Debra Randall’s son got a year’s worth of college textbooks for free. Kevin Makler has already amassed $3,000 in a special college savings account for his 10-year-old twins – without putting in a dime of his own money.

Both families collected rebates of 10 cents here, $5 there, from various e-coupons and credit card rebates to build up big college savings. “I used to believe credit cards were evil,” laughs Makler, who works as an industrial engineer in Raleigh, N.C. But he’s on a pace to earn $8,000 toward his children’s tuition in a Upromise college savings account by the time they are 18. That’s a big and welcome addition to the money he sets aside in another college savings account for them, he says.

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