Save More with College Rewards Programs

Physician's Money Digest, October15 2004, Volume 11, Issue 19

Most people know about frequent-flyerrewards programs. The more sky miles youaccumulate and the more times you stay atparticipating hotels, the faster you earnpoints toward free flights. The same concept applies tocollege rewards programs.

Taming the Tuition

Tiger

Two programs, BabyMint and Upromise, feature acobranded credit card. According to (Bloomberg Press; 2003), roughly 1% of everypurchase you make using the card comes back to you inthe form of cash rebates, which are paid either by checkor through an electronic credit deposited directly into acollege savings account.

A third program, EdExpress, provides rewards byshopping at participating stores and/or buying certainproducts offered through the program. Depending onthe products purchased, cardholders could see rebatesbetween 1% and 20% off the purchase price.

BabyMint's Real Rewards

Registration for this program is free at the company'sWeb site (www.babymint.com). BabyMint isprimarily an online shopping service. When you wantto make a purchase, you register at the site and clickthe appropriate retailer. Your purchases register withthe system, but you won't receive credit for the purchaseuntil your payment has cleared. You can alsomake purchases at traditional retail locations, but todo so you'll need to print coupons or purchase giftcertificates from the company's Web site.

Minor drawback:

The program's tuition rewards feature is a key sellingpoint. This feature doubles the value of your BabyMintsavings. For example, if you have a BabyMint accountworth $500 and your child wants to attend one of theparticipating colleges, the school will match the $500. Atpresent time, BabyMint is the only program that offersthis feature. There are just 150 schoolsparticipating in the tuition rewards program.

Useful Upromise Rebates

The Upromise program is similar to the BabyMintprogram. However, there are some key differences,including a long list of participating brick-and-mortarretailers, where you can purchase everyday items suchas gasoline and groceries. Upromise (www.upromise.com) also has a nationwide directory of 7500 restaurantswhere you can eat and receive a rebate on thebill. In addition, if your long distance carrier is AT&T,roughly 4% of your long distance bills will be rebatedthrough the Upromise program.

Taming the Tuition Tiger

There are, of course, a few caveats. Rebates, whichrun between 1% and 10%, are sometimes lower withUpromise than with other programs. Most rebates areoffered on brand name products. If you opt for thebrand name over the generic product, however, youcould spend more than you'll receive in rebates. Also,according to , Upromise is theslowest of the three college rewards programs to sendyour money to your college investment account, doingso just once every 3 months.

EdExpress Advantages

This is the one rebate program that is not free. Youstill register online (www.edexpress.com), but there isa $24.95 annual fee. The company says that by charginga fee, they are able to offer higher rebates, usuallybetween 1% and 30%.

Note:

For example, if you purchase items from Domestications.com using EdExpress, your rebate is 8%.Through BabyMint and Upromise, the rebate is 4%. Ifyou purchase at Lands' End, EdExpress offers a 5%rebate; the other companies offer a 3% rebate. Andunlike the other two programs, you start earning interestthe moment the rebate goes into your account. If you don't do a lot of shopping, you might not breakeven with the annual fee.

Regardless of which program you choose, these collegerewards programs are another viable option to helpfinance your child's higher education. And of course, youcan register for all three and have the best of allworlds.