Upromise, the program where you earn cash rewards to pay for college by shopping at participating merchants, is upping the ante on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

If you shop at one of the more than 900 merchants through the Upromise site, you could earn between 1 and 25 percent back, Upromise says. Plus, some merchants are doubling rebates or giving a 10 percent rebate on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the rest of the holiday season.  

Signing up for Upromise is free. The program, acquired several years ago by student loan giant Sallie Mae, says consumers have earned more than $625 million for college in the past decade. You earn rebates by shopping at participating lenders.

The rewards can be invested in one of the 32 college savings plans, or 529s, administered by Upromise in 17 states. You also can have the money deposited in a Sallie Mae Bank savings account, paying an annual interest rate of 1 percent. Or, use the money to pay down student loan debt or just receive your rewards in a check.

If you use the Upromise World MasterCard, instead of your own card, Upromise will award an extra 11 percent on qualified purchases through the end of the year. Upromise says that means if you already are getting 10 percent back, using its card will raise the total reward to 21 percent.

But you might not want to open a Upromise card just for the extra reward. In my Tuesday column, John Ulzheimer of SmartCredit.com says opening credit cards can damage your credit score for the next 12 months. And the cash reward won’t be worth the damage to your credit score if you plan to refinance or make a major purchase in that time frame.

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