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Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® review

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The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® Card is a rather unique credit card that combines the flexibility and rewards of a traditional credit card with the predictable monthly payments and payoff schedule of a personal loan.

This Upgrade card is so different, in fact, that in 15+ years of reporting on credit cards, we’ve never seen anything quite like it. (And that’s not a bad thing.)

Upgrade vs traditional credit cards

With a traditional credit card, if you don’t pay your balance in full at the end of the month, the bank only requires a small minimum payment. The minimum payment could be as little as 2% of your outstanding balance. This offers financial flexibility, but it keeps you in debt and maximizes the issuing banks’ profits at your expense. Making only minimum payments, it could take years to repay even a small balance, costing you hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest all along.

The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®, on the other hand, enables you to obtain a personal line of credit between $500 and $50,000 (although most lines of credit will be $25,000 or under). Then, depending on your term length (12 to 60 months), the Upgrade Visa® will automatically calculate your monthly payments and can debit them from your bank account. This makes the Upgrade® Card ideal for taking out large personal loans you intend to quickly pay off to avoid interest. 

Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®

Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa Card Apply Now →
  • $200 bonus after opening a Rewards Checking Plus account and making 3 debit card transactions*
  • Earn 1.5% unlimited cash back on card purchases every time you make a payment
  • Combine the flexibility of a credit card with the predictability of a personal loan
  • No annual fee
  • No touch payments with contactless technology built in
  • See if you qualify in minutes without hurting your credit score
  • Great for large purchases with predictable payments you can budget for
  • Mobile app to access your account anytime, anywhere
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud liability
Annual Fee Intro APR Regular APR Credit Needed
$0 N/A 14.99% - 29.99% APR Excellent, Good, Fair, Average

So what’s the catch? How does it all work? And what are Upgrade’s other unique features? 

Let’s investigate in our Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® review.

Upgrade Card overview

  • Best for: buyers looking to pay off a large personal loan with minimal interest – The Upgrade Card will help you pay off your loan within 12-60 months using automatic payments. Unlike a traditional credit card, the Upgrade Card doesn’t offer the option to make tiny minimum payments and rapidly accumulate interest. 
  • Intro offer/sign-up bonus: noneIf you open a Rewards Checking Plus account in conjunction with an Upgrade account and make 3 debit card transactions*, you can earn a $200 bonus
  • Minimum credit: 600 – You can open an Upgrade® Card account with fair credit, though your interest rate may be toward the higher end of their APR range.
  • Cash back: 1.5% cash back on payments.
  • Intro APR: None
  • Regular APR: 14.99% – 29.99% APR – Upgrade® Card offers a wide variety of interest rates depending upon your credit, so it’s best for good- to excellent credit
  • Unique features: automatic installment plan and zero fees – Upgrade® Card is designed to help you pay off your personal loan ASAP to save you thousands in interest. It charges no fees and can automatically debit your bank account. 

In-depth analysis of Upgrade

What are the key features that make the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® unique? 

Credit card and personal loan in one

The Upgrade Card is a simple, bare-bones card designed for a singular purpose: to give you a large loan and help you pay it off. There are no perks, points, or programs to distract you from paying off your debt before interest piles up. 

When you open an Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®, you’re offered a credit line of between $500 and $35,000 (depending on your credit score, of course). Then, at the end of the month, the card automatically organizes your balance into an installment plan with a fixed payment amount. This amount can be automatically debited from your bank account. 

The chief difference between the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® and a traditional credit card is that the latter will let you make minimum monthly payments (usually $25) and accumulate obscene amounts of interest. The Upgrade® Card doesn’t lure you into a false sense of financial security with these low minimum payments; it requires you to pay off your debt quickly to avoid ballooning interest. 

Naturally, the Upgrade Card will only approve your application if they think you can pay off a large loan. They require a DTI (debt-to-income ratio) of 60% and a monthly free cash flow of $800. Learn more about DTI by using our debt-to-income calculator

Pay off debt quickly

The following chart from Upgrade’s Card site illustrates why it’s so important to pay off debt quickly. If you open an Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® and take out a personal loan of $10,000 with an 18% APR, you’ll end up paying ~$504 monthly on the principal and $2,100 total interest over two years. 

By contrast, if you spend $10,000 with a traditional credit card and make minimum monthly payments, it’ll take you 28 years to pay it off. And by then, you’ll have paid nearly $14,500 in interest alone. 

Upgrade® Card automatic payments Traditional credit card minimum payments
Time to pay off balance Two years 28 years
Interest paid over that period $2,102.71 $14,423.16

Automatic installment plans with no prepayment penalty

The Upgrade Card will let you set the term to pay off your loan (12 to 60 months) and automatically withdraw monthly installments from your bank account. There’s no penalty for prepayment, either. 

It’s absolutely worth reiterating that the Upgrade Card will not let you skate by making minimum payments until you and your credit collapse under high interest. Like a fiscally responsible parent, it’ll stand over you and ensure you make solid monthly payments to keep your interest under control. 

The Upgrade Card offers a novel and admirable approach to helping Americans minimize credit card debt. After the Bankruptcy Protection Act of 2005 made it more complex to file for personal bankruptcy, Americans turned to using credit cards to pay bills. As a result, the national credit card debt is over $1 trillion, or $8,398 per household

By consolidating debt and giving clear and predictable monthly payments, the Upgrade® Card helps cardholders avoid becoming a national debt statistic. 

Zero fees

In line with their mission to save you money, the Upgrade Card charges no fees for anything, ever. 

Quick and easy application

On Upgrade.com you can set up an account and check your line of credit (without affecting your credit score) in under a minute. 

Free credit monitoring tools

Within your Upgrade Card account you can monitor your credit score, set alerts, check your line of credit, and take advantage of other features all designed to help you stay fiscally savvy and on top of your payments. 

Low APR

Though the Upgrade Card doesn’t offer a 0% introductory APR period like many competitors, its regular APR of 14.99% – 29.99% APR is notably low. Note, of course, that their lowest APR is reserved for cardholders with excellent credit. 

While the Upgrade Card will accept credit scores as low as 600, be careful since their maximum APR is high. 

How much can you earn with the Upgrade® Card?

Normally in this section, I’d show a chart illustrating how Upgrade’s rewards program translates into real savings on entertainment, dining, etc. But given the Upgrade® Card has no rewards program (yet), what you spend is what you spend.

The card’s “savings” potential is best illustrated in the earlier chart. While you may not save $1.72 on date night, if you pay off your loan quickly, you’ll save thousands in interest over years.

Pros & cons

Pros

  • Take out a personal loan — Upgrade lets you open a personal loan of between $500 and $35,000.
  • Minimal interest — Upgrade charges a low APR and sets up automatic payments to prevent interest buildup.
  • Quick setup process — You can set up an account and check your line of credit within minutes.

Cons

  • No 0% introductory APR — Upgrade’s low regular APR is helpful, but if you can pay off your debt within another card’s 0% APR period, you can save on interest.
  • No ATM withdrawals — While the Upgrade card can be used wherever Visa is accepted, you’ll need your regular debit card for ATM withdrawals.

Should you get the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®?

The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® is really three products in one. It’s a personal loan, a card for conveniently spending your loan, and an automatic payment calculator (and debtor). It’s ideal for someone with good or excellent credit looking to take out a large personal loan and quickly pay it off. 

How to apply for the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®

Although checking your line of credit with the Upgrade® Card is a soft credit pull, I recommend that you check your credit score and improve it before applying for any credit card. You’ll lower your APR and save money in the long run. 

If you’d like to check your credit score and follow step-by-step instructions to increase it, look at this piece: How to improve your credit score, step by step.

Now, applying for an Upgrade® Card isn’t unlike applying for a traditional credit card. First, ensure that you meet Upgrade’s minimum qualifications:

  • A U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or living in the U.S. on a valid visa.
  • At least 18 years old (19 years old in Alabama and certain other states).
  • Able to provide a verifiable bank account.
  • Able to provide a valid email address.

Once you submit your information on their application page, Upgrade® Card makes a soft pull of your credit and issues either a denial or a pre-approval with your estimated credit line and APR. 

Finally, accepting the offer to open an account makes a hard pull of your credit.

Summary

Opening an Upgrade® Card is an excellent way to take out a personal loan, conveniently spend it, and pay it off quickly and responsibly. It’s a solid choice for someone with good to excellent credit to finance a large (but sensible) expense like a home improvement project.

Apply for the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® line of credit now

*To qualify for the welcome bonus, you must open and fund a new Rewards Checking Plus account through Upgrade and make 3 qualifying debit card transactions from your Rewards Checking Plus account within 60 days of the date the Rewards Checking Plus account is opened. If you have previously opened a checking account through Upgrade or do not open a Rewards Checking Plus account as part of this application process, you are not eligible for this welcome bonus offer. Your Upgrade Card and Rewards Checking Plus account must be open and in good standing to receive a bonus. To qualify, debit card transactions must have settled and exclude ATM transactions. Please refer to the applicable Upgrade VISA® Debit Card Agreement and Disclosures for more information. Welcome bonus offers cannot be combined, substituted, or applied retroactively. The bonus will be applied to your Rewards Checking Plus account as a one-time payout credit within 60 days after meeting the conditions.

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