Ohio CollegeAdvantage 529 Plan: Free $25 Starter Bonus

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The Ohio CollegeAdvantage 529 Savings Plan is again offering a $25 refer-a-friend bonus if you open an account and deposit at least $25 by December 15, 2009. You can be a resident of any state, and there are no application or annual fees.

Rated a Top 529 Plan by Morningstar
In a recent article The Best and Worst 529 College-Savings Plans by Morningstar, the Ohio CollegeAdvantage plan was rated in the top 5 plans:

Features they liked included having a wide variety of investment options (including active/passive, multiple age-based options, and even ultra-safe CDs), as well as low total expenses. In-state resident can also deduct up to $2,000 of contributions per year, with excess carryover allowed.

My Personal Experience
So far, I am quite impressed with the Ohio plan. The website itself is functional and fast, there are a variety of investment choices (cash, index funds, active funds), they are upfront with the fees, and the expenses are very competitive – either the lowest or near the lowest in the nation. There are no inactivity fees, minimum balance fees, or other bogus fees. The only bad thing I can think of is that every time I make a purchase I get a snail-mail confirmation with no paperless option, which seems wasteful.

I have gotten the $25 bonuses plus several referrals, with no complaints from the people I referred. I have also started an auto-debit from my checking account for $50 a month. Right now, half of my 529 is in the Vanguard inflation-protected bond fund. This is an investment option that is unavailable in most state plans. I feel that since college is only at most 18 years away with a big lump-sum payment, I would prefer less volatility while marching towards that goal. This is in contrast to saving for retirement, where I currently have 35 years until I turn 65, and hopefully another 20 years after that as well.

Referral Bonus Instructions
Currently the newly referred person gets $25, and the referring person gets $50, and I’d love for you to help fund my kid’s college dreams. 😀 Here’s how:

  1. You can enroll online or via mail. The online process was quick and easy, and I didn’t have to mail in anything.
  2. The first step is to input your personal info and choose a login/password. Next, you’ll verify your e-mail and complete the application.
  3. After that, you’ll choose your funding amount and select an investment fund. Your initial deposit must be a least $25, and is funded using the account/routing numbers of your bank account. At the bottom, you will need to enter a referral code to get the bonus. Enter *.
  4. In 1-3 days, your initial deposit will be taken from your bank account, and in 5-7 business days you will get your $25 bonus. The $25 will be deposited directly into the 529 account, and will be invested in the same thing as your initial deposit.

If a child has two parents, one parent may sign-up and then refer the 2nd parent to get another bonus, while both can list the same child as the beneficiary. If your child is not born yet or does not have a Social Security number yet, you can choose yourself or another family member as the beneficiary, and then later on fill out a Change of Beneficiary form.

Here is a screenshot of me getting my $25 bonus successfully and as promised:

* Javascript is required. If you can’t see any numbers, please use 2439350.

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  1. I’ve been using the Ohio 529 plan also for a few years. I’ve sent the $25 referral bonus to all my parent friends & relatives — none took up the offer. I think college savings is just so far down the list for the average American. If you say you’re saving for your kids’ college expenses, people look at you like a freak. Or at least somebody with plenty of money cuz obviously, anybody with mortgage & kids & auto payments & medical payments & etc & etc & etc & etc can’t possibly save for college, right?

  2. Jonathon I checked their website this morning and I think it is better than you claim.

    For a limited time, you can earn $50 for your CollegeAdvantage account(s) – and your friends and family can earn $25.

    I have been using this 529 along with my state’s 529. It is so simple to sign up and the bonuses do get credited to your account within a few weeks.

    For those students who read this you should think about starting starting a group on facebook, sending out individual messages to your friends or use some kind of social networking or old fashioned networking to get your friends to sign up. You can send your Bursar a check just by clicking a button. For a $25 dollar investment and a few hours of your time you can end up with $450 pre tax scholarship. If you go over $500 you most likely aren’t going to be in a high tax bracket anyway.

    For those of you with college students living in your household you should press them to do this. If they tell you they have no time that is a load of BS.

  3. Instead of Vanguard TIPS @ CollegeAdvantage, why not consider 10 or 12 years CD offered by CollegeAdvantage with 5% APY and FDIC insured. The CD option is rare in 529 plan and I think for those prefer to have guaranteed return, Ohio CollegeAdvantage offer is hard to beat.

  4. I just opened the Ohio 529 CollegeAdvantage plan last month and funded it. Based on my reasearch too it looked like a one of the better plans out there. But I could not possibly choose a plan that is best for my situation. Cuz it is close to rocket science to figure out what is what in all the >50 plans available in the country. I think whoever passed the law on 529s should be given award for not making this any simpler.

    Yeh, I initially funded the a/c and set up an auto-transffer every month just to diversify on time scale. I am planning on sending some bulk amount if/when market crashes little bit 🙁

    As far as the investing choices I made, I think I am mostly in equities even with international equities. I believe 18 years is still a long time in stock market to make uo over any mistakes and I love volatility anyway.

    BTW, is there anyway to get this referral restrospectively?Thx.


  5. I like how you try stuff out and then tell us all about it. You are providing a valuable service. Keep it up! I feel like I am a part of a private investing club – getting the inside scoop on a bunch of different services, companies, and plans – but its better than that even.

  6. I actually invest in the Ohio 529 and get no snail-mail alerts from purchases.. I have $25 automatically debited once a month out of my bank account.. It’s all online–in fact I haven’t even gotten an email.. Are you talking investing or if you change your holdings?

  7. Thank you again for this sharing this program.
    Could you add my number to your list? (removed)

    Thanks again!

  8. Can I open a 529 for myself to save for grad school? What are the benefits exactly?

  9. Wow, great idea, thanks for the tip. Beats my I’d Better Win the Lottery college fund for the spawn.

  10. I think CDs are okay for those seeking maximum safety and who aren’t as concerned about inflation. I’m concerned about inflation… 10 years is a long time, and if you assume 3% average inflation that’s 2% real, which is about what TIPS pay guaranteed for now. If there is inflation above 3%, then you’d be losing money with the CDs. If there is inflation below 3%, then the CDs will win out, assuming TIPS yields stay about the same.

  11. That is just a great tip and I have wanted to start a 529 for my children for awhile now. I just opened up the account so I hope that you receive a credit for it soon and thanks again for the heads up on the bonus.

  12. Thanks for sharing this. After I open account using your code, how do I get my own referral code to get $25 bonus when my wife opens it next?

    Also, someone(UNCLETONY) mentioned getting $50 for limited time – is there a separate link for that?

  13. MossySF – Keep your focus on convincing your kids grandparents. 🙂

    UncleTony – Yes, the previous promotion used to be $25 for referring person, and $25 for referred new member. Now it is $50 for referring person, and still $25 for the referred new member.

    Joe – You are right, I guess the confirmations are only for my non-automatic purchases.

    Tomy – It’s still $25 for new members, but the referring person gets $50. When you apply, your account number is your referral code, which you can then give out to others and get $50.

  14. I’ve been using Ohio since you first posted on it and have been very satisfied. I decided to go for the developed mkts index VDIM and have been happy with the performance and I’m way up with the $25 bonus. It didn’t even do too bad during the crash. No kids in the near future, just having some fun for now.

  15. I learned about the Ohio 529 somewhere else (another Web site: morningstar and savingforcollege.com do a nice job) I was trying to decide between my state PA and NV, OH, and UT. But I found your BLOG when I was setting up an account at CollegeAdvantage and wanted to see if someone on the web posted a “Referral Bonus account number” that I could used. I used it for my four kids thanks or should you thank me 😉

    I’ll keep an eye on your site and thanks again

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