Upgrade Cards: Which One Should You Get?

There are multiple options, but each card has a different rewards system. Choose flat-rate cash back, tiered cash back or Bitcoin rewards.
Sara Rathner
By Sara Rathner 
Edited by Kenley Young

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Financial startup Upgrade offers a suite of cards that combine features of credit cards and personal loans. Five of the cards offer rewards:

  • The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®: Earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Cash back will be applied to the next month’s balance on your card.

  • The Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa®: 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.

  • The Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Visa® Credit Card: Earn 1.5% back on all purchases in the form of Bitcoin. As you make payments on purchases, Bitcoin will be purchased on your behalf and held in a cryptocurrency wallet.

  • The Upgrade OneCard: Earn 3% cash back on everyday purchases and 2% cash back on everything else when you open an Upgrade Rewards Checking account to use with the card and meet requirements. If you don’t have an Upgrade Rewards Checking account, you’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

  • The Upgrade Life Rewards Card: Earn 3% cash back on gas and electric vehicle charging, groceries, health purchases, streaming and utilities. Other purchases earn 1% back. Cash back is earned as you make payments and is applied to your balance.

Applicants with average to excellent credit (scores of 630 to 850) can be eligible for the cards listed above.

The cards, issued by Sutton Bank, can be used to make purchases in stores and online, just like you would with a credit card. But unpaid balances are automatically converted to installment plans where you make equal monthly payments with a fixed interest rate over a set period of time, much like a personal loan.

You can use the cards like personal loans in another way by borrowing against your credit line. To do this, request that funds be sent to your bank account.

The Upgrade cards, compared

Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®

Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards
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Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa®

Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa
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Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Visa® Credit Card

Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Visa® Credit Card
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Learn More

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.

Earn 1.5% back on all purchases in the form of bitcoin. As you make payments, bitcoins will be purchased on your behalf and held in a cryptocurrency wallet.

Annual fee

$0.

$0.

$0.

Credit limit

Typically $500 to $25,000. (Some borrowers may qualify for up to $50,000.)

Typically $500 to $25,000. (Some borrowers may qualify for up to $50,000.)

Typically $500 to $25,000. (Some borrowers may qualify for up to $50,000.)

APR

The ongoing APR is 14.99%-29.99%.

The ongoing APR is 14.99%-29.99%.

The ongoing APR is 14.99%-29.99%

How is the Upgrade OneCard different from the other Upgrade cards?

Upgrade OneCard card art

The Upgrade OneCard functions as a credit card and personal loan in one, just like other Upgrade cards. But it adds in the debit card-like ability to pay off a purchase in full immediately if you have sufficient funds in your checking account, instead of paying it back in installments over time with interest. If you opt to pay now, the money will be withdrawn from the checking account you have linked to the card.

The OneCard’s ongoing rewards are different as well. 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% rate is capped at $500 per year, after which you'll earn 2%.)

  • 2% cash back on all other purchases.

However, you must open an Upgrade Rewards Checking account to earn those rewards rates. You also must do one of the following to maintain a qualifying active account: 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 debit card each month. If you don’t, you’ll earn 1.5% cash back.

When it comes to the annual fee, credit limit and APR, the Upgrade OneCard is identical to the other three cards.

How is the Upgrade Life Rewards Card different from the other Upgrade cards?

The Upgrade Life Rewards Card is similar to the Upgrade OneCard in several ways, including the ability to earn 3% cash back in certain categories and the option to pay for your purchases immediately or over time.

Here’s where you can earn 3% cash back with the Upgrade Life Rewards Card:

  • 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 outside of these categories earn 1% cash back. Unlike the Upgrade OneCard, you don’t need to open a Rewards Checking account to earn 3% back in the above categories. However, you will need to open that account and make three debit card transactions to earn a sign-up bonus.

You can pay back purchases over time, with interest, in monthly installments, but you can instead choose to pay your bill in full two days after the statement period ends to avoid interest.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Upgrade also offers a card for applicants who are working to improve their credit. It functions similarly, but it doesn’t offer rewards.

What’s the same

In many ways, the Upgrade cards are nearly identical. All offer the same ranges for credit limits and interest rates, though the terms you’ll qualify for depend on factors like credit usage history, credit score and others. The cards charge no foreign transaction fees when used internationally.

They also share a few limitations: You can’t use the cards at ATMs for cash advances, and you can’t transfer a balance from another credit card onto any Upgrade card.

For all these cards, if you carry a balance, rewards are earned not as you spend, but as you make payments toward your balance. With the Upgrade OneCard and Upgrade Life Rewards Card, you’ll immediately earn rewards for any purchases you choose to pay off now.

What’s different

The cards’ only difference is in their rewards programs. The Upgrade OneCard’s and Upgrade Life Rewards Card’s rewards are listed above, while the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® is a flat-rate cash-back card, earning 1.5% back. The Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa® is a tiered cash-back card, earning 3% back in a wide selection of home, auto and health purchases including:

  • Hardware and home improvement stores.

  • Furniture and appliances.

  • Landscaping and cleaning services.

  • Auto parts, dealership purchases and repairs.

  • Gym memberships, gym equipment purchases directly from vendors and sporting goods stores.

  • Doctor’s visits and pharmacies.

  • Health and beauty services, including spas.

The Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Visa® Credit Card, meanwhile, is part of a growing collection of cards offering cryptocurrency rewards. You’ll earn 1.5% back in the form of Bitcoin, which is purchased on your behalf and held in a crypto wallet provided by NYDIG, a custody and trading platform. Your Bitcoin cannot be transferred to a separate wallet, and when you sell, a 1.5% transaction fee will be deducted from the proceeds. You can receive the proceeds from the sale in the form of a statement credit only.

How to decide

Which Upgrade card to choose comes down to how you want to earn and redeem rewards. The Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa® wins for its simplicity thanks to the flat cash-back rate. If you don’t have a major home, auto or health purchase coming up, or you just don’t want to have to pay attention to spending categories, this card could be a good fit.

However, if you’re planning to finance a large home, auto or health purchase, the Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa® will earn more cash back, making it a contender.

The Upgrade OneCard and Upgrade Life Rewards cards are possibilities if you want the option to pay for some purchases immediately without incurring interest.

If you’d like to invest small sums in Bitcoin, using earned rewards could be a way to do that since you won’t have to budget additional money for investing. However, the Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Visa® Credit Card has limitations, including the holding period and the fact that your proceeds from the sale of your Bitcoin can only come in the form of a statement credit. If you want more flexibility or the ability to buy other cryptocurrencies, other crypto credit cards might have the features you’re looking for.

You may also prefer to invest on your own by creating an account on a cryptocurrency exchange.


Card images courtesy of Upgrade

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