Upgrade® Card Review: Bold Name, Bolder Offerings
APR as low as 6.99% for those with excellent credit.
Automatically organizes your debt into a monthly payment, debited from your bank account.
- Combine the flexibility of a card with the low cost and predictability of a loan
- $0 fees - $0 annual fee, $0 activation fees, $0 maintenance fees
- No touch payments with contactless technology built in
- See if you qualify in minutes without hurting your credit score
- Access to a virtual card while you wait for your card to arrive in the mail
- 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
The Upgrade Visa® Card is a bold name for a credit card with a bold offering. The card combines the flexibility and rewards of a traditional credit card with the low-cost predictability of a personal loan.
Upgrade® Card enables you to extend a personal line of credit between $500 and $35,000. Then, depending on your term length (12 to 60 months), the Upgrade® Card 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.
So what’s the catch? How does it all work? And what are Upgrade’s other unique features?
Let’s investigate the Upgrade® Card.
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: none – Aside from a quick qualification process and an instant line of credit, the Upgrade® Card doesn’t offer any introductory rewards or points.
- Minimum credit: 600 – You can open an Upgrade® Card account with fair credit, though you might be subject to their APR of 6.99%-29.99%.
- Cash back: none – Upgrade® Card isn’t a cash back or rewards-type card. It’s designed to help you finance a big loan while keeping interest under control.
- Intro APR: none – Upgrade® Card only has a regular APR.
- Regular APR: 6.99%-29.99% – 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® Card 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® Card, 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 Upgrade® 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® Card 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 visiting MU30’s handy DTI 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® Card 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.
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.
Though the Upgrade® Card doesn’t offer a 0% introductory APR period like many competitors, its regular APR of 6.99%-29.99% 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.
No rewards or cash back
While it may seem miserly for a credit card to offer no kind of rewards or cash back program in 2020, this decision seems in line with Upgrade’s mission.
You may have wondered why your traditional credit card would offer you 1.5% cash back on everything you buy. The reason is twofold:
- Credit card companies charge vendors up to 3% in transaction fees, so they’re still making money; they’re just sharing some of it with you.
- Cash back rewards incentivized spending, which in turn leads to carryover debt and higher interest payments.
- Cash back rewards cards typically have the highest fees and interest rates.
The Upgrade® Card doesn’t want to further incentivize spending; they’re trying to help you pay off what you’ve already spent, hence the lack of these programs. However, they have hinted at implementing some kind of brand-appropriate rewards program in the future.
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
- 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.
- No rewards program — Upgrade offers no bonus or rewards programs (for now).
- 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® Card?
The Upgrade® Card 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.
So a good question to ask yourself is: should I take out a personal loan, and from whom? To answer that, head over to David’s feature Best Personal Loans of May 2020.
If you’re looking for a general use credit card for everyday expenses, you’ll be perfectly happy with a traditional credit card (here are David’s picks for the best cards of 2020).
How to apply for the Upgrade® Card
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 preapproval with your estimated credit line and APR.
Finally, accepting the offer to open an account makes a hard pull of your credit.
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.