When deciding what to give someone heading to college, what could be better than contributing to their college savings fund? Or, if they're in school, how about a gift that helps pay down some of their student loans?
While those may sound like great gifts, it’s actually not easy to do. If you want to add funds to someone’s 529 plan, you have to get all kinds of personal and account information. It’s the same thing with student loans. That can be a high barrier to giving.
Gift Of College has come up with a better way to help out on school tuition. All a student has to do is sign up with Gift Of College and let contributors know. Contributors then simply buy a gift card in the amount they want to give. The recipient then directs the gift card funds to their 529 plan or student loan. Easy. In this article, we’ll look at the details of how it works.
- Link an existing 529 plan or student loan account
- Give or receive contributions to linked accounts
- Buy Gift of College gift cards online or at 3,000+ retail stores
- Contributors pay a 5% convenience fee (capped at $15)
Gift Of College Details
Gift Of College
Gift Registry For 529 Plans Or Student Loans
$3.95 to $15 per card
What Is Gift Of College?
Gift Of College is a crowdfunding platform for paying down student loan debt and saving for college. It was founded in 2008 by Wayne Weber. The company is based in Phoenix, AZ, and is a for-profit company.
“I found out that in order to contribute to someone else’s account as a gift-giver, I would need to ask the account owner which plan they were investing in along with their account number. I’d then need to fill out deposit coupons, write checks and mail them. So much for a holiday surprise!...There had to be an easier way,” Weber said to Authority Magazine.
What Does It Offer?
Rather than contributing directly to someone’s student loan or 529 college savings plan, Gift Of College allows you to bypass the complications of gathering account info and instead just send a gift card. Of course, the person you're gifting to needs to have an account with Gift Of College. But from there, it’s a fairly easy process.
Parents, friends, employers, and yourself (i.e., student) can all contribute through gift cards. Gift Of College allows contributions to 529 college savings, 529 ABLEs, or student loan accounts linked to a person’s profile. Gift Of College doesn’t set up 529 plans. Those will need to be set up outside of Gift Of College.
The benefit that Gift Of College is offering is the ease of contributing to someone's 529 plan or student loan. Traditionally, anyone contributing to either would need personal and account information to contribute. With Gift Of College, all the contributor needs is a gift card and account number.
How Does It Work?
Once you create a Gift Of College profile, you'll link your student loan or 529 plan to your Gift Of College profile. You will then get a profile URL which you can share with family or friends who can donate to your plan.
Buy Gift Cards
Anyone who wants to contribute to your 529 plan or student loan simply purchases a gift card for your account. Cards can be purchased through the Gift Of College website or in certain stores.
Once a gift card is purchased for an account, funds are routed immediately to the appropriate loan or 529 plan. For that reason, gift cards can’t be refunded. Funds will always go to the right place because of the link between the gift card and 529 plan or student loan.
Gift cards can be purchased for $25-$200. Digital and physical gift cards are available through Gift Of College or at over 3,000 retailers, including Target, H-E-B, Fred's, Save Mart, Brookshire Brothers, Lucky Supermarkets, and FoodMaxx.
Redeem Gift Cards
Recipients can redeem gift cards through their account by selecting “Redeem Gift Card” and entering the Gift Code. Once you've redeemed your card, Gift Of College says that it can take up to 14 days for it to be credited to the designated account.
Exchange Gift Cards
Do you have a unwanted gift card sitting in the back of your wallet or dresser drawer? On the Gift Of College gift card exchange (powered by CardCash), you can turn that gift card into a 529 contribution or student loan payment.
Simply enter your card and pin number to receive an offer in seconds. If you approve the offer, Gift Of College will mail you a eGift card that can be credited to your linked student loan or 529 account.
Related: Best Online Gift Card Exchanges
Are There Any Fees?
Yes - when gift cards are are purchased on the Gift of College website, the contributor is assessed a 5% fee, which is capped at $15. The following are example fees for various cards:
- $3.95 for a $25+ gift card
- $4.95 for a $50+ gift card
- $5.95 for a $100+ gift card
Gift Of College doesn't publish a fee schedule for its store-purchased cards. It's likely that you'll still have to pay a convenience charge but it could be less than what you'd pay for buying your card online.
Physical cards that are mailed (rather than sent digitally via an instant link) from Gift Of College also have the following shipping fees:
- USPS First Class Mail (9-12 days): $1.95
- USPS Express Mail (3 days): $9.95
The recipient of the gift card is not assessed a fee in any situation.
Here's a quick comparison of how Gift of College compares to other popular saving for college tools:
$3.95-$15 per card
$1-$10 per month
$3-$6 per month
529 Plan Contributions
Student Loan Contributions
How Do I Open An Account?
You can go to the Gift Of College website to open an account. There are no account set up or maintenance fees and it's completely free to redeem gift cards.
Is My Money Safe?
Yes. Once a gift card is purchased, the money is immediately routed to the recipient’s 529 plan or student loan.
Is It Worth It?
Gift Of College can be worth it if you want to avoid the hassle of requesting personal information and you know someone that has set up an account. It could also be a good fit for "one-off" fundraising events like holidays or birthdays.
However, if you plan to contribute regularly to someone's account, the per-card fees charged by Gift of College can add up quickly. Plus, keep in mind that Gift of College doesn't actually provide 529 accounts or offer investment advice. You'll need to open a 529 plan with a separate provider before you can begin receiving gifts.
If you prefer all-in-one solution, a subscription-based platform such as Backer (starting at $1 per month) or UNest (starting at $3 per month) may be a better fit. Both platforms offer age-adjusting portfolios and allow family and friends to send unlimited gifts.
Gift Of College Features
Gift registry for 529 plans and student loans
Gift Card Transaction Limits
$25 to $500
Gift Card Purchase Fees
5% fee (capped at $15)
Gift Card Redemption Fees
Card Shipping Fees
Physical Gift Card Retail Locations
Gift Cards Eligible to Exchange
Online Gift Card Tracking
Customer Service Number
Customer Service Hours
Mon-Fri, 8 AM-6 PM (MST)
Mobile App Availability
Gift Of College Review
Pricing And Fees
Features And Tools
Ease of Use
Gift Of College is a gift registry that makes it easy to accept 529 plan contributions or student loan payments from family and friends.
- No monthly or annual account fees
- Redeem gift cards for free
- Exchange unwanted gift cards for eGift cards
- Gifters pay a 5% convenience fee ($15 max)
- Can’t set up automatic contributions
- Not all 529 plan/student loan providers are supported
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.
Editor: Clint Proctor