Earning cash for your kid’s college education from money you’d spend anyway is the easiest way to save for college without it impacting your finances. You can do so by getting a credit card that offers cash back or earning money through shopping rewards programs.
Here are some of the key programs that don’t require using your credit card to get bonuses from back-to-school shopping or shopping any time.
Bank of America debit cards
BankAmeriDeals allows you get cash back whenever you make a purchase at specific stores, which change regularly. For instance, on Aug. 18, I pulled up the deals using my Bank of America app. Staples was offering 10 percent cash back for 13 more days. Click on this deal and it’s automatic that anytime you shop at Staples, online or in store, you’ll get 10 percent back. If you buy $50 in school supplies, you’ll get $5 back that you can then deposit in a college savings account after the amount is credited to your bank account. You can also do the same with other items that aren’t directly from back to school shopping such as purchases made at Pet Supplies Plus or from lunches at Applebees. Retail offers vary throughout the year. Many credit cards also offer similar cash-back bonuses.
Upromise.com free rewards program
Upromise.com is a free rewards program that offers cash back on online shopping and through grocery shopping rewards programs that can be used towards college savings or repaying student loans. You can buy back to school supplies through the site and clothing you can then return or exchange in store.
Here’s how it works: Go to the Upromise site, click join and then create your login username and password. You can then link your Upromise savings to a Sallie Mae savings account or one of the selected 529 plans, college investment accounts. You can also request a check cut every quarter that you can deposit into an account of your choosing. Then you use the site to search for either the item or store you want. You’ll see cash back amounts ranging from 1 percent to 10 percent cash back of item prices. There are thousands of stores participating, and you can also download grocery coupons where the amount of the coupon goes into your Upromise account.
In addition to the cash back rewards part, you can use the site as an additional way to comparison shop and find coupon codes. I look for coupon codes before purchasing items, even Groupons. I save $50 per month or so with codes ranging from $5 to 40 percent of the purchase price.
For instance, if you are buying $200 worth of school clothes and you find a 40 percent off promo code, you’d save $80 on the items. Then there’s a 5 percent rewards offer you can accumulate that would go directly into an Upromise account or any account linked to the Upromise account. That’s another $10. You can save $90 for college savings or just use the $80 to improve your budget and save the $10 for college.
You can also add to your savings by encouraging family members to sign up for accounts to help you out or also depositing cash from the money saved by using coupon codes.
In my first book, I interviewed someone who booked work travel via an etailer on the Upromise site, registered grocery loyalty cards, and didn’t spend anymore more money than she would. She earned $300 in a year. Over a decade, that’s $2,700 without any interest added. Interest easily adds another $1,000 to savings.
Upromise has been the primary rewards program for saving for college for a long time. So if you decide you want to get back to school savings a different way, you need to use a website such as Ebates that offers cash back from online shopping. Ebates works the same way as Upromise.com in that you can get cash back at thousands of stores. Currently the site is touting 40 percent cash back at thousands of stores and a $10 sign up bonus. For school clothes, Macy’s is offering 6 percent cash back and Kohl’s is offering 3 percent. Macy’s is also offering in store cash back. To get rewards you generally start on the site, even if linking a rewards special for an in store purchase. You can also get up to double the cash back when using the free app instead of the website as your starting point for online and sometimes in person shopping. The bonus to using sites like this and Upromise is you’ll also get notified of promo codes and sales when searching for the items and stores you want.
You receive your cash back on a quarterly basis via a PayPal payment. Then you transfer the funds to whatever account you are using to save for college.
There are many ways to get free money for saving for college. Besides cash back from shopping, there are also essay contests from your community and 529 plan scholarships and sign up bonuses. The best part about cash back programs is they allow grandparents and parents an option to contribute to college savings without impacting their own retirement savings and future plans.
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