Upgrade Review: Checking and Savings
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- Banking experience
- Overdraft fees
Overall institution rating
Upgrade is a digital-only financial technology company. With FDIC-insured Cross River Bank as its partner, Upgrade offers a mobile rewards checking account that can be accessed online and through a mobile app. It rewards you with cash back for purchases made with your debit card, and there are no monthly fees. But you can’t deposit cash. It also offers a high-yield savings account.
Best for: Those who want to earn cash back, high yields on savings and don’t need to deposit cash.
- No monthly fees and no overdraft fees.
- Up to 2% cash back on debit card transactions.
- Competitive rate on savings.
- Cash deposits aren’t accepted.
- No free ATM network; to get ATM fee rebates, you’ll need to meet some requirements.
- No overdraft protection transfers.
Deposits are FDIC Insured
4.5/5 NerdWallet rating
Upgrade offers a Premier Savings account that has no monthly fees. While there is no minimum balance requirement for this account, you need a balance of at least $1,000 to earn the competitive 4.81% APY (on days when the closing balance is less than $1,000, the account won’t earn interest).
Deposits are FDIC Insured
4.5/5 NerdWallet rating
Cash back and no monthly fee: The Rewards Checking Plus account from Upgrade has no monthly fee. Rewards come in the form of cash back. If you have a monthly direct deposit of at least $1,000, your account is an considered Active Account, and it's eligible for benefits such as 2% cash back on purchases at drug stores, restaurants, gas stations and other everyday places, up to a maximum of $500 in rewards per calendar year. Without direct deposit, you’ll still earn 1% cash back. Once you earn $500 in rewards with the 2% cash back, you’ll earn 1% on all other purchases or payments for the rest of the year.
ATM fee rebates if you meet qualifications: Upgrade doesn’t have its own ATMs or belong to a shared ATM network, but each month, it will rebate up to five ATM fees charged by another institution for making withdrawals in the United States, per calendar month. To qualify for those rebates, your account must have been an Active Account in the prior month.
No cash deposits: You can deposit money through mobile check deposit, direct deposit or by making transfers from an external account. Upgrade doesn’t accept cash deposits.
Rate discounts: Rewards Checking Plus account holders can get a rate discount of up to 20% on Upgrade loans and credit cards. (Learn more about Upgrade’s personal loans in our review.)
» Interested in more options? See our list of the best rewards checking accounts
Upgrade offers live customer service by phone every day: on weekdays from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT, and on weekends from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. Help is also available on Twitter. And the bank’s mobile app earns high user ratings. Upgrade is a neobank and though it partners with a traditional bank, it does not have branches.
What to know about neobanks: Neobanks can be solid options for consumers who prefer online-only banking. They do have differences to banks:
Funds deposited in neobanks' accounts are usually FDIC-insured through partner banks, which will also typically receive customers’ money if a neobank closes, so customer funds are safe.
Neobank accounts often have low monthly fees and earn strong rates. However, they may also lack traditional banking features, including in-person customer service and access to personal or cashier’s checks (often required for large purchases, such as buying a home) or wire transfers. (Learn more about neobanks and what they offer.)
Upgrade doesn’t charge overdraft fees, which is a policy that some other online banks, financial companies and credit unions offer, too. But unlike many other financial institutions, Upgrade doesn’t provide overdraft protection transfers. In most cases, charges that would overdraw the account are automatically declined.
» Tend to overdraw your account? Consider the best banks for overdrafts
NerdWallet’s overall ratings for banks and credit unions are weighted averages of several categories: checking, savings, certificates of deposit or credit union share certificates, banking experience and overdraft fees. Factors we consider, depending on the category, include rates and fees, ATM and branch access, account features and limits, user-facing technology, customer service and innovation. The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.