 1-25% of your purchase, but most are between 1-3%.
I had heard about UPromise two years ago, but I was a bit wary of it. I still wonder if this program will really be around fourteen years from now when I look to cash out my son's earned credits. However, after reading about it in a newsletter sent from my husband's retirement investment company, I assumed it was a legitimate and safe plan.
I registered just the other day. I expected to be asked a myriad of questions and to be typing for an hour. In all, it took fifteen minutes, and I spent most of that time looking through our wallets for our credit and debit cards. To register go to http://www.upromise.com and fill in basic information such as your name, contact info, and child's name. I never gave my social security number or bank account information. From there I needed to register my credit/debit cards in order for my spending to log in UPromise credits, which is done automatically. Here is where I would have cancelled registration had I not be pointed there by a reputable company. UPromise as well as The Vanguard Group assured me that all was safe. I held my breath and took the leap.
After registering my cards I opted out of e-mail and phone updates to avoid solicitations, and I went on with my usual spending.
While the entire process seemed pretty fool proof, there were a few pieces of bait thrown at me during registration. The first piece came in the first phase of registration when I was asked to open a credit card. Look to the bottom right of the page and click on the 'No, thanks' option to continue registration without the card. There is no need for it, and declining the offer does not affect your UPromise account.
There also is advertising throughout registration for its supporting companies. While I noted a few as interesting, I didn't bother to look at most of them. I figure if I shop at a participating company and earn credits then that's a few extra dollars towards college. If not, no harm done. Don't fall for the trap of shopping at these stores (mostly on-line) just to earn UPromise points. You're better off putting the extra dollars in a bank account and start a traditional college fund.
I can now officially say I have opened a college fund for my son. I still plan to open a traditional savings plan, but for now I'll take any free credits I can. Now if I process my debit card as a credit at Giant grocery stores I not only earn VISA reward points but also UPromise credits. All for doing nothing more than what I've always been doing.
About The Author: Kelly Ann Butterbaugh is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to a variety of magazines and has written a history book for middle readers. Visit her website for writing help, lesson plans, history fun, or work for hire at http://www.kellybutterbaugh.com
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