MasterCard Worldwide has launched an innovative debit card rewards program that will provide cardholders in the US with a new way to save for the rising costs of higher education.

BancorpSouth, BankAtlantic, credit union BECU, and Provident Bank are the first four financial institutions to offer the new program, which is currently available to eligible Debit MasterCard customers.

The program is a result of an exclusive debit relationship MasterCard has with Upromise. It will allow Debit MasterCard cardholders of participating financial institutions to automatically earn bonus college savings contributions while making everyday purchases with participating Debit MasterCard cards.

Cardholders can earn these savings on purchases made at the more than 23,000 grocery and drug stores, 14,000 gas stations, 8,000 restaurants, and thousands of retail store locations in the Upromise merchant coalition.

As part of the rewards program, BancorpSouth, BankAtlantic, BECU and Provident Bank will award bonus college savings on eligible debit card purchases made within the Upromise merchant network. These bonus contributions, which will be equal to 1% to 3% of the price of eligible purchases, will be automatically deposited into a member’s Upromise account.

Upromise merchant partners will also fund additional contributions. Cardholders will then have the option of having the funds put into participating college savings plans.

The program will be exclusive to the four issuers for a period of one year, after which MasterCard and Upromise will evaluate if and how to expand the offering to additional customers.