Is the Upgrade Card Legit?

Yes, the Upgrade cards are real. But they work like a personal loan/credit card hybrid, unlike more traditional credit cards you may be familiar with.
Jae Bratton
Sara Rathner
By Sara Rathner and  Jae Bratton 
Edited by Kenley Young

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.


Yes, the Upgrade family of cards is indeed legit.

Created by the financial technology company Upgrade and issued by Cross River Bank*, the cards blend features of both credit cards and personal loans, and in at least one case, even debit cards. You can use them to make purchases wherever Visa cards are accepted and pay down your balance by making equal monthly payments with a fixed interest rate. You can also borrow against your credit limit by requesting that funds be sent to your bank account, and you’ll pay that off much like a personal loan, also in equal monthly installments.

The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® makes NerdWallet's list of best credit cards, as one of the top cards for average credit (FICO scores from 630 to 689).

What cards does Upgrade offer?

Upgrade offers multiple cards:

Here's a closer look at these products:

Popular Upgrade cards, at a glance
Upgrade Select Visa®
Upgrade Select Visa®
NerdWallet Rating
Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards
Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®
NerdWallet Rating
Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa
Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa®
NerdWallet Rating
Annual fee




Ongoing rewards


Earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Cash back will be applied to the next month’s balance on your card.

Earn 3% cash back on home, auto and health purchases. Earn 1% cash back on everything else. Cash back will be applied to the next month’s balance on your card.

Sign-up bonus

None, directly from the card itself. (You may be eligible for a bonus by opening an eligible Upgrade account in tandem with the card.)



Credit limit

$500 to $2,000.

$500 to $25,000.

$500 to $25,000.


The ongoing APR is 21.96%-29.99%.

The ongoing APR is 14.99%-29.99%.

The ongoing APR is 14.99%-29.99%.

Horizontal scroll

Credit Lines feature Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) of 14.99% - 29.99% and line amounts ranging $500 - $25,000. The lowest rates require Autopay and the majority of the line amounts will be $15,000 or under. For example, a $5,000 transaction with a 36 month term and a 19.99% APR has a required monthly payment of $187.90. Optional ACH transfers to your bank account, balance transfers, ATM withdrawals, if available, and foreign transactions are subject to fees that, if incurred, will increase your finance charge and APR. Your rate, line amount, and default term depend on maintaining a qualifying credit score, your credit usage history, requested amount, and other factors. The Upgrade Card is unique in that it allows you to obtain a series of closed-end loans which you may access through transactions such as card purchases up to an approved amount. As you repay your balance, additional credit may become available to you up to an approved amount subject to meeting our credit requirements, but your line will not replenish automatically.

What to know about the Upgrade OneCard

The Upgrade OneCard is different from its sibling cards in a few key ways. It, too, has features of a credit card and personal loan, but also those of a debit card. The OneCard allows you to pay off purchases in full through a linked checking account or pay them off over time with interest, depending on your preference.

The OneCard’s rewards structure is also different — and more complicated — compared with the other Upgrade cards. If you qualify, you can earn:

  • 3% cash back on “everyday” purchases, which the issuer defines as purchases from convenience stores, drugstores, restaurants and gas stations. Utilities and payments for phone, cable, TV and streaming services also qualify for the 3% rate. (The 3% cash back is limited to $500 in rewards per calendar year; after you hit $500 in rewards, you'll earn 2% cash back.)

  • 2% cash back on all other purchases.

However, opening an Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus account is required to earn those rewards rates. You also must do one of the following: Keep an average daily balance of at least $2,500; receive direct deposits of at least $1,000 per month; or make at least eight eligible purchases with your Rewards Checking Plus debit card each month. If you don’t maintain an active Rewards Checking Plus account throughout the month, you’ll earn only 1.5% cash back with the OneCard.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Upgrade also offers a secured version of the OneCard — the Upgrade Secured OneCard — with the same benefits and rewards structure as the standard OneCard. This card is not available for direct application, but qualified applicants can apply for the card when they open an Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus account.

What to know about the Upgrade Life Rewards Card

The Upgrade Life Rewards Card gives you the option of paying for your purchases immediately or over time. You can also earn 3% cash back on the following kinds of purchases:

  • Gas stations and electric vehicle charging.

  • Grocery stores.

  • Health and beauty purchases, including drugstores, medical expenses, gym and golf club memberships, spas, sporting goods stores and more.

  • Streaming services, cable, satellite and radio.

  • Utilities and phone service.

Other purchases will earn 1% back. You don't have to open an Upgrade Rewards Checking Plus account to earn 3% back in those bonus categories. But if you want to earn a welcome offer, you will have to open that account and make three debit card transactions.

Do all the Upgrade cards earn rewards?

The only Upgrade card that doesn't earn rewards is the Upgrade Select Visa®. The rest of the Upgrade cards have varying rewards structures:

  • The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® earns 1.5% cash back on all purchases when you pay them back. (Cash back will be applied to the next month’s balance on your card.)

  • The Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa® earns 3% cash back in home, auto and health spending categories and 1% on everything else, also earned when you pay eligible purchases back and also applied to the next month's balance.

  • The Upgrade Life Rewards Visa® earns 3% cash back on gas and electric vehicle charging stations, grocery stores (including supermarkets and convenience stores), streaming and cable services, utilities and telecommunication services, and health services including gyms, spas, pharmacies, doctor visits and sporting goods stores. All additional purchases will earn 1% cash back, also earned when you pay eligible purchases back and also applied to the next month's balance.

  • The Upgrade OneCard's rewards structure is listed above.

Depending on your credit history and other financial factors, you may qualify for a version of the card that doesn’t offer rewards.

Are the Upgrade cards actually credit cards?

Not really. An Upgrade card looks like a credit card, and since you can use it in stores, it acts like a credit card. But it’s actually considered a “series of closed-end loans,'' according to the terms and conditions. Any time you make a purchase or request that funds be transferred to your bank account, you’re borrowing against your credit limit (which can range from $500 to $25,000).

You can borrow from that limit multiple times simultaneously. And instead of making at least a minimum payment when the bill is due, you’re making payments in equal installments like you would with a personal loan.

Do the Upgrade cards report to U.S. credit bureaus?

On-time payments are reported to the credit bureaus, which can help you build your credit score over time. However, Upgrade doesn’t report your total credit limit, so credit utilization isn’t a factor in the case of these cards.

What else makes the Upgrade cards unique?

Besides their credit card/personal loan hybrid functionality, there are some other notable features that set the Upgrade cards apart from more traditional credit card products:

  • You can qualify with fair credit. There aren't a lot of credit cards for those with fair credit, and the ones that do exist aren't known for their rewards. But the Upgrade cards are available to applicants in that credit range, and they do offer compelling rewards on par with cards designed for good to excellent credit (FICO scores of 690 or higher).

  • You can see what you’d qualify for without affecting your credit scores. Typically, applying for a credit card or other loan involves a hard credit inquiry, which can temporarily lower your credit scores. With the Upgrade cards, you can see what credit limit and APR you’d qualify for before you apply, without sacrificing precious points. (A hard credit will be conducted once you officially apply for the card, however.)

*Personal Credit Lines are issued by Cross River Bank, Member FDIC. The Upgrade Card is issued by Cross River Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. Upgrade is a financial technology company, not a bank.

Find the right credit card for you.

Whether you want to pay less interest or earn more rewards, the right card's out there. Just answer a few questions and we'll narrow the search for you.

Get Started
Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.