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The Upgrade Life Rewards Card is the most recent credit card/personal loan hybrid from the financial technology company Upgrade. With no annual
fee and the ability to earn an unlimited 3% cash back on gas, groceries, health services, streaming, and utility bill expenses, this card can upgrade the rewards earnings of even those with fair or average credit.
Those varied bonus categories make it a versatile card, and if you pair it with an Upgrade checking account, you can earn a $200 sign-up bonus (as of this writing).
But with a potentially sky-high annual percentage rate for those with lower credit, you won't want to carry a balance on this card.
Here are five things to know about the Upgrade Life Rewards Card.
There are multiple versions of the Upgrade Card, and while they feature different rewards programs, their other general features are essentially the same. Learn about those options and find out which Upgrade Card is best for you here.
1. Bonus cash-back categories are highly useful
Have you been feeling the squeeze from soaring prices? The Upgrade Life Rewards bonus categories can help, as it earns an unlimited 3% cash back on:
Gas and electric vehicle charging stations.
Grocery stores, supermarkets and eligible convenience stores (excluding Target and Walmart).
Streaming and cable services like Comcast, Netflix and AT&T.
Utilities and telecommunication services.
Health services, including gyms, spas, pharmacies, doctor visits and sporting goods stores.
All other purchases earn 1% cash back. Cash back is issued once you pay off a charge. And unlike the Upgrade OneCard — which features some of the same bonus categories — there is no $500 cap on rewards earned per year with the Upgrade Life Rewards Card.
That's a nice mix of broad and popular bonus categories (like food and fuel) and more specialized spending areas (utilities and doctor visits, for instance).
» MORE: Is the Upgrade Card legit?
2. 'Early Pay' allows you to avoid interest penalties
Like other Upgrade cards, the Upgrade Life Rewards Card has an "Early Pay" feature that will enable you to avoid interest by automatically paying off your statement balance in two days when the statement period ends. This requires a linked checking account.
Also, as with other Upgrade cards, unpaid balances with this one will automatically convert to a fixed-rate loan with a set repayment time frame. However, unlike a traditional credit card with a minimum monthly payment for any carried balance, you will pay equal installments similar to a personal loan.
Your APR and repayment time frame will be determined based on your creditworthiness at the time of application (more on that below).
But with a published APR ranging from 14.99% to 29.99%, you won't want to carry a balance on this card. If you plan to carry a balance and have at least good credit (typically a FICO score of 690 or higher), you might qualify for a card like the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card, which offers 0% intro APR on Purchases for up to 21 months and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers up to 21 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 17.24%-29.24% Variable APR and a with $0 annual fee.
3. You can earn a bonus when you open an Upgrade checking account
Similar to other Upgrade Card products, you can earn a $200 bonus (as of the time of this writing) when you apply concurrently for the Upgrade Life Rewards Card and an Upgrade Rewards Checking account. The bonus will be applied as a statement credit to your Upgrade Life Rewards Card after making three transactions with your Rewards Checking debit card.
Unlike the Upgrade OneCard, an Upgrade Rewards checking account is not required to earn 3% cash back in bonus categories with the Upgrade Life Rewards Card.
According to Upgrade, no geographic restrictions apply to checking accounts and debit cards. However, all Upgrade Cards (including the Upgrade Life Rewards Card) are unavailable in West Virginia, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the District of Columbia.
4. Check your approval terms before the hard pull; use the card immediately after
Have you ever applied for a credit card just to receive a pitifully low credit line along with a hard pull on your credit report? Upgrade allows you to potentially avoid that situation by allowing you to check what credit line you qualify for before the hard pull is initiated. You will also access your APR and installment loan payback period before agreeing to apply. The hard inquiry is completed once you approve the terms of the offer.
The approval process is similar to the Apple Card, allowing you to see your credit line without a hard pull. Also similar to the Apple Card, Upgrade will provide you with immediate access to a virtual card number you can use while waiting for the physical card to arrive in the mail.
5. Available to those with fair credit
Before applying for the Upgrade Life Rewards Card, it's recommended that you have at least fair credit (FICO scores of 630 or above). That's welcome news for what has historically been an underserved market.
But a lower credit score will generally translate to a higher APR. If you are diligent in paying off your monthly balance, the Upgrade Life Rewards Card could be a good option for building your credit while earning credit card rewards with little to no fees. But as discussed above, if there's a chance you will carry a balance, you'd be better off with a card featuring a 0% APR offer.
Card image courtesy of Upgrade