529 College Savings Plan Rewards, Referral Bonus To Save For College

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2008-12-0814

Need more incentive to save for college? How about these 529 college savings plan rewards? Find out about a referral bonus and ways to save even more money while funding your 529 account.

I’ve noticed that more and more incentives are cropping up to get parents started on their college savings programs. When I first started saving for college for my children, this was around 8 years ago, while I was pregnant with my first child. Back then, 529 accounts were a fairly new thing, it was the end of the dot com era and Upromise had just launched. But I quickly joined the bandwagon after researching the advantages of a 529 account — mostly to receive those tax breaks and benefits.

These days, you’ll get even more encouragement to save for college beyond those tax breaks, such as spending rewards to add to your 529 college fund, getting cash back, receiving gift cards, and so forth Here are some details of such incentives:

529 College Savings Plan Rewards: Incentives To Save For College

1. Upromise

I’ve had Upromise for a while and even carry a couple of Upromise credit cards. In particular, the card I have is the one issued by BofA — the Bank of America Upromise World card.

Over the years, I’ve received small rewards on a regular basis and since 2001, we’ve saved $4,000 which went and funded 529 accounts that were linked to our Upromise account. Sure, $4,000 seems *really* small when you consider all the years that have elapsed, but it was no skin off our backs. We spend as we normally do without thinking about it, and voila! We get the extra savings.

Also, we never really optimized our spending to take advantage of these rewards. If we focused on spending more efficiently through the Upromise site, we’d probably generate even greater rewards. So that’s a project for another day! If you’re interested in earning rewards for your 529 account, then open a Upromise account here.

2. BabyMint

I haven’t yet tried BabyMint, but I’m definitely ogling it for its rebates. The question is whether you’d prefer to spend your bucks here or in Upromise (my vote is still for Upromise 🙂 ). I’ll explore it for a more in-depth review in the future but for now, here’s the summary: if you shop through BabyMint’s merchant network, you’ll earn cash rebates via BabyMint Bucks (that are eventually converted to dollars). The rebates can be received via check, can be deposited into your 529 account or used to pay down your student loans. Or you can direct your rewards to another BabyMint member’s account.

3. Ohio CollegeAdvantage 529 Savings Plan

I’ve decided to open an account with the Ohio CollegeSavings 529 to take advantage of their “Refer-A-Friend” program. The minimum amount you need to fund your savings account is $25 and with that, you’ll receive $25 upon account open if you use a reference code I provide below. By referring others like your family and friends (or in my case, readers 🙂 ) to this savings plan, you’ll receive $25 for every referral and they will too, if they provide your reference code. But wait! You won’t have to refer anyone to receive the bonus, provided that you have several kids. Read on below for more details…

Why I Like It

The 529 accounts are invested in Vanguard funds primarily, which are my favorite mutual funds. Also, if you’ve got several kids, it’s easy to make extra money by signing up your kids with new accounts using your own reference codes. Your spouse can do the same. So in effect, if you have 3 kids, you can open up to 6 accounts (between you and your spouse) for all 3 kids, and here’s what you’ll get:

For each account holder: a minimum investment of $75 for 3 children will yield $100 in bonuses (each account referenced gets $25 while each new account also gets $25). Great returns right there! So the total minimum investment will be $150 with bonuses of $200 just for your family.

How It Works

  • Open a 529 college savings account with Ohio CollegeSavings 529.
  • Enter this reference code 2445926 so that you and I can receive the $25 bonus. 🙂 If you miss out on providing the referral code, you may not get the bonus.
  • Spread the word to your friends and family so that you (and they) can receive additional bonuses as well before May 31, 2009! Each new account will give you (and the account holder) an extra $25.

This 529 account is through the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority. I’d strongly suggest that you do your research and first check the type of tax deductions or benefits you receive from various 529 college programs as not all plans are created equal. If you’re going with the Ohio 529 college plan, open your account before May 31, 2009 to receive the referral, which will be applied to your account.

4. Scholarshare College Savings Plan

If you’re a California resident, then you may be interested in reviewing the Scholarshare College Savings Plan managed by Fidelity Investments. If you’re eligible to open an account, then you can register to receive a $50 Target gift card. You’ll need to open the account and sign up to automatically invest at least $50 a month into your account in order to get your gift card. That’s some work to get a free gift card, but the forced savings will pay off when your kids head off to university.

Any more rewards programs you know about that are associated with saving for college?

More articles on college savings:

Copyright © 2008 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Bob December 8, 2008 at 5:03 pm

529 plans don’t get the kids involved in the savings process. My first choice is the Monetta Young Investor Fund (MYIFX). Good relative performance, financial literacy component and free college tuition credits.

Website: http://www.younginvestorfund.com

Silicon Valley Blogger December 8, 2008 at 5:05 pm

Thanks Bob, for the lead. Having kids involved is definitely a great idea! I’ll have to check it out as this is the first time I’ve heard of it. I appreciate your letting us know about this site!

Walter December 8, 2008 at 9:59 pm

I’m glad I discovered this site. I’ve never heard of Upromise. It looks like it could be a very useful website.

Drew December 9, 2008 at 11:10 am

I did not know (or even still don’t know) if my child will go to college or not. Since it is hard (or the laws have changed the last few years for 529) for how to take the money out if your child does not go to college, I did not invest in one for my now 14 year old. I have him invested in an UGMA/UTMA account which I created. It is taxable, opened with a long term brokerage firm with no fees. I have him invested heavily. He gets the money when he is 18 (His senior year of college) and he can spend it on what he wants. This is all I am giving him for college however. It is enough to get him through a 4 year state institution with and books, maybe room and board. I want him to work a little to supplement his income for things like pizza and beer. The firm allows me to put things like “dual signature checks” on the accounts, so he cannot take the money and run. When he graduates (if) he can take the money and use it on a down payment on a car or home.

Silicon Valley Blogger December 9, 2008 at 11:21 am


I think you have a pretty good plan. I know more than a few parents who are iffy about the 529 account and whether it’s worth funding a child’s education (vs having the child do it for themselves or finding funding elsewhere).

I like the 529 savings plans because they are transferable. So even if a kid won’t use the money — that is the risk — I’ve got extended family to whom I can bequeath the money or I can use it for myself, for instance.

I open a 529 anyway, and just adjust what I deposit in there. Since I have Upromise, all the savings are from spending rewards that we don’t even notice. Since the rewards are invested in equities, we’re hoping that it at least amounts to something in 10 to 15 years, when we need it! 🙂

Drew December 9, 2008 at 2:15 pm

Yeah .. It was all predicated on my boy going to school. When he was younger, he would average a 1.5 GPA and would repeatedly state he did not want to go to college or learn anything more than what he had to (high school). Now he is getting a 3.2 GPA and is talking about a career which would include a 4 year college. So .. it is looking up.

Silicon Valley Blogger December 9, 2008 at 4:19 pm


Oh good to know! Kids are hard to predict. People change so much as they mature…. 🙂 I’m hoping that to be the case (esp. for my kids lol).

Anyway, I made some updates to the post above to describe the Ohio CollegeAdvantage Savings Plan bonus. You can open an account for a minimum of $25 in a Vanguard fund (yay!). If you’ve got several kids and open a second account, both your accounts get a $25 bonus (for a total of $50).

For 2 kids: you invest $50 and get a $50 refer-a-friend bonus.

For 3 kids: you invest $75 and get a $100 bonus (if you use the reference code twice, you get $25 four times…).

Sounds like the more kids you have the more referrals you can get if you open one account per kid.

At least that’s as far as I understand it. I called CollegeAdvantage about this and they said this was valid.

But you only have till December 15 to open those accounts!

Andrew Cunningham January 9, 2009 at 11:38 am

Hey guys thank you so much for this information, it has helped me out with understanding the details behind 529 accounts.

The only thing is that as of late I’ve been playing in an online casino and made some supplemental income, I know I should just deposit the money into a savings account but what i’ve been doing is depositing 90% into a UGMA/UTMA account, just like Drew, and the other 10% played it online, last night I made around $45 and THAT is going into the account too. My wife thinks this is reckless but I see it as an interesting way to get more inside that account without risking a lot.

Of course if I lose 3 times in a row its over, been doing it since last month with my weekly deposits and it was a fun way to spend some time also.

Ed: We do not endorse online casinos here, but best of luck to you.

Jennifer May 28, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Wow, I never heard about most of this stuff. I wish I did. I graduated last year but I’m going to forward this to my little brother. He still has 3 years of college left. Thanks again! I also have never heard of upromise but it seems like a good thing to check out. College Stories

Leave a Comment