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CollegeBacker 2021 Review: An Intuitive 529 Savings Plan for Families

CollegeBacker helps families save for college and other education expenses with online shopping.

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A college education is a pathway to success for many families. However, with tuition rising faster than inflation, paying for college can be daunting. This is where CollegeBacker comes in. Not only does it offer free and low-cost accounts for parents to save for college education expenses, but CollegeBacker’s cash-back Backer Bucks program lets parents contribute to their child’s savings plan through online shopping. Additionally, the platform also provides an easy path for friends and family to contribute as well. You can even give the gift of a CollegeBacker plan to a young person in your life.

CollegeBacker

  • Easy way to save for college
  • Encourages family and friends to contribute
  • Get additional bonus money for referrals and online shopping

Pros

  • Easy to set up
  • Monthly fee can be waived
  • Personalized link to share with friends and family

Cons

  • Not all 529 Savings Accounts participate
  • Requests monthly fee up to $10
  • Charges fee for credit card contributions
 
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What Is CollegeBacker?

CollegeBacker is an online platform that makes it easier for families to save for college. It also enables friends and family to contribute to your child’s education through gifting and personalized links to your child’s account.

Your funds are held by the 529 Savings Account plan that you choose. CollegeBacker does not hold any money and uses All money held by CollegeBacker  insured through the SIPC and held by

What is a 529 Savings Account?

529 savings accounts are offered by states and are designed to pay for education. Your contributions grow tax-deferred and are tax-free when used for eligible education expenses. And you do not have to contribute to an account in the same state in which you live. Some states do offer tax incentives for its residents, so do your research or consult with a tax professional to determine if your state qualifies.

Withdrawals are tax-free as long as the money is used for a qualified education expense. If not, withdrawals are taxed as earnings and there is a 10% penalty.

Maximum and Minimum CollegeBacker Contributions

Maximum contributions are determined by the Federal government’s gift tax exclusion rules. In 2020, the maximum contribution is $15,000 from one gifter to one recipient per year. The gifter may gift to several recipients and multiple gifters can gift to a single recipient. For example, grandma and grandpa can each contribute $15,000 to their three grandchildren. In this example, the grandparents’ combined gifts would be $30,000 to each grandchild for a total of $90,000 in one year.

Federal law also allows gifters to accelerate contributions and contribute five year’s worth of contributions in one year. This means that you could give a single person up to $75,000 at once.

CollegeBacker accepts contributions via credit cards, debit cards and bank transfers. There is a $5 minimum contribution, and you can have as many people as you’d like to contribute to your child’s account.

Does CollegeBacker Affect College Financial Aid?

Yes. 529 plans are considered parental assets and must be disclosed on the FAFSA form. Any parental assets beyond the Asset Protection Allowance amount reduce potential student aid amounts by 5.64% of the amount of the assets.

What Can I Use CollegeBacker Money for?

529 savings account money can be withdrawn and used tax-free to pay for qualified higher education expenses. These expenses include college tuition and related fees, room and board, books and supplies, computers and repayment of student loans.

As of 2019, qualified expenses also include tuition for elementary, middle and high school education. These schools can be private, public or religious institutions.

It is highly recommended that you keep records of all withdrawals and expenses in case of an audit.

Does CollegeBacker Charge Any Fees?

CollegeBacker does not take commissions from the 529 plans they offer. However, they do require a monthly fee for their administrative services. But the good news is that you decide what you can pay, which is typically anywhere from $1 to $10 per month.

If you cannot afford the monthly minimum payment of $1, simply email support@collegebacker.com and they will waive the fee. Moreover, CollegeBacker donates 1% of fees paid by customers to support low-income families around the country.

If you make a contribution with a credit card, CollegeBacker charges a 3% fee to help cover processing costs. ACH payments avoid this fee.

CollegeBacker Bonus and Cash Back

Besides contributing to your CollegeBacker account, you can also earn more money a couple of different ways.

Refer-A-Friend Program

Once an account is opened, CollegeBacker offers a $15 bonus for every person who signs up for a 529 plan using your referral link. Additionally, as a thank you for using your referral link, they’ll be rewarded with $15 bonus as well.

Earn Backer Bucks Through Online Shopping

Families can now save for their child’s college education by shopping from home. CollegeBacker has partnered with over 100 participating retailers to offer a cash-back program, Backer Bucks, that is invested into your child’s 529 savings account. CollegeBacker’s Backer Bucks shopping portal includes brands like Walmart, Ace Hardware, Office Depot, Peets Coffee, Party City and many more. It is an easy way to save for college with your online shopping.

Friends and Family CollegeBacker Contributions

Friends and family can gift money to your child through the CollegeBacker website by using either your email or your child’s personalized link. They can send contributions immediately or schedule donations for later such as a birthdays, holidays or another special occasions. These contributions can be one-time or recurring gifts.

As a backer, they’ll be able to track your child’s progress and see updates from CollegeBacker. Backers will not be able to see your child’s account, only the amounts that they’ve contributed to the fund.

Rollover or Link Existing 529 Plans

If you already have a 529 savings account, you may be able to link your existing account to CollegeBacker. Currently, there are 24 different 529 Savings Accounts eligible to link to CollegeBacker. For those who want all of your accounts on one statement, existing 529 plans can be rolled over to CollegeBacker.

How to Open a CollegeBacker Account

To open your CollegeBacker account:

  • Use this link to start.
  • Provide your full name and email address, then create a password.
  • Either create a new plan or link your eligible existing plan.
  • Enter your child’s name, address and date of birth.
  • Provide your child’s Social Security Number.
  • Add your details and relationship to the child.
  • Choose your risk tolerance.
  • Pick a 529 plan (if you don’t already have one).
  • Pay what you think is fair (from $1 to $10 per month).
  • Finalize opening your account.

While we work hard on our research, we do not always provide a complete listing of all available offers from credit-card companies and banks. And because offers can change, we cannot guarantee that our information will always be up to date, so we encourage you to verify all the terms and conditions of any financial product before you apply.

Ryan M Tronierhttps://ryantronier.com/
Ryan Tronier is a personal finance expert and writer. His work has been published on NBC, ABC, USATODAY, Yahoo Finance, MSN, and more. Ryan is the former managing editor of the finance website Sapling, as well as the former personal finance editor at Slickdeals. Find him online at ryantronier.com.